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Taking Notes

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posted on May, 10 2016 @ 08:24 AM
As I've noted on some other threads, I'm a nut about pens, pencils and paper. It goes without saying this includes writing also. I would say I border on OCD about some elements (paper is certainly one). As a former technical drawer and draftsman I take a lot of pride in writing on paper. One piece of advice I always tell people who want to learn writing is to RELAX. I say this because I even have to tell myself this periodically. Taking notes is one of these areas.

Taking effective notes is a subject there are probably tens of thousands of papers on, and there are as many different 'systems' for the same. This post isn't really about any specific system, but rather some tips I've found over the years which help in taking better notes...

NOTE - These same principles apply to notes on a computer if that's what you choose. I prefer paper, but to each their own. Personally, I don't like computers in a meeting simply because they act as a shield of sorts, distancing people from the discussion, but that's just me.

I break down note taking into two broad categories. 1.) Making notes about something I want to do, write about or remember. Essentially, these are notes to myself. And, 2.) Taking notes of a conversation or meeting. The latter (#2) is the focus of this post.

Taking "effective" notes of a meeting or discussion is by far the most difficult type note taking. Writing down a bunch of non-sensical fragments of crap is easy, but taking effective pertinent notes is something altogether different. Some have the luxury of having a dedicated note-taker in a meeting, but most do not. The other thing to remember is, as a meeting participant you have to not only take notes, but also participate (i.e. talk) as well. Capturing the whole conversation, when you're part of it, can be a real challenge.

Here's some things I've found which really help:

Never start at the top of the page - Putting a title on the note page is okay, but never start your notes on line #1 of the page. If you do this you've likely already failed. Here's why; if you start on line #1 you've already pre-programmed yourself that you're going to take what I call "linear" notes. In other words, you are going to act like a human tape recorder converting speech to text. Forget it; it's impossible! The average person speaks at 110-150 wpm. Even the fastest shorthand note takers can only keep up with about 100 wpm. If you've got 4-5 people in a meeting this rate can go up to 2-300 wpm. (a trained court stenographer may be able to keep up, but they have highly specialized equipment and are highly trained for this).

Leave lots of space between subjects - Conversations / meetings are usually circular in nature when it comes to different topics. If you leave space between subjects (like lots of lines), you can come back and fill in more detail when the discussion circles back. If you don't leave space, similar subjects get broken up and your notes make less sense later (when you need them). People by nature don't discuss things in a purely linear way, especially not in a group. Decorum and manners cause people with something to say to bring their point up when there's a good opportunity (this is why conversations often circle back). A meeting leader may have a list of things they want to get through, so they'll often move on to the next subject before everyone is done discussing it. Secondly, successive topics are usually related (again, another reason for circle backs). Leaving space to fill in detail later will save your bacon every time.

Paper is cheap - Don't worry about notes being a masterpiece or work of art (hard for me sometimes). In an ideal world we would capture each element of a discussion in this perfectly orderly way, several lines of discussion followed by a space and then the next subject, right? Never happens that way! Sometimes you may leave too much space between subjects. So what, just leave it; paper is cheap. Don't worry about getting every single line filled in before going to a new sheet. You can fix it later if you're really OCD, but the main thing is capturing the whole discussion.

A picture is worth 1,000 words - If someone draws a diagram on a white board, take the time to replicate the drawing. It may seem simplistic at the time, but it's amazing how much more sense notes make when the diagram on the wall (which gets referred to 85 different times) is also in your notes. Cell phone cameras work okay for this too, but it's better if you can quickly sketch it right in your notes (rather than having a separate picture file).

Paper is cheap - Repeat? Nope, it really is! Use it, waste it. Can't say it often enough. Paper is cheap! "But, but, but...I'll fill up my whole nice notebook if I waste paper!", some will think. Well, buy a cheaper notebook. The notebook is for "notes", and pretty doesn't score any points in the end, but effective notes DO!

Don't get fancy - Some folks get all fancy with different colored pens or get all hung up using some specific system. Conversations rarely follow some perfectly orderly format. When you try to fit these imperfect conversations into that perfectly orderly format you wind up spending more time worrying about your 'system' then the conversation itself.

Did I mention Paper is cheap? - Well, you get the point.

Less is more - just said "paper is cheap", this is a conflict!! No, it's different. You don't have to capture every word, but capturing the essence of the discussion can be as simple as a single word, and fragments of relevant points. Capturing every word will just put you behind the discussion. Capturing thoughts, questions, points and major elements keeps you right up with the discussion.

These are the main points. Hopefully these points help, and others have suggestions to add.

edit on 5/10/2016 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 09:30 AM
Good thread.. An interesting perspective..

Writing things down is very important, writing ideas, thoughts, goals can be invaluable.
Many successful people always carry a small notepad around them and use it constantly.. Richard Branson for example is one such individual.

And your point about writing by hand with paper is a much more powerful tool.
By writing it you actually help your brain to remember the information.

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 10:48 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

Good thread. I find myself using 2-3 letters of a word or phrase.

As a musician, I would often just write the 1st and last word of each line of a new lyric....just enough to remember the line in full....

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 03:48 PM
Actually, in college I did use a color coding system in my notes. I used a different color every day. If I took one day in blue, then I'd take the following day in purple or green or red or black (didn't matter which so long as the color was different). That way, I could always tell at a glance when one day's notes stopped and the next day'd began.

It was the easy way to tell someone which notes they missed on Monday.

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 05:30 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

Very useful. I attend a lot of meetings often chairing them, which makes it even harder to take minutes.

Sometimes I look back at my notes and wonder what I have written and/or why I've written it. If nothing else I try to go over the actions at the end and get everyone to agree so at least I have an accurate record of those.

Thanks for this will definitely try to incorporate some of these ideas.

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 06:00 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

I'd like to add to my 1st reply, in Emergency trainings I do regularly...the info and types of training I go through...that its imperative I note in a form of shorthand, short-words, partials...just to keep up.

And for privacy...the 2-3 1st letters of a word or partial sentence, keeps it pretty secure so nobody know what the hell I was takes down.
*(My wife is also a 1st Responder, and although she kinda knows my why of taking notes...I still drive her crazy when she has to transcribe them!!!)

Advanced Disaster Life Support

edit on 10-5-2016 by mysterioustranger because: phone again....throwing it at the wall now..!

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 08:29 PM
Good idea - some things I do with note taking.

Abbreviate where possible, for names (just put initials, JS = John Smith), common words eg something=sth, someone= so. Tis can save a lot of time - try writing out "something" five times as opposed to "sth".

I like bullet points as they are easier to refer back to rather than a wall of text, also there is no need to scribe every word - phrases are fine as long as they capture the essence of what was said.

Oh and when there is not much happening in the meeting, or to record - doodle in the margins, it keeps me focused instead of falling asleep.

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 09:44 PM
a reply to: 1984hasarrived

"Bullets" can be dangerous (not the real ones, but the written ones). People tend to digress into making bullets for every sentence or statement. Bullets should really be used for a different topic or subject. Bullets (in writing) are addictive, and can very often devolve into meaningless fragments.

If I use bullets, I actually go back (after the fact) and bulletize certain topics and subjects. I try to use two different kinds of bullets. The first is a small square, meaning some action needs to come from it (and a check in the box), and a line, meaning it's just a point of reference.

I don't make bullets while taking notes.

posted on May, 10 2016 @ 11:33 PM
Fair point

a reply to: Flyingclaydisk


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