by Leon Rosenshein

Don't just take notes

I’ve got a Remarkable 2 next-gen paper tablet. I got tired of grabbing a new tablet for every meeting and having piles of notebooks with 5 or 10 used pages around my office. Since I’ve had it I’ve been using it for meetings instead of grabbing the nearest piece of paper. Since then I’ve discovered a few things.

First, I haven’t lost any notes since I started using it. I only have to keep track of one thing and it’s always with me. My desk is less cluttered and I’m wasting less paper.

Second, I’m not distracted. There are no pop-ups from Slack, email, zoom/meet/chime/teams, or document updates. There’s no browser to wander off into. No social media to watch. No emails to read/send. Just note taking.

Third, I can organize my notes better. Folders for various things like 1:1s, projects, etc. One shared/shareable space. Not just on my tablet, but online where I and others can see them. I can move things around inside my notes. If I need to go back and add something I can, I can move things around and make room for it, not just draw arrows or say the info is somewhere else.

But the most important thing I found is that having the notes with me is that I interact with them more. Prior to this I would only interact with them when I needed a bit of info that I had recently written down. If I needed it more than I few days later I either forgot I had written it down or couldn’t find the write piece of paper, then forgot about it. Which made most of them kind of useless.

Now, things are different. I see the notes and go through them. I see them in relation to other notes. I add things I remembered later and add follow-up questions. I add action items (and mark them as such) that I think of later. I add things I’ve done as follow-up. I refer to them when someone asks a question. I actually use them. Which was the point of the notes in the first place.

Now none of this (other than having them all on one tablet) is really because I’m using the Remarkable 2. That just fits my personal style of learning/remembering (writing vs typing) better. It’s really the repeated interaction with them that makes the difference.

While I’ll never encourage you to not take notes, I will encourage you to think about what you’re going to do with the notes. Think about how you’re going to get value out of them. Think about how a small change in your mechanism(s) can give you a much larger return on investment.