Note Taking Symbols to Use When Reading a Book

Do you really need a note taking system?

Have you ever read a book, especially non-fiction and used a highlighter for the most important points?

Or have you ever frantically written notes when listening to a lecture, especially if you don’t know shorthand?

Often times I’ve found myself in simialr situations.

I like reading good books. I’ve found that the use of drawn out symbols can aid you getting the most out of the information you’ve read.

Or even if you’re not reading and are just listening to a teacher or public speaker will give you an outline. Using drawings can be very valuable for getting the most out of application notes.

Get A Note Taking System Utilzing Symbols

It is important to have a system down when taking notes and the use of symbols is a great way to get organized.

When you have a good system in place you can scan your notes later and apply them to your life and business more adequately.

That’s why I wrote this article. It provides a good system for taking notes through the use of drawin out symbols.

John Maxwell talks about using symbols when he takes notes in his recent book called How Successful People Think.

Which Symbols Does John Maxwell Use When Taking Notes or Reading a book?

That was my question and instead of jotting down notes I actually  jotted down the symbols he uses.

Here they are:

  • An arrow pointing up means to look at this material again
  • An asterisk next to a section means to file according to subject noted
  • An open Bracket means to use what’s marked in one of my own speaking engagements or in one of my future articles.
  • An arrow pointing up  means that this ideas will take off if I look at it.

Here’s a diagram I made with the drawings on it. You’re welcome to download if it helps you to remember the symbols. Just right-click on the image and save it to your desktop.

Symbols For Note Taking

I also found some symbols for taking notes from Michael Hyatt, the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The following information is taken from

Michael Hyatt writes,

I indent my notes from the left edge of the paper about half an inch. This allows me to put my symbols in the left margin. I use four:

      • If an item is particularly important or insightful, I put a star next to it.
      • If an item requires further research or resolution, I put a question mark next to it.
      • If an item requires follow-up, I put a ballot box (open square) next to it. When the item is completed, I check it off.
      • If I have assigned a follow-up item to someone, I put an open circle next to it (similar to the ballot box but a circle rather than a square). In the notes, I indicate who is responsible. When the item is completed, I check it off.

Here’s a slide he uses when he teaches this method:


Did you take notes or at least jot down the symbols when reading this article?

This Note Taking System is one of the tools for success in my personal growth journey to real life success.

Use the sign-up form on this website to get emails that will give you a step-by-step guide to personal growth.

There’s no need to worry about the mystical, weird,self-centered-self-help mumbo jumbo. I don’t promote the man is god, anti-christian emphasis that some personal growth websites promote. See my Site Disclaimer and About  page for more information.

I would appreciate your comment below and if you have another symbol or set of symbols that you use and would like to share I’m sure my readers would love to know about them.


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