When it comes to productivity, you’ve tried it all. Apps, morning meditations, even a high-protein breakfast that’s supposed to keep you focused all day. No matter what you try, it feels as though your productivity at work remains largely the same.
You might think that note-taking is a thing of the past, or just a studying technique for grade school kids or graduate students. However, note-taking is considered to be one of the most powerful driving forces behind work productivity today.
In a study completed by the University of Michigan, it was discovered that note-taking and “reviewing those notes . . . have a positive impact on student learning,” and allow said note-takers to score higher in tests, maintain higher recall, and exhibit overall synthesis success. Notes are serious business for your business — quite literally!
No matter what you’re taking them for, notes are some of the most important aspects of your professional career.
Well-recorded notes serve as reminders for tasks, daily itineraries, and more, while seamlessly integrating themselves into your daily routine. Notes are critical for guiding yourself and your team through the unique obstacles they face in meetings, projects, or even regular operations.
Here’s the thing about notes: they are only useful if you take them the right way. You may think you’re using your notes to the best degree possible, but odds are there’s just a little something missing from your usual note-taking regimen.
Done incorrectly, your paper scribbles will do little more than aggravate you and confuse your team. In the worst cases, they will possibly do both.
Here are 10 of the best tips for using notes that boost your personal and team productivity levels to new heights.
Before you can help your team survive, you need to learn how to help yourself thrive. Using notes to increase your personal work performance is simple and even fun to do. Check out these tips below for new techniques in the note-taking world.
1. Make Lists of Everything
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on taking lunch an hour early or if you’re preparing to present a massive report in front of an audience: if you can write it down, do it!
Lists are excellent methods of organizing large amounts of information and help your brain identify patterns between subjects and topics. Make a point to jot down lists about things that are:
- Mentioned in meetings
- Said during phone calls or virtual conferences
- Punctuated in client or one-on-one meetings
This form of notetaking is perhaps the most timeless and easy to complete system ever. Simply write down a header with an all-inclusive subject and add related points in the space underneath.
Be sure that you leave space to add additional points over time, especially ones that may occur to you only after you’ve written the initial few points.
2. Hand Write The Important Things
There are thousands of digital note-taking apps available online today. Between tablets and smartphones and laptops, it seems that the more simplistic system of paper and pencil is going the way of the dinosaur.
However, research findings continue to indicate that handwritten notes provide the greatest amount of value to the writer possible.
Taking notes by hand provides better long-term comprehension, and will increase your work productivity in leaps and bounds. Technology can be useful at times, but when it comes to taking notes, it may harm your ability to focus and synthesize information properly. All that to say: do yourself and favor and take work notes by hand when you can.
Any notebook will do when it comes to working, right? Wrong.
Buying cheap or substandard notebooks will probably only hinder your handwriting experience rather than help it. Notebooks with durable covers, thick pages, and wide margins are ideal. For more brownie points, make the eco-friendly choice with a recycled paper notebook for maximum work and environmental efficiency.
3. Create Daily Itineraries
There’s a big difference between knowing what needs to get done and actually seeing what needs to be completed.
Some of us are serial ‘remember-members,’ and try to keep our entire to-do list in our heads at all times. Not only is this an inefficient system, however, but it is a dangerous one as well.
What happens when you forget one tiny detail that throws off your entire project? What if you misspell the name of your top tier client? None of these situations have particularly desirable outcomes.
Write down your list of to-dos the moment you walk into the office. What things need to be addressed? What things can be set aside? Do what you can to put priorities over the tasks that could wait. This action alone will boost your personal productivity in ways you never could have imagined!
4. Capture Fleeting Thoughts
You probably have experienced the sensation of ‘the one that got away’ before. Maybe it was a breakthrough idea about cost-cutting programs.
Maybe it was an awesome tagline to somebody copy you’ve been working on. Maybe it was the title of a book that would rock the socks of your agent. In either case, the idea got away from you because you simply didn’t think to write it down.
Capture your mind’s fleeting thoughts by jotting down any ideas on a sheet of paper. Remember: there’s no such thing as a stupid idea. Keep them, weed through them, and keep the best ones to help improve your daily workflow!
5. Stress Less And Add Margin
No one likes a bad surprise, and there’s no one out there who wants a nasty work-related surprise at the end of the week.
Schedule work tasks that need to be done as far in advance as you can. Transfer these to a sticky pad, notebook, or calendar that can be easily viewed from your desk. With fewer surprises come less scrambling, and more of your best work for the company and your team.
Now that you’ve explored ways to increase your productivity with notes, it’s time to move on to the second most important part of your job: team productivity.
There’s no perfect solution to your team’s unique needs and no magic word that can fix the issues your team could be facing right now. However, the use of notes in your daily work sessions can be a powerful tool for increasing the effectiveness of your team.
6. Take Meeting Notes
Choose someone to take notes during every team meeting or client session.
These notes do not need to be highly detailed, or even worded sentence by sentence. Instead, they should be used to provide team members with a comprehensive picture of big ideas, main points, and major details.
Use a SWOT analysis to better guide your note-taking. Develop the strengths and weaknesses of your problem, as well as the advantages and threats there may be in completing it. Use these pointers to better drive your team’s focus.
7. Schedule Note Brainstorming Sessions
If everyone is taking their own set of notes, there could be a few things absent from each separate notebook.
Combat ‘note drain’ by scheduling set touch-point meetings at least once per month. Let your team members get each other up to date with current projects, assignments, and deadlines with the details that correspond to their individual notes.
This provides a space for team collaboration and the positive reinforcement of personal note-taking habits.
8. Develop Weekly Emails Based On Notes
Getting several of the same questions from various members of your team?
Make a point to record questions, comments, and other important inquiries in a notebook, then synthesize the material into a weekly email that recaps and re-addresses the critical points. Clarify questions with an FAQ, apply answers using your notes, then watch your team skyrocket to success.
9. Capture Questions And Answers
If some of the same questions are coming up in meetings, brainstorm sessions, and other team activities, it would be wise to invest in a notebook specifically for recording the questions and answers that keep coming up.
Maintaining a log of questions can also help your team members relax in group settings, and invest more time into problem-solving rather than rote memory.
Plus, the ability to answer team questions with the same points creates a cohesive vision for your next project deadline.
10. Draw Your Notes
Instead of having your team members write out their notes, consider having them draw out their ideas instead.
The act of doodling and bringing shape to major points can have a focusing effect on your team, as well as help, identify any low-lying miscommunications that could be lurking around.
What’s more, some people learn best by synthesizing their notes into a picture format and will be more effective at recording crucial info and important points.
The Bottom Line
Taking notes in a work environment isn’t just a method of appearing more ‘professional,’ but a valuable habit that helps to boost productivity from a personal, group, and organizational standpoint. While not all of the tips will help establish good note-taking habits, they certainly can help point you in the right direction.
Remember, your notes should be:
If you have not quite reached this point in your note-taking acumen, never fear! Productivity takes time and building good note-taking habits that support your success will also develop over the years. In time, both yourself, your team, and your company will thank you.
Go get ’em, note taker!