10x Your Notetaking With Sketchnoting

Sketchnoting is a note-taking format that anyone can do, even if you aren’t an artist and are infamous for not-so-great handwriting like Wildstory’s founder, Marc Gutman.

Discover how visual notetaking can help you focus on key ideas to absorb information 10x better.

📖  The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde: https://rohdesign.com/handbook

This is part 1 of a 3 part series that improves your notetaking skills to pinpoint key ideas and establishes important projects to prevent “half-built” bridges.

Video Transcript

Keith Roberts 0:04

So this has blown me away, Marc, I have been always a fan of doodling. And one of the things that really resonated with me if I wrote something down, I remembered it. But your concept of sketchnoting, or the concept that you introduced me to if sketchnoting? Is I’m, I’m obsessed with it. So how did you find sketchnoting?

Marc Gutman 0:24

Yeah, I’m glad you love it. I love it. I think it’s the coolest thing ever. I try to tell everyone I can about it. I find, you know, I don’t know exactly how I came to it, you know, I get down these rabbit holes. And I don’t know, if I, you know, could have been, I could have been researching pens one day, I could have been, I don’t know how I actually came to it. But all I do remember is that I was turned on to 8 AM I might listen to it on a podcast. But I found a book by a guy by the name of Mike road. And it’s called sketchnoting, I believe is that was called or you have the book in front of you, Keith, you can get up there. I think it’s called the sketchnote handbook. Because I have, yes, I have up there you go. And I have version number two, I have the workbook. And it was just this concept of taking notes visually, that I was drawn to and there’s a couple things that were potentially barriers of entry.

For me, I don’t think of myself as an artist, I don’t think of myself as the designer, I don’t think of my you know, actually, I’m infamous for having horrible, horrible handwriting. A lot of times, I can’t even read my own writing. And so like, you know, when you see some of these sketch notes, you’re like, these are clearly artists, these are clearly people that are, that are amazing, but I got turned on to it. And what it is, is it’s taking notes visually, it’s a way of instead of furiously writing, and, you know, like just taking notes, like, like mad, focusing on key ideas, visualizing and then and then writing, you know, and then making it either a visual representation and icon along with, you know, words and things like that.

And, you know, I came to it I actually, many years ago, I got sick, I got West Nile virus, and it was a really, then I don’t talk about that a lot, but it really had an impact on like, my cognitive ability that couldn’t really remember things as well. And I couldn’t write and I and so I was kind of doodling. You know, as Keith Keith alluded, I was making a lot of doodles, and that’s when I started. But then I found that whenever I’d go to an event, like when we were both at the EMI, you know, MIT EMP program, entrepreneurial, most master’s program, or I was at a conference, like a learning event. Like if I could take a key idea and make a picture, I would remember it so much more. And I’d also, you know, instead of trying to remember every point that the speaker said, I was really trying to distill and understand what were the key points, where were the things that really mattered. And so that’s how I came to it. And the books amazing, I highly recommend it.

It’s a framework for anybody who, you know, you don’t have to be a great writer, they show you like, how to like make, you kind of make your own library of icons. So you kind of figure out the things you’re good at. And you know, things I’m pretty good. I know how to do an iPhone, I know how to do a calendar page, I know how to do a book, I’m trying to think of some of the things I do. And I have my own rudimentary way of sketching people where it’s just like, you know, very expressive or stick people like it, you don’t have to be this amazing artist. And it’s just been this really transformational way of communicating for me in that both and notetaking. But also like reflecting back like now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll do these rudimentary sketches of speakers. And anytime I’m in an event, I’ll screenshot it. A lot of times, I actually do write just in my physical notebook, and I’ll screenshot it or I’ve moved to the iPad quite a bit. And you know, my setup there is either using notability or appropriate as an app. And then I’ve got this great little kind of screen protector called paper life, which gives you like a little bit of a scratchy kind of feel for your iPad. So you don’t have that glossy, glossy feel.

But I’ve taken I take pictures of the keynote speaker, at the very least I’ll tag them on social and at the very, most, I’ll send it directly to them, they always love it. So it’s just this other way of like, connecting with the people at the event, I’m going to I always try to like find some way to make the most of it. And that’s a way but you know, I mean, I never I’m not an artist, I don’t consider myself an artist. I’m not a designer. And what I can say is that even people in my EMP class, they’ve asked me over and over again, for my notes, I scan them and I give and they say that those are powerful and impactful because those were the key ideas that that came to me that the first book is awesome. And then there’s this like workbook to where you can even go further and just continue to develop your library shows you how to map out a presentation index cards.

You know, there’s ways of just really cool like this Like how you might layout a note, and it just gives you different ways of composition. And so if you have any interest in this on and this is something I love, so it’s like a workbook, and it’s like, Alright, like, figure out your icons for travel, you know, and you go, and you can just fill in your icons. And so I think that’s a real key takeaway, and then I’m going to turn it over to you, Keith, for your feedback. But on here’s one for food is that like, the really good sketch noters.

They’re not just like, doing a ocean for the first time, or they’re not just doing like food sketches for the first time, like they’ve, they’ve kind of developed their, their, their own library of things they’re good at, and error things that they can represent. Because it’s not always about being realistic. And, and you go ahead, and you can, you know, add those to your notes, quickly and confidently. And again, it doesn’t have to be this amazing icon, you know, you know, Keith is a designer, Keith is an artist, he’s a great sketcher, and drawer. So he’s gonna show us a thing, some, some things he’s been working on, but I know you’ve been kind of building out your icon library. But tell me now, with that all being said, Tell me like your reaction is sketchnoting. And what you what you think about it, and why you think it’s interesting.

Keith Roberts 6:15

So many reasons. One is, you know, connecting that other side of your brain, like I mentioned earlier, writing something down, I could commit it to memory. But the idea of sketchnoting, where you’re actually finding those key concepts, and then creating a visual that really embeds that in your brain that resonates with me, and I appreciate the kind words about the artistry, I think I’m better with digital stuff than than analog with sketches. But one of the things that I took away from that first book was that if you draw something 50 times, you’ll come up with your version of it. And it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Every single drawing is either a circle shape, rectangle, triangle, line, or dot, right?

It’s made up of these simple things. So you know, just coming up with like, okay, for having a coffee, right, this would be some different possible illustrations that I could do for a coffee. And like you mentioned, you know, doing it 50 times, now I’ve got this, that I can whip out really quick. I’m struggling with and I need to figure out a way to drop people. So I love that in your presentation notes the way that you have that and they talk about, you know, showing up early to the presentation, writing a cool title.

I’d love to get some more handwritten typographic skills as well. So I’ve got some different fonts in my handwritten sketchbook sketch notes technique, but also coming up with my style of how to illustrate a person I love mountain versus plain. You know, the guy that does those really do? Yeah, satirical. illustrations, we actually had him do illustrations at Zen man for the whole team. The women hated it, because they’re obviously not flattering. But there’s so so good. We had one that came out, Taylor’s he actually looked like Hemingway, everybody else was like, you wouldn’t want to put this on your social profile. But I’d love to develop that style. And I think it’s the same thing, right? It’s just Okay, I’ve got to learn it, and then draw it 50 times and then start to develop my skill. So once I come up with the fonts, I’m going to move on to people because I think that’s probably the hardest skill.

But I’m having fun just drawing 50 laptops, 50, cell phones, 50 different options for dividers, and just being able to come up with those quick, you know, the other thing that I always struggle with, and this is a great example, I’ve probably had this Shinola book for like, four years, and I’m on page three, because I didn’t want to put anything in the book that wasn’t exceptional. That was an art. And sketchnoting isn’t about making art. It’s about taking notes that you can, you know, resonate with those quick ideas. So the idea of no more pencil, just start doing everything in pen, it was freeing.

Marc Gutman 8:59

Yeah, it’s so amazing. And I mean, to your point about, like, people, I mean, you know, here’s what I did the other day, and it’s not perfect. You know, this was a guy Jose, that’s kind of what he looked like, to me, you know, but you’ll even see, like, I struggle, like, I struggle with lettering to write like, I ran out of room jammed in his head, this one’s on paper. So you know, you know, not as easy like, when I’m on the iPad, I can just circle it and move it and no big deal. So that’s actually a benefit of the iPad, which is really nice. But even like, just learning, you know, what can symbolize a person or a group of people, you know, and so here’s a way that I always do that.

Right, just a silhouette. I like just a silhouette. And then, you know, if you, you know, digitally like I just put out a carousel and which on Instagram, I just these were all this was all born out of sketchnoting. So this is what this is. carousel, I’m gonna go ahead and just share real quick. And so you’ll see like, this all is born out of sketchnoting in that book, it’s just like, these little people like the way they kind of do, like, speak. And so to me sketchnoting these are hats, right?

These are all first draft. I just sketched it, here’s people, you know. And so it’s really about encapsulating, you know, climbing a ladder. This is really about encapsulating ideas, and suggesting ideas rather than being art, as Keith said, and I think that that’s what’s really powerful about it that you can, and so I’ve, you know, I’ve, I’ve used this too, and I’m trying to lean into it more as part of my own style, my own way of communicating. I’ve used it in slide decks and things like that. And I think that, you know, I’ve just, you know, I’ve been afraid to be like, Hey, I’m, I write weird, kind of rudimentary sketches, right? You know, you always want it to be like this real fancy thing. And, but it’s, it’s been, it’s been amazing. And it’s transformed my life and the way I just take notes and communicate, and I’m so thrilled that you’re into it, too.

Keith Roberts 11:01

Oh, man. Well, thank you, brother. I appreciate you sharing it with me. As always, it’s been awesome catching up. And I look forward to the next time.

Marc Gutman 11:08

Cool. Yeah, check out Mike Rohde. He is the godfather of sketchnoting, multiple books, podcast resources, far better than Keith or I could ever share with you. But if you have any questions, let us know. I love sketching and have a great day.

up next:

What Is the Wildstory Process and How Does It Work for YOU?

Marc Gutman outlines what work sessions are like with Wildstory when finding core messaging concepts for a client and creating a roadmap for what they should do next.

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