November 19, 2013


Taking notesThe palest ink is better than the best memory — Chinese proverb

“Let me write that down.”

Have you ever been in a meeting where the other person pulls out pen/paper or smartphone/tablet to write down something you just said? Even though the conversation has been going on for a while.

How do you feel?

Um ... didn't I say anything worthwhile before? That's the implication. We take notes when we want to remember something important to us. That's universal. Even if you think you have a perfect memory, who's going to believe you? When you don't take notes, you're implying that what's being said isn't very important. You may claim to have an amazing memory. Maybe you do. Will others believe you?

Taking notes improves your listening skills. You're now engaging another sense. You're less likely to daydream. You're more likely to focus.

Even if much of the conversation is banal, you still benefit by taking notes. As a minimum, you're improving your note-taking skills. Wait a second you say. When I'm writing notes, I'm not looking at the other person and reading their body language. True but you are paying more attention to what they're saying and how they are saying it. That has value too.


One of the best ways to pay someone today is with attention. That's exactly what note-taking does. You can take notes on your smartphone but this is slow unless you have a stylus as with the Samsung Galaxy Note series. When you use electronics, there's a temptation to get distracted. What does that unread email say? Even if you don't wander, the others may think you're not paying attention because they'd get distracted in that situation.

Using paper alleviates those concerns. At worst, you could be making a grocery list or jotting down words for a blog post. At least you're being more discreet then you could be with an electronic device.


Taking notes is very respectful. Even if you throw those notes away later, the optics look terrific and more will stay in your head. In my case, I scan the notes and give them a file name that helps with future searches. I put action items into a To Do list.

You don't need a large notepad. You can have a second smaller one that easily fits into a pocket or purse as a backup. For maximum benefit, start using it from the start of the conversation.


PS Taking notes is also worthwhile during presentations.

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