No Need to Keep Notes

blue box for recycling

I’m giving a presentation soon to a new group, who aren’t familiar with my radical decluttering methods, but they are professional organizers, so … I’m tempted to ask them: What will you do with the handout after the session is done?

I love Marie Kondo’s approach:

“My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away.”

I come close to following her advice. Here’s my strategy for materials from workshops, lectures, meetings, etc.:

During the session, I take written notes to keep myself focused and engaged, and because, pens (ALL THE PENS!). Writing by hand helps my brain process and remember material better than recording it digitally, but that may be because I went to school before computers, so do whatever works best for your brain. Everything here applies to digital notes as well as paper ones.

While listening, my purpose isn’t to gather all the information, just the key ideas and interesting perspectives. We don’t learn by information, we learn by insight. In her (nurturing, loving) book, The Little Book of Big Change, Dr. Amy Johnson talks about insight as something touching you in a way that effortlessly produces change. “You don’t decide to act differently so much as you simply notice yourself feeling and acting differently.”

I write down questions or connections the material makes in my head, too. Sometimes I make a list of people I want to talk with about the new ideas, or how I can integrate it into existing work. Sometimes I doodle, it’s all good.

Afterwards, I take a few minutes to scan through the materials, reflect on those connections, and notice if I’ve changed – any insights? I make short summary notes of any remarkable ideas or insights and toss my lovely handwritten notes in the blue bin. Some of my clients resist this idea, from fear of losing information they might need later. I ask how often they go to an old powerpoint handout to find information vs how often they google things … and out go the papers. Like everything, there are occasional exceptions: I keep anything special, that I’m going to use right away, maybe share with others. My rule of thumb is, if I’m going to stick it into a file ‘for later’, I file it straight into the blue box. If I have a specific action planned, I put it in the place where it needs to be for that action.

I keep insights in a book I call Magic Lessons. I review it from time to time, usually when I’m adding something new. Some lessons I need to remind myself of repeatedly, and some are just heartwarming to remember. They’re phrases to remind me of how my thinking changed.

I love words. Capturing insights in a poetic way increases their power exponentially, and it feeds my soul ❤️.

The best part about simplifying my outside is that I’ve made space and time to listen to my inside. C. Carver

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP. L. Nimoy’s last tweet before he passed away in 2015.

Not all those who wander are lost. J.R.R. Tolkien

When a soft heart breaks it will not shatter, it will break wide open. K. Lowry


4 thoughts on “No Need to Keep Notes

  1. What a beautiful and fascinating post, Karen. I love your “Magic Lessons” book, what a fantastic idea. It’s so true that we learn by insight, not information. As you say, in that way change feels effortless – completely different from the usual goal-driven/hard work idea of change.

    1. Yes! The book I mention by Amy Johnson taught me that so well, about how easy change can be. And my own Magic Lessons book grew from a little spot to jot down nice quotes into a more meaningful place to record and create so many different ideas, it makes me happy just writing about it 🙂

      1. I can understand it makes you happy just to write about it, it sounds so wonderful. Also, I think you’ve found the book I’m taking on holiday next month – the Amy Johnson book sounds right up my street 👍😊

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