Success

The habit Alex Rodriguez prioritizes every night is one that Richard Branson also swears by—here's why

Jim McIsaac | Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez finishes every day with the same habit: He writes out a checklist of "to-do" items or records general thoughts and ideas in a notebook.

"I'm old school," the former MLB star tells The New York Times Magazine in a recent interview about his doping suspension and rebuilding his image. "I remember things better if I write them out."

For example, "The other day, Jennifer said something brilliant at, like, two in the morning," says Rodriguez, who is newly engaged to singer Jennifer Lopez. "I reached over to get my notebook, and everything falls on the floor. Then I grabbed it and wrote it down."

It's not a new habit. As a professional baseball player, "I had a list of my 10 things I had to do, and I would check it every night before I went to bed to see how many I'd done," he tells The NYT Magazine. "I was maniacal about my work ethic."

VIDEO1:0201:02
Here's the money advice A-Rod would give his 20-year-old self

Rodriguez, who played his last game as a New York Yankee in August 2016 and is now a baseball broadcaster and CEO of investment firm A-ROD CORP, isn't the only business leader who prioritizes note-taking.

Self-made billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson are also devoted notetakers, 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."

The two men shared the stage at a conference in London in 2016, and as Gates wrapped up his speech, he pulled out a few pieces of paper from his pocket. "I was delighted to see Bill's notes were scribbled on some crumbled paper he had been carrying in his jacket pocket," Branson says. "It was folded down the middle, and he had to keep pushing the crease down so he could read [it]."

When inspiration calls, you've got to capture it.
Richard Branson
billionaire entrepreneur

Branson himself goes through dozens of notebooks every year and credits some of his most successful companies to simply 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."

Branson and Gates prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper strategy, and it may give them an edge: Psychologists have found that writing things down on paper helps people remember things better than if they keep lists digitally.

While it can be tempting to keep lists on your phone, try jotting them down in a notebook.

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

Don't miss: The money advice Alex Rodriguez would give his younger self—and any athlete today

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

VIDEO2:2302:23
Richard Branson's tips for success
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

CNBC.COM