Back to top



Four Quadrant Note Taking

written byJan Georg Kristiansen, MBA, MCCon 01/05/2015

At Easter 2015, Jan Georg Kristiansen, Erickson Norway coach, trainer and partner, taught a newly designed half day course that taught attendees how to catch relevant information from coaching sessions and meetings using only one page based on the Four Quadrant note taking principles. The course looked to answer the following questions:  

  1. How useful are your notes from your coaching sessions?
  2. If you write classic "university class" notes, how can you make them useful while maintaining coach presence and keeping focus on your client?

Learning the Four Quadrant Note Taking (4QN) Inspired by the Greek God Odysseus, who chose to tie himself to the mast of his ship when it was passing through the dangerous strait while the Sirens were singing, the Erickson Coach tries out a volunteer restriction asking only questions that "lay the roof" of the quadrant (as Marilyn Atkinson says). The result is:  


Four Quadrant Note Taking In The Art & Science of Coaching

When Marilyn Atkinson, PhD., came to Norway twice a year from 1996 to 2004, she taught the Norweigan The Art & Science of Coaching classes the Four Quadrant principles and encouraged students to take notes accordingly from coaching sessions. Since then, Erickson Norway trainers have taken on the challenge to develop and practice the art of Four Quadrant Note Taking as a natural integrated part of teaching The Art & Science of Coaching. Also, in coaching teams, students found that the one page notes to be a priceless tool helping coaches keep their coaching presence and the team to keep coach position during the meeting.  

Four Quadrant Note Taking Is A Practical Tool!

The key ingredients for 4QN are two theories taught within The Art & Science of Coaching:  

  1. Erickson's Four Quadrant Thinking Model, with reference to Marilyn Atkinson's teaching and basic Neuro-Linguistic Programming knowledge
  2. The brain model with the development of the reptilian, emotion and visual brains, also with reference to Marilyn Atkinson's teaching
    • Paul D. MacLean (1913 - 2007) was an American physician and neuroscientist who's evolutionary brain theory proposed that the human brain was, in reality, three brains in one: the reptilian complex, the limbic system and the neo-cortex

The Scientific Argument for Four Quadrant Note Taking

Since the 2011 The Art & Science of Coaching class, Erickson Norway has experimented drawing the missing link between MacLean's brain model and the Four Quadrant Thinking Model as follows:

  • The emotional brain was written towards Time Zone 3 and 4 (associated state)
  • The visual brain was written towards Time Zone 1 and 2 (dissociated state)

See all of Jan's diagrams here. Neuroscience findings have recently supported the relevance of the brain model.  

Benefits of Using One Page Four Quadrant Note Taking

  1. Contracting: All elements of goal setting is collected in Zone 1 which helps the client's cortex see new patterns at a glance
  2. Flow: Coach knows that when all four quadrants are covered with information, the client is most likely happy
  3. One Page: Good for 1-3 hours of coaching, using enclosures for lengthy process-facilitation tools to untie tough knots
  4. Good Client Service: "After this first coaching session, I feel in control as client because I understand the questions from my coach and I see the complexity of my responses and answers. Now coaching is no longer something cloudy...This is me and I understand it!" ~ Norweigan Business Leader, "Top Rated Young Leaders Under 40" for 2014

If you are practicing the use of Four Quadrant Note Taking and would like to exchange ideas, please contact  

For more information about Erickson's Four Quadrant Development program:  

Four Quadrant Development at Erickson