I imagine that most creative types have their own system for taking notes. I like to use multiple notebooks myself. In my purse, I carry a bright pink Moleskine one. The 3-1/2 x 5-1/2-inch size is perfect, but the corners don’t hold up very well. The notebook itself, however, is sturdy. When I’m at home, I use the larger notebook with the vintage lightbulbs on the cover to record all of my bright ideas, notes for various writing projects, and the occasional snatch of conversation.
Sometimes I overhear things that I’ll record on any old scrap of paper I can get my hands on, and then I’ll transfer it to one of my notebooks later. An example from last January, recorded in the lightbulb notebook: “I’m about to make a cheesecake out of tofu.”
I was staying at Callaway Gardens for the weekend when I overheard a woman say this while she was on a stationary phone near the lobby. I had just walked past her and didn’t turn around because I didn’t want her to know I was eavesdropping, but within seconds, I’d reached for the nearest piece of paper and written that down. I was struck by the unique comment from Tofu Cheesecake Woman. In the South, we don’t see a lot of cheesecakes made from tofu. And I’m always happy to see her comment when I flip through my idea notebook.
But paper notebooks aren’t the only ones I use. Occasionally I tap out a few notes on my iPhone. When I’m in a serious brainstorming mood, I might also use one of the Bamboo digital notebooks on my iPad.
I’m always interested in hearing about the way others take notes, so I enjoyed reading Michael Hyatt’s blog post about his system for tracking notes. I got some good ideas that I plan to try the next time I’m at a meeting or workshop and want to organize my notes—and thoughts.
I also took note of this week’s NPR article on the fact that taking notes by hand may be more beneficial to students than taking notes on digital devices. I was intrigued by this comment from Pam A. Mueller of Princeton: “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective—because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”
I think that’s what we’re doing when we take notes—however we choose to take these notes—and it makes sense to me that taking notes by hand makes you “more selective.” I’m a former newspaper reporter, and now that I no longer have to cover city council and school board meetings (thank you, Lord!), I find that I no longer write as fast as I used to. Selective note taking is definitely more my speed these days.
Still, I’m always up for some new lessons in how to improve my note-taking skills. Are you?