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Why Are You Taking Notes?

This seems like a simple question, and yet most people don’t consider it, they just grab their pad or notebook and head to the next meeting, or class. Some people find that it’s the biggest deterrent to going paperless. There is a good reason for taking notes, but doing it incorrectly has some big disadvantages. This article will give you everything you need to know to make the best decision the next time you’re tempted to take notes.



The Handwriting Connection

Taking NotesScience has proven a hand-brain connection: we learn better when we hand write things. But in an effort to be paperless, or “paper-less,” many people switch to typing their notes on a laptop or tablet so that there’s no paper to track. However, you don’t get the same brain-benefit from typing things that you get from handwriting things. This means two things:

  • If you’re taking notes to help you learn, you need to hand write them, not type them. See how colleges are coming around to this idea.
  • If you just need to absorb what’s being said while you’re in a meeting, you may be able to throw the notes away after the meeting. (Obviously, if you’re in school and need to study for a test, throwing away your notes is not recommended. At least not until after the final exam.😉

But Wait – The To-Do’s!

Ah yes … whenever I go to a meeting, I usually leave with action items, such as “send a proposal,” or provide other information. If you write these action items in your notes, you have to make the time to transfer these tasks to your to-do list. Otherwise, you’ll have to remember to look at the notes in order to get the action items done, and relying on your brain alone is never the best solution. You risk forgetting, and even if you don’t forget, “remembering” causes stress. And it takes up space in your brain that can be better used for something else, like having your next great idea, or solving that problem that’s been vexing you.

Again, once you transfer the to-do’s to your task list, along with any relevant information from the meeting that will support your ability to get the task done, then you may be able to discard the notes. I know there are some of you reading this that are starting to panic at the thought of throwing your notes away. But here’s a good test to help you decide: how often do you go back and look at those notebooks you’re keeping? I had a big “aha” moment and cleared a lot of clutter once I realized I never reviewed those notes I was taking.

All the Benefits, None of the Hassle

If you love to hand write, but hate managing paper, consider one of the many technology solutions for taking notes that are now available to you. There are pens that electronically store your handwritten notes onto a flash drive, that can then be uploaded to your computer later. Check out the options from Livescribe. Another option is to handwrite your notes on paper, and then scan them with your phone using a scanner app (the one I use is Scanner Pro), and then email the scanned documents to yourself for processing and storing.

There are also apps for your tablet that allow you to hand write notes with a stylus, that get saved to your account, or as an image file that you can send to yourself or someone else. (My favorite of these is Penultimate, owned by Evernote. Sign up for a free Evernote account, and then download Penultimate for iPad in the App store.)

Taking notes doesn’t have to create clutter, or be a barrier to going paperless. You just need to ask “why,” and then make the appropriate adjustments to your habits.

Thanks for reading!