Idiots Don’t Take Notes
You had a brilliant thought and like an idiot didn’t write it down.
The opportunity to record a brilliant idea is the time between a lightning flash and the thunder that follows. If you hear the thunder and don’t take notes, the thought-gods take back their gift.
Your brilliant thought didn’t die. It drifted into the atmosphere looking for someone with respect.
People who respect ideas take notes.
A billionaire can take notes:
The founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, takes notes. Did I mention he’s a billionaire?
“I urge everybody to take notes, whatever they are doing, wherever they are going. It doesn’t matter what form they take – laptops and phones are better than nothing – but I prefer a pen and paper.”
Fools hear wisdom and say, “I knew that.”
Wisdom feels familiar when you hear it. When you hear something interesting write it down, even if it feels familiar.
Branson says, “Become a great listener. Get out there and ask people questions and write down the answers.”
A genius poet wrote notes:
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are the two leading 19th century American poets. Some consider Dickinson to be the greatest American poet of all time. She published 10 poems in her lifetime. All were published anonymously. She actually wrote about eighteen hundred poems.
Dickinson respected ideas. It seems she wrote down in the moment. Scraps of paper, envelopes, even the wrapper of cooking chocolate have partial or complete poems on them.
Keep your pen handy. You never know when an idea might pop in.
One of the most successful British business leaders and one of America’s greatest poets captured thoughts with notes.
Take out your pen today.
What note taking strategies do you use?
I came across a brilliant idea
asked myself where
I had seen it before:
the creation play in which,
I had been offered the role of
Thanks Christian. Love what you wrote. An idea is a beginning.
I completely agree with this post. I am retired now, but I always took notes when I was in meetings or when I went to seminars or conferences. When I interact with former employees, who reported to me, they always remember how I could find anything in my notes. Now I take notes when I read, but mostly on my iPhone.
Thanks Sande J. It’s a good example that lets people know ideas matter. I use Microsoft OneNote for most of my note taking now. I like that it’s searchable.
Amen – pad and pen handy always
Thanks Scott. Writing is thinking. 🙂
so true–capture those good ideas and thoughts before they drift away.
I try to always have a pen and notebook close by.
Thanks Paul. I’m with you. I also write in books and when I don’t have pen and pad handy, I use notes on my phone. Although, I’m a hunt-and-peck person on the phone. I’m pretty slow.
As an inveterate note-taker, I heartily agree! I never hesitated to write down not only my own thoughts and ideas, but also those expressed by team members and associates in case they forgot to record them on their own. I can’t count the times that colleagues have asked me, “Do you remember what it was that I said to X about doing Y?” I would always say, “I don’t remember it exactly, but I wrote it down.”
Thanks Jim. While reading your comment, one of my experiences popped into my mind. I’ve had people ask me what I said just a few sentences before because they liked how it sounded. I can’t repeat verbatim things I said just a minute or two ago. You’d have to remind me, too.
Thank you for this post. I am an avid note taker and they are not always pretty. Note taking is sometimes a lost art. They (notes) don’t have to look good, be colorful or perfect. Just write them down. They will always be there to help you remember when you need them most.
Good point, J.C. All we need is a memory trigger. I confess that sometimes I’m not sure what I meant, but generally, I’ve got enough aid recall. You couldn’t read most of my notes. 🙂
Completely agree. My director has shared a great practice from his notebook. When he opens his notebook, the right side page is for the daily routine notes, written on the lines. However, he saves the left page for the creative notes and does not follow the lines. The creative thoughts are easily recalled.
Love that, Scott. There’s something freeing about coloring outside or writing the lines. Thanks for a practical suggestion.
Taking notes is the first step… Reading them and using them to do something is another. I keep meeting agenda notes and “transcribe” important conversations digitally. I use Post-It notes (greatest invention ever, second only to Velcro) for incidentals, and always have a notebook and pens. Tip- I tape my pen caps to the elastic on my notebook and replace the pens as needed. The attached caps keep me from losing a pen…
Great to see you today, Bardohn and wonderful suggestion. What I notice is people who respect ideas are serious about taking notes. It’s not haphazard.
You’re right, go back and review notes. I use notes for my coaching clients. I always review my notes before the next meeting. I want them to know they matter to me.
I picked up this habit in college, and it was reinforced by a creative writing class. I used to have piles of scrap paper that my wife called my “deep thoughts”. I’d empty them out on a shelf along with my keys and wallet at the end of the day. She eventually moved them into a shoe box, and I’d sort through them when I had time. Now I try to keep small notebook handy with me always. I highly recommend keeping one near your bed. It sucks to have a cool idea in the middle of the night and not remember it later, even if sometimes those ideas don’t always make sense upon later review.
Thanks John. The best-side note pad is helpful. Let your brain know it doesn’t have to stay away remembering a brilliant idea. The other advantage is, sometimes I look at those ‘middle of the night’ ideas and I say, “What were you thinking?” They’re not as great in the morning as they were in the middle of the night.
Thank you for this post, Dan. Leaders are learners. Since playing for a coach in college that required a daily notebook, I’ve been an avid note taker as well. Note taking is definitely a lost art (most people can’t get off the phone, texts & facebook- not notes). Coach Garrison always said notes help you remember but he believed in writing, discussing, doing. We won a lot of games and it stuck with me!
Write – Discuss – Do. That sounds like a great formula for managing ideas. I’m glad you shared your thoughts, Jon.
Ideas we don’t act on can clutter up our heads. You can get uncluttered by asking, “Do I plan to do anything with this idea?” If no, share it and forget about it.
When I moved into administration, I learned to write down notes about nearly every interaction. I’ve used my notes on many occasions. I’ve never regretted writing something down, only that I didn’t write more.
Thanks Jeri. “I’ve never regretted writing something down.” That’s a nugget!
I’m an inveterate scribbler of notes, have been all my life. It’s never been a habit that I have regretted having.
As an engineer right out of college, I’ve always followed the discipline of keeping a notebook filled with my meeting notes, attendees, conversation topics, sketches and possibly patentable ideas. I have over a dozen of them going back to the mid ’80s (yep, I’m old). It is sometimes fun to look back over them to see how far we’ve come in our technology. The only gaps I have are when I tried using a Rocketbook that my kids gave me and those notes are somewhere in the cloud! Now in our virtual corporate environment, I’ve found that if I’m not focused on taking notes, I have difficulty following what is being said (visual learner). I think best using a whiteboard then writing it down.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Reading this post and the comments, I feel like I have found “my people.” Like so many skills, note-taking isn’t difficult–it just takes a little effort (and certainly improves with practice). In my experience note-takers also tend to be more productive. They are far more likely to complete their tasks without the need for prompting and reminders. I believe this applies even if they don’t review their notes afterward–the simple act of recording an item makes it easier to recall.
Dan, thanks for this posting. Let’s me know I’m not crazy. I’m a post-it person. Ideas, notes, and quotes go on post-its. Then post-it ideas go into my journals. Then, journal comments go to my articles. Then, articles become books. I carry post-it notes with me always because I like to capture ideas in 25 words or less.