Writing Stuff Down

I am a consummate note taker. I carry around a little tiny pocket notebook and a pen at all times. I do this for two main reasons:

  • I never know when I will encounter a good idea… be it for a sermon, for the church, or something to do for my wife. Sometimes it is on a television show, sometimes while reading the Bible, sometimes in the midst of working out, sometimes when trying to merge onto the interstate. The best ones come in the shower or when I wake up at 3 a.m. Yes, I do feel like a total dork when having a casual conversation with a friend and I pull out a notebook to write something down, but that’s better than the alternative of racking my brain later trying to remember what they said. As I have explained before, I’ve only had 3 or 4 really good completely original brilliant thoughts in my life. The rest I’ve learned from other people and written down.
  • One of the greatest causes of stress in my life, I think, is trying to remember so many things. I have a short attention span as it is, and my RAM seems pretty small. I hate, hate, hate the feeling of knowing that earlier that day I had a great idea and now can’t remember it anymore. I get such a peaceful feeling after having committed something to paper. As a high school teacher told me, “Faint ink is better than a good memory.”

When I read books, I jot down all my thoughts in the front cover so later I can go back and find them. After all, it doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read or how many you’ve own, but if you can access the info that is in them when you need it. Yes, it is a little annoying to read and take notes, but, again, it’s better than losing all that material. Proverbs says, “The lazy man fails to collect what he shot while hunting.” In other words, if you spend the time “hunting” the info in reading the book, why not spend a few more minutes “capturing” the information in a format you can access later? Otherwise, you are greatly reducing the profit your reading is giving you.

When I listen to sermons in the car, I carry around a dictaphone.

It has been a huge help to me… I have also noted in the reading of biographies that a lot of thinkers much smarter than me did the same thing: Abraham Lincoln carried around random slips of paper to write on and even died with his pocket full of notes, as did Charles Darwin; both Blaise Pascal and Jonathan Edwards were known to arrive home with a couple dozen hand written notes pinned to their jackets. Yes, they looked like dorks, but we remember them hundreds of years after their deaths and don’t even know the names of the cool people anymore.

How do you capture information? How do you reduce the stress caused by trying to remember something?

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