Do you have to read a lot for your job? Do you attend a lot of meetings?
Whenever you read, or even if you are in a meeting, you MUST develop good note taking techniques!
You remember more of what you read, and what you hear, when you take notes by hand!
In a hurry?
Below, you’ll find my experience on the most effective note taking techniques!
Introduction to Most Effective Note Taking Techniques
For years and years, I have advocated for people to take notes while they are reading. And note taking is a big part of Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge, because I advise participants to combine ideas from the various books they read.
When it comes to taking notes, I am pretty much old school, because I take notes by hand. I was very happy when I learned about the research (Listen to Dan Pink talk about this study – very short video) study that found that it was better for you to take notes by hand because you remember more of the information.
When you take notes by hand, you tend to rephrase the information, so you can keep up. When you are typing your notes when you are listening to a lecture, you type what you hear verbatim because it’s simpler.
I take notes by hand when I attend speaker events, take online courses, or when reading books. In this blog post, I talk about three note taking techniques and choose my favorite.
Related: The underlying research: The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Notetaking by Pam Mueller at Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer at UCLA.
The problem with taking notes by hand, is that you have to type up your notes afterwards. I do not type as fast as a secretary, and typing up notes is frankly quite boring. I do it eventually, but it gets to the point that I have so much of it to do, that it pisses me off. You don’t want to be in that frame of mind.
Most Effective Note Taking Techniques
A few years ago, I researched note taking. At the time, I was working on The Invisible Mentor Model. A professor reviewed what I had done, and recommended that I explain to others what it means to take detailed notes. When talking to some folks, I discovered that some universities have courses on note taking. This tells me that it’s an important topic.
Taking Notes in a Regular Notebook
When the Read the World Challenge started, I was so excited because my reading was so targeted, based on the monthly elements of the reading challenge. A friend gave me some beautiful Harlequin notebooks. During the first month of the reading challenge, I read nine books and filled up one entire notebook.
Whenever I read a book, I extract the five big ideas, and I recommend this technique to Read the World Challenge participants. After reading a book a week for a month, I then recommend that they combine the ideas from the different books that they read.
When you do this, it’s amazing what hybrid ideas you come up with. The problem with this is that all my notes were handwritten in a lovely notebook. I delayed the process to type up my notes because I thought I would be wasting time when I could be reading other books. It is difficult to combine the ideas from the books you read, when your notes are handwritten, and in a notebook. I took the time to type up my notes, but it was a slow process. However, it was something that I had to do.
This has happened several times over the years, so I knew that I needed a better system. I understand the benefits of handwriting your notes, but typing them up seems to be doing the work twice. Yes, typing up the information, reminds you of the content again. But I didn’t enjoy the experience of typing notes.
Most Effective Note Taking Techniques: Cornell Note Taking System
I learned about the Cornell Note Taking System after I read 10 Ways to be a Better Learner by Jeff Cobb. When using the Cornell Note Taking System, you divide the page into three sections. Please see the diagram.
There is a large section to write your notes. After class, or the speaking event, you use the narrower section to write your key points, and big ideas. At the bottom of the page, there is a third section to summarize your notes.
I like this system because it’s so active. It forces you to think, and this is a great way to take notes when reading a book.
You can buy notebooks that use the Cornell Note Taking System, but several times when I explored buying the notebooks, the vendor did not ship to Canada. This forced me to create the three sections in a regular notebook.
Because I had to create the sections myself, I was inconsistent, and didn’t always do it. But the problem still remained, that even though it’s better than using a regular notebook, I had to type up my notes later. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but it was a problem for me, because I am not the fastest typist. It is a great system though for people who type very fast, and do not mind typing up handwritten notes.
Cornell Notes Art Cover Notebook Journal for Cornell Notes, 8.5Book Factory® (Cornell Notes / Note Taking Notebook, 8.5Cornell Notebook: Cornell Student Notebook, 8.5 Cornell Notes: Notebook for Cornell notes with green cover – 8.5
While researching, note taking, I came across the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. There were a lot of negative reviews on Amazon. That, coupled with the price tag, prevented me from buying the pen. After taking notes by hand during the first and second month of the Read the World Challenge, I decided that I needed a better way to be more productive. Taking notes by hand is important, but I don’t want to have to type up my notes.
Read Some of These Amazon Reviews About the Livescribe Echo Smartpen
Most Effective Note Taking Techniques: Livescribe Echo Smartpen
I decided to invest in the Livescribe Echo Smartpen, but before doing so, I wanted to talk to someone at great length first. I called the Canadian company that sells the pen and talked to Joseph Valenti for a long time. He offered to give me a 30-day money back guarantee in case the pen didn’t work to my satisfaction.
He was very honest about what the pen could and couldn’t do. To be able to convert your writing to text, the software has to be able to recognize your handwriting. That means that your handwriting has to be legible. I have been using the pen consistently since February 6, 2016, and it’s at least 95 percent accurate, so I do not have to make many changes. There was only one instance when it was about 50 to 70 percent accurate. I was tired and my handwriting was not always legible, and there lies the problem.
One of the shortcomings of my pen is that it cannot translate my handwritten tables into Microsoft Word. It’s fine if you want a PDF version. I love to create tables in my notes to organize my thoughts. I hope this is something that they introduce in an update. What I would also like to see, is a more intelligent software. You need the Myscript software to work with the pen, when uploading your notes to your computer. Technology has come a very long way, so I would like the software to auto-correct some words.
For instance, when I write the letter ‘v’, it’s not always as clean as it needs to be, so the software interprets it as an’x’. So I write ‘have’ in my notes, and when I upload my notes to Word, the software’s interpretation is ‘haxe’. I would like the software to realize that the word is ‘have,’ since there is no such word as ‘haxe.’
In the package, you get notebooks with small dotted lines and a special pen that takes a picture of what you are writing. It comes with special software, so when you attach your pen to the computer via USB connection, then start the software, your notes are converted to text or PDF. I love my Livescribe Echo Smartpen because it is making me more productive. But it also forces me to take time when writing my notes. If I wanted to, I could lend others my notes, and they would be able to read them.
I also watched the following YouTube video to make sure I knew how to use my pen properly.
My Conclusion – Most Effective Note Taking Techniques
My ideal would be to have a combination of the Cornell Note Taking System with the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. Since it doesn’t exist, I am going with the Livescribe Echo Smartpen as my most effective note taking technique. There are many other note taking techniques, but these are the ones that I have tried, so I can only speak about them.
For someone who types at least 80 words a minute, the Cornell Note Taking System will work just fine. Or if you love gadgets, you might want to try the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. There are a few types of Livescribe Echo Smartpen ( I have the Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen). By the way, I forgot to mention that the pen can record. So you can dictate notes, or record meetings.
Which is your most effective note taking techniques?