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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 February 15, 2019

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward their goals. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

    If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals you can realize will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

    In this article, I’ll show you how to achieve goals and get closer you success.

    1. Break your dreams down into specific and measurable steps

    We couldn’t talk about goal-setting without mentioning SMART goals.

    SMART goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.

    Specific and measurable steps are so important because if we don’t know what our target it, how can we ever hit it?

    Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

    Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here:

    How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

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    2. Have at least one clearly defined goal for every interest and role in your life

    It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but we aren’t only what we do.

    To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

    Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons or trying to prove your worth at work.

    You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life— not just the ones related to our careers.

    3. Align your goals with your life’s mission, purpose and passion

    Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

    Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

    Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

    Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

    4. Create goals that ignite your spirit and inspire you to take action

    If you can’t be fired up about your goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

    The road to success is often tough. You’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged.

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    You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

    If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

    5. Write down all your goals in specific, measurable detail

    This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

    When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

    When you’re in the middle of trying to achieve a big goal, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

    Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.[1]

    If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

    6. Commit to hitting each of your targets without exception

    You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed.

    You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them.

    Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction. Your success will make you crave more success.

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    We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

    7. Share your goals with others to motivate each other

    There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

    When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

    This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals too.

    8. Set a series of daily, weekly and long-term goals, complete with starting times and deadlines

    Many goals never reach realization simply because the goal-setter doesn’t check their progress. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

    Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps and it reminds you to think about them.

    Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

    In addition, celebrating small wins helps you stay motivated. Here’s how:

    How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

    9. Take 10 minutes every day to imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goals

    Visualization is such a powerful tool. Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[2] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

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    When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

    It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you take the journey is important too.

    10. Take an action step toward reaching your goals every day

    Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and the bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

    Keep chipping away at the work every day and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

    Maybe you didn’t start your business today but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Doing that task well is going to help you so much in the long run.

    Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

    The Bottom Line

    Dreams can inspire and overwhelm us. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.

    It’s time to start turning your dreams into goals and your goals into realities. Change begins today.

    More Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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