Whether we are doing research, jotting down information at a meeting or learning in a class, how we take notes is important. Many of us get into note-taking habits early in life and those habits stick with us through adulthood. Technology has come a long way though, so even if you are only in your 20s, you have many more options than when you were in grade school.
We should take notes in a way that’s most comfortable for us, which guarantees that we will actually refer back to what we record, whether it is written on paper, audio recorded, typed into a laptop, tablet or phone. Each option has its strengths and what you use may depend on the situation.
1. Pencil and pad
This traditional option will give you the freedom to quickly jot down notes or create an outline in a variety ways that make sense to you visually. You can draw arrows between related items and underline important things. The downside is retrieving the information later. Since so much of our work is done on a computer, it creates an extra step for us to store the written information and to organize and retrieve it when we need it.
2. Audio recording
This technique is best used during a lecture or a meeting (with the permission of the instructor or others present). Many phones have a recording app or you can use a dedicated digital recorder. The upside is that you are able to record all of the spoken information. The downside is that you will have to review the entire recording to pull out the relevant information and you still need to transfer important information onto a notepad or into a computer. Audio recordings also miss out on visual information, such as a powerpoint presentation.
3. Laptop or tablet
This is probably the best way to make notes, since many of us use computers every day. The thing to focus on is keeping your text files organized. With either Windows or Mac OS, use memorable titles for your documents to make searching for them easier. You also want to separate your files into appropriately named folders. Don’t just name one “work stuff” when you could subdivide it into “timesheets”, “meeting notes”, “projects” etc. This way you can retrieve information faster in the future. Getting a tablet with a slide-out keyboard or a keyboard dock will make typing faster on this device.
4. Smart phone
Even “dumb” phones have note taking apps these days. We spend so much time texting that inputing text quickly into a phone is second nature. Phones are always with us so we can take and review notes at practically any time. We can also email or download them to another computer. The downside is that people assume that we are texting when we type on our phones, so it might look rude to do so in a meeting. This will be up to your judgement if you think you can pull it off without offending your boss or coworkers. One time that I always use my phone at meetings is to note down dates on my calendar. It’s expected for you to note down important dates so doing so right away into your phone’s calendar is fine.
These aren’t the only ways to take notes but definitely some of the most popular. For little reminders I also like to use sticky notes. These can stick to the edge of your computer monitor, your fridge, your bathroom mirror, inside of your car or anywhere else that you need a reminder. This is also a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the day by reminding yourself about your goals, using inspirational quotes and keeping yourself focused on living out your dreams.
How do you take notes?