#047: The Lost Art of Note-Taking [Podcast]

I don’t recall anyone ever teaching me how to take notes. I didn’t learn it in school—not even college. Nor did I learn it on the job. It was something I had to pick up on my own.


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/shironosov

Maybe this is why so few people bother to take notes during meetings or presentations. No one has ever told them why it is important or how to do it. In this episode, I do both.

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So let’s start with why. Why is note-taking important? Here are five reasons you should take notes in every meeting your attend:

  1. Note-taking enables you to stay engaged.
  2. Note-taking provides a mechanism for capturing ideas, insights and questions.
  3. Note-taking helps you track assignments–yours and others.
  4. Note-taking provides a handy reference weeks and months later.
  5. Note-taking communicates the right things to the other attendees.

So, those are some reasons why note-taking is important. How, then, can you take better notes?

  1. Don’t get hung up on the tool.
  2. Record whatever you find interesting.
  3. Give your notes structure, even if the meeting or presenter is unstructured.
  4. Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later.
  5. Schedule time to review your notes.

The method you use is secondary to the importance of doing it. Feel free to experiment. The key thing is to be intentional.

Listener Questions

  1. Brandon Jones asked, “How can you effectively take notes and still be an active participant in the meeting?”
  2. Cary Branscum asked, “What is the one favorite pen or pencil you have that you most enjoy using?”
  3. Deborah Owen asked, “How can we teach students to take notes in a way that will ultimately be useful in the workplace?”
  4. Erick Rheam asked, “How do you capture ideas and follow-up items on podcasts and audiobooks?”
  5. Jared Easley asked, “What’s your advice on taking mental notes, when you don’t have a pen and taking notes on a cell phone is inappropriate?”
  6. Jeremy Jones asked, “Do you have a regular process or system for making sure the notes you take get into your life?”
  7. John Brubaker asked, “How do you get buy-in from people who work for you to become note-takers themselves without forcing it on them?”
  8. Jordan Collier asked, “Can you recommend a system for reviewing or reflecting on your notes?”
  9. Paula Gibson asked, “How can we encourage students, who are using digital devices, to take notes?”
  10. Scott McFaddin asked, “How can we use digital devices in a corporate setting without making people wonder if we are taking notes or doing something else?”
  11. Tom McFarland asked, “What do you do with your notes after you finish processing them?”
  12.  Victor H. Manzanilla asked, “How do you create a notes archive that is indexed and searchable?”

Special Announcements

  1. I am speaking at Dan Miller’s Innovate Conference on Friday, March 29th, here in Franklin, TN. I am speaking on the topic of “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” with special emphasis on finding your voice.

    Next week, April 2nd, I will be speaking at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusettes. It’s about a half hour north of Boston. I will be speaking on the topic of “Platform.” Previous speakers have included John C. Maxwell and Sir Ken Robinson.

    Finally, on April 26th, I will be speaking at the CEO Summit in Frisco, TX on the topic of “Platform.” I’ll be there with my friends Bob Goff and Francis Chan.

  2. Platform University continues to thrive! This week, I hosted our monthly Q&A call. Our members submitted hundreds of questions. My staff went through and collected the most often asked ones, and then we took several calls live.
  3. My next podcast will be on the topic of “The 5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders.” I’ll talk about how not to be that guy and what to do if you work for that guy.

    If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote YOUR blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What have you found helpful in taking notes? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://twitter.com/joannamuses joanna

    I’ve found that indenting sub-points (if the size of the page allows for it) makes the notes much easier to follow when I go back over them.

    Also, for content that doesn’t need to be recorded in a linear structure, the FreeMind mindmapping tool (which is a free download) can be very helpful. I find drawing mindmaps by hand frustrating but doing it digitally on freemind is very easy to use.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I like imposing structure too. I sometimes use a mind-map as well, though I draw them by hand. I find this works well, when I don’t know where the presenter or the meeting is going.

  • http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com/ Esther Aspling

    I don’t hold meeting agenda’s sacred, I write all over them so I can attach my note to what we were talking about.

    Also I have a paper notepad in the same binder as my tablet, Paper still rules for certain things, and can be quicker.
    I used to be able to remember something for a few minutes, and even with playing sudoku my brain can’t retain for longer than a few seconds!


    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I’m the same way Esther. It goes in easy and goes out even easier.

  • http://twitter.com/evolvability_au Kim Barrie

    Great topic Michael. I run a lot of workshops where I encourage delegates to be more specific in their narrative about what they hear and see with regard to what’s going on around them, particularly in relation to others’ behaviour — a useful trait for performance managers. It’s a no-brainer that feedback shared will be more readily received if the leader uses specific examples. Here’s where the notes come in. If you take notes of your observations of others including during your interactions with them, you’ll be able to use them as future reference. In my experience, the biggest single obstacle in feeding back with accuracy is the absence of any notes – leaders rely all too often on memory, which all too often fails them. Taking notes regularly is a great habit to form, but it takes skill, whether that be innate or learned. Your tips are sure to help.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Kim, you make a great point. How impressive it would be to bring up a reaction someone made during a talk. That would get someone’s attention.

  • Cindy

    Another good reason to take notes for me is that it helps me to remember. I think it’s because I’m a visual person. If I write something down during an interaction, meeting, or learning event, I retain it better, even if I never look at it again!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Me too, Cindy.

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    I cannot remember everything. By writing down notes during the meeting, I can mark what’s important to me, I can note actions I need to take, and I demonstrate to all meeting participants that I am paying attention. I am more engaged if taking notes. Notes are tremendous to be able to refer back to in the future.

  • Kris Sellers

    Mike – you mentioned that everything is in Evernote. However, when you discussed using your iPad mini you said you used the Moleskine app. I am curious as to why you would not use the Evernote app on your mobile device to maintain the Evernote catalog.

    Thanks for all of your guidance! Great blog and podcasts!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Moleskine exports to Evernote. The reason I like it is because I don’t have to type. I can write by hand. Thanks.

      • Kris Sellers

        So I completely exposed myself as a newbie!! :-) Thanks, Mike! I have been on Evernote at my corporate job and love it. Still learning but it is very helpful. Appreciate all your insights!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          No problem, Kris. That’s why we have this community!

  • Brandon Jones


    Thank you very much for replying to my question. I like the point you made that you don’t need to write down everything that happens in the meeting as long as you capture the main points and what is pertinent. From there, you can go back and fill in the blanks as needed after the meeting. Thanks for the great response!

    • http://askjeremyjones.com/ Jeremy Jones

      hey @0fe8c06eea819a25b257569702550aee:disqus did you mention you are in Victorville, CA? I’m from that area also. Great question by the way.

      • http://LeadershipDoneRight.com/ Brandon Jones

        Thank you for your response to my question! That is cool that you live in the Victorville, CA area. I have lived here just over a year, so I am still new to the area.

        • http://askjeremyjones.com/ Jeremy Jones

          Oh wow. I grew up in Apple Valley. What brings you there?

          • http://LeadershipDoneRight.com/ Brandon Jones

            I got a job transfer/promotion to the Victorville office for my company. If you would like, you can email me at brandonwjones@leadershipdoneright.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dick.Savidge Dick Savidge

    I love the pod cast.
    One of my favorite note taking tools is a very old fashion pen that has four colors of ink in the same pen. (Office Max) The red, green blue or black ink choices are all right there & I have a great time taking notes & it scans quite well into my Evernote system.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s my wife, Gail’s, favorite too.

  • http://www.jeffthomascobb.com/ Jeff Cobb

    I’d add to the reasons “why” that notetaking contributes significantly to effective learning. I reference some of the research here: http://www.missiontolearn.com/2011/06/note-taking/

  • http://harrisonjonathan.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    I have a tip to share with Jared Easley, and everyone else who wants to make better mental notes. It takes practice, but I use image mnemonics to remember facts and details when I don’t have access to other methods.

    You basically just create a strange mental image to help you remember the details, the more bizarrar, the better. I often do this to remember a shopping list my wife tells me over the phone.

    For example: Bread, Milk, eggs, carrots, potatoes, and rent “The Princess Bride” on DVD becomes the following Image (all done on the fly):

    A giant carrot rocketship sitting on a launchpad made of milk bottles that are leaking dozens of whole eggs that look like humpty dumpty out of the side of the bottles, craking as they hit the ground. There are two wings made out of slices of white bread on either side of the upward facing carot-rocket, and there is a spaceman leaning out of the window, waving while wearing a helmet made out of a potato that is growing eyes. At the very top of the carrot-rocket with bread wings, resting on the milk bottle launchpad that is leaking dozens of humpty-dumptys there is a single DVD, and perched on the disc is the Dread Pirate Roberts (from the Princess Bride movie), hands on his hips, shouting “as you wish!”
    This all happens much faster than it takes to type out, but needless to say, I will have no trouble completing this shopping list, even without writing a word down.

    A good book on this is “The Memory Book” by Lorayne & Lucas.

    Michael, great podcast by the way, and I just re-reviewed my notes from your “Shift” Presentation, and under “Shift Your Acceleration” I really liked the point you made about organizations needing to “Think as if you are big, act as if you are small.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a great way to do it, Jonathan. I remember listening to Jerry Lucas years ago.

  • http://www.jaysonfeltner.com/ Jayson Feltner

    I’ve been using the tips from the original post you wrote years ago about note taking, with great success. Your “Smart Notes” list of annotations are glued into the inside cover of every new Moleskine I start.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Love that, Jayson. Cool.

  • http://twitter.com/ibrandphoto Lynford Morton

    Great podcast. I have some suggestions for Erick. I use a note-taking application by Squarespace called Note. http://www.squarespace.com/apps/#note (I have no affiliation. Just a happy customer.) It’s bare bones, loads quickly, and with a literal flicking motion, I send the note to Evernote. If I’m listening to a podcast and hear something I want to reference later, I might take a second and send a note. I also use the audio note app, iRecorder, to take quick audio notes I want to remember on the go. I know Evernote has both these functions, but I find that it is doesn’t load quickly enough for me to dump an idea and keep moving. If you use Audible.com to listen to books. (I just finished listening to Platform there.) you can bookmark any point in the recording to find it quickly later. Found myself doing that quite a bit, Michael. Thanks for all the advice.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Note is an outrageously cool app. I love it. I have just added it to my home screen, top row! Wow.

      • http://twitter.com/ibrandphoto Lynford Morton


  • http://twitter.com/ibrandphoto Lynford Morton

    One more suggestion. Michael, I know you said that we shouldn’t get hung up on the tool, but I have one that your listeners might find useful. I use LiveScribe’s echo pen. I love it because it is a pen with a recorder built in, so I am taking audio notes and written simultaneously. The genius of this product is that when I am reviewing my notes, if I place the pen at a specific word, it plays back the audio from that point in the meeting. That effectively syncs your audio and written notes, so you don’t have to listen to the whole thing to hear the section you want. You can find them at http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/. (I have no affiliation. Just a happy customer.) I hope that helps someone.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lynford. I tried this last January and couldn’t quite get the hang of it. You might also want to check out AudioNote for the iPad. It essential does the same thing, but you can use a regular stylus or even your finger to take notes. It records the entire meeting on your iPad and correlates the audio track to the notes you are taking. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet either, but I am testing it.

      • http://twitter.com/ibrandphoto Lynford Morton

        Thanks for the tip on AudioNote. I’m likely to try it. In reading up, I don’t see an Evernote integration point. That’s one of my evaluation criteria — how many steps will it take for me to get this into Evernote — or can I. When you have everything in one place, any outlier complicates the system. Thanks again for the tip.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Yea, I don’t think it integrates into Evernote, which is definitely a limitation for me too.

  • http://askjeremyjones.com/ Jeremy Jones

    Hey @mhyatt:disqus great info and tips, I appreciate you taking my question. I have a suggestion about the notes on audiobooks and podcasts. I listen to a lot of them myself and wanted to jot down ideas as I heard them. What I do that works well is if I hear something great on a podcast I want to take note on I pause the podcast, go into evernote and make a note with the title of the audiobook or podcast then note the time of the paused audio. Using my mobile phone usually my note would look like this, >>Michael Hyatt podcast047, 5:47min, “drop a discussion grenade” << as an example. This way I can recall it, or go back to the audio, scan to that point and make a note later. It's worked really well, hope that helps!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestion, Jeremy. Thanks!

      • http://askjeremyjones.com/ Jeremy Jones

        Great. Thank you.

    • Deborah Owen

      I was going to recommend the same thing. If you are listening to the podcast or an audiobook on your phone, Evernote is right there.

      Thanks also for your reply to my question Michael. I like the role-playing part of it. I am going to write a post sometime this month about teaching note-taking skills, and will definitely incorporate some of your suggestions.

    • http://twitter.com/Biketoworkblog Biketoworkblog

      That is a great solution because it gets the note right into Evernote, but it requires you to stop. I listen to podcasts on my ride to work, and experience has taught me that if I have to stop…I won’t. My solution has been to use an app like Say It and Mail It record my thought right at the moment, and while I’m riding (assuming it’s safe). The app then emails my recording to Evernote.

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  • Kristina Anderson

    Hi Michael. Regarding the question about how to “take notes” while running, working out, or away from a note taking device: For years I have used a small recorder by Panasonic (model RR-QR100 IC Recorder). I take it with me when walking my dog, driving in the car, etc., and I keep it on my nightstand for catching middle of the night thoughts. It has been one of my most prized tools for keeping track of things I want to remember. It’s small (about 2″x3″) so fits in my pocket. When I’m back in my office, I simply listen to each entry and write it down where appropriate. Also, I write for a living and still find taking pen to paper to be the most insightful way to record my thoughts. Writing by hand deepens my thinking. Great podcast! Thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Terrific idea. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I have a friend who is a marathon runner. He always takes a digital recorder on his long runs, and uses that time to outline presentations, brainstorm, etc. I haven’t yet tried it, but he swears by it.

    • claywginn

      Along those same lines, Evernote will let you do audio notes through the iPhone (and probably other devices as well). That way it keeps it all in one place if you’re using Evernote. I’ve done this while driving when an idea comes to mind.

    • http://twitter.com/JCollierAR Jordan Collier

      I listen to podcasts on my iPhone using Stitcher, and when I hear something I want to remember or revisit later, I take a quick screen shot to save the podcast episode and time elapsed. Later, I can listen to that specific spot on the podcast and copy down what caught my attention.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great episode Michael and so true. At the height of my previous business I had six people working for me. Whenever we had a meeting or when I trained somebody new I would get irritated when they didn’t take notes! Now I use apps to take my personal notes, I love having them right in my phone!

  • http://twitter.com/JCollierAR Jordan Collier

    Michael, thanks for including my question in your podcast. I really appreciate it. Since you use a real pen for notes, have you ever considered using a Livescribe pen? I use one in my classroom and it’s incredible. As I write (on paper), the pen records my writing and syncs with the surrounding audio. I then upload the file to my computer and my document is saved as a live PDF pencast that I can save directly to Evernote.

    This pen is great for meetings and for capturing lectures because it not only records what I write, but it also records what is being said at the very moment I am writing. It allows me to click anywhere on the document (either PDF or the actual paper I wrote on) to hear/see what was being said while I was writing.

    This pen really is as cool as it sounds and it’s very easy to use. I’ll post an example of a pencast PDF on my blog this week. Check it out if you’re interested.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have one. I bought it in January. However, for some reason, I have never gotten comfortable with it. If it works for you, great! I have a friend who loves his.

  • Guest

    The title of this post caught my attention! I love how note-taking was called the lost art. As an art teacher, I’ve noticed the benefits of meeting the needs of a kinesthetic learners instead of just the auditory and visual learners. When we use our hands to take notes, we are carrying out a physical activity that will help us remember the facts!

  • Danielle Street

    Great post! The title of this post caught my attention! I love how note-taking was called the lost art. As an art teacher, I’ve noticed the benefits of meeting the needs of a kinesthetic learners instead of just the auditory and visual learners. When we use our hands to take notes, we are carrying out a physical activity that will help us remember the facts!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      This is exactly why I like to use pen and paper. There’s something about longhand that increases both my creativity and memory.

      • Bob

        Michele, if you’re a notebook fan you may wish to check out our Quiver pen
        holders for notebooks. Michael Hyatt review us very positively last
        year. http://www.quiverglobal.com.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Thanks, Bob!

      • Henry Cooper

        I’m w/ you on that. You never when something comes up. It’s always good to both tools w/ you all the time just for emergency, when in meetings or whatever.

    • Bob

      Danielle, if you’re a notebook fan you may wish to check out our Quiver pen holders for notebooks. Michael Hyatt review us very positively last year. http://www.quiverglobal.com.

  • http://www.apprenticeshipofbeinghuman.com/ Graham Scharf

    Thanks for a great podcast!

    As someone who is constantly listening and thinking while doing other things, I wanted to weigh in on the note-taking while doing other things. For iPhone users, I recommend Siri. I can pause playback using button on the headset string, prompt Siri using the same button, and say “create note: …” or “create task: . . .” (and then the content of my information capture). It is brilliant for capturing insights and questions on the go – all while running, driving, or washing dishes.

    For Evernote users, Everclip is a fast and easy way to migrate and tag all these questions, notes and comments into Evernote.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s a cool feature of Siri I didn’t know about. Thanks for sharing it Graham.

  • Eric Pulsifer

    Thank you. Excellent stuff, especially the part about using symbols. Need to do that more …

    I’m an ex-journalist, so naturally I’m big on pen-and-paper notes. I normally use smaller (5×8) legal pads or a reporter’s notebook. I find I can have that on my knee, below table level, and take my notes while looking at the person and having a real conversation. I’ll glance at my notebook maybe once or twice to make sure I’m still writing on the page instead of on my pants, but that’s all.

    Even with digital tools, my notes start on paper but I’ll scan them into Evernote. Doing that right now with my notes from your podcast.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’m a pen-and-paper note person, as well. The only struggle is keeping all my notebooks organized. I tend to have several spirals or legal pads going at once. I think I’m going to have to break down and start scanning. Glad to hear it’s working for you.

      • Eric Pulsifer

        Michele, it takes getting used to. While I have fewer used-up index cards all over my desk, I’m afraid to look at what I have cluttering up Evernote.

      • Henry Cooper

        I too also a pen-and-paper person plus converting/transfer most my written notes and stuff straight thru notepad, word and/or evernote. Always good to have everything written down and organized so nothing would get lost or missed.

    • http://twitter.com/JCollierAR Jordan Collier

      Eric, based on your note-taking style, you may be interested in using a Livescribe pen.

      • Eric Pulsifer

        Jason, I’ve looked at those Livescribes. Intrigued, anyway. As much as I love tech toys I’ll probably get one. However, I do enjoy the sight of a crisp clean line flowing from a fountain pen, and the feel as I lay that line down on paper. I guess that makes me old school.

      • Eric Pulsifer

        Pardon, Jordan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-McDowell-Whitt/1179155326 Barbara McDowell Whitt

    At my college from 1961 to 1965 I often was asked by another student if she could borrow my notes to study with before a test. I complied even though it sometimes meant I was the one staying up late to study after my notes were returned to me. When I am in an audience these days or nights, I would concur with you, Michael, that note-taking is a lost art. As for what I found helpful in taking notes, it was to pay very close attention to what the professor or instructor was telling us and to write as fast as I could to keep up with the train of thought. Of course, this was before computers, and I kept notes in narrow-lined spiral notebooks, using a different one for each course.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I tend to take notes well. When I know there will be some great content, I’ll enter into the event with a notepad and pen. Having a physical writing tool allows me to quickly jot the note and keep it handy.

    My problem has always been the review part. Scheduling time to go over the notes and get the really helpful tid-bits never seems to happen. Any advice on this?

  • Rene

    Note taking has been a terrific time saver in my organization meetings and training. I use a legal pad but love to go in great detail sbout everything im teaching and / or learning

  • claywginn

    MIchael, what about the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebooks? I would think that they would provide a way for someone to take notes in a notebook and scan them without having to pull the pages out, then you could keep the notebooks in perpetuity.

    Great podcast. I’ve been listening for the last three weeks and have really been inspired..

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, they do. But they are REALLY expensive.

  • http://leadright.wordpress.com/ Brent Dumler

    I love the point you make for planning time to go back and review the notes later. This is especially important for those of us who attend conferences each year. Taking tons of session notes to never revisit them makes the experience nothing more than an experience……NOT life-change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.leach.10 Mark Leach

    Note taking is an essential skill in my profession as an attorney–particularly when having to take down comments from the other side at a hearing or in a deposition that you will then have to respond to in an orderly, logical, and persuasive fashion. One of the simplest tactics I’ve used since starting out is a carryover from briefing cases in law school. The campus bookstore sold paper that had the standard margin line on the left, but then another line running vertically down the page that set off a third of the right side of the page. In practice, instead of buying the specially-printed paper, I draw a line that divides the sheet with a third on the right-hand side. I take notes of what is being said on the left and then, contemporaneously, jot down thoughts on the right side for possible questions or responding arguments. If it’s a question or something I know I want to go back to, I’ll put large brackets around the question/comment I wrote on the right side so that visually, when going back through my notes, either on cross-examination or in making my responding argument, I can tick off the points I wanted to respond to from the other side. Equally useful in a non-adversarial meeting when a point is made by someone that you don’t want to interrupt, but want to follow up on during or after the meeting.

  • http://www.coachingforleaders.com/ Dave Stachowiak

    Michael, thank you for a great podcast, as always. Your shows are always inspirational and even when I don’t think that topic would be of interest to me (not the case here) your energy is always great to hear on a Wednesday morning when I’m at the gym with my son.

    Agree with so many of the other commenters already on the value of this episode and am glad to still be a notetaker myself. I use the Moleskine physical notebook that is Evernote branded for easy photo capture. I find it’s the best of both worlds (I just can’t get comfortable writing on an iPad).

    Two suggestions you made that I really appreciated:

    *The four symbols you use – simple and powerful – will incorporate this right away.

    *Titling notes in Evernote by year first for ordering and then name of the person (not sure why I didn’t think of that).

    Thanks for all you do Michael. I’ll continue to recommend your podcast to my audience!

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  • http://mikeskiff.com Mike Skiff

    Great podcast Michael! Quick tip for iPhone users on taking notes while listening to audio/podcast (specifically while driving or out on a run). When I come across an interesting point or quote I want to save, I simply invoke Siri and tell her to “Make a note: [interesting insight] [date and title of podcast or book]”. I then ensure I process my iOS notes similar to a paper notebook to capture these insights in my digital brain (which also happens to be Evernote). Hope this tip is useful!

    • http://www.dalecallahan.com Dale Callahan

      Mike – I have been using a voice recorder (as per my other comment) but I love this idea! Have to try it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/richard.spies.14 Richard Spies

      Great idea! I have been thinking of upgrading my iPhone 4 and this may just prompt me to do so.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I’ll admit that I’ve become less of a note-taker over the years. On another note, as I just started creating some podcasts, this was a good one. I still have to figure out some of the technical issues with podcasting, but I’m learning. I’m keeping mine to about ten minutes or less. What do you think a good podcast length is?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think there is a right answer to this, Dan. If the content is boring, 5 minutes is too long. If it’s engaging, 60 minutes might not be too long. I would focus on creating engaging content and let it be as long as it needs to be to cover the subject.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        Thanks, Michael. The ten-minute podcasts seem to work just right for the public speaking topic. I’ve done the lectures many times and I’m using segments from them.

  • http://www.dalecallahan.com Dale Callahan

    One thing that works for me in taking notes when I am on the road or right after an impromptu meeting is to use a digital audio recorder. I use the the Olympus brand voice recorder, but even the Iphone will do. Then I dump the notes into something else (now Evernote) after the meeting or during my GTD weekly review.

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  • http://twitter.com/csreed Colter Reed

    When I’m in the car, I’ll use Siri to capture a thought before I forget it. Just tack the word “note” in front of what you want to capture. (For example, “note the best tool is the one that you’ll use consistently” will create a note with “the best tool is the one that you’ll use consistently”.) Then when I get back to my desk, I copy these from Notes.app into Evernote for permanent keeping.

  • rabbimoffic

    This was a great show. It got me thinking about one technique I use in delicate situations as a rabbi. The most common of these is meeting with the family of a person who has just died, and I need to learn more about his life so I can give a eulogy. I used to take copious notes during the meeting, but then I realized that the primary function of the meeting was not to get information, but to comfort the mourners. When I realized this, I stopped taking notes during the meeting, but right when I get in my car to drive home, I write down everything I remember from the conversation. It’s actually helped me focus more on relevant information while allowing me to comfort the mourners with my eyes and body language during the meeting.

  • James Short

    Thanks for the informative podcast. I’m a new missionary to the Philippines and have found Evernote to be my best digital friend. I too take notes in Evernote whenever possible.

    I have an idea for the question about how to take notes while running, or exercising.

    As you know, Evernote has a microphone functionality where you can press and begin speaking. I LOVE this as I can express my thoughts verbally while still “moving” and come back to it later to review and type out a structured note. This is especially good for a song writer, as many times I get more than words as inspiration, the melody often comes with it. By using the audio feature, I can capture both before it slips from my mind.

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  • http://twitter.com/MichaelMarchand Michael Marchand

    I’m always listening to podcasts while I drive (like this episode) – but my memory is terrible. So if I hear something great and don’t write it down, I’ll lose it.

    After listening to this episode, I decided to search out a way to take notes while driving, and I found one! I even wrote a blog post describing just how easy it is:


  • Thomas Baisch

    When I listen to your podcast or others, I use Siri to take notes. On my earbuds, I can click and hold, your podcast stops and Siri starts listening. “Note to self: this is your life episode 47, tell that guy to use Siri.” You can say less if you intend to review these notes imidiatly after your run or drive. This way you don’t forget to label it. Then with one final click, you are chatting away again. Its not perfect but it gets the job done.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great idea. Thanks!

  • Holly Gordon

    I wonder if the decline in note taking is because people are not interested or taking his/her job serious as though they were working for the Lord. Recently I attended another Hearts at Home Conference; a yearly conference for moms. I don’t recall seeing anyone NOT taking notes…so what is the difference? We pay our own way to come to a conference that we are interested in learning how to be better moms, wives, friends, and children of God. We have a passion to be there and learn as much as we can (and personally so I can share it with others)….So, I ask are you going to a meeting because you believe there will be something to learn or are you already the expert? Are you going to a meeting to be able to share the knowledge with others or do you only think the information is for you? I’m wondering if a shift in attitudes will make all the difference?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katsturtz Kathy Henderson-Sturtz

    I actually DID learn note-taking in high school (back in 1968-69). It was an experimental class at Denby High School in Detroit. (Yes, you could get a GREAT education back then in Detroit schools!) The class was a combination of “what to listen for” and “what to write down” and “how to differentiate between direct quotes/info and your paraphrasing”. The key technical skill taught was sort of like a simplified version of Gregg Shorthand. We learned to take notes quickly and efficiently. At ends of words never write: ing, just g; ed, just d, never tion, use _, etc. Put quote marks around direct quotes (duh!) Use shorthand symbols for frequently used word combos, such as those for “of the”. Still consider that class was of the most useful I’ve ever taken. And 45 yrs later, I’m still using what I was taught. Has made the note-taking needed for my work as a writer, journalist, business and marketing coach easier.

  • Michael Stevens

    Three remarks.

    First, there is also the lost art of cursive writing. Which is quicker, easier than printing. Remember the hours spent in practice? Gone.

    Second, on taking notes when alone, consider Siri or Dragon Dictate on your iPhone. Switch from audio listening to audio recording. Of course, not while driving.

    Third, you addressed using a typepad a meetings and the use of the stylus, but what about the best method of typing? I use the Origami device for about $70 from the Apple store to hold my iPad AND to protect my small bluetooth Apple keyboard. I do not and will not use the itty bitty keyboards with the scrunched up keys.

    Third, no fourth. What about the simple problem of ergonomics and keyboard placement. Works on a table, not so well on a lap if using a keyboard; but the tap,tap, tapping of the screen can suffice.

    Fourth, no fifth. A case for the iPad 3 or Mini. Protection or placement or both? I have the magnetic one from the Apple store for my iPad 3 BUT not very good for protection, runs the risk of sliding out of your hand, but has a small stand when folded. I am about to purchase one of the holders/cases from Levenger. Not sure but either the one with the paper pad on the side or the one that protects but no “stand” for typing versus the one without a pad but folds to be a stand. Both leather and classy. A bit pricey in the $130-$150 range.

    Oh yes, I did like the suggestion on structuring your notes. I have used an outline method since law school with the Cornell note taking method (about a two margin on the left for further highlights). However, note that the structure can change (as shown by Third, no Fourth above. It’s just notes.

    BTW. I have found a fountain pen is the best for notes on paper. The friction increases the quality and legibility of cursive writing. A ballpoint works for those who print.

    And now for an anecdote…. I was exchanging information with a 20-something person whose car rolled into mine in the parking lot. I wrote it down (not print it) on the back of a business card. Then was asked “What language was this in?” It took me a few seconds to realize, she could only write her name cursively and printed everything else. Alas. The lost art of cursive may be replaced by the new art of cursing the darkness.

    Love how you break it down to the basics.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Michael. Really great input!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikeveny Mike Veny

    I really got a lot out of this particular podcast. You were one of the people that influenced my decision to try Evernote. I also use a Moleskine Smart book, which connects with Evernote. I decided that I still wanted to have a paper notebook to write in, because even though we’ve become accustomed to people taking notes on electronic devices, I will eliminate any doubt that my focus is elsewhere…which will lead to more sales and better relationships.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.laramore Steve Laramore

    Excellent post! Thank you Michael. I agree that there’s not enough training on how to take good notes.

    I’m trying to go all digital with my ipad and took your advice and got an Adonit Jot Pro. It’s by far the best stylus that I have used and the magnetic attachment is great. I keep a logitech keyboard cover with my ipad which helps a great deal as well.

    Just a suggestion; I know you like the moleskine app; however, it’s a bit buggy to me. I’ve found one that seems to do a great job and have the features that I like most called “notes mobile” by myscript (same software used by livescribe’s pens to translate handwriting to text). I don’t work for them, but wanted to suggest it to you because you have really helped me with some of your suggestions.

  • Mary Catherine George

    Emjoyed the guidance about the note taking – I have to say – I have always just relied on my boss who takes excellent notes – so I just let him take the notes and I would just notate what was the most important issues – such as f/u and actions items – now I see a bigger picture of note taking because of your podcast – Thanks Michael for the inspiration – Mary Catherine

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  • Ross Bale

    Very much enjoyed this podcast as someone who has recently purchased an iPad and was looking into how I could incorporate this device into note taking in meetings.

    There was a question about capure on the go that I thought I would share my experience with. I listen to podcasts regularly while driving and have the facility to make calls via Bluetooth on my smartphone, so when I need to make a note of something that I heard in a podcast I simply dial my own mobile number from the car steering wheel and leave myself a voicemail.

    The car kit automatically pauses the iPod so I don’t miss any content, just thought this might help someone.

  • http://twitter.com/Joshua_Chalmers Josh Chalmers

    For everyone who is trying to figure out how to take notes while walking, cycling, driving, etc.

    If you use an iPhone you should get some bluetooth headphones that have a pause/play button on them, and the ability to initiate a call without taking the phone out of your pocket. This way you can use the Siri method that several people have mentioned just by touching your headphones. If you don’t have Siri, I recommend an app for iPhones/iPod touches called: Ambling Pro, because it records your listening history and can speed up your audio (http://joshchalmers.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/listen-to-audio-at-a-faster-pace-with-your-iphone/). So all I do is pause and resume, then when I return from my walk I can just check the listening history to find the spot I want (this is great because I can do it while walking two large dogs). The pair I recommend are the Plantronics Backbeat 903+, they are cheap on Ebay and are reviewed here: http://joshchalmers.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/why-god-didnt-give-us-earlids/.

    PS – Does anyone else appreciate listening at a higher speed? I love speeding up the audio to two or three times the pace so that I can make the most of my listening space. The blog above gives some apps that make this possible.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I listen at 2x speed on both Audible.com (audio books) and Downcast (podcasts). Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Joshua_Chalmers Josh Chalmers

    Here is a tip for everyone who likes to record notes and have them transcribed in Evernote. One commenter mentioned an app called “Say it and mail it”, which looks great, but if you want an option that uses the native Evernote audio recording feature an alternative is called Voice2Note, which will automatically transcribe the audio notes you create in Evernote. You can do five a month for free and they only transcribe the first 30 seconds, unless of course you want more messages which you will have to pay for.

    Check it out here: http://voice2note.dial2do.com/

  • http://twitter.com/bonniebrannigan bonniebrannigan

    Michael, this was the first Michael Hyatt podcast I’ve heard. Good stuff. I have found Evernote to be an invaluable tool for web clipping and some note taking. One suggestion for your listeners: When attending a recent conference, I used my iPad to take written notes, audio “notes” and took photos of important slides on the screen. Multimedia capture of the presentation.

  • http://twitter.com/ericstetler Eric Stetler

    Loved this podcast! After hearing it, I tweaked my GTD system to incorporate Evernote with Outlook. Using “quick steps” in Outlook, each email is forwarded, tagged, and filed in Evernote for anywhere reference and action! Thanks for all you do. http://www.sustainablewellness.wordpress.com

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  • http://twitter.com/romanalilic Romana Lilic

    Hola from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I just wanted to add my contribution on how I ‘take’ notes when I’m on the go. For example, I often listen to podcasts when I walk my dog – we often walk for 45 mins – 1 hour, which is just a perfect timing to hear the entire podcast. When I hear a comment or note or a thing that I want to save to explore later, I open my Evernote and record a voice message. That way I am sure I have it saved until I am able to sit at my desk and do further research.


  • http://twitter.com/thomastonkin Thomas Tonkin

    Another great Podcast! I appears that i may be a regular of yours. I am a Levenger user myself, specifically, the Circa Notebooks system http://www.levenger.com/Circa-Notebooks-326/Circa-Notebooks-339.aspx. In addition, I collect note taking tips and teach (in our company) a style of note taking that was actually born from formal ‘whiteboarding’. A little more tedious, but very effective for later reuse (I scan these notes using Neat) as well as to better understand the topic (note taking that helps you learn). Again, excellent podcast and great information. Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Thomas. I don’t use a Levenger notebook, but they make outstanding products. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheGateBearers Marcus Russell

    “Expository Listening” is a fantastic book worth checking out!

    • Henry Cooper

      where can I find that book or the title of it?

  • Tim

    Thanks for the tips. Before retiring, I was always a old fashioned pen and paper note taker, but was careful to have a system of being able to go back and find any note I had recorded (I used the method learned at a Daytimer conference). One of the things that used to drive me crazy was seeing people taking notes on a notepad or a scrap of paper and wondering, “What are you going to do with that piece of paper when you get back to your office?” Taking notes is pointless if you can’t find the note later. Thanks again for the ideas in this podcast.

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  • Jim Harmon

    I note take throughout my day and I have found the Momonote app to be indispensable. It allows me to have many different journals which are all searchable and accessible for free on the web. One of my journals is titled “what I have learned”. While driving I typically listen to podcasts, yours included, and I use the voice to text feature of the app, with a set of headphones on, to record all of the significant things I learn.

  • Henry Cooper

    Truly good pointers and reminders on this, thanks Mike!

  • Henry Cooper

    Also that I do and create tutorials for people dealing with ways to connect/re-connect with people (old and new), how to save all your people’s contacts from your notes straight to digital, always have a backup, list of sources/resources, etc.

    I think for me those I did and share with people plus friends are very helpful and life-changing. Anyone’s who is interested on most of my tutorials and stuff, feel free to leave me an email @ theultimatecooper (at) gmail (dot) com and/or henry_cooper10 (at) yahoo (dot) com, thru my Youtube page under “imthebrother” or “Henry Cooper” I guarantee you’ll never be disappointed or dissatisfied.

  • Dan Morrow

    Listening to the podcast now and just heard a question about note taking when listening to podcasts and audiobooks while on the move. Someone else may have mentioned this (I have not been able to go through all the comments yet), but here’s my solution. I use a voice recorder. For instance, I go for walks most days and I like to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, lectures, etc. on my phone. Well, I’ve learned the hard way the importance of writing down thoughts and ideas as soon as I have them. If I wait even a minute I may lose it. I used to stop, change apps, and record a memo to myself. That got old fast, but I didn’t have a voice recorder and we don’t have the money to buy one. Then I remember that I had an old iPod Nano that has a voice recording function. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a microphone. Fortunately, I remembered an old external mic I got years ago for a camera. It’s tiny and now lives on the Nano.

    So, while it’s a little makeshift, I now toss my tiny Nano in my pocket, strap my iPhone to my arm and head out on my walks fully equipped. When I have a thought I know I need to write down, or when I get an idea for a new book or project (I always seem to get those in bed, in the shower, or when I’m on the move), I pause my material, pull out my Nano, record my note, and move on. When I get home I will plug in my Nano, label my recordings, and drag them into a relevant file folder.

    Of course, if you own or can afford a better quality voice recorder, fair enough. There are some great ones out there. Whatever the case, I find that I would be lost and frustrated without the ability to quickly record my thoughts and ideas while on the move and a voice recorder solves this problem for me. You may even choose to use an app to make your quick recordings, such as Evernote or DropVox (which is an iPhone app that uploads directly to Dropbox) or another that may suit your workflow.

  • Haelie

    I have been a note-taker for quite some time. I especially began taking copious notes in nursing school – I would have never passed otherwise. In the past few years of my career, now that I am no longer at the bedside and am in a role in which I attend countless meetings, I have begun taking notes again. When I attended meetings early on and did not take notes, I could not keep track of what was discussed nor any important take-aways or action items.

    I learned by watching many leaders in these meetings as they took notes in various notebooks and/or on their laptops. I now take notes, sometimes copious, but with indented and bulleted formats that help me as I look back over them.

    Most recently, I have begun using a LiveScribe SmartPen. I must say I LOVE IT! I don’t know how I survived without it for so long…especially in nursing school. I personally retain and process best by handwriting as I listen or study (which is why I have begun doing what I & others call #writetheWord when studying my Bible – I post pics of this on Instagram & FB). Anyway, all of that said, the LiveScribe works very well for a person like me who still hand-writes notes. I highly recommend it!

  • Nick MacDonald

    In response to Eric’s question about how to remember things while listening while running. If you are listening on an iPhone and probably most other smartphones. Start your stopwatch when you start the audio and hit the lap button to mark the times you want to go back to. Then go back through the audio with the times you have marked. It will make it easier to find the 2 or 3 parts you want in the hour long session etc.

  • http://www.ConnXN.net Peter M. Beaumont

    Great piece. David Allen has talked on this and I also blogged on this subject sometime ago (http://connxn.net/meetings/why-meeting-notes-make-sense/). Recently I came across a great App I use on my iPad for capturing notes. Called ‘Meetings-Notebooks for Work-Meeting Notes, Agenda, and Minutes’. Although not perfect it makes it easy to capture notes, send out Agenda points prior to meetings and create Tasks. The best feature is that on completing the Notes, you can forward the notes as an e-mail and it will also attach a txt and pdf version automatically. You also have the option to send to Dropbox. It has increased my productivity substantially and makes doing Notes pleasurable and easy.

  • James Heinritz

    The founder of Nozbe has a good system for recording notes while listening to podcasts and audio books:

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for pointing us to that. I love the step-by-step.

  • James Heinritz

    Do you sync your Cabinet folder to any of your computers? Or do you work exclusively in the cloud? By having only one folder, its size must be huge, and it’s no longer possible to selectively sync offline folders with small memory devices.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Yes, I have it on my iPhone and my iPad. It’s actually not that huge. It’s only 71 MB.

  • Dr Joachim Schlosser

    On your (respectively Jared’s) puzzle about how to take a note while listening to a podcast on the run/in your car/working out: I use Apple Siri’s reminder feature.
    Hold the play/pause button on my earplugs and say ”remind me on “. Works like a charm, I get it right into my productivity system for later processing.
    Sometimes it is also a source of joy when Siri misunderstands what I said. Reading out loud its transcript then helps.