5 Tips to start productively:
- Process what you watch, hear or read
I used to highlight, underline and write commentary in the margins of my books. But these thoughts and comments don’t resonate for long unless I pick up a particular book again – which rarely happens given the plethora of choices, analog and digital. Even if I look at a publication again, often times the lack of context means I cannot figure out what and why I had scribbled a particular note in the margins. What did these exclamation marks mean, after all?
- Write short, succinct notes
That’s why I developed an admittedly extremely geeky hybrid system. I love to take notes on stickies. I write down ideas, reflections or quotes on notes and stick them at the margins of the book I am reading. Or, when watching a video or reading an article on my tablet I write down memorable quotes and comments on sticky notes and attach them to a page in my Goldfink Solar Planner.
My notes are often visual reminders: circles, diagrams, arrows, doodles or sketchy drawings summarizing a complex idea. (If you are interested in an introduction to visual note-taking, click here for my article to get you started.)
Important is the manual process of highlighting, summarizing and organizing your thoughts on stickies or notes small enough to encourage brevity. Sometimes I use color coded stickies or pens for different aspects of a topic, such as „international“, „tech“, „basics“ „disagree“ „follow-up“ -whatever is meaningful.
3. Collect and edit your notes
Next I collect my notes and place the stickies on a page, scribble or draw my thoughts, illustrate them, draw a mind map and include a reference such as date and source (textbook, magazine or article, talk at a conference, podcast or video). This step is essential as it condenses, structures, elaborates and lets you connect the dots. This way it is easy to absorb a new concept or find inspiration. And because it is playful, it is fun and memorable!
- Preserve your findings
When my page is finished, I scan it with an app on my phone and save it as a pdf so it can easily be annotated, printed and shared. (For suggestions on apps, see my blog post here).
- Upload and archive
Finally, I upload it to my computer into themed folders, organized by topic, project or year. You will be amazed at the treasures you uncover when you browse your notes. And because they are edited and sorted, they make sense even years later.
Sometimes it is wonderful to go on a mental ramble writing and journaling. That is not what this method is designed for. This system is good for picking out ideas by imposing a structure so you can return to what you have read, watched or listened to and it makes sense to you after all. Of course, various digital apps and programs are available. But this is the simplest hybrid system that requires only a few sticky notes and a pencil.