Estimated read time: 6 minutes
Note-taking skills certainly have evolved over the years. I started out taking all of my notes in reporter notebooks. That was one of the few methods of note-taking at that time. Pen and paper. The end. Since the options have certainly evolved.
But no matter the tools used to take notes, a certain level of note-taking skills is essential. In this article, I discuss the following:
While I grew up as a newspaper reporter where note-taking was crucial, many roles have to take good notes, including content creators, social media experts, and content marketers. In addition, anyone who has projects or attends meetings can use these tips.
And note-taking is not just about documentation but it also helps us slow down and remember as the book “The Brain Mechanic” explains.
What are note-taking skills?
The point of taking notes comes down to the following:
- comprehending what is being said
- being able to refer back to what was said
To achieve those goals, we have to have proper note-taking skills, which come down to these:
- listen actively to what is being said
- not just hearing the words but also the context and what is meant – that can require follow-up questions
- proper documentation that can be referred back to
How to learn note-taking skills
The first step comes down to practicing active listening, which might be more complicated than it sounds. Listening intently and precisely on an ongoing basis can be difficult because:
- we might still be thinking about something else the person just said.
- a notification pops up
- their delivery style is so monotonous, and we have tuned out
Just being aware of those potential barriers helps. Be ready to listen, turn notifications off and when somebody’s delivery puts you to sleep, ask questions and engage in the conversation – when it’s a conversation. That doesn’t work when you are listening to a presentation.
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Good note-taking does mean that we are taking continuous notes. Not just the highlights as we judge them as highlights during the conversation, but we write down almost everything being said. That doesn’t always mean it’s exactly word for word, but the key points need to be jotted down.
Methods of note-taking
There are several methods available for note-taking today, and I use a mix of these, depending on the situation and what’s currently available to me.
Since I work in my home office, I don’t need a fancy notepad. And I get plenty of direct mail with blank pages on the back. I can use those to keep notes as well. So I use this paper as much as possible.
You can also use notepads – junior, executive, or legal size – and use those for your note-taking. I resort to these usually when I run out of scratch paper or for the occasional meeting away from my home office.
A reusable notepad allows you to take notes just like on regular paper, but the pages can be wiped clean when you are done with the notes.
I found this way of taking notes relatively easy and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. The one negative perhaps is that you must wet the cloth to clean the pages, so you must go somewhere with water.
Record (and transcribe)
Not technically note-taking, but you could also consider recording the conversation and transcribing it through tools like Otter.ai. This could capture the content at an even fuller level. This is less work during the conversation but requires more work after the conversation as the notes aren’t immediately done. But having a recording can also make comprehension easier as you can play back the tone and relisten for the context.
Most of these techniques have focused on writing notes down with a pen basically. And I would recommend to write in cursive. Writing in cursive seems to be much faster than printing it with a pen.
But you can certainly also take notes in any document on your computer and with a keyboard.
The advantage of this methodology is that you can search your notes way quicker but I find writing things down also helps us remember them.
It’s been a while that I’ve used keyboards that had cords plugged into my computer. I use wireless USB-connected keyboards for a while but in the last year or so transitioned to bluetooth keyboards.
Why? From my perspective, bluetooth keyboards and just like a bluetooth mouse are fast and free up USB inputs, which I never seem to have enough of anyway. Let me show you the two bluetooth keyboards that I use and what I like and dislike about them.
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The Sparin iPad keyboard
I use this wireless iPad keyboard – mostly with my iPad Pro. It uses batteries that you need to buy separately and insert.
To set it up, simply pair the device via bluetooth to your iPad. Pairing to iPhone or really any device with bluetooth works as well.
I like this particular keyboard as well because it’s tilted up and the buttons are real buttons. It feels like a real keyboard.
This keyboard also comes with a wireless mouse.
The Jelycob bluetooth keyboards
Working on my computer with two monitors I currently use this backlit keyboard.
To prop it up just a bit, I use this small keyboard stand as well.
This keyboard can get plugged in through a USB connector to get power. That might seem counterproductive as one reason to use these keyboards is to not need USB. But this USB doesn’t need to get plugged into the computer – like the USB-connected keyboards. I just connect this one to my power strip on my desk.
Bluetooth keyboards advantages
I would recommend both of these keyboard and use both daily. A huge advantage of them also is that they can be connected to any device that allows a bluetooth connection. And we can live with fewer cables.
And even though I do voice dictate a lot of content, keyboards are still a necessary tool for us content creators. Picking the right ones also matters to making sure we are comfortable while working and creating content that has a chance to perform.
Taking notes well is essential to ensure we get the most out of subject matter interviews for content creation or run-of-the-mill business meetings. But plenty of things can also prevent us from taking good notes. The good news is that the more aware we are, the more we can try our best to jot down notes in the most meaningful way. It can help us communicate better, create better content and know the industry more expertly.