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How taking notes can spark Engineering Inspiration

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

You might need the right kind of spark to get you to go “on a roll”. You know, those times where you get enveloped in all the work you have to do and some way, somehow your mind is focusing only on that thing and you smash through a bunch of work in an efficient manner.

The second you get interrupted, you *snap* out of this state –

…and it is hard to get that roll going again.

You don’t know how you got in that state you just know you were because you are now fully conscious that you are not.

Motivational Engineering Quotes by Engineering IRL

It turns out engineering work is more suited for working in blocks of time (which is also why scheduling your time in a maker vs. manager style is super powerful for engineers), that being the case what gets you to start working in this manner?

Well, you need a few things:

  1. Clear Vision at what is to be done and achieved

  2. Skills and Capability

  3. No distractions – schedule allows you a time slot to not look at anything else

  4. Commitment to start

  5. Mindset aligned

So looking at this list it should be pretty straight forward. The good news is nothing about the above mix is complicated. The bad news is it doesn’t mean it’s easy.

And you know exactly what I’m talking about. Where you procrastinate or you let some other unimportant task get in the way, or you finally get the time with no distractions but you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’re busy but not getting work done. Or your heart and head isn’t in it and you don’t have the right energy.

Well if any of the above is something you need help with you’ve come to the right place. This article in particular will help you with items 1, 4 and 5. If you’re having trouble with items 2 and 3, no worries either I have a couple resources for solving that too.

For improving your skills and capability you can go here and for setting up your schedule Maker vs. Manager is for you.

Now, for the remaining items which is a clear vision, a commitment to start and aligning your mindset you need to be taking the right kind of notes.

The way you keep notes should not be merely a function of writing down technical details, although this is important, what gets missed is intentions and current thoughts on the topic.

You have 2 main types of note taking – the first is to write down the information you need to recall for later and make sure you don’t miss, this could be customer requirements or technical details, etc. and the other is moreso a brain dump of what you are thinking at that time – not necessarily to be reviewed, but can be, and it can help to sort out a problem by writing down the appropriate note or question.

What I’m suggesting here is that you need to be aware of these 2 types of note taking and you need to keep it separate if at all possible. The next time you are taking notes be conscious of the type of notes you are writing and what the goal is. Imagine you are in the meeting and someone mentions, it needs to be x, y and z. You can write down x, y and z in one page and you might add something like “what’s the price?” Or “a, b, c could be better” whatever it is that should be written somewhere else.

And if you’re not, then you should try and start doing this.


Well that’s because having a clear vision of your task at hand requires getting the bits and pieces of knowledge being put out onto paper. All those secondary thoughts, ideas, plans, etc should be written down.

Having vision with Engineering IRL

If you have then the main question you are trying to understand, when you finally write it down you can pull yourself back to the specific problem statement. It should be singular. If you are “kinda”, “sorta” working on something that you haven’t defined you won’t have the vision.

So you’re notebook is important here, how you take your notes and more importantly, writing down the clear vision for the work your about to do.


Dealing with the commitment to start and your mindset, this is a combination of your vision AND finding the motivation to spark you.

You can’t commit to start something unless you have an idea of what it is you’re embarking on and you need the right kind of motivation. So now that we’ve got an understanding of the vision let’s get to the motivation.

There’s a few things I do – one is listen to some hype up music or the right kind for the type of work to be done, maybe a podcast or motivational quotes and in particular engineering quotes. If you missed it, here’s a list of 25 Engineering Quotes to Motivate Engineers.

Okay so what to do?

To deal with this the best thing to do is to keep some motivational quotes or people you admire together with your notebook. So that when you get ready to write down and plan out the work to be undertaken you are in the correct mindset and the motivation is there when you are actually putting yourself in a position to work.


To get on a roll you need 5 things; vision, skills, time, commitment and mindset.

To get your vision right you need to be note taking better and be conscious of notes taken for being recalled later and notes for organizing your thoughts and more of a brain dump.

To get you in the right mindset some motivational quotes from engineering greats can help you get there.

And to tie it all together it is useful to have your quotes or pictures of who inspires you right there with your engineering notebook.

With that being said, if you’re looking for a solution, try The best notebook for Engineering Motivation


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