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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s your favorite tool for taking notes at important meetings?

1. Evernote

dave-nevogt

    I have Evernote open on my mobile constantly to take notes at meetings. It allows me to travel light without having to bring the computer and syncs along. I announce to the other party that I am taking notes so they still know that I am paying attention and not texting or answering emails.

    Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

    2. Fleksy

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    John Hall

      With Fleksy, I don’t have to look at the keyboard while I type. I can keep eye contact with the people in the meeting and take notes at the same time.

      John Hall, Influence & Co.

       

      3. A Moleskine Notebook

      Patrick Vlaskovits

        The Moleskine notebook has the perfect form factor. It slips into my pocket and looks great. It’s unbeatable.

        Patrick Vlaskovits, The Lean Entrepreneur
        4. A Classic Notepad

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        Andy Karuza

          I still love the traditional way of jotting down quick notes or even drawing necessary diagrams at the same time to help communicate the message from the meeting. If I want to go digital, I just snap a photo of the notes with my phone and email it to myself.

          Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

          5. Basecamp

          Patrick Conley

            We have people on our team who take amazing notes during our calls, especially when talking to clients. I’ve found that taking notes distracts me and pulls me out of the moment. We record all of our important calls and have team members taking great notes that we store withBasecamp so that we never lose important discussions.

            Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

            6. Evernote Moleskine

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            Brennan White

              I find typing during meetings sends the wrong message no matter how polite you are in explaining your intentions. It removes eye contact and shows disinterest. To combat this, I use Evernote Moleskine, a notebook that digitizes your writing into searchable online text. Your colleagues feel you’re engaged, and you have a perfect set of notes.

              Brennan White, Watchtower

              7. iA Writer

              Chuck Reynolds

                During meetings or calls, I constantly rely on iA Writer. It supports markdown to quickly format content and, most importantly, autosaves constantly. I’ve never lost notes even when I don’t save them right away. It’s amazing. Other tools were too volatile, and I’ve lost notes during meetings because of crashes. IA Writer is superior, and I highly recommend it.

                Chuck Reynolds, Levers

                8. A Composition Book

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                Saul Garlick

                  It’s from elementary school, but it works just as well. I put a wide-ruled composition book with the classic marble cover into a leather notebook jacket I picked up years ago in Manhattan. The cover keeps it professional while the inside is as strong as ever. I never lose a page and jot down everything that matters.

                  Saul Garlick, ThinkImpact

                  9. Pivotal Tracker

                  jared-brown

                    Any note worth taking should be in the form of an action item. I record action items in a project management tool such as Pivotal Tracker and assign it to someone right there and then. That way tasks and thoughts don’t fall through the cracks after the meeting is over.

                    Jared Brown, Hubstaff

                    More by this author

                    9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

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                    How to Fight Information Overload

                    How to Fight Information Overload

                    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

                    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

                    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

                    What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

                    1. Set your goals.
                    2. Decide whether you really need the information.
                    3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
                    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

                    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

                    The Nature of the Problem

                    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

                    When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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                    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

                    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

                    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

                    Why information overload is bad

                    It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

                    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

                    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

                    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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                    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

                    1. Set your goals

                    If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

                    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

                    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

                    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

                    2. What to do when facing new information

                    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

                    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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                    If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

                    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

                    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

                    3. Minimal Effective Dose

                    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

                    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

                    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

                    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

                    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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                    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

                    In Closing

                    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

                    Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

                    (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

                    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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