Do your notes flow?

One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is the “flow” of my notes is as important as the content. What do I mean by flow? Let’s dig into this.

There’s normally two times I’m actively taking notes: when discussing or meeting with others and when I’m brainstorming ideas. In either case there is some bouncing around that happens, either from topic to topic or that wonderful stream of consciousness that generates the best ideas.

Capturing what I’m thinking usually isn’t too much of an issue. It’s connecting these various and often disparate notes into cohesive narratives that pose the challenge. My note taking is either analog in my notebooks or using OneNote. In one connecting notes is easy. In the other not so much.

Flow in OneNote

When capturing notes through OneNote, you can leverage the built-in outlining design of the notes or you can use hyperlinks to connect notes together. In either case (and they’re not mutually exclusive) the flow of the notes can be managed while being captured as well as after the fact.

Flow on paper

Capturing notes on paper can make flow management more difficult. Often notes on paper are more stream of consciousness than they are logically structured. I recommend taking time after capturing your raw notes to rewrite them into a logical, clear format. Not only does that help with organization but also with retention of the subject matter.

In either case it is key to capture context, content, and commitment. Understanding the reasoning behind notes as well as the specifics of a note, and ultimately any actions needed from the note can make or break your note taking system. Following my favorite process will help: Capture, Process, Report. Capture your notes then go back and process them into a format where you can report to yourself consistently and clearly the information.

Note taking is far more of a challenge for many than you would think and I count myself among them. Taking time to work and develop this skill pays off no matter what you’re doing.