From the time I learned to write, I took notes. In grade school, in high school, in college (because there were no laptops then). I filled notebooks with, well, notes. I reviewed them before a test. People borrowed my notes because I drew arrows and connected related ideas, and OK, I got good grades.
Suddenly, note-taking is declassé. In my communication classes, people sit and stare. When I ask if they will take notes they ask, “Where’s the Powerpoint deck?” Tactfully, I explain that Powerpoint was developed to have marketing departments talk to engineers. Powerpoint was never meant to be a handout or to substitute for notes. They shrug and look at me.
No one takes notes anymore. Not only that, when I do, I’m asked, “Are you getting old or do you have a memory problem.” Well, we are all getting old (some of us are ahead of the race) and I don’t have a memory problem. Because I take notes.
Notes are useful. They help you remember what you heard, who said it, when, and what the circumstances were. They help you remember who said what in meetings where a lot of people speak. They help you remember specific numbers–even a lot of them, and names (plus how to pronounce them).
Slowly, I realized, “well of course I take notes, I’m a journaler.” And it’s true. You get used to writing down ideas, thoughts, quotes, flashes of inuition, dreams and the details of what they mean.
Writing notes helps me remember the important parts by allowing me to concentrate on both the content and how I write it down. I’ll remember it for much longer.
If you are taking notes in a meeting or a class, here are a few tips:
- Start the page with the date, the place, the class name or meeting purpose and the instructor’s name or person running the meeting.
- Write down main points only. You can’t write down everything, so stick to the important material. The instructor’s voice is the key to what’s being emphasized.
- Don’t write a narrative, try to take notes in bullet form. Learn some shortcuts like dividing the page into segments of information. (see above, left)
- Pay attention to lists, examples, and additional references. They can help you understand more later.
- Leave room. White space helps your eyes move around the page.
- Leave more room if you have a question. Then when you (or someone else gets an answer, you can fill it in.
Take visual notes. See example, above, and learn more at madebymany.com
CalPoly also has some interesting note-taking systems.
And speaking of notes, there is still time (till 6 p.m. Phoenix time) to sign up for the drawing to win the Strathmore journal. You can take notes in it.
—Quinn McDonald takes notes in journals for ideas, including her new book on inner heroes and inner critics.