Saturday, July 6, 2013

Taking notes at work

I'm the type of person who needs to take notes in order to follow a discussion, remember something, plan for follow-up actions, have an overview of a topic, and so on.  It's the reason why i use a Filofax.  I need pen and paper in my life, and that holds true at work too.
At my current job, i might take notes of ideas i have when sitting alone at my desk, or take notes during a meeting, or about a specific project i'm working on, and so on.  I wasted some time in the past trying out different systems before finding one that works for me, so i thought i would share my current tips:
  • i use one A4 notebook only.  I use it for all my notes.  The only exception is that i have to take notes during phone calls to write up transcripts afterwards, so i use a separate notebooks for those.
  • i leave around 5 empty pages at the beginning, then i have a page that i dedicate to an 'ideas' page (=random ideas i want to explore later), and then everything is in chronological order.
  • i number the right-hand pages in the upper-right hand corner.
  • i keep an index inside the front cover (eg: "p. 5: mtg w/ LST 06.16 on expansion").
  • i use the margins to point out important info (with a *), to dos (with a []), to delegate (with a °).
  • i use the lower right hand corner for follow-up questions, actions, and people to contact.
  • i always write in black or blue, and annotate in green or red. 
  • i highlight important to dos or infos in yellow, and finished actions/to dos/projects in green (then when i flip through the book i can easily what's still current and what's finished).
  • i date every entry, and i also give it a title.  If it's a meeting, i put the names of the attendees, and if it's on a client's premises or outside our offices in general, i'll also write down where we are (i've noticed that it's helped in the past to remember specifics).
  • when a book is finished, i put the period it's covered on the front and file it.

Here is my system, made up of advice given by my professors at school, by different bosses over the years, and gathered while reading different articles and books.

[for my fellow stationery geeks out there: my A4 notebook is a spiral Clairefontaine 90g/m², of course.  I use standard bics as pens though...]

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