The Art and Method of Taking Notes Effectively

Taking notes effectively is an activity that is not easy. It demands method, practice and speed. Here are some tips to master this exercise. 

Understanding this exercise.

Without methods, our reflex is to want to write down everything we hear. “People do not measure the difficulty of taking notes effectively,” says Isabelle Riverin, Training Manager at the Centre régional de formation de Lanaudière (CRFL). Understanding the reality of this demanding exercise is essential. It’s a matter of moving from a passive attitude to a proactive and thoughtful state of mind.

Be prepared

“At the CRFL, we explain the importance of knowing yourself well. Do I have an analytical mind or a capacity to summarize?,” explains Isabelle Riverin. A person who knows their way of doing things will have a better understanding of how to improve.

Being well prepared also means knowing how to answer: “Who will be speaking? About what? In what context? What am I taking these notes for? For whom and to obtain what result (report, letter, memo, etc.)? Since generally, we only note what we understand,” the trainer says.

Being selective

Noting everything is not only illusory but prevents active listening. “This is what people find the most difficult – knowing what to take note of,” says Isabelle Riverin. Visually ordering your document lets you optimize your listening. The trainer invites, for example, answers to key questions in preparation to get an overall picture. Thus a good understanding of what is said and a structured support helps to focus on the essential, and to identify ideas, actions, points to be clarified.

Taking the exercise seriously

According to the training manager, many people have the impression that taking notes is a secondary task. “It rather plays a key role, and it’s important not to hesitate to ask that it be considered as such, for example by asking a speaker to repeat an idea or speak more slowly.”

Write without waiting

Quickly resuming your note-taking by filling in the blanks, rewriting less readable passages or correcting inaccurate points lets you avoid forgetting important elements. “Then you have to write clearly, with simple words, in the present tense. The goal is effectiveness. Don’t forget that taking notes is above all a communication tool!,” concludes Isabelle Riverin.

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