The comfortable old habit of recording information with paper and pen also has some ink. Especially in this era of extreme digital fatigue, taking notes in the old-fashioned way can reduce the burden on the keyboard and screen, and often let the creativity flow (you know who you are, graffiti and color pen lover). Studies have shown that manual note-taking can improve information retention.
Recently, we asked readers to share their pen-and-paper note-taking strategy. Some methods are more experimental than others, but they all help association professionals complete their work and remember important details.
Please continue reading some examples, which may also provide some inspiration for you next time you pick up paper and pen.
Education Support Manager, Sigma Kappa
I start each new meeting/webinar/chat in my notebook with a different color from the last time. This makes it easier to tell where one ends and the other begins.
In the notes of a meeting/webinar/chat, I often use different colored pens to represent different things. Example: note = one color, question = another color, task = third color.
After that, I will go back and highlight the important content that needs to be remembered or content that I know I will go back and look for to make it easier to find. When the task is completed, I will also go back to check the task.
Executive Director, Northwest Indiana Dental Association
I still use a shorthand notebook with a thin pen. I like to highlight and mark tasks when they are completed. I have a leather case for steno pad (with my initials printed on it), which I have used for nearly 20 years. This is an old habit I will never get rid of. I have tried list and note apps and I can’t break my habit of going from pen to paper to memory.
Deputy Executive Director of Education and Participation, American Orthopaedic Association of Sports Medicine
I write on paper with a pen in a medium-sized notebook. I have been using the spiral bound version for many years, but recently switched to the disc version, where the pages (blank or written) can be moved easily. I have tags for different themes and I hope to adjust them from time to time. The movable pages provide more flexibility.
The way I take notes first depends on where/why I take notes. That being said, my preferred style is the handwritten notes I keep in my notebook. I write the date at the top of each page, and all notes for the day are written below, and on the next page if necessary. My daily notebook contains everything from voice mail messages to action items, meeting notes and more. I often emphasize notes to indicate urgent information/action items. I will also switch back and forth between pen and pencil to help identify notes or action items from different sources. As we all know, I will add smiley faces or some other doodles-the reason I will not enter here :)
Senior Director of Education, Health Care Women Entrepreneurs Association
I use a spiral notebook for meeting notes-one for various types of meetings (for example, meetings with volunteers, employee meetings, etc.). The spiral notebook I use has blank pages at the front of the table of contents. I fill in the date, subject/description and page number immediately after each meeting. (There is a blank area at the bottom of each page to record the number.) This makes it easy to refer to the notes of the previous meeting without having to search all pages.
My notes are usually a short summary of the main talking points, and pay attention to specific details that I may need to refer to. I always put a blank checkbox next to the action items I am responsible for. This is a technique I learned from the board members of the previous association. This way, when I add them to the task list in Outlook/Teams, I can easily review my notes and check them.
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute/TurfMutt Foundation Communications and Membership Director
I believe in ubiquitous capture, so I always have paper and pens by my side-a traditional yellow legal notebook for work meetings, brainstorming and outlines; a small pocket notebook for me to use when I leave my desk; and A pile of recycled envelopes for a quick to-do list and as a bookmark/notepad in the book I am reading. I also keep a list of physical tasks and a daily work calendar.
Director of New Product Development and Strategic Planning, American Physiological Society
My notes are a bit confusing to others. I use a blank notebook (no lines) and a good pen (or two different colors). My notes look more like mind maps than meeting notes, with arrows connecting thoughts and thought flows. Bullets and abbreviations can capture ideas and keep up with the conversation.
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Ernie Smith is a social media reporter for Associations Now. He was a newspaper clerk and a dangerous person armed with puns. more
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