During your daily work as a consultant, you will have to take quite a lot of notes. Whether you are attending meetings or structuring your thoughts for a client call, taking notes efficiently and effectively is a major success factor as a consultant. In this posts, you will find some best practices on how you can optimize your notes.
The right medium
First, you should think about the best medium to take your notes. Many consultants still prefer the good old paper notebook. It definitely has some advantages in terms of flexibly designing your individual note pages and can look very professional especially in conservative business environments. Make sure to buy a premium notebook which is covered in black leather. Many firms will also provide you with branded notebooks so make sure to ask for that.
An alternative gaining increasing popularity is taking notes digitally within an app. For example, you can take notes in Microsoft’s OneNote or other apps designed for this purpose. Many consultants also have an iPad and like to take notes on it with the Apple pencil. In my opinion, the biggest advantage of digital notebooks is that you don’t have to carry around a physical notebook and can access your notes from everywhere. Also, it’s much easier to search in your notes.
Pro Tip: When preparing your thoughts for a meeting or call, I like to create a new event in my Outlook calendar in parallel to the invitation of the meeting and write down my notes in there. That way, you will always find your notes right away when looking at the respective day in your calendar.
That leaves us with the questions of how you should write notes. Here are a few best practices:
- Try to summarize as much as possible and leave out fillers. Summarizing also means phrasing something in your own words – that will help you to continuously question what is being said.
- Define a set of symbols and use them to better visualize your notes. For example, I like to use stars or exclamation marks to mark important bullets. Also, I like to use small squares to visualize an open todo.
- Always write down the occasion or topic and the date of every section in your notes. Notes are for summarizing the major takeaways. You want to be able to find them quickly if you need to even months later.