In a previous post, I gave tips for taking meeting notes on paper. I promised to discuss electronic note-taking later.
Welcome to later.
Yes, there are cognitive and social advantages to taking meeting notes on paper. Research shows that we remember content better when we’ve written it by hand. Additionally, it’s more socially-acceptable to write notes on paper rather than tap keys on a keyboard during a meeting. When you are interfacing with electronic objects in a meeting room, people assume you’re checking your email.
There are several advantages to electronic note-taking:
- The notes are more readily shared with others
- You are typically more thorough with your note-taking
- There is no need to scan or store paper notes in file drawers
As I said in the post about paper note-taking, it is my goal to make things simple for my clients. For that reason, it’s good to understand the electronic note-taking tools you already have.
The Pre-Installed Notes App on Your Phone or Tablet
When you buy a mobile device, it comes with several built-in apps, one of those is a creatively-named Notes app.
The advantages of this app are its accessibility and the ease of dictating text to it. I cannot easily type on a phone or tablet. I use my ring finger to peck out one letter at a time. My daughter shakes her head every time she sees me do that. So, dictation is an important feature to me.
The disadvantage to this tool is that your notes likely stay exactly where they are…on your device. They are not typically organized or even sorted into a usable format. You may be able to search your device for them, but I find that this system is not scalable. Most professionals have too many meeting notes to maintain them this way.
So, I don’t often recommend the pre-installed Notes apps, or any other apps that limit your access to your notes to your mobile devices.
A straightforward way to take electronic notes during meetings is to bring your laptop with you and launch Word. Take your notes, save them to a shared drive or a cloud-based file management system, and then both you and others have access to them. Your notes can be organized into folders and stored contextually with other information on a project or process.
If your notes contain sensitive business information, this is typically the most secure way to store them. The notes stay on your company servers rather than living on the servers of a 3rd party outside of your firewall.
Pro tip: Make sure you pay close attention to file naming conventions if you use this method.
The primary disadvantage to Word docs for your notes is that you must haul around your laptop. However, if that doesn’t bother you, this may be the way to go.
OneNote (or Evernote)
If you find the above tips boring and want a little more oomph in your note-taking, consider note-taking software. Microsoft OneNote is typically installed with the Office suite. You may have seen the purple “N” icon on your computer and spent 1.5 seconds wondering what that was before moving on.
If you are not a Microsoft user, I understand that Evernote is excellent. My “maximize what you have” philosophy led me to OneNote, and it works well for me and many of my clients.
The advantage of OneNote is that it centralizes your notes in one place and is both searchable and organizable. If you want to share notes with others, you’ll need to copy and paste them into an email or Word doc. Additionally, several clients have been successful with synchronizing OneNote with their mobile devices.
Go to https://support.office.com and click on “OneNote” for some quick online training.
Pro tip: Don’t use OneNote for your centralized task list. They (Microsoft) will tell you that you can, but it doesn’t work well for that purpose. There are better task management tools.
As long as there are meetings, there will be meeting notes. Do what works for you – whether paper or electronic. And, if you need help being more productive both in and out of your meetings, that’s what I’m here for.
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Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at email@example.com or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.