. Note Taking
Hello! My name is Katherine B. and I attended a Relief Society enrichment meeting that you did and I loved it!
I have been wanting to ask you something. I am a person who is ALWAYS taking notes – sacrament meeting, firesides, workshops, conference, other university classes, institute, and other random things. I’m always jotting things down. (I guess it helps me focus.) I also love writing and receiving letters.
I have tons notebooks full of notes and also boxes of letters (especially from my mission) that I can’t seem to throw away but I don’t know what to do with them. I’m just curious about your advice as to what to do with stuff like that.
Improve Your Note Taking Methods
Katherine, your problem is not in your note taking, it is in your methods. We have two problems to solve: the old notes and your future note taking.
Old Notes. Begin systematically going through the old notes, about 15 minutes each day you are home and doing housework, to decide what is worth keeping. Usually, you will only need about 10% of what you have kept. The other 90% is less useful. If you come across phone numbers and tidbits of nonsense information, throw it out. You haven’t needed it yet and will be able to find it again if you do.
Set up a simple file system by topic to keep these notes in, no matter their condition and size. Remember, ruthlessly discard any and everything that isn’t absolutely precious to you. (And yes, I know you have kept all this paperwork because it might be useful and precious, but now you must be more logical and ruthless.)
As you sort, staple like papers with like so they are grouped for easy retrieval. Put what you want to keep in the newly labeled folders, again by topic: sacrament meeting talks, business meetings, Women’s Conference, Education Week, etc. Discard the rest with a firm resolve. You can be and want to be liberated from any paperwork that doesn’t help your current life’s needs.
Put the mission and other letters by date in their own folders according to who wrote the letters. You might like a set of sorting folders to aid with this. Consider purchasing the Family History Sorting Labels. I would be prone to keep all personal letters as they are the basis of personal histories and become more and more valuable with time.
As you sort, put what you desire to keep in the newly labeled folders. Discard any unneeded, non-personal correspondence with a firm resolve. You can be and want to be liberated from paperwork that doesn’t help you now.
Future Note Taking. From now only take notes on a standard size of paper usually 8.5″ x 5.5″ (half sheets) or 8.5″ by 11″ (full sheets). Keep your written notes and extra blank paper in a binder, which you take with you everywhere. (As an example, I invested in a zippered binder case to hold my papers. This keeps blank paper in a form that can be easily stored and reused. It also keeps written notes safe from spills and crumpling. I like 8.5″ x 5.5″ because it is convenient for meetings.)
Then, when you get home, separate your notes into folders as before, but this time all your paperwork will be the same size, color, and quality. Again, make sure to staple papers that belong together.
Remember, never begin to take notes without triangulating. This concept means writing the date, place, page number, and topic at the top of each piece of paper, with the page number changing if you make more than one page of notes on any one occasion. This keeps the paperwork useful because you can return to it and immediately remember, “Oh yes, these notes are from the sacrament meeting on April 19, 2009. Elder Jones spoke on the return from his mission when I was visiting my aunt’s ward in Salt Lake City, Utah.” These simple notations at the top of each page of notes will jog your memory and help the notes always remain useful to you in the future.
Clean out, clean up, and do it different and better in the future so all your wonderful notes can serve you again and again.
If any of you have a questions to ask, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer it right away. I’ll also ask your permission and share it in the newsletter if it is appropriate and useful!
Find more helpful ideas in my House of Order Handbook.
Photo from sxc.hu. Used with permission.