A habit Bill Gates and Richard Branson swear by is one most people overlook

Richard Branson and Bill Gates at the Grand Challenges meeting in London on October 26, 2016.
Justin Tallis | Getty Images

Self-made billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson have more in common than their ten-figure fortunes.

They're both devoted note-takers, Branson points out in a post on his blog.

"Despite being renowned for his computer genius, [Gates] is not above the humble pen and paper," says the Virgin Group founder.

The two men recently shared the stage at a conference in London, and as Gates "made a closing speech … he pulled some pieces of paper out of his pocket," Branson recalls.

"I was delighted to see Bill's notes were scribbled on some crumbled paper he had been carrying in his jacket pocket," says Branson. "It was folded down the middle, and he had to keep pushing the crease down so he could read [it]."

Richard Branson's tips for success
Richard Branson's tips for success

Branson, who goes through dozens of notebooks every year, credits some of his most successful companies to the simple habit of jotting down ideas.

And yet, "there are many occasions when I find myself in meetings and am the only one with a pen taking down notes," he says. In his experience, 99% of people in leadership roles don't take notes.

Of course, not every idea is going to amount to something, the entrepreneur says. "But they're all noteworthy."

While Branson and Gates prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper strategy, keeping notes on an iPad, phone, or digital notepad can be just as effective, Branson says: "It doesn't matter how you record your notes as long as you do."

The important thing is, "when inspiration calls, you've got to capture it."