In the olden days before the pandemic, there were conferences and meetings. People would gather together to discuss matters in person, looking at each other, not through the screen, but face-to-face.
Meetings, naturally, are most productive when you take notes. Without action items and concrete takeaways, there are just chit-chats between friends. So people whip out their laptops and tablets to „jot down something.”
Have you ever participated in a meeting where everybody is walled off behind a screen? I did, and it was entirely unproductive. I’m sure it had great notes, though.
Last year, during our company offsite in Orlando, I had a series of meetings regarding a feature I was responsible for. There were many stakeholders, and I wanted to use the time to discuss strategy. I met with the Head of Product, President of our product line, and the CEO of the company. And I noticed something quite interesting:
The more senior the person, the more minimalist their note-taking approach.
All the people I met used Pen&Paper. But it really clicked when we invited the amazing Stephen Wolfram on stage. He would carry a stack of post-it notes, just like our CEO!
I wanted to have something that the average theoretical physicist can useStephen Wolfram on why he created Mathematica. He could have been talking about post-its, too.
What is it about paper notes and post-its in particular?
Note-taking is something I take seriously. I type about 500 new notes per month and I am very fond of the search function of my Evernote account. But I have to admit – the paper is superior for note-taking.
- Analog (pen & paper) note-taking lets you stay present. There is no wall of screens between you and the other person,
- Your posture is different when you take notes on paper, making it easier for you to use body language. (With hands on the keyboard, your back is rounded, just like when your ancestors were hiding from danger. This is not the body language of successful people),
- It’s clear and even encouraging that you are noting things down. The other person does not have to worry, that you are playing Animal Crossing,
- Post-it notes are easy to carry and convenient to pull out when needed. You can keep them in your pocket,
- You can use them while standing, which is useful during conferences,
- One idea, one note is a neat, self-contained information nugget. Post-it note is big enough to note the important stuff but too small to take your bloat. Just like a tweet.
- You can easily re-arrange, combine, and process them after the meeting. It’s like the are made for this.
Now, that you are in on the secret, you can carry a stack of post-it notes to your high-stakes meeting. Let them know you are a professional too.