Taking Notes on What You Read, Listen To, and Watch

We all spend a lot more time consuming content. Much of the material is empty calories, taking too much time with too little nutrition. But some of the content is nutrient dense, providing you with ideas and insights that, if executed or used in some way, will help you produce better results. While cotton candy content isn’t worth your time, the real content you consume is worth more of an effort to capture what you learned.

How many blog posts or articles have you read that you wished you would have captured the primary idea, insight, data, statistic, or opinion?

How many podcasts have you listened to without taking any notes, even though you heard ideas that would be useful to you later?

How many YouTube videos have you watched without taking action, only because you were leaning back instead of leaning forward?

The smartest people you read, watch and listen to all take notes on the content they consume. If an idea is worthwhile, it is worth capturing. If the content you consume offers nothing worth capturing, then it isn’t worth your time.

Here are a few ideas about how to capture meaningful and valuable content:

  • If the concept is potentially useful in the future, take a note and capture a link for future use. It is better to have the idea captured and not ever use it than to need it and not be able to recall the idea, where you found it, or how to get back to it later.
  • Write down your thoughts, ideas, and questions about the notes that you take after you capture them. Your notes are infinitely more valuable if you add context to them in real-time, or when you let them incubate throughout the day and review them later in the evening.
  • I am personally terrible at tagging notes, but every modern capture tool provides the ability to tag notes you take as a way to organize them. The reason tags are so useful is that the notes can have more than one tag, providing your flexibility in finding the idea by the context.
  • I have been alternating between reading real, hardcover books (still my favorite of all mediums) and reading on a Kindle Voyage. More and more, I am highlighting passages, words I need to look up and spend time with, and typing notes on the Kindle (which could use a Bluetooth connection to a keyboard). The ability to export this information is more efficient than writing notes by hand (and when your handwriting is as bad as mine, illegible notes are mostly worthless anyway) even if it is likely less effective for retention and recall. That said, notes taken are better than no notes, and I am writing my thoughts on ideas after taking them, which I hope improves my effectiveness in capturing the ideas in a meaningful way.
  • Treat podcasts like the written word. If the podcast is worth listening to, then take notes, even if it means pausing the podcast and dictating the note and the timestamp so you can go back over it later. YouTube is no different. If it is worth watching, it’s worth capturing anything of value. Save the link, too. Someday you may want to cite it.

If an idea is worth your time, take time to capture it.

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