4 Simple Steps to Make Your Notes More Useful In Real Life Projects

Ev Chapman
May 19, 2024

A few weeks back my team & I were prepping for an in-person conference for our clients and we had several presentations to collaborate on.

As we were brainstorming the final parts of our presentation each of us bought to the table something we had saved in our notes over the past months:

  • I had listened to a podcast that sparked me to think about a concept in a different way.
  • A colleague had read a book that prompted her to think about mindset & manifestation.
  • Another colleague had heard a sermon illustration on 'shifting gears' that gave us the perfect metaphor.

Each of us had collected these things randomly - not because we needed them for the presentation (or even knew we would use them in the presentation). But just because they sparked something in us.

And eventually they came together perfectly to help us put a nice bow on our presentation.

At first these moments feel like luck.

Lucky you remembered that tidbit of information that will help you complete the never ending stream of presentations, reports, blog posts or emails you have to deal with on a daily basis.

But it's not luck, or some kind of laborious note-taking system.

It's an intentional practice.

I call mine The Spark Practice. Rather than just saving notes & quotes to a database I never looked at again, I use each incoming piece of information as a prompt for my own thinking.

I've been doing this practice for four years now & the difference is night & day. All that information has become useful because I'm bringing my own insight to it.

Here's What My Spark Practice Looks Like...

Capture All Your Stuff In One Place

This is essential. You don't want to be hunting around through notebooks, note-taking app & post its. You want to be able to sit down and have some things to work on. These might end up being book notes, or notes from a podcast or article.

​Readwise​ is a great tool for saving things from the internet into one place - I highly recommend it.

(​Read more about my Readwise reading & writing workflow here​)

Treat Each Item As A Prompt To Think

Don't think of yourself as a secretary during this time. It's not about processing and filling everything away neatly.

You need to think of yourself as a CEO. You're job is to look at information & make meaning from it. So treat each of the things in your new inbox as a prompt to think → and then write.

The input is just the prompt your brain needs to start thinking.

What Does MY MIND generate when it encounters this information?

Information is just information until you collide with it. Ask yourself:

  • What do I think about this?
  • Do I agree or disagree?
  • What knowledge or experience that I have can add to this piece of information?
  • Does it remind me of anything I already know?

You don't need to write an essay. Writing is simply a conduit for thinking. For surfacing your own thinking, creating your own unique 'takes' on a topics & concepts.

That is how to make all of this information we encounter daily actually useful for us.

Connect Notes To Find Them When You Need Them

Once you have created your knowledge note, you want to make sure you can find it again. This is where you should shift into secretary mode. You might want to file notes around certain topics, areas or by project. But don't let them just sit and languish.

Find a system that helps you find them again easily when you need them. Something like Notion, Obsidian or Tana can help with this.


Spending time creating a practice where you turn information into knowledge will transform how you work.

You'll start to build the building blocks of projects - even before you know those projects are coming up. You'll have these knowledge assets you can use over and over and over again.



Whenever you're ready to turn your unique personal knowledge into powerful ideas - here are three ways I can help:

  1. Want to get Sparked like this each week? Sign up to my weekly newsletter - The Spark Newsletter where I deliver one actionable tip every Sunday to help you bring your ideas to life & share them with the world.
  2. Create a system for collecting, reviewing & connecting your notes together - then take a look at my ​Notes OS Template​ for Notion or Tana.
  3. If you want to learn how I turn information into ideas you can share with the world then check out my ​Atomic Ideas Masterclass​.


Liked thIS? Then You Might Like My SPARK Newsletter...

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