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Paper Brains

Growing up, I remember my dad made notes. As I think back, he always seemed to have a pen and paper in his pocket. I just realized that I do that also! I guess it’s genetic. Once as a child I saw him pull a small piece of paper out of his pocket and write something down. I asked him what he had in his hand. He said, “Paper Brains.”

A page from my Paper Brains

For my entire adult life, I’ve relied heavily on Paper Brains – in more recent years, these paper brains have been augmented electronically. However, even with technological advances, we’re all still faced with a question:
What do we do with our notes?
Because few of us have photographic memories, this is not a trivial question. If we can crack the code on this, it might help us take a huge leap forward in our personal effectiveness.
I have tried countless techniques over the years. In part, because I’ve never been fully satisfied with the outcome and, in part, because even if something seems to be working, I still want to find a better way.
Here are a few of the things that have helped me.
I always try to review my notes after an event. Sometimes I’ll even rewrite them if they’re difficult to read.
Sometimes I’ll type significant parts of my hand-written notes. I did this a few years ago while attending the 8-week Advanced Management Program at Harvard. I decided to only type Big Ideas, Questions and Action Items. When I finished, I had almost 100 pages of notes!  However, it was much better than the hundreds of pages of notes I started with. I then had the 100 typed pages spiral bound and I refer to it still to this day, almost 6 years after attending the course.
I also code things while I’m taking notes - A large asterisk beside a Big Idea, a question mark beside a Question I want to revisit and a box to be checked off beside an Action Item. This simple system helps me find these things easier after the event.
One last thought - recently, I switched journals. I’m now using an Action Journal by Behance. These journals have a place designated in the margin specifically for Action Items. This feature alone has made it easier for me to keep track of the things I want to get done. [GLS_Shield]
What works for you regarding processing your notes? I’d love to hear from you!

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Peter Jeff, The Leadership Mints Guy

10 years ago

Paper brains. Loved that phrase. I'm an index card guy. I wrote a book on personal leadership GET A GRIP on your Dream (www.possibilitypress.com) primarily by collecting quotes and various anecdotes and observations on over 14,000 index cards sorted into 156 topic categories. I know it is so old school. But somehow pinning up those 3x5 cards on a wall and then ---quite literally connecting the dots between and among different categories ---gave me new insights. More at http://LeadershipMints.com

mark

10 years ago

Thanks Peter! 14,000 cards is a lot of paper brains!!! Mark

Connie S

10 years ago

I realy enjoyed reading this article Paper Brains is a good way of explaining it. I do use journals now also I love them I end up useing them every day it seems like.

mark

10 years ago

Thanks Connie for taking time to comment!

Wes Gay

10 years ago

I've toyed with different methods. As a self-proclaimed tech geek, I want to keep all notes digitally. But I've realized it's much easier and convenient with my pocket Moleskine. Now I think I may need to try the Action Journal. Thanks for your thoughts!

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