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Note taking 101

  1. Better Note taking
  2. Earlier: Meeting participation Meeting facilitation Brainstorm Documentation
  3. Please take notes. Especially if you are in a meeting. Even if you have perfect memory. Because: 1. Taking notes is shortest way organize the information discussed, presented or proposed 2. Taking note comforts others in the room, and note are semi-formal documents to support your claims But, most importantly, remember that you DON’T have a perfect memory. Nope. No one does. People forget on an average: 50% of a meeting within 24 hours 80% in two weeks 95% within one month
  4. Please do it with pen and paper*. Because: 1. A laptop, tab, or handheld device puts a screen between you and the rest, and is detrimental to interpersonal exchange 2. Pen and paper is much easier, at least till today, much easier to manipulate (try noting down a math formula or a bar chart using your virtual note taking tool… what is it? Microsoft word?) Also, pen and paper creates a subliminal physical bonding between you and your notes, making it easier to retrieve when deciphering your notes.
  5. This can be okay of you not trying to put the device in other angle than 0⁰, flat, perfectly horizontal like paper Also make sure than you don’t have facebook stuff on the side. If you are bored, revert back to good old doodling. After fashion, landscape and news photographers now we have the new and improved whiteboard photographers. But, how does those photographs tell you what the words and squiggly lines mean? How does it help you to remember all the explanation that was said and not written on the board? Bad news for all the aspiring sound recordists – those little devices and you cell-phone recording just doesn’t work. Who will listen through 3 hours of recording after sitting through the meeting for 3 hours? Who will recognize all those distant and faint voices? What happens when three voices talk and you can’t understand a word in the recording?
  6. Listen carefully. Missing the point is the biggest threat to the exercise of taking down point. There are simple techniques: 1. Observe the cues in a speaker for significance of the point (pausing, giving examples, repeating, increasing volume or pitch, using body language, even direct cues like – “this is important” or “please note”) 2. We don’t discuss or converse in a strictly organized manner, therefore it is important to keep track of the discussion flow (i.e. what are we discussing now?) 3. Words and images are carriers of concepts, do not misrepresent them. If the speaker says – “opportunities” – don’t record “chances” or “opening” in your notes. Missing the word is often missing the point. Judge the content, not delivery. Find out what the speaker knows, not how he presents it. Resist distractions. A matter of concentration. Try to make and keep eye contacts. How else are you going to observe those subtle visual and emotional cues?
  7. Be an active listener. Ask questions, ask for a repetition if you have really missed a big point, seek clarity, compare one statement with another: 1. What is she/he saying; what does it really mean? 2. How does that relate to what he said before? 3. Where is he going; what’s the point he’s trying to make? 4. How is that helpful; how can I use this? 5. Does this make any sense? 6. Am I getting the whole story? 7. How does this relate to what I already know? 8. Is she/he leaving anything out? 9. How does this relate to what I already know? 10. Do I understand what he’s saying or should I ask for clarification?
  8. Avoid common mistakes. Here is how: 1. Avoid taking notes chronologically (first point spoken is the first point discussed, then the second point discussed, then third point discussed…). Unfortunately, you meeting participants do not discuss the first logical point first, then the second logical point and so on. If they go back-and- forth (they will) you will be lost (you are usually) 2. Avoid taking notes into a pre-decided format. Sorry, to inform, your meeting participants don’t care for your format, and anything that is discussed outside the format remains outside the notes. Often that means almost everything is left outside the notes. Protips: Look for key-words and verbatim quotes (note them within quote-unquote marks)
  9. Use non-linear techniques. Don’t be intimidated by the bid word. It’s rather easy  (Per minute) Speed of though: >500 words Speed of speech: >200 words Speed of writing (shorthand): >100 words Speed of writing (longhand): >20 words Speed of writing (copying): >12 words Speech Thought Note Process information at the speed of thought, not at the speed of the speaker or your handwriting
  10. • Try to club together whatever information you are taking down in main trunks • Fork out the clubbing at your convenience as branches • Keep adding new trunks and new branches as more points appear • Interlink the points, branches and trunks by use of • Arrows and lines • Or zones drawn around trunks/branches Don’t worry about which is which (i.e. trunk, branch, zone, whetever etc.) , as long you get the idea Mind mapping format Clubs Forks Zones Famous User Spidergram style  Tricks: Use different colours like: Blue for general notes Black for explanations, details, anecdotes Green for quotes Red for action points
  11. More examples  Vertical flow style Example from marketing notes 
  12. • Divide your page into different zones, use them for particulars you need Remember, each of us has our own needs, and hence our own unique style of zoning Notes on notes/ Questions, investigations, points to ponder/ to-do list, action points Main flow of the discussion/ critical information, references, values Colonel university system Summary, take out/ key points, highlights Tricks: Use symbols like: □ A square checkbox denotes a to do item ⃝ A circle indicates a task to be assigned to someone else * An asterisk is an important fact ? A question mark goes next to items to research or ask about Famous User
  13. Oxford format
  14. Sketchnotes In a global survey it was found that people don’t like taking notes because they are boring But… The don’t need to be Jazz up. It also makes things easier to understand and remember. Basic tools
  15. Compare as much as possible. Particularly with people who surely brought a different perspective to the meeting: 1. You may have missed a point 2. You may missed the IMPORTANCE of a point Comparing with your peers is also very helpful. Please, do not ignore what they took down in a meeting.
  16. Review as soon as possible. A highly important part of great note taking is great follow up. Review way before you forget: 1. The shortcuts, colour codes, squiggly lines and other symbols/markings you used in the notes 2. Explanation of the points, or which point is related to which other point, or which point is more significant than which other point and so on The best review is a report/ meeting minute/ memo. That’s more skill to learn.
  17. Do not share unedited notes. Please, understand that only you know the meaning of all those squiggly line and arrows and asterisks. Please consider the struggle the reader will have trying to find which point follows which point, and what is most important. If someone ever agrees to read your raw notes and work on it, remember to by that person a lunch, a shirt and a nice box of chocolates, not forget birthday cards and uncommon booze on your way back from vacation… a couple of concert tickets for Bryan Adams, and a gift voucher to Vasavi would not hurt either.
  18. Further: Visual Note Taking Meeting minutes Memos Report writing
  19. Thank you