Are You Taking Notes?

If you ever meet me in a professional setting, you may notice my black notebook and black-ink pen.

I carry it around like an evangelical Christian does his copy of the Bible.

There are four reasons:

First, my best thoughts come spontaneously. If I achieve some epiphany, or simply make iterative progress on some larger problem I’m working on, I don’t want to forget it. So I write it down in my notebook.

Second, there’s an even better chance someone else will say something meaningful or important. I want to be sure to capture that value. So I write it down in my notebook.

Third, notetaking signals engagement and respect to the people you’re listening to, and that encourages them to engage more intensely and divulge more.

Fourth, notetaking forces your brain to absorb and interpret information more effectively. The work involved in writing sentences and drawing illustrations and maps is deeply personal and immersive.

Now, before you go and start taking notes, please take note of this: The analog pen-and-paper method is far superior to electronic ones like laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Why? Pen and paper is more intimate and deliberate, resulting in higher quality notes and thought process. Conversely, the multiple functions and stimuli inherent in electronic gadgets are distracting and energy-sucking -- both for the notetaker and other people. While intentions may be good, the presence of electronic devices is often offensive in many social contexts.

Additionally, I’ve yet to see an electronic device perform as reliably as pen and paper. Paper and ink is always on, always ready to go. Electronic gadgets are expensive, clunky and dependent on electric umbilical cords, or a charged battery. They create more greenhouse gases.

It’s often said the world’s greatest modern creations originated on the back of a napkin.

There’s a reason why.



How do you take notes?

8 comments about "Are You Taking Notes?".
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  1. Jack a. Silverman from Bolin Marketing, May 15, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

    Couldn't have said this any better. Great post and great advice. I've used the back of a napkin many times!

  2. Michael Kremin from NeoGen Digital, May 15, 2012 at 12:52 p.m.

    The black notebook and a pen have proven to work better than any other devices I have tried. And you are right on point with all the reasons to take notes, besides documenting meetings and activities. Nicely written.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 15, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.

    BRAVO !!!!!!

  4. Rick Monihan from None, May 15, 2012 at 2 p.m.

    I tried taking notes with my smartphone. It doesn't have the same "stickiness" mentally. When I use pen and paper, I remember things much more easily. I know this is not related so much to the medium, but I don't know what to attribute it to.

  5. john rice from saatchi & saatchi advertising, May 15, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.

    Agreed, I use my note book constantly in meetings, it's my ready reference, historical data book, etc. I always write my appointments in an appointment book and pretty much ignore the my apple options. It's more efficient, swifter and a user friendly way of doing things.

  6. Fred Cunha from Extreme Reach, May 15, 2012 at 5:13 p.m.

    iPad, Penultimate app and Cosmonaut stylus are all I need ... I save a note for every work day so I can go back to the first day I started using Penultimate (1/18/11) or any day since and access all of my handwritten notes (which are also backed up at

  7. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., May 15, 2012 at 6:03 p.m.

    While I haven't tried the apps Fred mentions, I agree with you, Max – wholeheartedly. I was a "bleeding edge" guy once myself, and tried both a Palm Pilot and a Newton for meeting notes. I've gone back to paper because it works. And by the way, if it's drizzling outside, pencil runs less than modern pens. Learned that the hard way too. Appropriate technology is best.

  8. Henry Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research Group, May 16, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

    Pen and paper for me, mostly, for all the reasons that Max mentioned. However, I am interested in exploring some of the new pen/notebook offerings that manage to also digitally capture notes.

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