Who even takes notes anymore … #OpenBlog19

This post is part of the #OpenBlog19 open writing/blogging challenge idea initiated by David Hopkins. If you’re interested in participating too take a look at this Google Doc for a list of interesting blog post ideas and follow along the hashtag, #OpenBlog19.

David has already penned his thoughts in his own post on the same topic. My post is in part a response to the call to action in David’s post

“Now, what about you, what about you and your notes?”

For the most part I’m a fan of note-taking. I jot down and journal lots of different things in note form either as written text, graphs or shapes – things like records of meetings, action items, ideas for posts, ideas for work, problem-solving jottings, conference notes, ways of thinking or looking at things from different perspectives, etc. If I take notes on paper I usually later transcribe a distilled version of them into an app on my laptop.

I used to use Quip as the main note-taking app on my laptop, however in the last few months I’ve shifted over to the Notion.so app as my all-in-one note-taking solution and pay the annual subscription for the personal plan. I’m really liking it so far, in particular the flexibility it affords me to structure my notes and note folders the way that I want them. It’s a really good space to just write/type everything down in a draft raw format that I can tidy up and refine as I go or come back to at a later stage. And you can associate emoji icons with each new page that you create…for ease of reference! 👀

I view note-taking as my ‘Studio’ space, a place I can write what and whatever way I want to. I can be creative with ideas, even if they amount to little. It’s a space for me to be expressionate as well as to record the more ordinary aspects of life. I subscribe to the idea of the Stoic art of journaling and note-taking as a sort of journaling practice.

I take notes in practically every meeting I’m involved in, if only for my own posterity of what was said or to catalogue actions that came about which were relevant to me – without my notes and personal and professional calendars, I’m not sure how well my mind would cope! Sometimes when I’m scribbling during a meeting I find that I can process what I hear with clarity, possibly with even greater clarity than if I am consciously focusing on listening attentively. It’s as if the mind shifts gear into its state of flow.

Although I’d love to be able to artfully craft sketchnotes, my notes are more like the ‘only I can read them‘ variety, constructed with my own hieroglyphic-like combination of text, graphs, shapes and drawings. Nonetheless, I think they are an invaluable record of what happened if my memory ever fails me.

Even though I carry a notepad and pen with me to the majority of meetings I attend, I also regularly bring along my laptop with me to take notes on. However, even though the laptop and note-taking technology I use are very much an enabler for me, I’ve noticed in certain meetings that having the laptop open and taking notes with it is very much a barrier from some people engaging with me as they would normally engage if I hadn’t the laptop with me. It’s something I’ve grown more acutely aware of. It doesn’t bother me when someone uses their laptop in meetings I’m involved in, I understand it, but I imagine the presence of the laptop for some people is like if there were a third party in the meeting room who oughtn’t really be there.

Now when I get the sense that a person or people would prefer if there wasn’t a laptop on the desk between us, I move it out of the way or shut it off completely, reverting to making mental notes or scribbling down only the most important points in bulleted list format. Sometimes the dynamic flow of conversation in a meeting can be rescued by this act, other times I’ve found it has been a little more difficult to re-attract attention back to meaningful dialogue. It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose.

Personally, I find threaded tweeting at a conference a little distracting for me to accomplish successfully, especially trying to do so in real-time as a talk is ongoing. I’ve tried it on a few occasions now but I’ve grown conscious of being only ‘half present’, caught between the multitasking nature of trying to listen intently to the nuggets of wisdom of the conference speaker and trying to post updates for my own record and to let others following the backchannel know what’s going on. Of course, adversely, if I’m unable to attend a conference and am trying to follow along with what’s happening, I’m hugely grateful to those who thread together what’s going on live from the event.


What about you, do you take notes anymore? Have you noticed anything about your note-taking practice of significance to you or those around you? Would love to hear any comments or replies you might have.

7 Comments

  1. Think this a subject worthy of longer discussion – will try apps you mention. Still mainly use a pen and paper – but whether I can read them – let alone anyone else is a tricky question

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment Graham. When I saw this topic on the #OpenBlog19 Google Doc list it certainly piqued my interest. Then I spotted David’s post on it and said I’d add my own thoughts to the conversation.

      I still use pen and paper quite a bit too and have threatened starting a bullet journal (https://bulletjournal.com/) on a few occasions. Like you, it always intrigues me to find out how/if other people are as concerned about their note- taking and how they go about it.

      Reply

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