How to Make Notes You'll Remember

Most of us have to make notes at some point and it's probably something we don't really think about. If you take on some of the ideas below though, you're likely to save yourself time and be able to remember everything afterwards.

There are some easy traps to fall into, but just an awareness of simple ideas can really make a difference.

Although a lot of the information out there focusses on academic work, these ideas also work in the office. I suggest you try them and see what a difference it makes.


Lose Your Laptop

All the studies I've seen make one thing clear, you won't remember notes you've made on a laptop as well as notes you've written by hand. That's right, even in the age of the cloud, a simple pen and paper approach may be the way forward.

You have to write slower and more deliberately by hand and this helps us recall the information when we need it.

Laptops also create a natural barrier in meetings and lectures that can be very unhelpful. You'll probably find that people are also tempted to plug them into AV equipment they're not familiar with in meetings, and this can waste a lot of time.

We do need to be aware though that technology is moving on and the days of the laptop may be numbered. The main problem presented here is typing, is it's literally too easy to do, but tablets with styluses will allow you to write by hand.

My advice for now is to always have a physical notepad handy if you're taking notes you need to remember. Jotting down quick ideas on a digital device is fine but when you have to write a lot down, do it on paper.


Ditch Highlighters

The notes that I used to make in meetings were pretty colourful, as I normally used at least two highlighters to quickly remind myself what I had to focus on afterwards. This can create problems though, as it can bring things back out of context and it often encourages you to make longer, less relevant notes. You're also likely to rely on the highlights to recall what's important.

Working without this safety net naturally encourages you to write notes that are focused, memorable and easy to read afterwards.

Just try this for yourself and see what happens. The ideas below can also help you make up for the loss of you precious pens.


Separate Your Thoughts and Ideas

If you can, try to keep the structure of the meeting and what's being said separate to your reactions to it. For example, if someone is outlining a new procedure you should make a clear and practical note of this on your page. If their words then start to spark ideas or you feel you urgently need to add something, simply write it in the margin or in a separate space.

This should help you stay engaged with what's being said and remove the need for interruptions.

This in turn should help you become a better listener and you'll quickly remember the point you needed to make if it's separate from what you've written. You can also go back afterwards and quickly recall your action points and observations.

More importantly, it naturally separates your emotions and responses from the cold hard facts.


Draw Things

Don't be afraid to draw pictures in your notes as it's very clear that most of us find it easy to recall images. Bringing an idea to life like this should make it very memorable and really get your mind working.

Don't just restrict yourself to sketches, as simple shapes and symbols can be just as effective.

You can use these to connect the ideas that spring to mind in your meeting and quickly focus your attention on important points when you read your notes afterwards. This is another reason why we won't need highlighters anymore.


Use Your Bullet Journal

If you're already using a Bullet Journal to keep yourself organised, you could use it instead of a separate notepad. The main problem with taking physical notes is that they may not be there when you need them.

Adding notes directly into your Bullet Journal allows you to index and action them as part of your main system.

You'll probably be used to keeping it with you at all times as well.


Conclusions

I appreciate that we're all going to approach taking notes differently but I hope something here works for you. 

I'm convinced that physical notes are the way to go, if you don't have a Surface or iPad Pro, but I'm very aware of the potential problems. Just a simple snow day can leave you unexpectedly working at home away from your notes and this can leave you stranded.

The simple solution is to take photos of your notes on your phone if you can. This will give you the flexibility of the cloud while retaining the advantages of the handwritten words.

I'll leave it to you to work out if this is possible, as you may not want confidential company information on your own cloud account. I'm sure you'll find your own unique solution though once you start thinking about it.

The main thing I took away from this exercise wasn't really related to taking notes though, and it's something you may want to think about. To be very honest, I thought I was really good at making notes before I conducted this research. It turns out that I wasn't though, as I had a lot to learn.

How many off us ignore great personal development and productivity advice because we think we don't need it?

Just one simple idea can make a huge difference when we put it into practice. Taking notes is just the tip of the iceberg, so keep checking the site for more ideas.