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6 Steps to Effective Notes

6 Steps to Effective Notes

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    When I’m reading a book, I usually wind up taking quite a few notes. I keep track of ideas I want to follow up on, topics I want to read further about and even the occasional quote that seems just perfect for a project. I know my note-taking may be on overdrive — I’m usually reading for information on a specific topic that I’m writing about — but over the years, I’ve found some tricks to make the process a lot smoother.

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    I also asked around to find out how others take notes — how people keep track of information that they can’t just copy and paste into a handy text file for later. While there’s a lot of variation in the mechanics of the note taking process, there are some tricks that seem to work no matter what approach you take for information gathering.

    1. Keep your notes with your books

    No matter what you’re taking notes on, it should be easy to carry with your reading material. I prefer small notebooks that I can actually slide inside a book, but there are plenty of other options:

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    • A notecard or other piece of paper that can double as a bookmark
    • Post-it notes
    • Writing directly in the book (unless the book does not belong to you or you have a librarian in your family)

    More than once, I’ve been reading without anything around to take notes on. It’s easy to assume that you won’t forget an important idea — but that’s rarely true.

    2. Separate out your notes

    In my experience, most notes can be divided between action items and details you want to retain. While reviewing your notes will come in handy when you’re looking for a particular piece of information, it’s not particularly useful to have to re-write your notes in order to sort out actions you need to take. Instead, it’s more effective to clearly differentiate between the two from the start. The simplest approach is to just divide your notes in half: one side is for details and the other is for actions. If you’ve taken to writing in books or otherwise can’t divide your paper, the standard approach seems to be switching between different colored pens or highlighters — personally, I feel that adds a lot more work to taking notes, though. That’s one of the reasons I like notebooks so much: I use one page for details and the facing page for the steps I need to take.

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    3. Standardize your acronyms and short-hand

    I can’t even begin to count the amount of time I’ve spent trying to translate some abbreviated notes that I scribbled down with the assumption that I would still know what ‘A.’ stood for a month later. If you’re considering using an acronym or abbreviation that isn’t in common use, it may be worth reconsidering. I do make an exception for personal abbreviations: over the course of a project, it’s easy to create a sort of standardized abbreviations that only make sense within the context of that project. If you’ve really gotten used to that particular set of abbreviations, you stand a much better chance of using them in your notes and remembering their meanings.

    4. Your notes need to be legible, not perfect

    I’ve been showing my mother some tricks to promote her website, and we’ve fallen into a pattern: as we talk, she writes everything out on note cards. Then, later, she reviews the material, neatly transcribing it into a Moleskine she has dedicated to the process. Her notebook is perfect, filled with beautiful handwriting — but it’s also a very time-consuming approach. If you can read your notes and understand them, it’s okay to have somewhat messy notes. After all, you’re probably the only one who will ever see them.

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    5. Set aside time to process your notes

    Writing down all the next steps you want to take from all your reading is great, but they won’t ever get done unless you can get them out of your notes and in to whatever to do list or task management system you rely on. And if you plan to do anything with the detail-oriented notes you’ve taken, it’s important to get those into a format you can work with. If, for instance, you were writing up a blog post, I’d suggest typing up all the quotes that you plan to use from the book in question before you even start writing the post. Processing your notes generally not too big of a project to handle, as long as you can process the notes from the full book in one go.

    6. Stick with a system

    Whether you’re the type that relies on all the different colors of Post-it notes out there or you’re slowly codifying every book you read into your Moleskine, the important thing is to have a system and stick with it. As long as your notes look generally the same, you’ll be able to go back through them and find specific details much faster. You’ll also find that you’re better equipped to concentrate on the material in the book if you’re not worried about what color you need to write a particular phrase in for this particular project. You don’t have to adhere to the exact same steps of note-taking for each book you read, but having a general format and process to follow can make all the difference in how long it takes you to get through a book and how valuable your notes are after the fact.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    10 Huge Differences Between A Boss And A Leader

    10 Huge Differences Between A Boss And A Leader

    When you try to think of a leader at your place of work, you might think of your boss – you know, the supervisor in the tasteful office down the hall.

    However, bosses are not the only leaders in the office, and not every boss has mastered the art of excellent leadership. Maybe the best leader you know is the co-worker sitting at the desk next to yours who is always willing to loan out her stapler and help you problem solve.

    You see, a boss’ main priority is to efficiently cross items off of the corporate to-do list, while a true leader both completes tasks and works to empower and motivate the people he or she interacts with on a daily basis.

    A leader is someone who works to improve things instead of focusing on the negatives. People acknowledge the authority of a boss, but people cherish a true leader.

    Puzzled about what it takes to be a great leader? Let’s take a look at the difference between a boss and a leader, and why cultivating quality leadership skills is essential for people who really want to make a positive impact.

    1. Leaders are compassionate human beings; bosses are cold.

    It can be easy to equate professionalism with robot-like impersonal behavior. Many bosses stay holed up in their offices and barely ever interact with staff.

    Even if your schedule is packed, you should always make time to reach out to the people around you. Remember that when you ask someone to share how they are feeling, you should be prepared to be vulnerable and open in your communication as well.

    Does acting human at the office sound silly? It’s not.

    A lack of compassion in the office leads to psychological turmoil, whereas positive connection leads to healthier staff.[1]

    If people feel that you are being open, honest and compassionate with them, they will feel able to approach your office with what is on their minds, leading to a more productive and stress-free work environment.

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    2. Leaders say “we”; bosses say “I”.

    Practice developing a team-first mentality when thinking and speaking. In meetings, talk about trying to meet deadlines as a team instead of using accusatory “you” phrases. This makes it clear that you are a part of the team, too, and that you are willing to work hard and support your team members.

    Let me explain:

    A “we” mentality shifts the office dynamic from “trying to make the boss happy” to a spirit of teamwork, goal-setting, and accomplishment.

    A “we” mentality allows for the accountability and community that is essential in the modern day workplace.

    3. Leaders develop and invest in people; bosses use people.

    Unfortunately, many office climates involve people using others to get what they want or to climb the corporate ladder. This is another example of the “me first” mentality that is so toxic in both office environments and personal relationships.

    Instead of using others or focusing on your needs, think about how you can help other people grow.

    Use your building blocks of compassion and team-mentality to stay attuned to the needs of others note the areas in which you can help them develop. A great leader wants to see his or her people flourish.

    Make a list of ways you can invest in your team members to help them develop personally and professionally, and then take action!

    4. Leaders respect people; bosses are fear-mongering.

    Earning respect from everyone on your team will take time and commitment, but the rewards are worth every ounce of effort.

    A boss who is a poor leader may try to control the office through fear and bully-like behavior. Employees who are petrified about their performance or who feel overwhelmed and stressed by unfair deadlines are probably working for a boss who uses a fear system instead of a respect system.

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    What’s the bottom line?

    Work to build respect among your team by treating everyone with fairness and kindness. Maintain a positive tone and stay reliable for those who approach you for help.

    5. Leaders give credit where it’s due; bosses only take credits.

    Looking for specific ways to gain respect from your colleagues and employees? There is no better place to start than with the simple act of giving credit where it is due.

    Don’t be tempted to take credit for things you didn’t do, and always go above and beyond to generously acknowledge those who worked on a project and performed well.

    You might be wondering how you can get started:

    • Begin by simply noticing which team member contributes what during your next project at work.
    • If possible, make mental notes. Remember that these notes should not be about ways in which team members are failing, but about ways in which they are excelling.
    • Depending on your leadership style, let people know how well they are doing either in private one-on-one meetings or in a group setting. Be honest and generous in your communication about a person’s performance.

    6. Leaders see delegation as their best friend; bosses see it as an enemy.

    If delegation is a leader’s best friend, then micromanagement is the enemy.

    Delegation equates to trust and micromanagement equates to distrust. Nothing is more frustrating for an employee than feeling that his or her every movement is being critically observed.

    Encourage trust in your office by delegating important tasks and acknowledging that your people are capable, smart individuals who can succeed!

    Delegation is a great way to cash in on the positive benefits of a psychological phenomenon called a self-fulfilling prophecy. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, a person’s expectations of another person can cause the expectations to be fulfilled.[2]

    In other words, if you truly believe that your team member can handle a project or task, he or she is more likely to deliver.

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    Learn how to delegate in my other article:

    How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    7. Leaders work hard; bosses let others do the work.

    Delegation is not an excuse to get out of hard work. Instead of telling people to go accomplish the hardest work alone, make it clear that you are willing to pitch in and help with the hardest work of all when the need arises.

    Here’s the deal:

    Showing others that you work hard sets the tone for your whole team and will spur them on to greatness.

    The next time you catch yourself telling someone to “go”, a.k.a accomplish a difficult task alone, change your phrasing to “let’s go”, showing that you are totally willing to help and support.

    8. Leaders think long-term; bosses think short-term.

    A leader who only utilizes short-term thinking is someone who cannot be prepared or organized for the future. Your colleagues or staff members need to know that they can trust you to have a handle on things not just this week, but next month or even next year.

    Display your long-term thinking skills in group talks and meetings by sharing long-term hopes or concerns. Create plans for possible scenarios and be prepared for emergencies.

    For example, if you know that you are losing someone on your team in a few months, be prepared to share a clear plan of how you and the remaining team members can best handle the change and workload until someone new is hired.

    9. Leaders are like your colleagues; bosses are just bosses.

    Another word for colleague is collaborator. Make sure your team knows that you are “one of them” and that you want to collaborate or work side by side.

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    Not getting involved in the going ons of the office is a mistake because you will miss out on development and connection opportunities.

    As our regular readers know, I love to remind people of the importance of building routines into each day. Create a routine that encourages you to leave your isolated office and collaborate with others. Spark healthy habits that benefit both you and your co-workers.

    10. Leaders put people first; bosses put results first.

    Bosses without crucial leadership training may focus on process and results instead of people. They may stick to a pre-set systems playbook even when employees voice new ideas or concerns.

    Ignoring people’s opinions for the sake of company tradition like this is never truly beneficial to an organization.

    Here’s what I mean by process over people:

    Some organizations focus on proper structures or systems as their greatest assets instead of people. I believe that people lend real value to an organization, and that focusing on the development of people is a key ingredient for success in leadership.

    Learning to be a leader is an ongoing adventure.

    This list of differences makes it clear that, unlike an ordinary boss, a leader is able to be compassionate, inclusive, generous, and hard-working for the good of the team.

    Instead of being a stereotypical scary or micromanaging-obsessed boss, a quality leader is able to establish an atmosphere of respect and collaboration.

    Whether you are new to your work environment or a seasoned administrator, these leadership traits will help you get a jump start so that you can excel as a leader and positively impact the people around you.

    For more inspiration and guidance, you can even start keeping tabs on some of the world’s top leadership experts. With an adventurous and positive attitude, anyone can learn good leadership.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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