Thursday, January 28, 2016

Musing About Note Taking

musingI was just musing about the practice of note taking during business meetings:  how I used to do it, how I do it today, and how it SHOULD be done today…if indeed there is a “should be.” 

First of all, what do I mean by note taking?  Is it the same old-fashioned thing I did when I was in college…at a classroom desk, with a notebook in hand, writing down with a pencil what the lecturer said?  (I always took copious notes.)  

My college training was unbeatable for what was asked of me in the business world. But I improved on my college techniques. I learned to write in a notebook, while keeping my eyes on the subject (usually the client or the prospect), NEVER looking down and staying even on the line.  I switched from pencil to pen because ink lasts longer, and I sometimes needed to refer to notes many months later. I no longer had a separate notebook for every topic, but my notebook represented a chronology or sequence of meetings, irrespective of the client. My notes were thorough; however, after the meeting, I usually had them typed and sent to others who might be interested. 

This system lasted for years, when suddenly I was confronted by the iPad, which I was using more and more to read e-books and review and edit documents.  Hey, I thought to myself, I could take notes on my iPad, and save significant administrative time (e.g., making, distributing, and filing hard copies to others).  Then I noticed a senior executive in my firm taking notes on her iPad, while sitting in meetings. I was encouraged. 

The whole idea seemed appealing. So I tried it in a meeting of 10 very seasoned people, listening to a presentation.  I was the only one who was not taking handwritten notes. I didn’t care. I liked the efficiency of it, and I saw that I was good at it, so I have continued to employ this form of note taking. 

The next day I had a meeting with a prospect.  I always jot notes in such meetings.  But I could not bring myself to use my iPad. It seemed awkward, typing on an electronic keyboard when I was trying to focus on the prospect.  It just didn’t work. Group meetings were one thing, and this was another. I wished I could use a tablet, as the efficiency appealed to me; but a measure of information was lost in the one-on-one interaction.  Even if there were three or four of us in such meetings, the task still seemed more challenging and less productive because of the focus factor.  

So back I went back to my tidy 6” x 8” notebook for documenting these kinds of meetings and, most likely, forever I shall be…despite technology!