I have written in the past about how I use the activity of note-taking to force myself to be a better listener.
I emphasize the word activity there, because it’s the physical process of writing the key points from the conversation that is valuable, much more than the value the notes themselves provide after the fact. So I was interested to hear Arthur Brooks talk about this in a recent podcast episode.
For those of you who don’t know of Arthur, he is writing a series of essays in The Atlantic, and has an accompanying podcast, on insights and research about human happiness. If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend this incredible essay from Arthur on how our professional decline is approaching more quickly than we might think, and how to craft our second acts.
I was out on a walk and listening to the episode when I heard Arthur refer to the act of writing things down as “meta-cognition”, because we are literally moving a piece of information from one part of the brain (where we think/conceive) to another part of the brain as we write (speaking of “meta”, this blog post is me writing down the phrase I heard on the podcast).
Note how his point about meta-cognition isn’t about the after-the-fact value of the note you’ve written, but about the activity of writing in the first place.
I recommend the episode, and when you come up with a good idea, or hear a bit of wisdom, insight, or the well-timed bon mot somewhere, you’ll know what to do.
Write it down.