4 Reasons To Take More Notes & 3 Ways To Make The Most Of Them

Alignment XVI

There are so many reasons to write! You don’t have to write professionally to experience the many benefits writing can offer you. Remember, while few people write professionally, everyone writes, most often to help them do their work. While you may not consider yourself a writer, you already write. So write more! Even if it’s just a little you’ll find it will help a lot.

Here are four reasons to write.

1          Retention

Writing will help you remember things. Most people can only hold seven things in their minds at once. Many times, if you’re full up, new ideas won’t come, until you make space for them. Other times, when new information comes in, old information is lost. Either way, the solution is to write it down – and there are additional benefits to making notes. You’re 73% more likely to remember and act on something if you write it down. (If you type your notes, this number drops to 39%, which is still much better.) Part of this stickiness comes from finding the words that work best for you, so use the language that you’re most comfortable with and that means the most to you. You probably have a to-do list professionally, so why wouldn’t you use one to help you excel in your creative life too? And there are times when everyone needs a checklist. (Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto shows how doctors used checklists to reduce hospital deaths and complications by more than 33%.)

2          Clarity

Writing helps you see more and see more clearly. Like any creative discipline, writing encourages closer observation. You note more things – more information. Plus you’ll find patterns in the things you note – information about information. You’ll understand your experiences better and you’ll find more ideas. Unlike photography, which encourages observation of things you can see, writing can also help you observe things you can’t see like your thoughts and emotions, interactions within relationships, and processes unfolding in time. When you find the right words to describe something you understand it better.

3          Productivity

Once you see what you’ve written new ideas will come to you. You can accelerate this process by playing word games. Alex Osborne’s acronym SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put To Other Uses, Expand, Reverse) is a mnemonic device for a series of mental operations you can use, each of which is capable of leading to countless new ideas.

4          Organization

Organizing your writing helps you organize your thinking. Often the process of taking notes isn’t linear, you simply let it all out. When you revisit and reorganize your notes you make even more sense out of your observations. Lists help you identify steps in a process, set priorities, and identify more important items. Remember, you can also use size, color, or graphic symbols like underlines and stars to make some words stand out more than others.

It’s important to file your notes in an easily retrievable organized system that you trust, otherwise your mind will continue trying to remember everything, which no one can do, not even the gifted who have a photographic memory.

Audio

What about taking notes with audio? Many apps (like Notes) will turn what you say into text. This can be a fast way to take notes, especially when you’re multitasking.

Audio files that aren’t turned into text take more time to review as they’re played back, as much or more time than it took to make them, so they’re not the most efficient way to retrieve. However, if you are having a conversation with someone and you don’t want to interrupt the flow audio is very useful. Nothing records intonation and inflection as audio does. And there are occasions where you want to note the particular sound of something, which words can’t duplicate.

Take Notes With Images

Some things are better noted visually rather than verbally. If you can see what you want to make a record of then a photograph can very efficiently make a note, often one full of detail that would take more time than necessary to record. If you need to make a visual note and you can’t photograph it, make a doodle instead. Diagrams can be particularly useful for recording processes (vectors, paths, timelines, etc) and relationships (maps, graphs, Venn diagrams, etc).

Go Multi-Media

You can combine text and audio and images. Together they’re even richer and more powerful than they are alone.

Avoid Perfection

Perfect takes time, so for this purpose, it isn’t. Not only is it too much pressure, in the wrong way at the wrong time, it’s a distraction. So satisfice. And above all, enjoy the process. Think of your notes as a place to record and explore your observations – not the way you’ll present them to others. With this realization, you’ll be freer about what you record and how you record it and so you’ll do it more often. And that’s the point.

Make notes, lots of notes, and keep doing it. Developing this habit will help you see more, think more, feel more, do more. You’ll get more out of life.

(Want more on this subject? I recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.)

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Let Why You Draw Determine How You Draw

If I’m trying to make a drawing that looks good or one that is good to look at then the hour I spent making this is well spent but if drawing requires that much time I won’t draw often.

If I’m drawing to record ideas, this is a much more efficient way to draw and so I’ll draw more.

“Make things as simple as possible – but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

 

In their wonderful book Art & Fear Ted Orland and David Bayles share a story.

A daughter asks her father, “What did you do today?”

“I taught my students how to draw,’ he responded matter of factly.

She gasped in amazement, “When did they forget?”

I find that when I ask people if they can draw the number of affirmative responses is directly related to age. The younger you are the more you know you can draw. So what happens when we grow up? We are taught a terribly limiting understanding of the many things drawings can be and do.

With a unidimensional vision of what drawing is, we are trapped by someone else’s limited vision of perfection that is further complicated by comparison to others.

We can all draw. Note that I didn’t say we can or should all draw like Michaelangelo. It takes more time to develop the skills necessary to draw in some ways than others. And you probably draw a little differently than your friends who also think they can’t draw. But if you can read this (possibly even if you can’t), then chances are you already know more than one way to draw.

Drawing is many different things to many different people – and it can do many things for you. For Thomas Edison drawing was a way to visualize what didn’t exist – yet. He handed his team a very simple sketch to help them invent the phonograph. (As a draftsman he was no Leonardo but his limited drawing skills helped him be an even better inventor.) Words weren’t enough and he needed a way to visualize what they had never seen before but soon would in part because he helped his team visualize it with a drawing.

So once we understand that even doodles are just one of many kinds of drawings, we might start to reframe what makes a drawing good based on the purpose we intend it to serve. If all you’re looking for is a way to find and capture ideas, then the time it takes to render them realistically is wasted. (And who wants to waste time?) Moreover, for some purposes, the extra detail added may be distracting or, worse, confusing. (If I ask you where the bathroom is, and you start spouting extended passages of flowery verse, one or both of us might get wet.)

The kind of drawing I want to encourage you to practice as part of your creative toolkit is not about making good-looking drawings; it’s about making useful drawings. Drawing can be useful in many, many ways.

 

1. Imagine The Possibilities

2. Capture The Idea In What’s Picture Imperfect

3. Identify Possible Variations

4. Structure Stories With Storyboards

 

Read 4 Reasons Photographers Should Draw More Often.

Learn more in my photography and creativity workshops.