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In this article I’m going to share a brief overview of the five most common note-taking methods, discuss the importance of taking notes and give you 10 benefits of note taking.  Note-taking is a skill that, if developed, can make you more productive and creative.  There are many benefits to effective note taking.  Taking good notes helps you clarify your thinking and allows you to focus on the things that really matter,  Actively taking notes during meetings or client conversations can help you identify, and summarise, very quickly the most salient points.

Simple benefits of effective note taking include improved focus and attention to detail, better memory and recall, improved communication skills, better prioritisation skills and better creativity.   Let’s start with a brief overview of 5 common methods of note taking.

Common note-taking methods

The most common 5 note-taking methods are the Mind Mapping Method, the Cornell Method, The Outline Method, the Maria Popova Method and the Rapid Logging Method.

Using different note taking strategies is important to find out which method works for you.  Below is an overview of each note-taking technique with a link to learn more.

Mind mapping method

The mind mapping note-taking method helps you build associations and relationships between different subjects and thoughts, helping you go deeper and let your mind be more creative.  The mind mapping method helps you go deeper on a particular topic or challenge, often creating new ideas.  Read more about the mind mapping method.

Cornell Method 

The Cornell note-taking method helps you summarise the key points from meetings and gives you space to lay out subjects, themes or talking points you want to investigate further.  This method is effective because it makes note taking easier and helps you lay out your notes efficiently and effectively.  Instead of having lots of notes, the Cornell method trains your brain to identify the key takeaways from meetings or classes.  Read more about the Cornell method.

Outline Method 

The Outline method of note-taking is a common tools for effective note taking.  This method is commonly used during meetings and by authors and bloggers as way of structuring and organising the main points and associated themes.  By creating a hierarchical system of the most important subjects or themes you want to get across, it reduces editing time.  Read more about the Outline method.

Maria Popova Method 

The Maria Popova note-tasking method follows a simple indexing system to reference ideas, themes or subjects against specific pages in a book, paper or journal.  This method of taking notes is also good for creating blog articles or features where you want to include a reference list at the end of the article or summarise findings or statistics.  Read more about the Maria Popova method.

Rapid Logging Method 

If you are using a bullet journal you will have come across the rapid logging method.  The rapid logging method uses bullet points and symbols to help you organise and categorise your notes.  It uses three symbols – tasks, notes and events and bullet points under each symbol to help you easily identify the most important activities you have each day.  Read more about the rapid logging method.

My effective note-taking method 

My notebook helps me take notes during client coaching sessions, write down inspiring headlines I’ve seen, capture insights from seminars and be a place to write down my ideas.

This note taking method helps me get things out of my mind and down on paper.  By taking notes, it inspires me to take action on the things I’ve written down.

Note taking is my ‘creative reference point’ that I can take action from, refer back to and build ideas from.  Taking effective notes helps me improve my time management skills, increase my focus and boost my productivity.

How to take better notes 

If you want to get the best out of your notes, simply start taking notes today.  Then take some more notes tomorrow, and continue to build up your note taking capabilities.  The art of note taking is a common habit among the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and business people.

Discovering the best note taking methods can help you organise your thoughts and record vital information in every area of your business and life.

Richard Branson believes everyone should be taking notes and carries a notebook with him everywhere.

He credits note taking as one of his most important habits.

“I go through dozens of notebooks every year and write down everything that occurs to me each day, an idea not written down is an idea lost. When inspiration calls, you’ve got to capture it.” – Richard Branson

Benefits of taking notes for entrepreneurs

Here are 10 benefits of note taking for entrepreneurs.

1. Improves prioritisation skills 

Note taking can help clarify thinking and help you identify your biggest priorities.  We often have so many things going through our mind at any one time that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Taking notes reduces overwhelm as your ideas and thoughts move from your mind onto paper that you can refer back to.  So, write down all of your ideas, thoughts, frustrations, to do lists until they are all out of your mind and written down.

You can then spend some time putting the notes in some kind of order and deciding which things or projects will get your attention.

2. Improves listening skills 

When you engage in active listening, whether in a meeting, at a seminar or meeting friends, your brain is tuned to record and remember things.  But, that information can be lost unless you write it down.

Rather than the information be something that you hope to retain in your minds, you can make notes and continue to listen.

Instead of trying to remember what you’ve heard, you can make a quick note and carry on listening.

3. Increases ability to take action 

The act of writing things down and taking notes means that something is important.  For many note takers, this process ensures that they take action on what they’ve written down.

Taking notes for the sake of taking notes isn’t really going to help you.  But, taking effective notes, and turning the notes into action is what really matters.

4. Boosts your ability to capture important information

When note-taking becomes a habit it will start to feel natural to make notes during meetings, networking events, seminars and workshops.

A simple note or idea could turn into something much bigger.

Richard Branson has said that if he had never taken notes, then many of Virgin’s companies and projects would never have started.

5. Improves memory

Humans tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of reading or hearing it.  So, effective note taking can help you retain and retrieve almost 100% of the information you receive.

When you take handwritten notes, you are writing and organising as you’re thinking, which forces your thoughts to process the information in a deeper way.

6. Increases ability to organise your thoughts

One challenge people have with note taking is the ability to organise the notes in a way that they can refer back to later.

Note taking on its own isn’t enough. You have to revisit the notes and clarify the important information in your mind, and then lay out the action steps you want to take on your notes.

If the notes are all over the place this is hard to do. To make this process simpler, you can keep all of your notes in the same place, keep the same format and review your notes on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

7. Improve your focus

When you have a notebook and pen with you, you become more active and engaged in your environment.

You’ll focus more and pay more attention — a thought, quote, idea or learning experience.

When you develop note-taking skills, you become more engaged, pull out and note down the information you want to capture.

You can then sift, sort and organise your notes to enhance your learning experience or pull out thoughts to develop into bigger ideas.

8. Promotes ability to simplify

Note-taking moves us away from transcribing everything that we hear in a meeting, coaching session or classroom.

With a pen and notepad at the ready our mind begins to tune in to the things or ideas that matter.

We become able to filter out the ‘noise’ and focus in on the most relevant points, or keywords or ideas that we can build on later or refer back to.

9. Improves ability to ask better questions

If you’re in a meeting and you’re fully engaged and taking notes, your mind can begin to open up.  You get more creative.  You begin to see connections that you might miss if you hadn’t jotted down a specific note.

This helps you ask better questions as you may need something to be clarified further or it has opened up a new idea that you want to explore further.

10. Focuses attention on your goals

A number of studies show that the process of taking notes helps people to boost learning and achieve their goals.  One of Brian Tracy’s core philosophies for goal achievement is writing down your goals.  The process of writing down your goals makes us more committed to what we write down versus what we say.  Read more about writing down your goals.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal setting:

She discovered, through group research, that those who wrote down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who did not.

She found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.


Note-taking is one of the keys to success for many high level entrepreneurs.  In this article I’ve talked about the benefits of effective note-taking, and laid out the best note-taking methods so you can build up your note-taking skills.

If you can make taking notes a habit, it can help you make better decisions, improve problem-solving skills, be more creative, increase your learning and improve your productivity.

It may take a bit of discipline to make note-taking a habit in your daily life, but once you find a process that works for you, the benefits could be huge.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What’s your best method for taking notes?

Let me know in the comments.

About the Author

Mark Pettit is a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results.

Get more articles, tips and tools to help you simplify your time to multiply your results on the blog.

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