A Better Note-Taking System for Your Scattered Brain
‘Four Mind Banks’ can help you process information in a simple, engaging way
I recently started a new job, and I’m in that phase where I’m constantly bombarded with new and unfamiliar concepts, from company vocabulary to industry know-how. The learning curve is steep. At every meeting, I take furious notes, trying to soak in as much information as possible.
For a while, I tried the bullet journal system of note-taking, in which you use icons to label the nature of every single bullet point you write down. While it’s a creative way to mark your thoughts, I found that it becomes difficult to quickly label all the different patterns when you’re faced with heaps of new information. People talk fast. Slides move from one to the next at lightning speed. You don’t have time for labels — you’re simply trying to keep up.
During meetings, I realized that four things were happening in my mind:
- I was gaining new information.
- I was coming across things I wanted to gain further clarity or dig deeper on.
- I was coming up with ideas and insights.
- I was having strong feelings about certain issues.
And so I came up with a framework to capture these different notes and thoughts in a way that allows me to easily return to them later on. I call it the Four Mind Banks system.
How it works: Create four “mind banks” in your notes. You can either divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants or divide your notebook into four sections. (If you go with the latter, it helps to add tabs to your notebook so you can swiftly switch from section to section.) Every note you take goes into one of the banks:
🤓 The minutes bank
This is where you put important discussion points, new concepts, factual information, quotes, and key takeaways.
❓The question bank
This is for the things you either don’t understand or want to learn more about. If there’s a Q&A portion of the meeting, you can refer to this bank. If not, you can dive deeper into the questions on your own time.
💡The idea bank
This is for those lightbulb moments: Maybe you have an idea for a new project or a thought about how a certain process can be streamlined. It’s important that you don’t let these ideas escape you, no matter how small or raw they might be.
😳 The reaction bank
This is for emotions and reactions. We are human beings, not robots that automatically absorb any information presented to us. Feeling is part of the processing. Our reactions and triggers help us to make sense of information, form opinions and convictions, and add value to the discussion.
The notes we take aren’t just bits of new information. They’re breeding grounds for curiosity, creativity, and natural human responses. This system has helped me to process all the information I’m receiving in my meetings in a more effective and engaging way. My brain loves compartmentalizing things.
You can use this system not just with meetings, but in any area of work or life. Try it for yourself. It’s like a filing cabinet for your brain — one that stores what you need for whenever you need it.