TL;DR - Product managers should take more notes and write more often. We wrote a list of rules to get you started cultivating this habit as well.

This post was written while listening to Backbone by KALEO

Taking Notes

Photo above by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Over the last week a strange confluence of events occurred in my professional and personal life - a large, we’re talking more than 20, requests came from various people for my thinking on a wide range of topics including; highlights from my Japan trip in August 2019, a new product idea someone had in the gaming space, and even a meta conversation about what note taking app I use.

In 18 of 20 requests I was able to send a link to my thinking in various written forms - full transparency the Japan trip is a custom google map I built with notes on the places we visited.

All were met with the same disbelief from my friends and colleagues. “What the hell, man?”

I take notes. It’s part of the Product Management profession - great note taking is instrumental to building great products.

Now I am using the word ‘note’ quite broadly, it’s fine if you record it with audio, video, make a presentation, build a custom google map, whatever your poison. Though there is nothing quite as effective as how you distill information when forced to write it into a book by hand. It just isn’t always the best way or viable (especially if you’re taking verbatim notes on a product discovery call)

The key here is - take more notes.

You will make more connections mentally if you do so, your intuition will be sharpened like a sword to a whetstone, and you’ll notice the quality of your ideas and ability to link together seemingly disparate information will be greatly improved.

This activity is a long burn though, don’t expect to be brilliant after a week of taking more notes. Some of the pages I sent around this last week I took over 8 years ago on ubiquitous computing for example. Much like SEO plays the payoff is huge, exponential, and nearly infinite - but doesn’t show up for 6 - 12 months in a noticeable way. At least to yourself, it’s likely others will comment on it way before you catch it.

So - go forth and write! As my brother said Writing is Thinking he’s smart, you’ll have to trust me.

P.S. Some simple and bendable rules for you to get started:

  • If possible take notes yourself, do not get a team member too if you can
  • Plan meetings that need note taking to be conducted in a way that you can best record them
    • Product discovery - laptop notes so you can take verbatim key notes and quotes as well as record them for later reference (audio and or video)
    • Team meetings - if you’re hanging with the squad doing the daily standup a notebook is best, you only need trigger notes for yourself
    • Product Planning - write as much as you can down in a public, to your company, place like Confluence for example. Allow your team to comment on your thinking as you create
  • Invest time in a good note taking application
    • This one is a bit loaded, but pick something that works for you. For me it’s currently RoamResearch, Google Keep, Project Tool (Confluence for example), and of course written in a notebook

Written by: Brandon Waselnuk