Taking notes

By Tom Dowd | Aug 18, 2016

I had only been in the real world working for about six months. I was doing decently on the phones, and was promoted to a job with more responsibilities. I was still on the phones, but we had more meetings to discuss strategies. I showed up to my first meeting without a notebook, paper, or any other way to retain the information. My boss called me out on it; I have never gone to a meeting again without something to keep notes.

According to culturalorientation.net, retention rates for adult learning varies based on the teaching method, but dips as low as five percent for lectures. Individuals learn best when they are actively engaged and taking notes. Culturalorientation.net noted in their article that, “As Confucius said nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember.’”

Since that day, I’ve been a consummate note taker. What does this have to do with organization and time management? It has to do with follow-up, prioritization, and execution; adding everything to your calendar and ensuring that you’re actually doing what was discussed right the first time!

If you have not consistently brought something to take notes with during meetings, start immediately. Always take a notebook to meetings, and actually use it. The value isn’t the notes staring blankly back at you. The significance comes into play when you invest the time to go back and read them—and take action. Just as you would when taking action on emails, it’s important to do the same with notes. Go back and refer to them to determine whether any actions need to be taken. Do you have questions that still need to be asked, or is clarification or confirmation still needed? Do you know if you were specifically asked to do something? If yes, mark it accordingly, and immediately add it to your calendar to get it done. I use markings for items that require immediate action to ensure that they stand out. Then, I immediately begin the transfer from paper or even tablet to calendar. For those who prefer note taking directly online, you’re even further ahead. I prefer actual written notes because I’ve found that the writing and transferring of information has helped my retention rates significantly, but use what works best for you. What is important is that you don’t simply take notes and then ignore them—that would be a waste of time.

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