Digital Note Taking

Have you been following this series on note taking from the beginning? We have covered the topic through the eyes of the student striving for an “A” on the test. We have profiled the adult needing to trap the flood of incoming information. Our tools have been paper ones. Today, we take a major step and examine digital note taking.

Is there a way I can do that digitally?

The paper journal from the last post has been a popular topic in my workshops for quite a while. But, I started noticing a trend. Participants would see the paper journal in action. “Can I do that digitally?” someone would ask. The person would go on to explain that he had an iPad or some other tablet. The person was making an effort to use that tool to its fullest and took it everywhere. The journal seemed like one more tool to carry.

Yes, it is possible to maintain your notes digitally. The principles are exactly the same as in our discussions of paper note taking:

  1. Establish a single place to take notes. If you use a Day-Timer or Franklin Planner, the right-hand page is that place. If you use a journal, that book is the place for all notes. If you recognize something you wrote as a “to-do,” put a check box in front of it.
  2. Later in the day, review your notes. Ask the question, “What do I need to do about what I have written?” Enter the results of that question as “to-dos” on your task list.

Before you even attempt digital note taking, answer these two questions for yourself:

  1. Can you uphold your end of a conversation while keying notes into a computer or mobile device? During phone calls, can you hold the receiver and still have your hands free to enter text? During a face-to-face meeting, can you maintain eye contact while also recording your notes?
  2. How will the other party perceive your actions? During a phone call, will the clacking of keys be audible? During a meeting, will the other party be more interested in your technology than what you have to say? Will others see you as rude?

If you can come to grips with both questions, feel free to proceed.

Evernote, because elephants never forget

My choice for a note taking program is “Evernote.” The program offers both free and paid versions. It has free apps for your mobile devices so that you can access your notes from anywhere. If you are new to Evernote, go to this post and watch the excellent videos.

If you are familiar with Evernote, you are going to need two notebooks inside:

  1. .Inbox- I have set the “.Inbox” as my default notebook. Everything goes there first. Notice the period in front of the word. That punctuation causes that notebook to sort to the top of the list. Later in the day, I look at everything in the .Inbox and decide what I need to do about it.
  2. Journal- After I have dissected any “to-dos” from a note, I move it to the notebook called “Journal.” That way, I know which notes I have reviewed and which I have not. The notes in the “Journal” now serve as reference information.

Each new interaction becomes a new note. When the phone rings, create a new note. Evernote stamps it with the date and time. Each new one-on-one meeting becomes a new note. Each large-group meeting becomes a new note.

You can use Evernote in every phase of your life. As you shop, you see a great gift idea. Want to grab a picture of it? Open the Evernote app on your phone. Tap the camera button within the application. The picture saves in your “.Inbox” notebook. You can also add text or audio to the same note. When you review that notebook at the end of the day, you see the picture. Using that trigger, you decide what actions to take.

Taking your notes in Evernote offers several advantages:

  1. You always have your notes with you. Evernote is cloud-based. Your data syncs between all computers and mobile devices. You can access and edit your notes from anywhere.
  2. You can search your notes. The search capabilities of Evernote are remarkable. If you snap a photo which has text in it, Evernote will even search the text inside that photo. When you need information from months ago, a search puts that information in front of you.
  3. You can share your notes. Copying and pasting the contents of any note into an email or document is easy. Besides, every note has its own unique address. Sending that address to others allows them to access that note.

A little bit of magic

Does taking notes in Evernote sound like something that would work for you? If so, look at an inexpensive service called “TaskClone.” Remember our discussion of paper planner and journal? When you write something you know immediately will be a “to-do,” you put a check box in front of it.

TaskClone links Evernote with your digital task list. When you add a check box in front of an item in Evernote, TaskClone enters that item on your digital task list. In the note section of that task, TaskClone inserts a link back to the note created in Evernote. For more information on TaskClone, see the post that I composed about it.  That post appears here.

Are you already taking notes digitally? If so, leave me a comment and tell me about your system.