What's the link . . . to your notes?

I have written before about not remembering if you don’t write it down. If you need to create a written link to information, you need a system to record the link.

When I was in seventh grade, I had the most terrible American history teacher. Well, he was terrible for a seventh grader, because he made us do the work and prove the work. He taught us like no other teacher. He required us to not only provide answers to questions but also document exactly where we found our answers. For him it wasn’t good enough that we knew the answer, he wanted to know exactly where we could prove our answer.

My teacher introduced me to a system to link content. After every written answer, my American history teacher required us to include; the chapter, page, paragraph, and sentence where we found the answer. For example, my answer from a book I am reading “Crucial Conversations“ about how effectively handling a crucial conversation will improve your career, relationships, and health, I would also have to include:

(ch1, pg. 9, ¶2, s2)

There are other times when documenting where to find information is helpful. When I write a note in a meeting that I need to add to my list of activities, I create a written link to that information.

For example, if I commit to calling the Acme Vendor Company for materials. I would add to my list of activities:

Call Acme Vendor Company (8.17.1)

(8.17.1) tells me my detailed notes are on the eighth month, seventeenth day, and my first note of the day. (all my notes are in one notepad)

If I wrote the note in the electronic note taking program that I use (called Evernote), I would write:

Call Acme Vendor Company (8.17.en)

This note is recorded on the eighth month, seventeenth day, and in an Evernote note.

If I have the information in an email, I would write:

Call Acme Vendor Company (8.17.em)

This note tells me the information is in an email on the eighth month, seventeenth day.

“From now on, I’ll connect the dots my own way.” – Bill Watterson (cartoonist, Calvin and Hobbes)

When I am at a training seminar where I have handouts or a binder of slides, I write most of my notes in my notepad. When I make a note about a slide I will also add the slide number next to my note and maybe even the bullet number on the slide. This way I can quickly go back to the materials for reference later. One of the most influential books I have read in recent times was Love is the killer app by Tim Sanders. In a part of this book Tim suggests creating your own “Cliff” notes on the blank pages of the book while you read. On these blank pages I include the chapter and page number for any note I pull out of the book.

We all write notes or come across information we want to remember later. The trick is to find the information when you need it. A system to link information you find is a practical way to later find the information you are looking for.

 How to you remember the original source when you make a written note?

6 comments to What’s the link . . . to your notes?

  • You know, I never really thought about it this way, but I think I do this sometimes without realizing it. Like when i write notes in my business plan in Google Docs, I leave a link to something i feel would be a good fit for something in the actual document. It’s really helpful, rather than wading through the history tab of my browser to find the link again.

  • I write everything down in my DayRunner, whose format I’ve used for years. For long-term projects, I copy the pages later and put in my folders with the other materials. Lately, I’m doing more paperless so I pdf them instead.

    Shorter projects get recorded on my to do list with a note as to the date where my notes can be found.

    Nancy
    http://www.dogear6.com

  • This post is great. As a student my study skills tutor and the books I have been reading really emphasize the need to record thoughts as you are reading. I’m not sure how it works in the US, but in the UK, the top grade (a 1st) is only achievable by original thoughts and arguments so what you may deem only to be a passing thought can actually turn into a fantastic essay that will catch the marker’s eye and stand out from other essays. I think this focus on originality is a transferable skill into the workplace. Like you, I note down the slide no and bullet point to coordinate with my notes in a lecture or seminar. When making notes while reading or in a class I always write my own thoughts in a different colour so that it’s obvious that I shouldn’t reference this idea. When I go back to a topic, I can remind myself on my thoughts and pick up where I left off. I also make detailed contents pages for my files and textbooks so I know where to locate the information I need and when I need to look again at a topic, I have already marked the best pages and books for what I want to find.
    This system has naturally found it’s way into my reading for pleasure and research for the novel I am writing. My friends think I’m crazy but I know that this system has helped me achieved top marks and made my revision very effective. It’s really interesting to hear (or read) in your post and the comments box that these skills are not exclusive to students. It always pays to try to look at something in a non-conventional way and our passing thoughts can spring into great ideas.
    I prefer using a paper system though, I find it hard to concentrate on technology so I wondered whether you have any ideas for an alternative to Evernote? I do carry a small notebook but do you have any more tips about using a certain format for example? Mine seems to be pages after pages of writing that often I skim read it and forget or miss something important which have recorded.
    Katie
    http://www.coffeehousediscussions.wordpress.com

    • I agree that this originality is transferable to the workplace. I would even say it is necessary in any professional career. You have an awesome system to organize and track your notes. Don’t listen to your friends. You have found a system that works for you. They can use their own system. I use a notebook that I carry with me. I’ll need some more time to consider alternatives to Evernote to index and reference. I agree that technology can sometimes get in the way.

      Let me know when your novel is done. I would love to hear about it.

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