Studies have shown that taking notes by hand increases the amount of information you retain after a meeting or lecture. Of course, that’s only part of effective note taking. To get the most from your notes, there are other considerations.
1. Be Present
The first step isn’t to write words down on paper. The first step is for your brain to process the information you’re hearing or seeing. If you’re busy daydreaming or thinking about other projects or tasks, you’re likely to miss important information.
This is one of the main advantages paper has over electronics in note taking: a blank page won’t draw away your focus with a full bar of notifications and alerts.
2. Be Attentive
Before you start taking notes, silence your phone and put other concerns from your mind. This is much easier to accomplish when you’ve organized and scheduled your daily tasks in your planner. If you know you’re giving enough time to your projects after the meeting, it reduces the temptation to think about them during the meeting. And without your electronics, your co-workers won’t think you’re texting or finishing your Words with Friends game.
3. Words First, Images Later
Effective communication uses more than just words. Your meeting might include a PowerPoint presentation, or the results of a brainstorm charted on a whiteboard. When you take notes, focus on capturing words and ideas during the meeting. When it concludes, you can ask the presenter to share their presentation files, or take a picture of the whiteboard with your phone. Then you can match the image with specific details or personal insights you captured during the meeting.
4. Connect to Your Future
As the meeting progresses, clearly note any assignments, deadlines, and other action steps as they’re mentioned. This will help keep your attention on the meeting, and make sure that you don’t miss any steps going forward. If there’s a section of a meeting that doesn’t directly apply to you, set down ideas that could help those involved. The more you connect the meeting to you, the more likely the plans you make will succeed.
5. Transfer the Essential
After the meeting, plan some time to transfer the essential points to your planner or your computer. Noting down tasks in your planner reduces the chance of you missing something, and having your notes digitally makes it easier to communicate on meeting points via email or add pertinent information to other documents.
Your time is important. Make the most of it through effective note taking!