If you are like many people, taking notes feels like a race you can’t win! If you are in a class, the teacher talks faster than you can think, and your thoughts race faster than your pencil. The same can be true in meetings when you are no longer in school. Consider these issues:
1. Create a context for comprehension
Preparing ahead for a class (or a meeting) – by reading in the text and/or requesting copies of powerpoint slides, meeting agendas, or class outlines in advance – can give you a context for the material, making it easier to follow the remarks and discussion.
2. Develop a note-taking approach that works
Learning and practicing note-taking strategies – whether it is three column notes, or some other approach – can help by giving you a regular format and framework for recording your notes. (See my March blog post for tips and resources on note-taking skills.)
3. Experiment for hand comfort and note-taking speed
Experimenting with varied pencils and pens may help reduce fatigue in the hand while note taking: some people prefer having a “grip” on their writing utensil for comfort. Better yet, if you are a speedy typist, using a laptop can facilitate note-taking, and is a commonly accepted strategy in high schools, colleges, and most meeting contexts.
4. Consider accommodations
In a school setting, note-takers are a common accommodation for individuals with AD/HD. The school usually request that another student, one who is good at taking notes, supply an extra copy of the notes. Typically, no such formal structure exists for meetings, though some groups will ask for a note-taker who then disseminates notes to the entire group. It is also possible to ask a colleague to share notes.
5. Compensate for distractability
If you are taking your own notes, what about moments during which your thoughts drift and your mind wanders? If this is a frequent problem for you, remember to take stretch breaks to refresh your brain. You may also want to consider reserving a corner of your paper as a spot in which to jot down random thoughts that may interfere with attention. Additionally, take a look at this amazing pen:
6. Look at new note-taking technology
Livescribe’s “Smart Pen” records what you hear and what you write so, as its website claims, “you never miss a word.” The most recent version of the Smartpen also allows you to transfer your notes to the computer as both text and audio.
What helps you with note-taking?
What strategies have you tried?
Do you use a laptop?
Will you look into a “Smartpen”?