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10 reasons why great note takers are on the path to success

7 October 2015

In both academic and professional settings, people are faced with the decision as to whether or not to take notes. Be it a lecture, meeting or training session, you might wonder whether note taking is for you.

Traditionally, note taking has provided a way of summarising what’s been said for review at a later date. But today, people are capturing information using more modern methods such as phone recording and online publishing.

Despite these technological advancements, we still believe there are many benefits to traditional note taking, for example:

1. The development of cue spotting skills

Notes often appear disjointed and full of holes, but experienced note-takers develop the skills to spot cues and patterns in their jottings. Being able to identify gaps and call upon your memory to fill them in is a transferrable skill that can be applied to real life situations.

2. Increased engagement and active learning

Taking good notes during a meeting or workshop keeps you engaged and your brain active. You’ll be less distracted and more able to make connections between themes, and recall information more effectively later.

3. Improved lateral thinking and organisation skills

Note takers are often very organised. Even if your notes appear messy and lack cohesion, you can subconsciously compartmentalise the information you’ve taken in and make sense of it at a later date. Organising data in this way improves your abstract understanding skills and enables you to process thoughts, make creative links and promote innovation.

4. The ability to problem solve and draw conclusions

By taking notes, your capacity to summarise points (both in real life and on paper) will be improved. Effective note taking strategies also increase the speed at which you can draw conclusions from more complex scenarios.

5. Information tailored for you

Your notes are personal, often distilled in such a way that only you can decipher them. Although it can be tempting to use someone else’s notes, the notes won’t be tailored to your way of learning; you’re not privy to that person’s mental filter. For this reason, taking your own notes is always more beneficial.

6. Enhanced prioritisation skills

Forcing the brain to store and order information at a fast pace improves one’s ability to prioritise tasks – quickly and efficiently. This attribute is something transferable and valuable across many areas of work.

7. Improved memory and recall ability

Associating notes with real-life situations helps you develop new patterns and ways of thinking. One of the beneficial side effects is improved memory and recall. Depending on the types of notes you take, you may distinctly remember whether the person speaking was indicating with a gesture, using an altered tone of voice or a visual aid – something you would have ordinarily forgotten.

8. A better, longer attention span

Good note takers remain engaged as they jot down their thoughts. This exercises your attention span and helps to develop the ability to focus on intense situations for longer.

9. The nurturing of ‘light bulb’ moments

Taking good notes can encourage creativity. Having a pen and paper close by during meetings or classes lets you quickly record any thoughts or reminders that pop into your head. This can spark innovation and lead you down a path to brilliant ideas. Sir Richard Branson once said that many of his successful ventures within Virgin would never have happened if he hadn’t taken note of those small ideas that would pop into his head at random.

10. The ability to review and recap as you need

Things happen in our lives that we can’t control. Such situations can leave you blank on topics that were once at the forefront of your mind. Taking effective notes allows you to go back and refresh your memory as required.

Note taking tips and techniques

Whether you’re a pro-note taker or not, you can always improve. According to John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, “Great leaders are never too proud to learn.”

  • Share notes with others to prompt collaborative learning. It will open your mind to new perspectives and interpretations of notions.
  • Take quick notes during any form of communication, then review immediately afterwards while the information is still fresh in your mind.
  • Use colours and coding that you’ll understand later to make the notes as useful as possible, and lengthen their lifespan.
  • Stay organised with files and make links between notes to help you find things you may need later.
  • Research what tools are available. Online, consider programs such as Evernote or functions like bookmarking. Offline, consider using post-it notes, highlighters or a voice recorder.

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