When was the last time you took a note-taking class for work? Probably never. In fact, many of us never even took a note-taking class in school; we just had to figure it out. While it’s rare that anyone will lose a job for not taking notes on something, the small, ongoing effect of bad notes or not taking notes at all can really hurt your career. For example, if you have to ask your boss to recall information shared in a meeting, then it looks like you weren’t listening and you weren’t on your game.
Another benefit of taking notes is that when you have a collection of thorough, thoughtful notes in one place that you actually refer to from time to time, you start to see connections between things you otherwise wouldn’t have seen and you’ll have information other people don’t retain. This is how you’ll get great ideas, form new connections and become the kind of innovator and leader who makes things really happen on your team.
Promotional Consultant Today shares these note-taking strategies from expert Kate Stull.
1. Know when to take notes at work. Note-taking should be a habit in which you always take notes, then decide later, whether or not to keep them. Key work settings in which taking notes makes sense include one-on-one meetings, big conversations, client meetings, and meetings with mentors and contacts.
Taking notes shows you’re taking the time seriously. It’s also a good time to make note of personal details like your manager’s or client’s spouse’s name. Notes also capture any significant idea generation. It’s a way to record the details so you can provide a summary back and confirm that everyone is on the same page as well as allow follow-up in a meaningful way.
2. Find a note-taking style that’s right for you. There are many ways to take notes and no hard-and-fast rules. It simply has to be a style and format that is most useful to you; one that you can follow on a consistent basis. A few note-taking methods include:
Lists: This is the most traditional kind of note-taking. You start at the top of the page with the main meeting topic, and then continue your list with sub-heads as other topics come up. Leave space between sub-heads as you go, since the meeting may circle back to a topic (or you may have questions or new ideas you want to record). You can also add an action items section and/or a to-do section.
Mind Maps: This style is great for people who are visual learners. Start by writing the topic of the meeting in the center of the page. From there, draw branches out to every key topic discussed.
Continue drawing branches out for subtopics (getting increasingly detailed), and at the end of the meeting you’ll have a visual representation of the meeting’s most important points.
A Trail of Breadcrumbs: When you employ this strategy, take notes as if you are going to give them to someone who wasn’t at the meeting. Write down every topic as it comes up, and then paraphrase/record every point raised related to that topic.
3. Organize your notes so you can reference them later. Your notes are only useful if you organize them in a way that makes it easy to refer to them afterwards. This requires a level of organization. Always keep your notes in the same place, like a notebook, and use the same format each time. Finally, review your notes on a regular basis to help you remember any necessary follow-ups and keep you on your “A” game.
Source: Kate Stull is the co-founder of Popforms, a company that builds tools to help technical leaders be more amazing at their jobs. She also just launched a Kickstarter for The Spark Notebook: a notebook that combines the function of a big life-planner into a beautifully designed, professional notebook.