On Your Mark…

4th Quarter Comeback
Conference Prep.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 4th Quarter Comeback. It has been so amazing to see the idea gain some traction and that so many of you feel the same way. I guess I’m not the only who wants to rough up 2011 before it’s over.

In my comeback, General Conference plays a key role. I plan on using what comes out of Conference to help direct me in choosing which things to tackle. Today I am going to let you take advantage of my years of wisdom. Why? Because I care about each and every one of you. Not just EACH one of you. EVERY one of you.

Here’s the deal:  I do not understand, nor believe, that we can maximize the impact of Conference in our lives if we do not take notes. So there. Wait. I’m going to go back and bold that.

I have spent Conference taking notes, not taking notes, sleeping, driving, going to soccer games, etc. – even going on vacations (oh, the shame!), but it wasn’t until about nine years ago that I finally grasped the importance Conference and note taking. This was solidified when I was bishop.  Here’s why:

Some of the most important things you can learn in Conference are not in the talks and will not show up in the Ensign next month because they were never spoken. (Gonna bold that too.)  If we watch conference carefully, the Spirit will share all sorts of wonderful insights with us because we are focused and open. Personal scripture. Many times I have gone back to find some particular passage in a Conference address, only to find it wasn’t ever said. But…if we don’t write these things down, they can slip away – like when you wake up with a dream you are trying to hold onto.  And for me, I think the Spirit has more respect for me when I actually dedicate my time to watching live. DVR works, but not as well.

So, I’m here to help. I am going to show you how I take notes in Conference. There are probably systems that work better, but I don’t care because I like mine. It works.

First you need a notebook or a journal. (See picture above) Not the back of a tithing receipt, or a napkin. You need something that can stand up to orange Cheeto marks and soda spills.  (What? You don’t have snacks during Conference?) The notebook, journal, diary etc. needs to still be around for the next six months, or longer.

This is a random page out of my notebook from last Conference.  (Yes, the handwriting is terrible.  When I do my personal history, I’m going to need a pharmacist to help me.)

Important note:  Don’t try and write down everything everyone says. That is what LDS.org is for. Write down things that you find important – most importantly, write down the things the Spirit is telling you as you listen. Btw – the things the Spirit might be talking about might not have anything to do with the topic of the talk.

See the little symbols down the margin?  This is where my notebook becomes extra helpful. Each symbol has a different job.

The “!” is where I got an idea, or a prompting. Might be about me, my family, my calling, my job, how to fix the lawnmower. It is whatever idea pops into my head. Write it down.

The circles are effectively my Conference “To-Do List”. Talk to “X” about “Y”. Read “Z”. Go do this or that.  Again – it is Spirit-driven.  Sundays are a good time to go back and review them. Sometimes there are a lot, so I move them to my planner.

The star is a mark to remind me to go back and get further information – find a quote that was used, look up a story referenced, or something that I want to make sure I re-read when the talks are posted online.

Yes. I know it is incredibly complicated. (I suggested that they teach it at BYU as Religion 421, but never heard back.) That’s what I do. It might not be your cup o’ decaf tea, but it works for me. If you have never taken notes, you will stand all amazed at how much better conference can be. (Did you see how I worked in a hymn title there?)

Also, kids with notebooks equals quieter kids, and eventually adults with notebooks.

Have a great weekend. May Let God bless you.


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  1. I was enjoying conference this weekend while spending time with the grandkiddies that live 8 hours away so there was no way to take notes but I started to watch the talks again through lds.org and I think I will give the notetaking a try. Tonight for fhe, hubby and I watched Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood session… wow! He sure made the case for more missionaries! Thanks for sharing your insights!

  2. Wow. I listened to conference this past weekend and the note taking made a huge difference. I now have some direction on things that I personally need to work on. A huge THANKS for sharing your method.

  3. This is too great. Too bad I read it after conference… I’ll have to apply it in 6 months! Anyway, I’ve been in an LSAT class for the last couple months (and had to take the test yesterday during Sat morning session, lame-o) and your little symbols are reminiscent of the stuff we have to use for the LSAT! Lol. This really isn’t lol stuff for anyone but me. But I really was laughing when I saw them, because I thought to myself “Self, you thought the LSAT was over. But really you should have taken GC note taking as seriously!” 🙂

  4. OOoooO – a great system! I’ve always been a converted note taker but have a difficult time locating my favorite and most important points so I think I’ll give it a try! We’re lucky to have endless 4th quarters . . . I need constant refocusing and rededication!


  5. Just to “return and report” I have just returned from the Priesthood Session of conference. I have to say it was the best session of conference I have ever been to!! It seemed to fly past as well. I came home with 6 sides of notes which shocked Mrs RJR “I thought you always say there is no point writing what will be published in the ensign” I went with the intention of writing what I felt and heard not what was said. Some of it may be what will appear in the Ensign, but it won’t be as relevant as my notes are to me.

    Thanks for the inspiring original post.

  6. So I took the advice and wrote notes. There was a talk that I didn’t get the speaker name written down and one that I really didn’t get what he was saying (kids were pretty roudy then). BUT, writing it down definitely helped me remember what I was able to hear.

    One thing I’d be interested in discussing as a blog post would be what age you expect kids to listen to conference, how long to listen, what allowed to do while listening. It would be great to have idea of what to do for future conferences.

  7. I’ve never been a note taker as I have been in the “its in the Ensign” camp. But you present some valid points, enough so I will give it a try this weekend!

    RJR Daydreamer

  8. Over the years, my note-taking has evolved? regressed? metamorphized…metamorphed…whatever, CHANGED with my needs. (And I guess I refer to the times when I actually took notes.) I do find that with 6 children around, or small children around, it’s really difficult … but if I just put the gist of what the Holy Ghost was telling me onto paper, even if it’s 1 or 2 words, it makes it easier to remind myself when I go back over my paper (and no, I have NEVER written my notes on the back of a tithing slip. Really.). I love the 4th Quarter Comeback. Need to go reread that post before tomorrow. Thanks!

  9. I started taking notes a couple of years ago, it’s made an amazing difference in how much I get out of conference.

  10. Ok, I will try to take notes tomorrow. As well as I can seeing how my husband is out of town and I have to deal with a 7, 5, and 2 year old on my own while trying to watch.

    However, one thing we have started doing is printing off paper at Sugardoodle.net for conference. It gets the kids at least thinking about conference and trying to listen. Mine did the conference bingo last year. They probably didn’t listen to the spirit, but they did listen for key words.

    Here is the link for the Oct conference printouts:

  11. I found your blog from beinglds.com and you are hilarious! Stayed up for hours going through your posts.
    Thank you for it.
    I’m a note taker as well…it’s the only way to do conference! (with a load of good food too)

  12. Yes I’m with you – on the 4th quarter comeback – and I was going to clean my home office and organize my spice drawer during conference, but you convinced me that those things need to take a back burner to taking notes. So it will be your fault they didn’t get done until 2012!!

  13. That is incredible advice. I used to take a ton of notes and still try to but with 2 under 3 my hands get full. But we get credit for trying right?

  14. Light night I took the family out for ice cream, and we discussed our fourth quarter comeback.
    I have never took notes at conference or church for all that matters; I might have to try it and see.
    Thanks for the push.

  15. I’m so glad I found your blog this month. Thank you for sharing such insightful ideas. I, too, have discovered that taking – and, more importantly, reviewing – notes from general conference is a wonderful guide on our path towards perfection. I’m excited to see what direction it will take next!

  16. Didn’t Elder Wirthlin say something about that, that talks can lead us to personal revelation that have nothing to do with the actual talk? I’m totally gonna try to take notes this weekend!

  17. Nice tutorial!

    I don’t know why, but it doesn’t always occur to me that taking notes during Conference would be beneficial. Probably because I figure it’ll all be there in print in the Ensign the next month. But as you perceptively pointed out, the spirit may not hit me quite the same while reading as it did when I first heard the message… so better to try to capture it while I can.

    When I was in college, I was a proficient note-taker, but the method I used to glean the benefits of my notes was a little unorthodox. I would tape-record myself reading out loud the notes along with my own comments on the subject as I remembered it being taught. Then, as I lay down to sleep every night, I would play back the recording into my earphones, convinced it was slowly soaking into my subconscious brain matter for easily accessible retrieval come exam time. I don’t have any proof it actually worked, but I pulled some fairly impressive grades in college if I do say so myself.

    I don’t think my tape recording method would work so well with Conference notes, I’m afraid. If I struggle to stay awake while taking the notes in the first place, imagine what might happen if I listened to them while falling into REM. I could sink into a coma and never come to. And if I did, I’d probably start talking like Richard G. Scott.

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