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Monday, November 2, 2009

The Importance of Taking Notes

For some reason, college students (at least the ones in my class) don’t seem to be taking notes anymore.  I could go on for pages about how self-defeating not taking notes in class is, but I’m more concerned with the reasons for WHY students don’t feel the need to take notes.

Some people, I believe, think they will remember what is being said in class without having to write it down.  I should probably include a discussion one of these days in class about what memory is and how memories are made.  Not many people fully understand that a memory needs to be reinforced in order for it to be stored long-term.

Perhaps students don’t think this skill is directly applicable to “real life” work.  I hate to burst their bubbles, but…

Taking notes is as important out of the classroom as it is in it.


Employers do not want to have to repeat themselves every time you need to do a complex task just because you’re too lazy to write the instructions down.  Taking note of important procedures and routine tasks is a mark of an efficient, hard-working employee.  When I worked as a secretary for a (very) small business, I had to use Quicken to create invoices, enter billing information, and update the inventory – all things I had never done before.  I wrote down step by step instructions for how to do each task and pasted them all on the wall by my desk so that I wouldn’t have to bother my boss for help each time I needed to enter something into the computer.  Not only was he impressed, he said that no previous secretary had ever done that before. 

The very thing that made me look hard-working actually made my job SO much easier.  I completed tasks much faster than when I first started out and had to try to recall the different procedural steps by memory.  Even if you have no desire to appear assiduous, taking notes makes your life easier – something I’m sure you can appreciate.

What? Your job doesn’t require any complex procedures, you say? Take notes at meetings, then.  Not because you’ll be quizzed on the materials, but because you’ll appear attentive and interested.  Getting ahead in the “real world” very often depends on who you know and who you make an impression on.  Being able to discuss meeting points with a supervisor while you’re hanging out by the water cooler is an opportunity to shine that you don’t want to miss. 

Ultimately, I’d like you to take notes not for appearance’s sake, but because you’re honestly interested by points other people make.  If you’ve ever been to a convention (scholarly or not), you’ll have seen people taking careful notes during panel discussions.  Again, there is no test at the end of the convention that all attendees must pass.  They’re taking notes because they have a real interest in the topic of discussion and want to be able to remember things that were said and/or look up resources mentioned on their own. 

Photo credit: HawkExpress


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