We are all in a bit of an information overload mode at the moment.
The lack of a commute has given us back time, but at the same time there's a lot of online content out there to fill that time.
There is a fantastic breadth and depth to the available online webinars, virtual daily commutes, drinking sessions, Zoom get togethers and the like, but the upshot is we are consuming more than is perhaps the norm.
So many good people are sharing ideas, concepts, tools and tactics by video and online. Yet the extent of information is such that it could be quite easy to become overwhelmed in trying to make sense of it all.
Keeping up with the opportunities to learn and grow, while still being able to absorb and retain the useful information, is challenging and takes personal commitment.
Making sense of it all means filtering and considering the information at hand to make sure it can be used later on.
So in case it helps, I thought it was worth sharing a simple trick to cope with information overload that I spotted several years ago, and for which I can take no credit.
At a conference, I saw someone making notes in a particular and distinct way.
Looking over their shoulder and trying to discern their system, I began to copy it and come up with my own version.
Quite simply, it was to draw a line down the middle of the page when taking notes. I realised they were filtering the speaker content into their longer notes on the left-hand side, then making bullet points based on these on the right.
They were obviously distilling their notes as they were making them to capture the key elements to come back to later.
This may be standard stuff for some of you already, but for me, it was a revelation. It continues to help me, particularly at the moment.
The act of simplifying complicated concepts in real time helps me digest and retain information.
Over time I have refined this method to fit my own way of working.
I still use the left-hand side page for the longer notes and the right-hand side for the bullet points.
But as I write the bullet points, I now apply some questions. These are:
- How, or in what situation, might this information be useful?
- Where would this information benefit my business, my team members or myself?
- Do I have a current or anticipated situation which this information might solve?
- When combined with existing knowledge or information, how might this improve my business or develop my team? How might this boost personal productivity, or business outcomes?
I've found this helps me filter out the information that is not yet or not at all relevant, and allows me to focus on the useful content being discussed.
Another key benefit is it makes it much easier to go back to previous notes and have instant recall on their use.
Generally, my bullet points tend to be somewhat neater than my quickly scribbled notes on the left.
It's also much simpler to lift the notes out into project plans, or to quickly discuss or share with colleagues.
This exercise is a simple one, but I've found it an incredibly powerful way to digest, distil and disseminate information gained at conferences and seminars.
With so many good online events and catch-ups going on just now, it makes it so much easier to keep up, and to put my notes into action.