from the Blog

Note Taking Machine


  • I attended a presentation at the local Chamber of Commerce and left with several pages of notes and ideas. 
  • Last week one of the guys at the office invited me in for an informal meeting . . . my conditioned response was ‘be right back with my notepad’.
  • One of my closest mentors and friend opens her notebook each time we meet.

As I thought about what to write today my immediate reaction was to open my trusty journal . . . . and then it hit me . . . . I am a Note Taking Machine!

Most of us my colleagues are not very good note takers. Most of us have friends or co-workers that show up to meetings without a note pad. My favorite is those who attend seminars without something to write with – I know, what is this all about?

Note taking is Important. The mere step of writing things down imprints, reinforces, and improves the ability to recall information. For example, I find it easier to remember someone’s name if I write it down. Taking notes validates the importance of conversations. Your clients will notice, and appreciate your attentiveness to what they are saying. Taking notes also allows you to clear your head.

Techniques to enhance note taking effectiveness:

  • JournalsOrganization – notes have little value if you can’t find the information. The best organization will depend on the application. Students will generally have different notebooks for different classes or subjects. Business people on the other hand will likely have a journal, composition book, or scheduler. Find what works best for you.
  • Format — find a format that works for you. Key for me – date at the top, who (as appropriate), bullet list on the left, and action items to the right.
  • Content – not too much, not too little. Maybe it is the engineer in me, but bullet lists are way more effective than paragraphs. Be careful not to be over zealous note taking. Find the proper balance between listening and note taking. Ask your client, ‘do you mind if I take notes, I find it helps to keep things from dropping through the cracks’.
  • Personalize – put the information into your own words. Every study I read highlighted that review of notes was a critical part of maximizing the effectiveness of taking notes. A major part of my success in engineering school was re-writing my notes within 24 hours after the class, highlighting, underlining, etc. I have coached sales consultants to re-write (debrief) their notes immediately after a sales call with great success. The re-write provides an opportunity to clarify what is most important, identify gaps in understanding, and most importantly for me, to develop ‘NextStep Actions’.
  • BONUSMake it Fun – Make it Yours – find a pen or pencil that makes that it uniquely you.  If a Big Chief Tablet suits your style (and you can pull it off) — go for it?

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

As you start the new week consider this quote from Lucien Price in ‘Winged Sandals’ (Little, Brown, and Company, 1928.) <link to source>

“Of two travelers, one an assiduous note-taker, the other a passive enjoyer, see which one will weary sooner. The act of writing, even if only jotting down memoranda, clears the wires. You get rid of one idea, another is able to take its place. Instead of remaining a stagnant pool, the mind becomes a running brook. In museum or landscape, on street or in train, one can keep this up for hours and finish as fresh as he began. The only fatigue will be physical: no slackening of interest. Note-taking, furthermore, even if one never look at his notes again, fixes experience in the memory. One thinks he will be able to remember everything, but reading over even desultory notes, he is surprised to find how much would otherwise be forgotten.”


. . . go have an Awesome Week!

Tom Trabue