Why Great Leaders Keep Notes


By Jas Singh

Leadership is often demanding.

In the hustle and bustle of a typical working day a lot can happen.

Countless important decisions. Unexpected problems. New ideas to digest, discuss and review.

It’s not a surprise that we often feel like we don’t have time to think. Yet in the course of our hectic work lives, time can often fly by. Before you know it, it’s a new day. Then a new month. A new year. We rarely get a chance to reflect.

But reflection is necessary for learning. It’s essential that all of us have a system to analyse, review and learn from mistakes and opportunities.

In ten years as a hiring specialist I’ve worked with thousands of different types of leaders. And can say with confidence that the best leaders do something regularly.

They take notes. Most of them will nearly always carry a notebook with them wherever they are. They make sure they record important things whenever they come up.

Here are some reasons why great leaders keep notes.

They allow us to reflect and improve

Note taking in the midst of our hectic days allows us to come back and reflect later on. To assess our actions and see if we could have improved them. Sometimes, even to see if we would have made the same decision again.

One client of mine is a highly successful UK based entrepreneur. He has been a businessman for over 40 years and has set up a number of successful companies across various industries.

He is a big note taker, and to this day has kept every single one of his notebooks at home in his Library. He reckons there are over two hundred. He still openly admits going back and reading them regularly to gain inspiration, re-enforce lessons he has learnt and even use for guidance.

Whatever we write down, goes from abstract to reality.

It’s then something we can use forever.

They allow us to break problems down

Ever been in a situation that has been so complicated or detailed that you just felt overwhelmed?

Like buying that first house (soooo much to consider). Or making a big career decision. Or deciding how to deal with that tough management problem.

As any personal development coach will tell you, the first thing to do is to break things down. Into smaller chunks. Chunks that are easier to handle and don’t seem overwhelming.

Note taking allows us to break problems down. It often puts all the important factors and suggestions on paper – and sometimes purely this process by itself makes the right solution obvious and easy to select.

We’ve all been in meetings and classes thinking we are going to be totally lost by what is going to be discussed, only to find that by simple note taking things all of a sudden seem understandable.

Great leaders understand that taking notes is a good way of breaking things down.
To record and analyse all the important factors. And then look for solutions.

Something that’s difficult to do all at once in your head.

They encode into our memory

What most people don’t know is that writing things down is also actually more powerful than first meets the eye.

Numerous studies have shown that simply by writing something down, humans are at least 33% more likely to recall this information from memory. We’re also much likely to follow through on goals and tasks we write down.

Funnily enough this effect doesn’t apply to typing or using other screen based devices like tablets. Other studies have shown that written notes have also more effect than those that have been typed.

It’s all to do with writing stimulating a bunch of cells in our brains knows as the reticular activating system (RAS) which give more importance to the things you are actively focussing on at that moment.

Great leaders use the cognitive power of taking notes to improve memory and follow through on their goals.


With all the data, noise and hustle surrounding us these days, the last thing sometimes we want to do is to make more notes.

Yet note taking is possibly one of the most under-rated but powerful tools available.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who take notes properly – it can result in benefits that many don’t even know exist.

Do you take good notes?

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