Learning Practice #5: Create A “File It & Find It” System

Think back on some of the key foundational things you learned in high school. Can you still do long division? Can you remember all the colors in Spanish? Can you recall the scientific method? If you are like me, you went 0 for 3 on that test.  This is why the final learning practice, creating a “File It and Find It” system, is so important.


Our mind has a “use it or lose it” quality to it. If we are not regularly acting on what we learn, then it quickly vanishes. This is frustrating because what we can apply can’t keep pace with what we learn. When we read a book with ten great leadership principles, realistically we only are able to apply two or three and forget the other seven. When we read a book that applies more to our future job than our present, we forget the principle before we need it. Unfortunately, many of the leadership principles we need today, we forgot yesterday. 

Our mind does not have the capacity to remember everything that our leadership will require. Instead, we must change our approach. We must view knowledge not as what we can immediately recall, but instead what we can quickly access. You don’t need to remember every quote or insight, but you do need to know where it is and how you can refer back to it. You can do this through a two-step process: File It & Find It. 

File It

In Proverbs 12:27, it says “The lazy man does not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.” Can you imagine a hunter killing a deer, but instead of harvesting it, he just leaves it in the field to rot? What a waste. The same is true when we spend 4-6 hours reading a book, but don’t take 10-15 minutes to record what we learned. For most books, the question we are asking ourselves is, “How can this book help me be a better leader?” By taking a few minutes and summarizing the book, you can answer that question in a way that will allow you to act on it throughout your career.


Personally, when I finish a book or an insightful podcast, I write down at least two takeaways. For some books, it is just a simple sentence for each takeaway and a reference (e.g. See p.17 for good illustration on servant leadership). For other books, I write more in-depth summary. There isn’t a specific rubric or template. The goal is to critically engage with the content (see active learning) and if it jogs my memory enough for me to say, “O yeah, I forgot about that. Let me pick that book back up and read that section again.”

Find it

 If you have ever written a password down on a sticky note and then misplaced it, you know that filing information without being able to find it is useless. A “File It and Find It” system is only as good as your search engine. With technology, it has gotten easier than ever to quickly access anything from anywhere. Wherever you store information, make sure it’s intuitive enough to quickly find the information you need.


Personally, my “File It & Find It” system is through Evernote. At the end of each book, I write a quick summary on Evernote and save it in a stack called “2019 books.” I create other stacks where I compile notes like “Sermon Illustration ideas,” “Personal Development,” “Church Benchmark Statistics,” and “Favorite Quotes.” The main reason that I use Evernote is because it has a great search engine and is cloud based. If I am in a meeting and want to remember a helpful statistic or a catchy quote, I just get on my phone, search a keyword, and it takes me immediately to that note.

Which learning practice was the most helpful for you?

Comment below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *