I find that as I listen to the Manager Tools podcasts, as well as all of the reading that I do (I subscribe to Harvard Business Review and Fortune, and am always reading books like "Winning", "The Trusted Advisor", etc), I'm constantly picking up useful bits of information that I want to add to my toolbox.

The problem is that it's data overload. When you read something useful in a book or magazine, or hear it in a podcast, how do you capture that information so that you can refer back to it when you need it? When I read books, I usually mark them up with a highlighter, which works pretty well. But as for magazines and podcasts, I haven't found a great way to capture all of the miscellaneous bits that I want to be able to refer back to.

Anyone have any tricks that work for them?


Mark's picture
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You might guess that I do, if you've listened a while.

I'll wait to see what others say first.


juliahhavener's picture
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I started out by taking notes.

Then I learned that if I walk away and tell someone else about what I learned, or am able to put it immediately to use, I don't need the notes (and rarely referred back to them anyway).

I generally remember what is where, so when I know I need something I simply go back and listen (or read) again.

arun's picture

Practice and share what you read with others. This will help you understand the issue and its implications much better (virtuous teaching cycle concept discussed by Noel Tichy). I too underline or highlight material that I want to remember and try and share it with people who have similar interests. What I find also helps is to try and apply the concept to something similar that I may have gone through in my career or personal life. Not always possible but it has led to many a moment where I can sit back and think that now I can understand why a situation was so.

This is where I believe this forum is invaluable (thanks M&M) as you can share your knowledge and experience with others in essence helping you deepen your own knowledge and understanding of issues.

dewelch's picture

I agree with the other poster...use it as soon as you can. It really helps to lock it in your mind. Next, teach it to someone else. The best way to learn is to teach, bar none. Finally, I carry a paper journal wherever I go. Anything i find interesting, as well as column topics, blog posts, books to read, etc goes it in. Quick, dirty and, if you organize it well, easily retrievable.


cwatine's picture
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I perfectly agree on the fact that the best way to lock ideas into your mind is to use them asap, or to talk about them with someone. And I try to do it when I can. One very good example is Manager Tools !
But, I still need to write a "sum up" of the book/podcast/conference.

Why ?

Most of the time, you have to see the whole picture before starting to use any idea included in it ...
Some authors are very good at getting you excited about their ideas ! Then, as you write them down, you realise that those ideas are nothing new ... Or worst, they don't really "click" into your situation or system.

There is also another danger : constantly jumping from one idea to another …“Trying ideas as you hear about them” has effects on other people, or on the way they see you.
When you manage a team or a company, you have to focus on a limited number of actions, or your team will see you as an always-changing spirit. And very soon, they will just wait for your next idea !

YOU control the volume of information you get. So YOU are the one who decided to get information overload …

So even if I need to read a lot, I find that re-writing the good ideas is a good way to filter what is important to me and forget about what is not ... To see how it clicks into the big picture ... To see if it is worthwhile to implement ... Etc.

And I usually end up with a very small list ... :wink:

I stock good ideas in my Outlook in a list of categories like "Reference - Marketing" ; "Reference - Management" ; Etc. Keeping it in Outlook makes it easy to access from my PC, the Web, my Phone-PDA, etc.

itilimp's picture
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I make notes using Mind Manager. I have a master Manager Tools 'Index' map with topics grouped by subject area then sub maps off from each individual cast. That way I get an overview quickly which helps the initial retention and recall.

ctomasi's picture

Ditto on taking notes. It's part of the GTD mindset. You don't know what you will need later, so capture it all and thin it out later.

I still take notes on MT when ever possible. They are handy for those infrequent items like the performance appraisal 12 week check list.

Manager Tools is STILL the only podcast I take notes on.

Like the other posters, I agree that there is no substitute for putting it in to practice and sharing the information. To date, nobody has ever said "That's not an effective way to do X." or "That's OK, but a better way would be Y."

ccleveland's picture

"What [u]action[/u] can I take to use/practice this new idea or technique?" Then do it or write it down somewhere to do in the future. After that action, what's next? Then do it!

This is straight from "Getting Things Done" and has been very useful to me. Right after I listened to the peer feedback podcast, I determined who to give some [u]positive[/u] feedback to using the model and did it. After the first few times, it's become very natural.

Life is just a series of actions...


JohnGMacAskill's picture
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Great topic, I don't have a systemic approach to this. I tend to know what I use. So if the topic is something I can apply to work/life immediatly, it (hopefully) becomes a habit.

I sometimes like to make cribs and emboss them.

I use mind manager for all projects, I like the idea about using it for MT learnings. Great idea.

tvalleav10's picture

Think about your approach as a secret recipe. You can always modify your recipe by adding and removing techniques as you go.

Your recipe for effectiveness might look something like this:

Weekly one-on-ones with all my directs.
Daily feedback delivered using the Feedback Model.
Quarterly Sales Reports
Encourage a culture of Passive Updating among my staff.

Get all your ingredients listed in this way and then [u]make sure you are planning your time around these directives.[/u]

JohnGMacAskill's picture
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[quote="mahorstman"]You might guess that I do, if you've listened a while.

I'll wait to see what others say first.


I'm still curious to learn about your methods Mark? :D

garyslinger's picture
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[quote="itilimp"]I make notes using Mind Manager. I have a master Manager Tools 'Index' map with topics grouped by subject area then sub maps off from each individual cast. That way I get an overview quickly which helps the initial retention and recall.[/quote]

I like MindManager for taking original notes, and doing some topic organization on the fly, but find that I can retrieve information a little more easily if I then push the map over to OneNote, and use its indexing capabilities. That may be partly driven by the fact that for me, OneNote is pretty much always running, whereas MindManager is a specific-use tool, same as Word, Excel, etc.


Mark's picture
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I knew it would be someone like John. :wink:

First off, I don't listen to podcasts. I've tried, folks, many times, and I am trying again...but I find it a vast wasteland. Right now I am trying:

GrammarGirl: I like that they're short...but is it okay to say I already know all this stuff?

Contrary Public Speaker: I almost like it...but it's unlikely I will stick with it. Even at 10 minutes, the advice is too general. I know, though, that I am very picky.

I don't need Manager Tools to be so much different from others...but I want value for my time. Our clients want value in my time with them. So, I won't keep listening.

I also admit to not liking having to wait for a podcast to finish a point when I already have it. Sometimes, they're just too slow. Surely this has something to do with how fast I talk on ours.

On the other hand, I read voraciously, and except for playing golf at Pebble Beach, it's perhaps my favorite thing to do that isn't work or my kids.

When I read magazine articles or the Journal and find something I like, I tear it out and drop it on my assistant's desk (sorry). She goes and gets it, and sends it to me by email, and I have it electronically. That usually means Google desktop indexes it and that's all I need. Usually, I re-read the article when it comes to me to be sure I've captured the point.

This technique has faltered lately since I have to write for the blog. I now have a folder for stuff I am going to blog on, but it's gotten big (I know, I know). But this is a unique situation for me.

When I read a book, I dog-ear pages. If a point really sticks out, I'll write it in the front or back of the book, and the writing cements things for me quite strongly.

When I take notes, I can't imagine anything but writing. Having to use software makes no sense on the plane, or in a meeting where I sure as hell wouldn't have my laptop open. I do at times write myself a task with just a title word from an article, and where I saw it, like "Google wsj Tuesday" and my assistant knows what that is (and the above process applies).

Finally, two points.

1. I was blessed with a great memory. I remember most of the stuff I read - seriously. I can tell where on the page in Fortune I read the great story about Gozuieta getting the CEO job, and what HBR articles are where in our filing cabinets.

2. And now for what I believe is REALLY important. I get way more information than I keep. I think the biggest problem with information overload is our emotional response to it. My take is that information overload is better than information paucity. INFINITELY better. I get stuff all the time that I think is interesting, that I want to hold on to... and I lose it nevertheless. I think I am better than most at discerning what's important, but often I am guilty of being very narrow and very deep. Oh well. [It does sem, at times though, that while I don't follow a lot, a lot of other people follow nothing at all.]

[b]The solution for me is NOT to build a system whose purpose is to capture everything - then I am just beating myself up for learning...but not learning well enough. [i]I just consume more, and find that volume is a better antidote to loss than capture is.[/i][/b]


dmbaldwin's picture

Greetings Everyone,

When I'm reading a book, when I come to something I want to keep for future reference, I underline, highlight, whatever and then in the front cover of the book I write the topic I want it filed under and then the pages. When I finish reading a book I give it to my admin, she copies the pages and then puts it in existing file folders or starts new ones. I got this idea from a tape I listened to probably 10 years ago from John Maxwell.

I use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my desk and cabinet files. It works quite well.

That's what I do.



rwwh's picture
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I am very happy with Mark's response. A while ago I tended to keep lots of magazines after reading them, but now I trash them as soon as I went through. I will remember what I should, and otherwise I'll remember that it was there and google it.

My memory is a bit less well organized than Mark's, though. When learning languages at school, I could often remember which page a word was on, but not what it meant.

I do have a suggestion for podcast listening for Mark: I listen to podcasts using TCPMP on my Treo, and I adjust the playback speed to match the content. I have some podcasts which I play at 150% speed, many at 110-125%, and Manager Tools at 100%

Mark's picture
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Would you take a minute and tell me more about TCPMP? I have a Treo...


sholden's picture
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TCMP is the The Core Pocket Media Player that supports a host of operating systems including Palm and Windows PocketPC and Mobile editions.

More info:

I use it on my Cingular 8125 Windows Mobile 5 phone on occasion.


jongreen's picture

This is getting off topic slightly, but with the flow of conversation...

A podcast a friend turned me on to (I traded favors, and gave him MT) is "LSAT Logic in Everyday Life." It's very intelligent, not too long, and interesting.

"Studying for the LSAT requires a total adjustment to your typical way of thinking. "LSAT Logic in Everyday Life" gives you a headstart! In this weekly series, we apply the tools for dissecting flawed LSAT arguments to current events, showing how journalists, advertisers, and politicians all use flawed logic to prove their conclusions. "

cwatine's picture
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2. And now for what I believe is REALLY important. I get way more information than I keep. I think the biggest problem with information overload is our emotional response to it. My take is that information overload is better than information paucity. INFINITELY better. I get stuff all the time that I think is interesting, that I want to hold on to... and I lose it nevertheless.

Reading is a way of getting the experience you would get by living several lifes ... That is what makes this activity so impasionning.

The flatness of this world allows us to access more and more "lives", multiplying the possible experiences. The new communication tools (podcasting, video, forums, etc.) allow us to enrich the experience and its emotional content.

This means that we will get more and more information, more than memory can keep. I suppose we should consider this as a fact and trust our memory : like with "real life", our memory will automatically select what is usefull or important to us.

This is what make our era so wonderfull : we have never had so many opportunity to model ourselves better and better.

brianv's picture
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I also find that taking the time to write notes helps to evaluate and remember the content. These days I don't handwrite so much and prefer to store notes in Word files.
But when listening and note taking is impractical (such as in car...) I sometimes take along a digital voice recorder. I can either directly record a key point from the audio or paraphrase myself. Then I can transcribe the recorded basic points when I can.