I noticed these two dueling articles, both on the Harvard Business Review website:
“Even in my relatively short foray into office life, I notice that few people bring a pen and notebook to meetings. I’ve been told that over the years, the spiral notebooks and pens once prevalent during weekly meetings have been replaced with laptops and slim, touch-screen tablets.
I suppose it makes sense. In a demanding new age of technology, we are expected to send links, access online materials, and conduct virtual chats while a meeting is taking place. We want instant gratification, and sending things after the meeting when you’re back at your desk feels like too long to wait. It seems that digital note-taking is just more convenient.
But is longhand dead? Should you be embarrassed bringing a pen and paper to your meetings? To answer these questions, I did a little digging and found that the answer is no, according to a study conducted by Princeton’s Pam A. Mueller and UCLA’s Daniel M. Oppenheimer. Their research shows that when you only use a laptop to take notes, you don’t absorb new materials as well, largely because typing notes encourages verbatim, mindless transcription.”
“I knew right away, when you walked in here with a paper notebook — a paper notebook! — I realized that this meeting was not going to be a good use of our time.
You’d make better use of your time if you took your notes in digital form, ideally in an access-anywhere digital notebook like Evernote that makes retrieval a snap. If you had that, I could shoot you the link of the book I want you to read, or the contact card of the person you want to meet. And if you planned to act any of the ideas or outcomes from this meeting, you would want to pop the follow-up tasks into your task management program.
Unless you reserve 20 minutes after each meeting to transcribe your notes and enter your follow-up tasks, however, most of this meeting’s value will slip like sand through a sieve. And if you’re taking 20 minutes to transcribe each meeting, you’re losing several hours per week of productive work time.”
Now obviously, I like paper notebooks. I like digital tools too. But I found the “you’re wasting my time and yours” tone of the anti-paper article to be extremely rude and condescending. Why should my paper notebook stop anyone from sending me a digital note? I wouldn’t be reading that book or calling that person til I got back to my desktop computer anyway! And the research in the first article indicates that typing notes on a laptop may change the way people process information, in a negative way.
Ultimately, everyone will have their own preferred style of taking notes in a method that works well for them. I usually have a paper notebook AND a digital device when I go to a meeting. I can quickly jot down notes, circle things, draw arrows, whatever. (I also doodle a lot, and there have been studies that claim doodling can help you focus, rather than being a distraction.) I may later transfer something from my notes to digital form, but it certainly doesn’t take me 20 minutes. I could never take notes as efficiently on a tablet or laptop, but I like having one handy in case I do need to look something up or refer to an email. If someone else uses a laptop in a meeting, I don’t hold it against them, and I would expect them to respect my choice of note-taking method too.