A sound note-taking strategy can drastically improve productivity in the office.
Note-taking is ingrained into students from elementary school through college, but it is also a powerful tool in the workplace. Taking effective notes allows you to remember important details, organize your thoughts, and come up with new ideas. For teams, taking notes also helps keep everyone on the same page, improves communication, and ultimately enhances productivity.
We've all had the experience of attending a meeting that feels productive, with energetic discussion, only to have all those great ideas evaporate into thin air and fine details forgotten because the meeting wasn't properly documented. Good note-taking ensures this doesn't happen.
While most of us were accustomed to using a pencil and paper to take notes in school, digital note-taking apps are now the standard. Managers who are looking to increase their teams' productivity should take the time to design a note-taking strategy that teaches employees how to use these digital tools most effectively. Here is an overview of note-taking strategies and how to maximize the potential of digital note-taking tools.
Notes can be taken just about anywhere, but several note-taking apps make the process much easier. Here is an overview of the most popular options on the market.
Microsoft OneNote is a free note-taking app with a variety of features. The app has an intuitive sandbox structure, with notebooks that resemble physical ring binders. Each Notebook is divided into sections, and each section has subsections called pages. Each page is a blank canvas that allows users to jot down text notes, drag and drop images, handwrite notes with a stylus, and attach audio recordings and other file types.
Evernote was one of the pioneers of the note-taking app industry, as the company launched its web service back in 2008. While the free version of the app is fairly limited, the paid subscription version ($7.99/month) is widely recognized as one of the best notetaking apps on the market.
Users have the option to add notes in a variety of formats, including but not limited to:
Evernote allows users to easily organize all of their notes in one place, regardless of format. The app also has a very useful search functionality that allows users to run searches on all types of notes. For example, you can easily search for the text contained within a scanned image.
Notion is an incredibly useful app for managers who are looking to use note-taking to enhance collaboration. While many other apps are mainly focused on individual notetaking, collaboration is the main focus in all facets of Notion. The app includes a workspace where notes are shared and a private section for each individual; content can be easily moved between the two areas. Notes are inputted in "blocks," which can include text, checklists, video, images, audio, files, and bits of code. You can also create tags and keywords for easy searchability, and add team members and deadlines to notes. In this way, Notion also functions as a task and project management tool as well as a note-taking solution.
If your workplace uses the Apple ecosystem, Apple Notes may be the best note-taking option for your team. This app is directly built into macOS and iOS and can also be used through the browser. While it lacks some of the bells and whistles of other note-taking apps, the simplicity and ease of use may be preferable for some workplaces. The app is integrated with Siri and allows you to add hashtags and @mentions. Notes can be created with text, attached filles, scanned documents, drawings or handwritten content, and more.
Workplaces that primarily use the Google Suite should consider using the Google Keep app for their note-taking needs. This app has web, iOS, and Android versions, along with a useful Chrome extension that allows you to jot down quick notes and save links.
The most useful feature of Google Keep is its integration with other Google tools. For example, when using Gmail, an icon will pop up and show all notes that are relevant to your current task, along with all of the most recently taken notes. This icon is present in all aspects of the Google Suite, including Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. It allows you to seamlessly accomplish tasks without having to move from application to application.
When designing a team note-taking strategy for meetings, managers should identify a few priorities. Note-taking is only effective if it is selective, as taking too many notes can be distracting. Additionally, too many pages of notes will take too long to sort through.
Here are some priorities to keep in mind when deciding what to take notes on:
Notes should be divided into specific categories so that they are more organized and easier to sort through. The ability to tag notes, and to search those tags, is one of the main benefits of using a note-taking app instead of the traditional pen-and-paper method. Categorizing notes this way allows you to easily search for relevant information.
For example, tags can be dedicated to specific clients. Within those client tags, you can add sub-tags that are related to specific tasks and projects. You can then easily bring up all notes related to those projects by applying a filter for a particular tag.
As you may have seen in the list above, another central benefit of note-taking apps is that they allow users to use different forms of media to take notes. Sticking strictly to text notes defeats the purpose of these apps, as you could easily accomplish the same thing with a pen and paper. Be sure to make use of the various media formats available in these apps by adding images, audio clips, flow charts, PDFs, and other files.
For teams, good note-taking is essential to optimize productivity, ensure good ideas aren't forgotten, and promote collaboration. Don't treat note-taking as a menial task, and don't only delegate it to assistants; if possible, rotate note-taking duties during meetings so everyone on the team has a chance to develop their note-taking skills. This way, note-taking becomes a shared responsibility and essential element of team collaboration.