Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: How Can I Take More Useful Notes?

Ever struggle to interpret your own shorthand after taking down important instructions at work or school — or forget where you jotted them down in the first place? Scrap the loose-leaf and cocktail napkins; our organizing coach has the solution.

Q: “Can you tell me a better way of writing and then organizing my notes on tasks that my boss gives to me so that I don’t immediately forget and lose them?” —Furno123

Hi Furno123:

Let me assure you that you’re not alone on this one. I had trouble with note taking until I came up with this system.

I take notes in meetings on legal pads. I date the top, write the topic, and list everyone who attended. Once the meeting is over, the notes go directly into the file that corresponds with the meeting. It’s simple but keeps my notes organized.

If you prefer not to have loose paper around, try scanning notes into your computer and setting up digital files similar to how you would set up paper ones. Scanning will eliminate the paper clutter as well as keep all your notes right at your fingertips.

[Free Resource: 10 Rules for ADHD-Proof Productivity]

You can also rely on some wonderful tech tools to support your efforts. OneNote and Evernote are excellent note-taking apps. Acting as digital notebooks, they capture and organize everything across all your devices. You can jot down ideas, your meeting notes, or make a to-do list. If you prefer to draw or sketch your notes, you can do that too!

Have you tried recording your meetings? I do this all the time, too. This way I know I can fully participate in the conversation without worrying about whether I captured all the important points being discussed. Your PC, smartphone, and tablet all have recording technology you can use. With a digital notebook app, you can even link audio recordings to your notes to be sure you never miss a thing.

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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