Product Managers should Take More Notes

April 27, 2020 Brandon Waselnuk 3 min read

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.


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.