Questions You May Have on Why You Should Care about Active Note Taking Strategies
Echo Smartpen and 3 Subject Notebook Bundle
- Why should I take notes when there is someone recording the meeting minutes?
- Why should I take notes at a speaker event when the presentation slides are available?
- I’m too busy to read books, so why should I care about taking notes while reading?
- I have a good memory, or a photographic memory, so why should I take notes while reading?
Above are some important questions. Some of them, or all of them, may apply to you. I will answer all the questions, but this is also a roundup post for the series on note taking. There are times when we do not see the importance of an activity, until someone makes a compelling case. I hope that by the end of this article, I have made a compelling case for why professionals should care about active note taking strategies.
UPDATE: First published in October 2016
Active Note Taking Strategies at a Work Meeting
As a professional, meetings are a fact of life. And usually, someone is designated to take notes. If that’s the case, why should you care about active note taking strategies? You should care a lot, actually! No system is foolproof when you are relying on another person.
Three situations occurred in the last five months that I recently felt the effects. In one meeting, where the secretary was taking minutes, I was asked to do a competitive scan. I was given the names of four organizations to check out. I jotted down the names of the organizations on the agenda, instead of taking out my notebook from my tote.
Unfortunately, I lost the agenda, and the names of the organizations. There was no record in the minutes because the secretary thought it was not important to write down that information. And the person who asked me to do the competitive scan couldn’t remember the names of the organizations.
After many emails, she gave me the names of four organizations, and although I cannot remember the names that she gave me before, I’m sure they are not the same. Had I followed active note taking strategies, I would have recorded the information in my notebook.
In two other situations, I also relied on people taking notes, instead of taking notes for myself. Although the two situations are different, there are some similarities. In one instance, the person was recording a regular meeting that I was chairing. Later when I read the meeting minutes, I wasn’t satisfied with the information captured because it was too succinct.
Note taking is very personal, and when you are listening, you have to distinguish between essential and non-essential information. What you consider essential information may not be what another person considers essential information. Herein lies a big problem. Had I taken my own notes, I would have captured different information.
In another situation, I was chairing the meeting as well. We also had someone who offered to take notes. Months later, I needed the information to use in a project. I checked the minutes and the information I needed wasn’t recorded. Additionally, the presenter didn’t follow protocol by adding her notes to the shared drive. She hadn’t typed up her notes. She jotted down the information on a piece of paper, and that’s what she used during her presentation. I was left scrambling trying to figure out what to do. Eventually the presenter recreated the information, but it wasn’t as detailed as when she presented it.
In all three instances I screwed up. It doesn’t matter what other people did. It was my responsibility to take notes, especially sections that affect me. Sections where I have to take action.
These three mini case studies underpin the importance of having active note taking strategies.
Active Note Taking Strategies at a Speaker Event
Most speakers are willing to share their presentation slides. And some speakers will even tell you not to take notes because you have access to the slides. But think about this for a second, for a one-hour speaker event, a speaker will likely have over 100 slides. And each slide will be loaded with lots of information. After the speaker event, can you honestly say that you’re going to spend time reading all those slides?
You attended the speaker event for a specific reason. You wanted information on a topic. Perhaps you were looking for the answer to a question. Why wouldn’t you record the information you need during the event? It’s a more efficient way to capture information while at the event. Although you may have a perfectly good memory, active note taking strategies allow you to later interact with your notes. You can make connections that you are unlikely to make if you rely solely on your memory.
Please read these blog posts on reading while listening!
Active Note Taking Strategies When Reading
Anyone who expects to progress at work, has to engage in ongoing learning. And reading books is one of the best ways to learn. But that’s not the only reason why active note taking strategies is key when reading.
“A 2012 study by McKinsey Global Institute of office workers in the US, Germany, France, and Great Britain to find out how much time they spent reading and answering emails and processing written information found that the average was 5.6 hours a day.”
That’s more than half of a workday spent reading work-related information. That has two implications for you. You have to understand the best note taking strategies to capture what you read. The Cornell Method for taking notes, or even using a digital note taking device such as the Livescribe Echo Smartpen may work well for you! The second implication is that you have to use a speed reading method that will help you to process what you read much faster, without affecting reading comprehension.
Have you read?
Please read Good Note Taking Techniques When Reading. The article gives you some solid information on how to get the most from your reading.
Further Reading: Note-Taking for Reading
An Important Benefit of Note Taking
I am a big believer in taking note because it is a form of learning. When I am reviewing my notes ideas occur to me at that time, so I will add insights to my notes. But the other that has occurred is that some information seem to work better together, so I am always copying and pasting information. you cannot be this flexible with your thinking if you have no notes to work with. If you have a photographic memory, can you move information around in your mind?
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