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Make Every List Count – Don’t Note Everything

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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.

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  • 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 November 15, 2021

20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

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20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

“Please describe yourself in a few words”.

It’s the job interview of your life and you need to come up with something fast. Mental pictures of words are mixing in your head and your tongue tastes like alphabet soup. You mutter words like “deterministic” or “innovativity” and you realize you’re drenched in sweat. You wish you had thought about this. You wish you had read this post before.

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    Image Credit: Career Employer

    Here are 20 sentences that you could use when you are asked to describe yourself. Choose the ones that describe you the best.

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    “I am someone who…”:

    1. “can adapt to any situation. I thrive in a fluctuating environment and I transform unexpected obstacles into stepping stones for achievements.”
    2. “consistently innovates to create value. I find opportunities where other people see none: I turn ideas into projects, and projects into serial success.”
    3. “has a very creative mind. I always have a unique perspective when approaching an issue due to my broad range of interests and hobbies. Creativity is the source of differentiation and therefore, at the root of competitive advantage.”
    4. “always has an eye on my target. I endeavour to deliver high-quality work on time, every time. Hiring me is the only real guarantee for results.”
    5. “knows this job inside and out. With many years of relevant experience, there is no question whether I will be efficient on the job. I can bring the best practices to the company.”
    6. “has a high level of motivation to work here. I have studied the entire company history and observed its business strategies. Since I am also a long-time customer, I took the opportunity to write this report with some suggestions for how to improve your services.”
    7. “has a pragmatic approach to things. I don’t waste time talking about theory or the latest buzz words of the bullshit bingo. Only one question matters to me: ‘Does it work or not?'”
    8. “takes work ethics very seriously. I do what I am paid for, and I do it well.”
    9. “can make decisions rapidly if needed. Everybody can make good decisions with sufficient time and information. The reality of our domain is different. Even with time pressure and high stakes, we need to move forward by taking charge and being decisive. I can do that.”
    10. “is considered to be ‘fun.’ I believe that we are way more productive when we are working with people with which we enjoy spending time. When the situation gets tough with a customer, a touch of humour can save the day.”
    11. “works as a real team-player. I bring the best out of the people I work with and I always do what I think is best for the company.”
    12. “is completely autonomous. I won’t need to be micromanaged. I won’t need to be trained. I understand high-level targets and I know how to achieve them.”
    13. “leads people. I can unite people around a vision and motivate a team to excellence. I expect no more from the others than what I expect from myself.”
    14. “understands the complexity of advanced project management. It’s not just pushing triangles on a GANTT chart; it’s about getting everyone to sit down together and to agree on the way forward. And that’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.”
    15. “is the absolute expert in the field. Ask anybody in the industry. My name is on their lips because I wrote THE book on the subject.”
    16. “communicates extensively. Good, bad or ugly, I believe that open communication is the most important factor to reach an efficient organization.”
    17. “works enthusiastically. I have enough motivation for myself and my department. I love what I do, and it’s contagious.”
    18. “has an eye for details because details matter the most. How many companies have failed because of just one tiny detail? Hire me and you’ll be sure I’ll find that detail.”
    19. “can see the big picture. Beginners waste time solving minor issues. I understand the purpose of our company, tackle the real subjects and the top management will eventually notice it.”
    20. “is not like anyone you know. I am the candidate you would not expect. You can hire a corporate clone, or you can hire someone who will bring something different to the company. That’s me. “

    Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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