A friend recently complained to me that a young woman at her workplace made fun of her for taking meeting notes by hand. The young woman acted as though my friend–let's call her Marge–were incompetent: "WHY do you take notes by hand? Using a keyboard is much more efficient."
To Marge, this comment felt like an attack on her age, with the young, savvy woman regarding her as an old fogey.
Marge asked my opinion: Doesn't it make sense to take meeting notes by hand? Aren't there advantages to doing it that way?
What do you think? When it's your turn to take meeting notes or minutes, do you take them by hand or electronically? Why? Which way is more efficient? Think about your experiences before reading the ideas below.
Consider these advantages and disadvantages of each approach:
Taking Notes by Hand–Advantages
- You can pay attention to what's happening in the meeting rather than focusing on typing.
- You can easily draw arrows, cross out words, and underline information without having to look for the right key. You can use your own method of notation or shorthand.
- It's faster to write if you are a slow typist.
- You can easily write notes on the meeting handouts.
- There's less temptation to record every word.
- There's no worry about what might go wrong with the computer.
- It's quieter and less distracting to other people in the room.
Taking Notes on a Computer–Advantages
- It's faster because you don't have to transcribe your notes later–they are already typed.
- It's faster if you are a good typist.
- The notes are legible.
- It's easier and faster to check spelling.
- It's easy to edit as you go.
- You can efficiently fill in a template that includes the agenda items.
- You can display your notes on a screen if the group wants to see them.
Taking Notes by Hand–Disadvantages
- You may not be able to read your handwriting.
- You may not be able to keep up if you write slowly.
- Your writing hand can get tired if it's a long meeting.
- It's a longer two-step process of writing, then typing.
- You may misplace your written notes and lose everything.
Taking Notes on a Computer–Disadvantages
- You may record too much information because you can.
- You may focus too much on your screen rather than on the meeting.
- Your computer battery may die if you don't have a power cord.
- You may accidentally not save the file or may delete it.
- Your typing may distract others in the room or make them self-conscious about what you are recording.
Do those pros and cons match your experiences? If you have others to add, please share them in a comment.
I reassured Marge. It IS efficient to take notes by hand–if that method works better for her. But I also encouraged her to take notes on her laptop to learn whether she likes it. She might find that it's more efficient in some situations.
When I take meeting notes, I often use both methods. I fill in a template on my laptop as the meeting progresses. And I have paper copies of the handouts so I can make notes on them as necessary. However, when I need to participate actively in a meeting, I always take notes by hand. Typing would distract me.
To learn how to take meeting notes and minutes the easy way, take my online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy.
What kind of note-taking is efficient for you?