How to Enhance Your Note-taking Skills

20 July 2022

There are many people who take note-taking skills for granted. They rely on their memory when it comes to instructions or what was discussed in a meeting that was just done five minutes ago. These people trust their memory too much, even if it has failed them countless times before. You can’t rely on memory alone in the workplace because this gives a lot of room for errors and mistakes to be done from your end.

If you really want to perform better for your job, one of the ways you could do so is to pick up a pen and start taking down notes. Not only do you become better at writing things down, but you also develop your listening and critical thinking skills. Moreover, you help your brain remember more of what was discussed.

So when you’re taking down notes, there are many things happening at the same time. You are actively listening to the person talking in the meeting, thinking critically about the information that was just relayed, and being able to sort through what was discussed and choose what details are important for you to record. As said, companies value your ability to take down notes because this means you remember the details of a meeting more and are able to perform accordingly, down to the nitty-gritty of what was discussed.

Active listening indicates that you know how to focus your attention on whoever is speaking. You can understand what they are communicating and you are able to respond in a way that contributes to the value of the conversation.

Your critical thinking skills are also put to the test because in real-time, you have to analyze the information that you are hearing to understand the matter and think of ways on how to go about it.

Because you are presented with one information after another, you process and categorize this information mentally and are able to discern what is important for you to write down. The most skilled notetakers can even catch up on patterns and outlines while listening so that their notes are cohesive and organized.

And it’s not only when you listen that you need to take down notes. When reading papers, documents, and books, you also jot down notes. You should have good reading comprehension so that you could turn the paragraphs in the book into bite-sized information.

Note-taking is also vital in research where you gather, analyze, and interpret the data you received.

There’s a difference when you take notes on a paper versus when you use your computer to do so. Most people still prefer the traditional method of writing notes down on paper rather than typing words on a keyboard but when you use a computer, you’ll be able to maximize different note-taking options such as making the text Bold or in a different color. You also get to save up paper but compared to writing down notes on paper, you won’t be able to draw sketches beside your notes. But then again, it’s much easier to locate your notes for a certain meeting or book when you type them down on your computer as opposed to writing them in a notebook or paper where you have to manually look for your notes.

There are various ways on how you can take notes much more effectively than what you are doing now. We’re here to help you with a few simple suggestions.

1. Write a title on top of your notes.

You write down notes so you could have them as a guide or reference in the future. This is why it’s very helpful if you would create titles for your notes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be creative as if you’re writing an article headline; it could be as simple as the date when the meeting happened, what the presentation is for, and/or the title of the book.

2. Make use of formatting tools.

As mentioned, when you write down notes on your laptop or computer, you are able to format your notes such as making them bold, changing the alignment, playing with font size and styles, underlining or italicizing important details, etc. You can also easily make bullet points or number the details that you are writing down. This makes it much easier to sort through your notes and compartmentalize information in your head. If you’re writing on paper, you can always make use of multi-colored markers and manually do text formatting yourself.

3. Write only the information that you need.

You have to rely on critical thinking and organization skills in choosing what information you will write. You are not transcribing a meeting wherein you are required to write everything word per word. You have to be able to write keywords in exchange for full sentences so it helps make note-taking less overwhelming and it also helps you understand your notes more when you look into them in the future. And when someone is talking in front of you, you don’t want to be looking at your paper the whole time.

But then, of course, be careful in shortening and writing keywords that you might not be able to understand in the future. Make sure to add context so that you won’t find yourself questioning why you wrote something in the first place.

4. Note the most important details as you’re taking down notes.

There is important information that is more important than the rest. Mark these details by underlining them, changing their color, making them bold, or making sure they are in a bigger size. Examples of important details include deadlines, clear instructions, and contact information. You can also put it in a shape such as a square or a circle so that you know it’s highly important information.

If you want to take down notes properly, you should not be distracted when actively listening to the speaker. Your full attention must be given to the talk, meeting, conference, or speaker so that you won’t miss out on any details.

Before taking down notes, you should know what your purpose is so that this will guide what you will have to write down in your notebook. It also makes clear what information you need. Do not worry first about being neat or having the proper grammar. As long as you understand your notes, the most important thing in note-taking is to jot down information that you need.

And then, of course, do not panic if you forget something. You can always ask a friend or the speaker itself about the information that you missed. The notes just serve as your guide, not the primary source of information.

If you’re working from home, make sure you have an ergonomic workspace that can help you stay focused. You might want to use a comfortable ergonomic chair so that when listening and taking down notes, you won’t get distracted by body pains or aches.