Note Taking on the Fly

Often, our note taking is in a formal setting. We are in a classroom, a meeting, or on the phone. We have our journal or other note-taking tool of choice open and ready. Other times, input comes in less-formal settings. Someone stops us in the hall. A great idea occurs while standing in line at the bank. Your cell phone rings when you are in the back seat of a taxi. In these moments, how will you trap the to-dos and good ideas?

Note Taking by Talking to the Phone

While our society has been enamored with our mobile devices since the dawn of the Palm, input has been the weakness. We tried writing with a stylus using special characters. We moved from there to typing on a mouse-sized keyboard. Now, we type with two thumbs on a piece of glass.

All the while, voice input has been improving. If you are an iPhone user, you are familiar with Siri. Android users have Google Assistant. When choosing a digital task list, I recommend the user look for seven capabilities. One of them is the ability to enter tasks with the voice via the digital assistant. One of the reasons I use Remember The Milk is that it has this capability.

Our phones are always with us. Many of us keep our task lists digitally. For us, the ability to enter those tasks straight to the list is a huge time saver.

Download the App

After creating a Remember The Milk account, download the Remember The Milk app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Log in with the same username and password you used to create the account.

Speak To-Dos

When you need to trap a to-do or even a thought, add it to Remember The Milk. Create a new task. Instead of keying the task, look for the microphone key on the keyboard. Use that key and speak the task or thought. You can even speak a date as part of the task. (Example: Call Bob on Tuesday.)

Later in the day, look at your Remember The Milk inbox. Anything added during the day appears there. Edit the task as needed. Does the information need to go somewhere else? Perhaps you used voice input to trap a quote you read. Copy and paste that quote wherever you keep collections of quotes.

Note Taking with Pen and Paper

Every reader should be able to relate to this section. For even the most digital among us, a memo pad in the pocket is a must. You will face situations where pulling out your phone is not acceptable. Pull out your phone during the sermon at church. Your neighbor will assume you are responding to email, even though what you are really doing is taking notes on the sermon. Pull out a paper memo pad. Your neighbor will assume you are taking notes on the sermon, even though you are actually adding to your grocery list.

What about when the coworker stops you in the hall? Perhaps you can listen and then dictate the “to-dos” into your phone immediately afterwards. Think how awkward it would be to interrupt your colleague in mid-sentence to talk into your phone. Keying the text into your phone is no less awkward. Your eye contact is with the device rather than the coworker.

You can, however, listen and take notes on paper. It’s something we are comfortable with doing. It’s socially acceptable. It’s something we can do in real time, so that when the conversation is over, the note taking is also over.

We all need a place to carry a driver’s license, several major credit cards, our auto insurance card, etc. Why not get something that will hold these items as well as a memo pad? Here is an example of what something like that would look like. It comes from Here is a less-expensive example from the same source.

Because your credit cards go with you everywhere, a simple memo pad goes with you everywhere as well. No longer will you take “notes on the fly” via the first available napkin or scrap of paper. You have one place to trap it all.

We All Need a System

Many systems work. Digital systems work. Paper systems work. Hybrid systems work. The important thing is that you have a system. For all-too-many people, that system is “I don’t have one.”

Speaking of hybrid systems, that’s what the next post will explore. It you love the feel of paper but hate writing long URLs, I have something for you.

If you are finding value in this series on note taking, the chances are your friends will as well. Why not share it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? Below, you will find social media buttons that allow you to share with others.