9.03.2010

Neater Note Taking

I'm always ashamed of how my notes look. Yes it's true. I have a complex about it.

Other people in the office have all sorts of note taking systems...multiple, labeled notebooks; essay notebooks; Covey systems; etc. But you know what makes me feel the worst? When I see people take notes and do it so neatly I want to cry.

So, as you can imagine, I have two reactions: appreciation, and disgust. Yes disgust. How much time they dedicate to their systems and so little to implementation/work!!

Whenever I take notes...I always seem to start on the right foot, but somehow get lost before I know it. No GPS can save me then.

I have been thinking about this for a couple of months actually. It really has been bothering me that much. I've noticed that...I end up writing stuff in the margins, underneath, over things...it's just a hot mess. I've never had neat writing to begin with, but when I get mentally confused too during note-taking, that's really too much!

I think that part of taking good notes...
1) is having a clear agenda to begin with that progresses to a logical point,
2) using a numbered and alphanumerical outline system to take notes,
3) being clear mentally about what one needs to capture and how/why.

So I'm essentially blaming the people I meet with for not having a clear agenda, and rambling all over the place for confusing me. How's that ^_^

But on a more serious, and practical note, how do you go about taking better notes?

Well it's important to have the right tools and mindset to start off with. Perhaps have notebooks with topic areas neatly labeled at the top, and a pen attached or handy nearby. Post it notes for tab dividers of time periods or to mark action items. Pen inks of different colors, notebooks of different colors, different labels, etc. It can get as creative or as cheap and basic as you want it to be. These could help keep you and your notes a little neater.

It's important to ask for or suggest agendas and/or schedule of events for meetings, phone calls, and conference calls. I think this can help make you a part of the solution, and by at least taking the initiative, makes you feel better and brings the idea to the organizer to keep the meeting more organized. People also get to think about the different topics ahead of time and pipe up at the right time during the conversation.


I studied project management and decided the strict forms and processes are definitely not for me. Each project provides a new opportunity to think outside the box, and a form doesn't allow me enough space to stretch my own boundaries and flex my intellectual muscles. At least that's the brochure version...

In real life, folks have unspoken agendas that sprout during a meeting and grow to gargantuan size by the end of the conversation.

Many folks go on tangents of multiple projects/topics/personal life events and end up hijacking conversations (and air time)...among other occupational hazards of meetings.


I did a quick Google search for "write notes neater" and found some pages that were of use:
But you know what? It's not really about handwriting or typing things out. It's about keeping things straight in your mind, having a process for action items and reminders, and just being able to stay on top of multiple pots on multiple burners.

What is your favored process for keeping your note taking neat?