Whether you take notes on scraps of paper, in your planner, or in a notebook, they can pile up quickly. Notes may result from attending a meeting, taking a class, having a phone conversation or engaging in a face-to-face conversation. No matter what the source of the notes, it’s important to have a system to process them after you’ve taken them; otherwise they’ll simply become random bits of information looking for a home.

Designate a single place for note-taking. Wouldn’t it be great to have one place where you know you’ll find the information you’ve jotted down? It sure would beat searching through random piles and scraps of paper. Choose a single notebook or notepad, your planner, or even an electronic tool as your go-to note-taking destination. Don’t keep multiple pads of paper, sticky notes, envelopes or paper napkins on your desk if you’re tempted to write on whatever’s within reach. I’ve spent many hours helping my clients sort through their jumbled piles of scrap paper trying to pull out what’s important I like to use a yellow notepad for taking notes – the yellow stands out in case the pages get mixed in (ahem) with other papers on my desk.

Have a purpose in mind for taking the notes. Are you taking notes to record a conversation for future reference, capture some new information you’ve learned, document the outcome of a meeting, or just to keep your hands busy? When you know why you’re taking the notes, you can be more discerning about what you write down.

Review your notes. Read through them to make sure you can read them (this is especially important if your handwriting isn’t so great, or if you tend to use abbreviations you can’t always decipher). Keeping the purpose for taking the notes in mind, determine if what you’ve written meets your needs or if you need to fill in some missing information.

Identify the next action you need to take with the notes. Once you’ve finished the conversation, class, conference, meeting, etc., ask yourself what you need to do next with that information. Do you need to take action, or can you just file them away for future reference. Better yet, can you toss the notes because you won’t need them again, or because the information is available from another source? I keep notes about projects, topics, clients, etc. in appropriately labeled file folders with other information on that topic. If an action is needed, I draw a square next to that line item in my notes so I can quickly identify any open action items. I then write the required action on my master to-do list or in my planner so nothing slips through the cracks.

I’d love to hear about your note-taking system.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.