If you survived college, you probably did by learning to take effective notes. You may remember being shown how to take effective notes in college or from high school. However, once you began your professional career, you may have acquired poor note-taking habits. Note taking can still be important, though, sitting in meetings and/or brainstorming for good ideas. Following are 6 tips to help you take notes at work.
One way to take effective notes is to keep them structured. Using an organization method that is consistent can help when later referring to your notes. This may mean a hierarchy structure of sections and subsections. Another suitable organization method is the two column method–you can use one for fresh information and the other for your notes as you review the first column.
Another way to take effective notes is to jot down relevant nonverbal behaviors of the speaker. Whether you are listening to instructions from a supervisor or listening to an account from your coworkers, body language and nonverbal behavior is important. Take these nonverbal behaviors into account when taking your notes. It is important to realize nonverbal behaviors can be as important as what is verbally stated.
A third way to take effective notes is to consider the material being presented before-hand. This consideration can include questions to ask and/or procedures to focus on. You can get more out of a lecture or interaction if you know the points for which you are searching.
Another way to take good notes at work is to put the speakers points into your own words. It is easy to take notes digitally, but research shows handwritten notes have concrete benefits. One study showed while digital note-takers wrote longer, “transcription like” notes, they performed worse on conceptual questions regarding the material. While typing fosters mindless transcription, handwriting helps to reinforce the information and increases comprehension.
A fifth way to take good notes is to make note of questions and insights you have while taking the notes. While writing these notes, you will have time to think and reflect on what you are hearing. Make note of your ideas, questions, judgments, and/or rebuttals to each point you record. The key here is to be actively involved in the presentation, analyzing and questioning the information you are receiving. This “active listening” is important for many kinds of communication, not only taking notes.
A sixth thing that will help the effectiveness of note-taking at work is to review your notes later. It helps you to reinforce the points you heard and to reflect on these notes. A study found students who reviewed their notes before exams were less likely to make mistakes on that exam. You may have passed the days of cramming for an exam, but taking good notes helps to learn the material when presented. Recalling and understanding what you hear can be an important career-wise, because the days of instantly forgetting information after an exam are over.