You probably thought that taking notes was something that only happened in college, and high school if you’re were the studious type. But who knew that it would not only spread into the business world but help set apart high achievers and successful entrepreneurs? The research did. Many studies have shown that taking notes helps us to understand, remember, and retrieve essential facts when we need them most; but those same skills can be incredibly meaningful in the world of business as well. Here are 5 ways note-taking can set you apart as a successful entrepreneur and help your ideas blossom.
Note-takers are many things, but they definitely:
Are Avid Learners
There’s no needed for taped spectacles and pocket protectors here. Avid learners come in all shapes, sizes and a variety of fashions – but the one thing they have in common is that they are constantly asking questions. They’re tracking information, formulating questions, digging for answers and drawing conclusions, which in turn will lead to more questions. Those nerdy types in high school soaked up information like a sponge and often spouted out corrected answers whenever possible. Research shows that writing information down helps us pull out essential facts and starts the process of understanding – connections come once the notes are reviewed and ideas are consolidated.
Application: Successful entrepreneurs of today have put the skill of avid learner to use. They ask questions, make connections and apply their findings in real time. Their propensity to learn new things makes their brains and their processes malleable – making change and progress all that much easier to implement. To put this skill to use, think of areas of your business that may be antiquated or need a refresh. Start asking questions of yourself, employees, and maybe even your customers. You may be surprised at how easy the changes are to implement and how much they might effect your bottomline.
Know That Remembering Information is Important
It may bring on a cold sweat as you remember cramming for exams and trying to memorize countless facts so you could pass a class. Odds are that a professor or friend might have mentioned that a good way to remember something is to write it down. What seemed like a good suggestion has actually been proven as fact. Research has shown that a person has a better chance of remembering the facts if they’ve taken the time to write them down. In fact, students who had been taking notes in a class ,were 7 times more likely to remember the facts a week later than those who had not.
Application: This idea pairs perfectly with avid learning. Constantly learning isn’t enough – we have to be able to retain and then draw on information when needed. As a business owner you have many hats, you’re probably nodding in agreement that keeping track of all the details all the time is nearly impossible. If you aren’t already taking notes, consider starting a log of some sort where you jot down information that might be useful in the future. (i.e. websites that provide useful business tips, that new software your business friend mentioned, an idea that your daughter shared with you that she learned in her business class, etc. ) Even if you can’t recall the specifics you’ll have an easier time finding solutions if you have a place to start looking, and odds are you’ll recall a lot more than you thought you might just by looking at your notes.
Know How to Spot Cues
It may seem like being observant is a gift, but it actually is a skill that can be finely honed. Note takers have a lot going on during a meeting or presentation. They’re listening, writing/typing, and concentrating on what’s being said so they don’t miss a beat. Efficient note-takers seem to develop a sixth sense for spotting verbal and non-verbal cues. For example, during presentations speakers often pause or repeat a main idea, change their tone or inflection while trying to get a key point across. Non-verbal cues might include a deck of slides shared during the presentation, writing on a whiteboard, or when a speaker seems animated while speaking because they’re using their arms and hands to make a point.
Application: Knowing how to spot cues puts any entrepreneur ahead of the game. They seem to intuitively know that Jane was passionate about the project, or that Larry’s knowledge about an aspect of the project is unsurpassed. Odds are they weren’t told this information, but that they picked it up from spotting verbal and non-verbal cues. Even if you’re not expertly skilled in this area you can always start now and hone the craft as you go. A good place to start, both to practice your skill and mine some useful information, is an informal employee interview. Sitting down one-on-one provides you a chance to ask if there are concerns or ideas that they have for their job – you’ll be able to get some useful stuff, and practice looking for non-verbal cues that you’ll jot down as well to use in the future.
Are Efficient Readers/Leaders
Remember the kid that always seemed to have the right answer and raised his hand first in class? They seemed to know the assigned text by heart, and remembered countless details in addition to the answer the professor was looking for. It may have seemed annoying at the time, but that skill, when applied, can make a pretty amazing leader. Note-taking while reading is a great way to maintain focus and helps you practice summarizing key points. When it comes to running a business this skill helps you pinpoint problem areas, lead out in finding a solution, and summarize needs and how to fill them quickly – that makes for efficient processes which in turn bring success.
Application: It seems like just another to-do but adding some useful reading to your daily tasks might not be a bad idea. Some of the world’s best entrepreneurs and leaders have been noted to be well-read and they seem to be applying the ideas they’re gleaning to real life so they must be taking notes of some kind as well as just reading about them. If you dig around the internet for a minute you’ll find several subscription offerings that have curated great reads for aspiring businesspeople and leaders (just to prove a point, we’ve linked this sentence to a popular one.) Even if you don’t cough up the funds for the subscription, you might want to make note of some of the more popular business reads and set aside 20-30 minutes each day to take their information in.
Ready For New Ideas
Odds are that you’ve either doodled in the side margins while taking notes for a class or knew someone who did. Would it surprise you that some of the most successful entrepreneurs are avid note takers who not only jot down key points from the topics being discussed, but may have jotted down ideas, notes, or thoughts in the margins (along with their doodles of course)? We’d venture to say that some of the best business ideas and greatest entrepreneurial successes started out in the side margins of a notebook. Consider it brainstorming by 1 person instead of a group. Where do these ideas come from? They’re often the questions that come to mind while a person is learning something new, jotting down information that is important so they can make connections, etc.
Application: While you’re sitting by the pool taking on your next business read, or attending a work meeting or industry conference, make it a point to have paper and pen handy. Then instead of just jotting down the important points that are being covered, take time to jot down the ideas and questions that come to mind while you’re listening. When you review your notes, see if you can’t draw connections or brainstorm ideas for the questions you posed in the margins. What you’ll find might be the next big thing for your business, or even answer a question you’ve had regarding growing or managing your business.
So how will you step up your note taking game? What things do you already implement in your day to day and which might help you and your business grow? We’d love to hear in the comments.
Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.