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How To Take Better Digital Notes

If you’re reading this it’s because you want to learn how to take better digital notes. But, I do need to break this to you. Your current handwriting note-taking app might actually be hurting your productivity as well as your team’s.

This is when you say: “Hey! But in the Paperless Movement® you have an Apple Notes Course touting the benefits of taking notes digitally. Now you’re suggesting this may be counterproductive?” “What gives!?”

Keep reading.

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what method of note-taking is the most proficient for you. You will also find out when to use it. Get ready to discover some fundamental note-taking guides and what the steps are to taking efficient and effective notes.

We all have a tendency to avidly write things down. It could be a piece of advice you received from a YouTube video or you’ve remembered an urgent thing you need to do. Maybe you’ve just spoken with someone and they’ve shared something important with you, or perhaps, a piece of profound wisdom? As humans we’re compelled to scribble things down and get them out of our heads. Whether you are a student, freelancer, or business professional, the purpose of your notes is always going to be different.

It’s about understanding the different types of information we have in our lives. Knowing the best place for them to go, as soon they come up. So we can instantly retrieve them when needed. When we understand these principles we create a framework before we even start taking our actual notes. 

So, with this in mind, first, let’s discuss whether digital handwritten notes are the best choice for you.

Digital Handwriting vs Typewriting

Which do you feel more proficient with? For tech-savvy Tom, typing on a keyboard is vastly easier and quicker than using a pen to scribble things down. However, not everyone can or has learned to touch type, and for many of us writing by hand is by far more comfortable. If you’re in a profession that involves being in person with your clients or patients like physiotherapy, counseling, or medical practitioners for example. Rapport and trust are key components and active note-taking during sessions plays an integral part in the consulting process. This means that for you there might not be a ‘better way’.

So what do you do to be more proficient, efficient and productive? It is about the method! The method you choose needs to have the least friction for you! It should be one where we don’t have to think about the actual writing process. So, if you’re someone who looks at a keyboard while typing with two, maybe three fingers, this will be a tedious task, and inevitably decrease your efficiency.

Handwriting Choices

For those who prefer the handwritten approach, there are a wealth of brilliant handwriting note-taking apps available for the iPad. Notability, Nebo, GoodNotes, Apple Notes, plus there are notebook devices, like the reMarkable or even paper can be an option. But what we must stress is, when choosing your note-taking method, always consider, what the purpose of this note will be. Ask yourself: “Will I actually need to refer back to them?”

reMarkable

When choosing your apps or devices, it is crucial to understand your intention and purpose for your note-taking. Unfortunately with the digital notebook, reMarkable, there are no capabilities to search through your handwritten notes. So there is no means to connect your scattered notes and files together. This makes it impossible to create a knowledge management system from all your notes and documents. If you are debating whether to get the reMarkable or an iPad. You might want to consider an iPad with a Paperlike Screenprotector, Tom explains why in a lot more detail in his Video about the reMarkable 2, HERE.

Convert handwritten text into typed text

Apps like GoodNotes, are a great choice for note-taking individuals who prefer to take handwritten notes. You can select your handwritten text and convert it into type text with ease. Or use your Apple pencil and write down the text in your document, and it will convert to typed text on the fly! This combination of handwriting to frictionless typed text conversion makes it a great workaround for those who prefer writing things down. 

Benefits of typed text

In comparison to paper-based notes, typed text gives us limitless options, as we can now leverage our knowledge base with technology. We can process text and our data can now be incorporated into other functions within our workflow. Plus a huge differentiator is, our handwriting is now searchable. One search query means a single universal search, so no more endless document skimming for you!

Digital Journals

Many popular journals can be used within handwriting note-taking apps, allowing for a personalized writing experience. After all, our brain recalls images and our handwriting far easier than a block of typed text, it is also much more pleasing to the eye. At the Paperless Movement®, we have a digital journal designer that allows you to create your very own digital journal, where you can handwrite your notes and interact with them on the fly as well as make use of the individual interactive pages. You can find out more here.

It is easy to take notes, but are you creating them for the sake of it? With so much knowledge lying around, it can be easy to create ‘noise’ and information overwhelm. It becomes clutter in our workspace, and in our brain.

Tom Solid

Tags & Categorizing your information

Using tags can be a great starting point for categorizing your own information. In Apple Notes, you can add a hashtag anywhere within your notes, including the note title. When you type a note followed by a space it will change color and you can tap or click on it to find other notes with the same tag. To delve into tags and folders see our Tags vs Folders productivity guide.

As you can see there are some awesome advantages to using handwriting note-taking apps. This approach is ideal for freelancers, students, or those who are creating notes just for themselves, rather than as part of a team.

Note-taking Alternatives 

For those who want to level up their note-taking abilities, tools like Rome Research and Obsidian can help you connect the notes that you’re writing. You are able to ‘surface’ new information out of the notes that you have already taken. Obsidian is touted as being your “second brain.” It can help you see patterns emerge from your notes, and those connections allow you to see how some of your notes relate to each other in ways you possibly hadn’t considered. See it as a tool to think, reflect and explore ideas, something you cannot achieve with a handwriting note-taking app.

Steps for better Note-taking for Business Professionals

Business meetings are daily occurrences for most of us, and taking effective notes is crucial. Rather than the usual scenario of everyone taking their own notes, which becomes quickly redundant, how about adopting a different way:

  • Create a Single Source of Truth for your meeting notes.
    It could be any platform;  ClickUp or Notion it doesn’t matter, rather you have one place to house the notes.
  • Accessibility to the notes.
    Create one task or project where all members can write their notes about the meeting. This way everybody can see it, agree on what has been discussed, and any decisions made can be from a single place. 

What’s the best note-taking app?

It concerns us when people jump on the bandwagon with their choice of productivity app. It is easy to get caught up on the latest trending app and its features. People believe it can solve all their workflow problems. As we teach and share in our ICOR® course, what works for someone else is always based on their specific use case. Using other people’s templates and specific methods – that are tied to specific tools – is very restrictive and can’t be a hundred percent applied to your specific use case.

With our ICOR® Framework, we teach you an approach that you can apply to your exact needs. It’s a tool-agnostic approach meaning we never start with the tool. Always with the basics of your conventions and priorities. This provides you with a bird’s eye view of ALL the business processes you form part of, which will then pave the way to find the best tools just for you.

Conclusion

There are times when we write our notes knowing full well that we won’t need them later. Handwriting is great for retention, just by writing it down we have remembered things more. But, oftentimes, our notes hold valuable information, and having a less haphazard method will serve us in the present and when we need to find the reclusive note we jotted down 2 months ago, again. It needn’t be complicated. Having a system, for all our notes, musings and ideas can give us peace of mind and liberation, plus it always feels great when you know exactly where to look.

Knowing you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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