Take note of this corporate art form
The six kinds of note-takers you will find at meetings—from the doodler to digital geek
We keep notes throughout our lives. As students, we take down notes of lectures, making sure we don’t miss anything important. Then, as we enter corporate life, we realize that keeping notes of what is said at the numerous meetings we attend, is important too.
Keeping good notes can have significant impact on the results we achieve at the workplace—because some of the points we have noted down can actually prompt us to act. No wonder that note-keeping in office has evolved into an art, with managers developing their own methods. This corporate art form requires due attention, therefore we bring you here some of the most popular styles of keeping notes. So that you can reflect on, and fine tune, your own style.
This manager carries a large notebook around, and writes copious notes of every single thing discussed in meetings. Open his or her notebook, and you will find essays which document what every person has said, with some sections underlined as well, for effect. This style generally works well for managers who have to summarize the proceedings of meetings. For most others, it does not work, because long essays are not easy to read. However, taking down such copious notes in big notebooks ensures that you are perceived as being very busy throughout the meeting, which may win you some brownie points.
The doodler stands in direct contrast to the long-form essayist. He carries a notebook, alright, but he also carries a core belief that most of what is said at meetings is really a waste of time. So he keeps himself busy by doodling images of various kinds in his notebook. Occasionally, he may lazily scribble a note or two as well, if he hears something that he believes is of great value. There is research which indicates that doodling opens up your mind during meetings, and makes you more creative, so don’t rule this out as a useless pursuit.
The laptop scribe does not believe in ancient devices such as paper and pen. He always walks into meetings with his laptop. More often than not, this is a sleek Apple device or a fancy Microsoft Surface, for good effect. As soon as the meeting commences, he promptly opens his laptop and begins furiously typing notes into it. The laptop screen creates a nice barrier between himself and everyone else at the meeting, so you cannot really make out whether he is taking notes, answering email, or browsing Facebook. Thus, this style confers multiple advantages on the note-taker, apart from ensuring that he has all the notes digitally captured and ready to email out to others, immediately after the meeting.
The digital geek goes far beyond the laptop scribe, in his effortless embrace of cool technology. For him or her, the laptop and word processors are also terribly outdated devices. Instead, he uses apps which are designed specifically for note-keeping on his smartphone with a large screen, and don’t forget the sleek black stylus. You will find him using customized apps such as Simplenote, Evernote, Google Keep and many other appropriate note-taking tools. He will wax eloquent on how these apps add not just to his notes, but also to his overall sense of being part of a connected planet. To see this style in action, look out for technology evangelists and millennials.
Little black notebook
This impressive person carries a little black notebook in the pocket of his shirt or jacket. He is a precise person, who believes in extreme brevity, and only in points that require his own thought or action. When he comes across a specific point being made that requires noting down, he whips out this tiny notebook, makes an immediate jotting in it, and puts it back in his pocket immediately. I have noticed that these notebooks are curiously always black in colour. This style is generally adopted by people who consider themselves no-nonsense managers with a strong bias for action.
Here is a manager who believes that the quality of the notebook is as important as the quality of the notes themselves. He or she will only carry branded notebooks such as Moleskine, the elegant variety originally used by creative geniuses such as Van Gogh and Ernest Hemmingway. Other exotic brands include Leuchtturm1917, Rhodia or Mont Blanc. The hope here is that the interesting story and rich feel of the notebook rubs off positively on your creative side, leading to notes and jottings that can eventually amaze everyone.
Harish Bhat works with the Tata Group. He carries a ruled school notebook everywhere, notes down whatever he considers important, and worries perennially that he may lose this book.
Why the pen always wins
In a tech-savvy world, putting pen to paper seems like a rather onerous task. But that is exactly what you should be doing while taking down notes, rather than typing. A 2014 Princeton University study found that students who wrote down notes fared better than those who typed. The study suggests that understanding and writing things in your own words helps you recall it quicker, compared to typing.
“The best way to take notes is to write them in bullet points,” says Jyotika Raisinghani Dhawan, founder and CEO, Helix-HR, an executive search and HR consulting company. “Referral along with bullet-point technique works very well. It makes it easier to remember when someone goes back to their notes,” she adds.
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