I’ve found note taking to be a big help in keeping me focused on what people are doing as well as remembering how they are playing during a session. It’s not the notes themselves that help me so much as much as it is the act of taking notes - though the actual notes do help. When I’m taking a note on somebody it means I’m paying attention to what they’re doing. The act of typing the note causes me to make a mental note that usually stays with me for the duration of the session. Without taking the note, I’m likely to forget quickly what they’ve done.
As far as the notes themselves, I generally take a note of something that is out of the ordinary or something that I wouldn’t necessarily do. By doing this I can focus on the areas of my opponents game that differ from mine and assume the other areas are similar until proven otherwise. When I take notes, I try not to be too vague but also not too specific. For example, it doesn’t really help much for me to take a note that opponent is passive. This is too general and I’m able to see this through their HUD stats anyway. I also would not take a note that says opponent failed to bet AQ on AJ483 board on the river after being the turn aggressor. One, I don’t have time to type all this when multitabling. Two, it’s too much information. . But I would take the following note, “Miss vb w- tp on riv” (vb=value bet, tp=top pair and riv=river). It’s concise and useful. If I see my opponent bet the river in the future, his range is likely to be polarized between very strong hands and bluffs. Abbreviating is important if you’re multitabling and pressed for time. Everybody has their own abbreviations and as long as they make sense to you, that’s all that matters.
Pretending to commentate on your play:
A while back, I narrated a few videos of myself playing through Camtasia. I intended on posting them on StoxPoker in the “Member Video” section but later changed my mind. But in doing this, I learned how beneficial it is to articulate your poker decisions into words. It’s not always easy to do and as a result it forces you to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. In other words, every action you take has a well thought out reason for it. This also causes you to focus intently on what’s going on which greatly improves your chances of getting into the zone.
This also was something I was doing at the World Series this year. Because I’m used to playing 500 hands an hour, sitting in a live game was extremely slow for me and I found it difficult to pay attention. But by commentating on every hand, including the ones I wasn’t involved in, I had a laser-like focus and incredibly good reads on everyone’s play.
Make a video of yourself playing and watch it the next day:
There is a lot of free video capture software out there and some of the best software like Camtasia comes with a 30 day trial period. I usually keep my videos short, 20 or 30 minutes and try to record when I'm in the heat of battle with 4 or 5 tables open. I will watch the video the next day and look for mistakes. I've found this to be incredibly useful in finding holes in my game. I'm always amazed at some of the things I do playing that I never would have realized had I not recorded it.