Digital Note Taking 2

This post is the 7th in a series all about taking notes. In our last post, we began a discussion on digital note taking. The approach described in that post is as follows:

    1. Take notes in Evernote.
    2. Review the notes later in the day. Identify the “to-dos.”
    3. Put the to-dos on your digital task list. We even talked about a service called TaskClone. Mark which items are to-dos. TaskClone copies these items to your digital task list. In the note section of that task, TaskClone creates a link. That link takes you back to the conversation captured in Evernote.

From Reference Material to Tasks

The above approach works great for situations such as sessions you attend at conferences. Generally, your role there is that of an audience member rather than an active participant. Taking notes digitally is not a distraction for those around you. Besides, you are able to take photos and audio notes within those notes. That’s an area where paper cannot compete.

Your notes are, for the most part, “reference material.” Evernote (or any other note-taking app) is the place for reference material. If the session is a good one, it will trigger ideas for you that you will want to act on later. You enter those items in the same note and precede them with check boxes. Those items become the ones which you transfer to your task list.

That approach may also work well in meetings. By the same token, it may not. Are you well-versed at entering information while taking an active role in the meeting? Is your technology distracting to others? You may or may not want to take notes straight into Evernote.

An alternative would be to take notes on scrap paper and transfer them to Evernote later in the day. That approach is the modern-day version of what we discussed in the post which began this series.

This approach falls short when a task or project has many interactions. You talk with John on the phone and then call Mary to let her know about the discussion with John. You find a bit of information related to the project. Later, you call John again to discuss your most recent findings. Wouldn’t you like to keep that information together? Creating a separate note in Evernote for each call would prevent you from seeing the big picture.

From Tasks to Reference Material

I have an approach to handling notes from phone calls that is rapidly becoming my favorite. The information begins in my digital task list. When the task or project is complete, and no further action is needed, I copy the notes to Evernote. They now become reference information.

Call from the Mad Dad

Put yourself in the position of a school principal fielding a phone call from an upset parent. You recognize the situation as one that may need many steps. You need to talk to a series of people. Resolution may take many steps over several days. One chapter in the new edition of my book addresses this issue in detail. Entitled, “Handling Multiple Projects,” you see a system. You learn how to keep track of the tasks and information that relate to a project.

As the father talks about his son being bullied, you create a new task and take notes in the note section of that task. If you are not well-versed at typing and talking at the same time, you may wish to take notes on paper. As soon as the conversation is over, create a task in your digital task list. Transfer your hand-written notes to the note section of the task.

Walking Through the Digital Note Taking Process

  1. When the conversation is over, complete the subject line of the task. Using the approach from my book, identify the goal. In this case, it might be “Billy Smith bullying has been resolved.”
  2. To the left of the goal, enter exactly what you are going to do next. Perhaps that step will be to talk with the teacher in whose class the situation occurred.
  3. The”xx” separates the next step from its goal. The task will read: “Talk to Mrs. Jones xx Billy Smith bullying has been resolved.”
  4. After the conversation with the teacher, enter her information in the note section of the task. Figure out what to do next.
  5. Perhaps the situation is serious and you want to give the superintendent a “heads up.” Change the task line to read, “Call Superintendent xx Billy Smith bullying has been resolved.” Enter the notes from the phone call in the note section of that task.
  6. Will you interview other students? Enter the major points from each conversation into the note section of that same task.

Throughout the life of the project, you have a reminder of the goal. Throughout the life of the project, you see your very next step. Throughout the life of the project, you see all the notes taken which relate to that project.

When the Dance is Over

What happens when you have brought resolution to the situation? What happens when you can finally check-off the “Billy Smith bullying has been resolved” from the list?

  1. You want to keep these notes detailing what you did. You never know when you will need them again. When no further action is needed on them, they become reference information.
  2. Create a new note in Evernote. Title it “Billy Smith bullying has been resolved.”
  3. Copy and paste. Highlight all the notes from your task. Copy them. Paste them into the newly-created note in Evernote.
  4. Check off the task as “done.”

Date and Time Stamp

Having the date and time of conversations is good. I use a browser extension called Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome. Stay tuned for a post next month devoted to that topic.

Our information is only as good as our ability to find it when we need it. The purpose of this series is helping you find a medium for taking notes that works. Have a thought? I would welcome your comments.