Every meeting involves note taking. Some notes cloud your thinking, others help you remember, and the best allow you to generate new ideas and uncover new insights. I sat down with professional note taker Mathias Jakobsen to get some tips on how we can up our note-taking game and think more clearly.
Mathias has spent years honing his ability to take good notes. He currently works as a learning designer for Hyper Island, where he utilizes his distinct method of taking notes to facilitate learning for executives around the world.
Based on Mathias's expertise, here are three things that you can do right now to enhance the way you take notes.
1. Give space to ideas.
We often take notes in a chronological fashion, filling each page with a tangle of ideas that end up existing on one plane. When you have a good idea, or even a mediocre one, immediately give it some breathing room. Leave three lines empty on either side of your idea, or, if it's an important one, give it a page of its own. You will use more paper but your notes will be much more comprehensive and it will slow down your thinking when reviewing your ideas later.
2. Utilize hierarchy.
Before your next meeting, take the time to decide on a note-taking hierarchy that you are going to stick to. It may take some time to find a system that you like aesthetically, but it is a very important decision that will transform your note taking. What is the main title of each page going to look like? What are your sub-headings? Will you use color, bubble lettering, or side boxes? Having a hierarchy that you stick to will enable you to begin making sense of what you are hearing as you write and save you time when you go back to review your notes later. Color can also be used as an additional hierarchy to overlay on your notes while you are reviewing them, so you can highlight and delineate important points.
3. Draw a border.
Thinking more clearly is about slowing down your thinking. One of the methods that Mathias advocates is, when beginning a new page, drawing a border around your page and creating a title that features location and date. The simple act of repeating this process for each new page will slow your mind down and help you clarify your ideas.
Mathias Jakobsen founded his first company at the age of 15 in the early days of the Internet. He later went into fashion and photography until moving to New York, where he went offline and worked for years as a graphic facilitator and life coach for startup CEOs. He is now back online, sharing his note taking abilities through his personal Think Clearly Newsletter.
If you are interested in spending an hour and learning other tricks for upping your ability to take clear notes, Mathias also has a free e-course at his website that you can check out here.