I’ve written before how I am a habitual note-taker. I attribute it to years as a journalist and to having a poor memory. Taking notes helps me to remember what happened in meetings or conversations and allows me to remember tasks I need to do, decisions that were made, and things that others must do. They also help me pay attention. Knowing that I have to take notes keeps my mind engaged.
I’m not a fast writer, so I use a set of shortcuts that help me in the writing phase and process them later. Some are simple contractions ( w/ for with) while others are codes for follow-up (“?” For something I don’t understand that needs more research or thinking, a square box for a task, etc.)
People take notes in different ways and different formats. But to me, the critical thing happens after you’ve finished your notes. That’s when a good note-taking habit can easily break down. Too often, people put their notes into a folder and forget about their existence until it’s time to go to the project team’s next meeting.
My notes are too essential to be put into a folder without review.
As soon as I can following a meeting, I reread them carefully.
I take most of my notes by hand, and because my handwriting is difficult to read (sometimes even for me), I often retype notes into my digital system. Occasionally I will bring a laptop into a meeting, but I know that not everyone appreciates the clicking and clacking.
Things that I need to remember to do before the next meeting are copied onto my “to-do” list.
If I am supervising the project or people, I make sure they are noted so that I can periodically follow up on progress being made.
If I captured a quote or a concept from the same meeting, a book I’m reading, or in a conversation, I transfer it to my system. When I am working with notes from a book I’ve read, I like to connect concepts. I find this helps with my recall of the information I’ve read.
While it is unlikely that I will ever need the original paper note again, I scan it into Evernote, which is my virtual brain.
At the top of every sheet, I record the date and the names of the people who attended.
Keeping my original scanned notes helped me tremendously on two separate occasions where my organization and I had to deal with a legal matter. Having all of my detailed notes bolstered my positions.
If you struggle with keeping track of notes, or even staying awake in meetings, I suggest that you check out my online course, “Productivity and Time Management.” It is designed for those of us who seek to work more efficiently. It deals with some of the common trouble areas, such as interruptions and staying on task, what if there is too much to do, and mullti-tasking. This one-hour online course has already helped many. I’d like to help you too. Click HERE for more information.