Productivity Tip #4: Take notes to train your mind!

Ever wanted to improve your ability to retain information?

The way I started doing that was taking notes in books I read. It made a HUGE difference. I’d use a post-it, and write down an EXTREMELY boiled-down version of whatever it was I wanted to remember. I’d be forced to fit my note onto a Post-It, which is a very small piece of paper. That space constraint forced me to find ways to organize the data and boil it down to bullet points and core concepts, and I’d never use more than one note per page.

Once I finished a book, I’d go transcribe those notes and create sort of a Cliff’s Notes of my own. The whole time I’m writing them down and then transcribing them, the ideas are bouncing around in my head, and I’d be able to remember them better because they have more time to soak in.

But here’s the good bit: Learning to interpret data and force yourself to boil it down trains you to automatically look for that information AS YOU READ, instead of as you take the note. The more you do it, the more your brain gets used to instantaneously distilling information down to its most potent, least reducible form. 🙂

Eventually my need for taking notes reduced drastically, because not only did I get a feel for exactly what kind of information I was looking for and how to find it, but my memory improved too. I mean, think about it… which is easier, remembering three bullet points, or an entire chapter? If you can break it down on the fly, in your brain, the data’s more likely to stick.

I do this with everything. To-Do lists, driving directions, grocery lists, etc. I figure if I keep it up long enough, I’ll be some sort of crazy memorization ninja!

Take notes. 🙂

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