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Make Every List Count – Don’t Note Everything

Make Every List Count – Don’t Note Everything

Make every piece of information you record count. Dumping all the information and notes you find and organizing them later means that you’ve sifted through the information twice. This is a waste of your time and doubles the amount of effort required to get to the information that you really want to keep and tremendously hard to sift through when you need to find that nugget of information that makes sense.

Here’s a typical scenario. When listening to a lecture, talk or class; it’s not uncommon to see someone with a dictaphone recording the whole talk. You may think this is a great idea because then they will have all the information stored and can go back and listen to the entire talk again. Not so, most likely they will listen back to the recording and make notes or lists from the talk. They are effectively summarizing it and editing out the information. But they could have done this the first time round. They are repeating an exercise they could have performed initially when they first heard the talk.

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What Happens if You Record Everything

Dumping notes are a bad habit. You get the false idea that you can easily get all the information that you need, whereas what It actually leads to is a mountain of unprocessed notes and you will eventually reach a point where your ‘inbox’ is full of recordings, clips and papers that become a major procrastination point. A few days or weeks later, you look back at your pile of unprocessed notes and get into a panic about, not only finding the correct note, but also processing it.

Process As You Go

When you create a list, everything you write or record has to count. It’s a great way to summarize and organize your notes into digestible pieces. When you are at a talk, making list notes is a more effective way of capturing all the information because it requires you to process what is presented whilst it’s ongoing. This gives the added benefit of you analyzing what is said so that if you do have any relevant questions, you can ask them. Having the points in list form makes it easier to go through your notes to raise the right questions. Dumping all the information and processing it later ensures that you fail to collect more relevant answers to the questions you may have. You discover the questions too late.

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Processed lists are easier to organize. That big pile that you have is likely, unorganized and in a generic pile. Now that you process them as you go, you can file them into the right place so that you know where it is when it’s time to use that list. No more relying on search functions. A few days later, someone asks for your opinion on the talk… well you’ve already processed it all and can retrieve it easily in a form that you can easily understand.

Why It Works

You’ll be prepared.

Because you’ve already processed your list is now full of all the data that counts, you’ve effectively created a cheat sheet in advance. There’s no need to sift through the mountain of papers (or virtual notes) and then have to filter out the unimportant things because it’s already been done. This means you can apply laser focus to your objective.

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Reduced Procrastination.

A big factor that effects your ability to get things done is how much preparation you need to do before you get down to it. If you’re planning a meal having to sift through a big pile of unorganized recipes that are bundled together in video clips, writing and notes that you previously stored becomes a massive hurdle to get over before you even start on any recipe. It becomes easier to order a delivery or go out. But if you have already processed your list and instructions, it becomes much simpler to pick out the recipe and follow the list that you created that shows you how to cook that meal.

It’s Always Ready.

You’re updating your website and there’s a widget that you wanted to add. You’ve already processed your list so that it contains the code that you want. It’s just a case of grabbing the code and adding the code for the widget. There isn’t the need to search for it again on the web, read through the documents again and find the widget amongst all the documentation. You’ve already prepared it.

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It Removes Duplicate Work

“I’ll deal with it later.” Then you dump all that information into a note. Before you did that, you already read it once. That means, if and when you get round to “dealing with it” you’ll be reading it again to process and then summarizing. That’s work you could have completed the first time round and made you more productive.

Common Uses

I’ve already shown how this method can be used for lectures or talks. Here are some other methods it can be used for.

  • Movie Lists – You store a bunch of reviews that you go through later to decide what type of movie it is. By processing this when you come across the review, your list will contain short concise descriptions to about the movie. There’s no need to go through a big pile of reviews that you’ve collected just to find something to watch.
  • Job Applications – You’re job hunting and you’ve collected up a pile of job descriptions. Pre-processing each job description requires you to evaluate the opportunity and helps you to list down the relevant information about each job. When you decide which jobs to apply for, there’s no need to filter through all the descriptions again because that’s already been completed.
  • Apartment Hunting – A big bunch of online descriptions for a variety of houses or apartments that you may be interested in. Dumping them all into one note makes it harder to sift through. Instead, read through each description and separate them out into different lists – bedrooms? location? By preprocessing, it becomes much easier to compare each property before evaluating which place to make an offer on (whether you are buying or renting).

More by this author

Hoi Wan

Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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