How do I take the correct notes?

Taking notes: 3 methods for easy writing down and structuring

Taking notes is part of our daily business. But while some can never be found without their notebook, others are still looking for a suitable way to take notes. In addition, the structuring of the notes has to be learned.

Notes are often lost because the loose pieces of paper disappear into nowhere. Notes in notebooks are retained, but after a while they are no longer understandable and thus also lost.

So here are three methods that you can use to take all kinds of notes and find everything you wrote down.

Take and keep notes

You know this: you scribble a really good idea on the edge of your napkin in a restaurant - and you can't decipher it later.

Or: a customer calls and you write down their contact details on a post-it that you attach to the monitor. You can memorize the content of the conversation - just think. But neither of these works: The sticky note disappears from the monitor and the content of the phone call disappears from your memory.

Even if you take well-structured transcripts in meetings and seminars, you can often no longer understand the trains of thought contained in them later.

I will show you a method that you can use in the future to prepare and process your notes in such a way that you really benefit from them.

Collect ideas: take spontaneous notes with the pen

Get yourself a handy notebook and choose a multi-colored pen. You should like both of these, lie comfortably in your hand and stow away without any problems. With this method, you do the following:

  • Leave a few blank pages at the front of the booklet. Here is a small table of contents. It is also useful to number the pages for this.
  • If you have a spontaneous idea, you can write it down in your exercise book straight away. To do this, start a new page.
  • Write the topic or project name as a heading, including your idea. Underline important points. References, such as contact details or sources for reference, are underlined in a different color. You can also write in color, although in most cases this is not quite as fast as underlining in another color.
  • Transfer the heading of your notes and the page number to the table of contents.

Your ideas won't get lost in the notebook. But they are still not in the right place. And after a while, the recordings may also be incomprehensible. Therefore, it makes sense to put the notes in their place as soon as possible.

While ideas for ongoing projects almost automatically find their way into the corresponding project folder, ideas for projects that have not yet been scheduled tend to get lost.

That is why I recommend creating an ideas folder to collect spontaneous ideas. Use a folder or an archive box with various compartments for this. Each subject contains the materials on a topic that you will implement “someday”, for which no date has yet been set. The individual subject areas are separated from each other with slip sheets so that each subject has its own subject.

For example, if you have noted something on the subject of “writing a book” in your notebook, there will also be a subject on this subject in the ideas folder. If the project does not yet exist, simply create a new subject for it.

Make a new note of the spontaneous idea for the ideas folder; further inspired thoughts can arise in the process.

Highlight important points in color, write lists one below the other and insert symbols so that it is clearer. Don't forget to include research sources and contact details.

The pages with your ideas will then find their place in the associated compartment of the ideas folder.

Tip: You can also read my article on this: How a collection of ideas contributes to your personal success.

Quickly typed and assigned: take notes with Outlook

The free all-rounder Outlook is well suited for making short, quick notes, as we like to write them down on loose pieces of paper, for example:

  • Spontaneous ideas
  • Shopping list
  • Phone notes

And this is how it works: Go to the Notes area and from there to the "New" group. Here you call up the "New Note". A yellow field appears, similar to a post-it. Assign a name so that you can assign the document later. You can now start taking notes.

You can leave the note open while you work and drag it anywhere on the screen.

The note is automatically saved. To close it, click on the small icon in the top left corner of the note window.

You can change the notes according to your needs. The "Customize Notes" function is used for this. It allows you to give the sheet a different color or to change the size.

If you are looking for a specific point in your notes, use the search function:

  1. Open the notes list by clicking on "Notes".
  2. Place the cursor in the "Search Notes" field. Enter your search term here.
  3. Now only the notes containing your search term are displayed. This is highlighted in yellow so that it is easily recognizable.
  4. Open the desired note with a double click.

Taking notes with Outlook is very useful in many situations; for example, if you want to save notes in an appointment. My colleague Marcel Müller, an expert in digital work, has created a video guide for you:

Practical: take notes and save them in appointments.

Words and pictures: Take notes with OneNote

OneNote offers even more options for taking notes. From capturing a fleeting thought to using notebooks for notes and ideas, practically nothing is left to be desired. One reason why the Microsoft tool is becoming increasingly popular.

With OneNote you can take written notes or use the dictation function. You can also add screenshots and pictures to your notes. You can access and work on all of your notes in OneNote equally from your desktop and smartphone. This function - synchronization - allows you maximum flexibility. You can use shared notebooks to work in a team. Here I'll show you how to get started with taking notes in OneNote:

Get started with taking notes with OneNote

If OneNote isn't on your device, you'll need to download and install it first. Then open the program and you can actually begin with your notes, because you are right in your first notebook.

But I recommend that you create a structure for this method so that you can organize your notes in a meaningful way from the outset.

In the left column below you will find the terms "+ notebook" and "+ page". Each notebook corresponds to a new area, like a dividing sheet in a folder. You create a new page in a notebook.

Here is the proposal for a structure that has proven itself many times over:

  1. Projects
  2. Events
  3. staff
  4. distribution
  5. Meetings
  6. Knowledge
  7. team

You can create your own notebooks for temporary projects. At the end of the project, these are copied to the archive and deleted from OneNote.

You can pin Desktop OneNote to your desktop's system tray so you can open it anytime.

Tip: Get the free instructions for setting up a OneNote notebook from our download center.

If you use these three methods of taking notes and structuring them, you can use your creative ideas and important information at any time.