I find chunking my notes from lectures and training helps me turn insights into action. I chunk them into three categories: actions, insights, and notes.
This simple refactoring helps me quickly find the actions or my “ah has” without having to fish through a laundry list of reference points. I bubble these to the top so I can find them at a glance.
The act of refactoring my notes also helps remind me of the most valuable parts, which is usually the new distinctions I learned, or the new actions I can take.
Insights, Actions, and Notes
Here’s the purpose of my three categories:
- Actions – this is a tickler list of things I’m going to go do.
- Insights – this is a tickler list of distinctions and “ah-ha”‘s from the sessions.
- Notes – this is my raw tickler list and details of key notes throughout the session.
Why It’s Effective
It’s simple, but effective. It’s effective because rather than just a list of notes, it’s distilled actions and reference points. One of the best ways to turn information into action is to take the moment to figure out a few ways to act on what you learn.
Putting It Into Action
Here’s what I do
- Capture the notes. During the session, I can capture a lot of notes fairly quickly. I typically use a pad of post-its and jot down key things. These are my raw notes. For example, during the lecture or training, I’ll take a bunch of notes in a pretty linear fashion. It represents a stream of real-time notes.
- List the bulleted notes. I transfer the notes to an electronic store (usually notepad). I title this section Notes. This is a fast, focused step. Sometimes I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and just read my notes rapidly.
- Cherry pick the insights. I scan my notes and cherry pick the insights. I put these under an Insights section that I create above my Notes section.
- Cherry pick the actions. I scan my notes and cherry pick the actions. I put these under an Actions section that I create above my Insights section.
The result is a crisp set of actions, a crisp set of insights, and then a full reference list of notes. Taking a few quick passes through my notes, reminds me of key things and helps the information sink in deeper. Deliberately turning notes into insights and actions also helps retention. Think of it as challenging yourself to use what you learn.