Note taking is one of the most effective yet underused tools available to a martial artist or athlete to convert diverse and excessive information into precise action and follow-up.
It is – by far – my most frequently recommended exercise to improve skill development outside of physical training. As a note taking tragic, I am happy just to see someone taking notes but there are a few best practices you can employ to really turbo charge the effects.
First, notes to aid recall of information (like online instruction or a lecture) should be made at the time the information is received or immediately after. For best effect, this should be reviewed the next day and reviewed and refined seven days later or once the module of study is complete.
Notes to consolidate physical practice (like a jiu jitsu class) should ideally be made the day after training and then reviewed and refined seven days later.
Second, I recommend having two types of note books – a general, day to day book that gets used for scribbling down notes on the first pass and other, topic specific notebooks to record that information once it has been reviewed, condensed and consolidated.
Your daily notebook can be as organised or as disorganised as you prefer. This book is more about having a place to collect information and thoughts.
Topic specific notebooks should be clearly organised. These books are for the clear and concise breakdown of information and should be formatted in a way that makes that easy to do.
Leave a page or two so you will be able to create a table of contents. Every time you make a new entry to your notebook simply title and/or number it and then add a corresponding reference to your contents page.
When making the notes themselves, write the key points and topics on the left hand page and the minor details and explanatory notes on the right. Try to keep everything to short bullet points rather than make long hand, journaling style entries; the goal of this form of note taking is to condense information into small, easily manageable chunks.
Making notes is about imposing structure on information for increased retention and better understanding – not developing rote recitation of someone else’s description or phrases.
The act of note taking is what provides the primary benefit. You might never refer back to your notes once the review period is concluded and there would be little difference in utility between yourself and someone who refers back to their notes frequently.