I take pretty meticulous notes. And then I usually never look at them again. Wait. What was that? No, you heard me right. I take great notes. I write a lot and in very extensive and organized detail. And then I rarely every look at them again. Why?

People who take notes in order to revisit them over and over again, or even just once, are adding extra work for themselves. They’re turning that two hour meeting into a six hour meeting. They’re turning that 30 minute coffee into four hours. They’re physically reliving that meeting over and over again. But if you take good enough notes, you can avoid that. I take extensive notes because I’m not REALLY taking the notes on paper. I’m actually taking them in my head.

By taking incredible notes, you are mentally practicing that information. There is extensive research that suggests that note taking, the physical act of writing down information, creates a mental flagpole. Now, for some people this is better than for others. Some people create these flagpoles almost naturally, depending on their type of intelligence. For example, I can pinpoint the exact point in a movie that a piece of music played. It is, for me, natural. But the research suggests that these flagpoles can be artificially constructed as well. By writing things down, in meticulous detail, you are creating a mental post-it note that will remind you of that exact time.

Now, you CAN read those notes over again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you remember more through the process of writing those notes than you ever will through the process of reviewing them. This is why getting someone else’s notes or the instructors slides are never as effective as taking your own notes. They are not connected, for you, to the actual events. As such, they will never be able to create for you those moments of clarity that are so necessary.

When I’m leading a group session, I tend to look around at people and I pay careful attention to what they’re doing. The people who either have their device out and are running through things with me or the people who are taking notes are going to be ok. The people who are just sitting there looking at me? They’re in trouble. Usually. Not always. As I said, some people have a way that they learn that transcends these methods. But usually, the people who didn’t take any notes and didn’t play along are the people who email me to say, “I think you said something about X, but I just can’t seem to remember what you said about it…”

Take note.