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5 Tips for Effective Digital Note Taking

5 Tips for Effective Digital Note Taking

    Being a full time student, working two part time jobs, being married, and doing some writing and development on the side proves to be daunting. With my discovery of GTD a few years back I was like everyone else; enamored with the idea of getting things off their mind to then produce better and more effectively. I instantly grabbed onto the practice of “ubiquitous capture” by taking notes so I wouldn’t let as many things fall through the cracks.

    At first I just used a junky old notebook and a crappy Bic pen. I slowly improved my tools as any good, geeky GTD student would. But it wasn’t until I switched over to a full digital work-flow that I started to see real benefits with the use of my system. I am in a very technical field at work and technical major at school; computers and devices are around me all day long. It only made sense to capture and process thoughts and actions digitally as it was faster and more “iron-clad” for me.

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    Here are 5 tips on on digital note taking as well some of the pitfalls to look out for.

    Make sure to stay engaged

    There is absolutely nothing more annoying that someone click-clacking their way away on a keyboard or iPhone when you are trying to have a conversation with them, regardless if they are actually taking notes or not.

    If you are a very fast typer, maybe around 50+ WPM it is a good practice to listen to what someone is saying then jot down a sentence or two to summarize it. Or, if you are in a meeting you could always say, “one second while I get this down so I don’t forget.” The idea is to capture what you need without constantly looking at your screen or phone and not paying attention.

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    Edit and consolidate

    One of the biggest things that I noticed from taking extensive school notes was that a lot of the stuff was pure garbage. I would say that out of typing through a whole 55 minute lecture, I had about a couple of pages of text that was extremely out of order and mostly indecipherable. After taking a look through each class’s notes I soon realized that I have about a half a page of bullet points that were really important and all the rest was considered details and reference.

    Now, I wouldn’t say delete everything that isn’t the main points of what you captured, but I would say to consolidate your notes. One good way of doing this is to summarize your notes from a meeting and then take the original junk that you typed down and save it in a “repository” of some kind just in case there was a minor detail you actually did need later.

    Make them available from anywhere

    I am a very mobile person and because of that I need a way to input notes and access them from anywhere I have an Internet connection or device. My tools of choice that make this happen include Springpad, Evernote, and Simplenote. I won’t go into which one I think is better; the important thing is that you can reach them from anywhere and all of them are decently reliable and extremely useful.

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      Put a voice to your notes

      Something that I have found to be game-changing when it comes to capturing information is recording a lecture or meeting while taking notes. There are several ways that you can do this, but what I have adopted is the Livescribe pen and paper so I can write naturally, record audio with my writing, and still have digital notes that can (somewhat) easily be transformed to text. You can of course use tools like OneNote for Windows and Circus Ponies NoteBook for Mac to record and type at the same time.

      Have you ever had a note you took during a meeting that didn’t make a lick of sense? I know I have. Yet, when recording audio and locking it up to your notes you can refer back to what was being said around the moment you were capturing it. This helps clarify and make your notes come “alive”. Of course, you definitely want to tell your colleagues that you are recording them before hand, that is unless you are looking for someone to sue you.

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      Choose a tool and stick to it

      The biggest tip, and this goes with everything that is related to personal productivity systems; find a tool you love, one that works well for you, and stick to it. I am Captain Fiddly when it comes to list making, project tracking, note-taking, and productivity software. About a year and a half ago I gave up on googling “best note-taking tools” and “best online GTD systems” and just stuck with what I had and what worked well enough for me.

      If you have a productivity system itch like I do, pick something simple like Simplenote or if you want a little more power, Evernote or Springpad and devote 30 days to that tool. I guarantee after 30 days that “itch” will go away and you can concentrate more on getting things done rather than finding the best new note tool that doesn’t exist.

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      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

      Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

      1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

      When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

      2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

      In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

      3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

      This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

      My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

      It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

      4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

      If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

      5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

      When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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      6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

      Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

      7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

      If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

      8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

      It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

      9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

      When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

      10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

      If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

      Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

      11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

      Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

      12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

      Fake it till you make it. Period.

      13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

      When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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      And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

      If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

      Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

      After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

      14. Build a network.

      Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

      Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

      15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

      Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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        16. Stand up straight.

        No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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        17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

        These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

        18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

        You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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          19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

          You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

          20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

          If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

          21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

          For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

          Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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            22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

            As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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            23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

            Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

            24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

            If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

            Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

            25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

            I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

            Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

            The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

            26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

            When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

            For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

            Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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