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Note Taking Techniques: Two-Column Method

Two ColumnNote Taking Techniques to Practice

In a recent post, The Art of Note Taking, I mentioned several reasons for taking notes at a meeting or a conference. First, it keeps you focused and alert. Second, it shows that the speaker – perhaps your boss, colleague or instructor – is saying something important. Third, it provides a record of important ideas to review or things to do afterwards. Finally, if you take notes electronically, it allows you to share them.

Remember that notes are a synthesis of what is important put in your own words that you understand.  Don’t take notes just for the sake of taking notes.

Many different note taking techniques

There are many different note taking techniques to choose from depending on the situation and your purpose. Here is a simple, effective note taking technique that I use and you may want to practice.

Two-column method

If you’re using paper, you divide the page into 3 separate blocks.

  • In the larger right column,  you write Notes listing key ideas or facts.
  • In the smaller left column, you write Keywords and Questions.
  • In a small  block at the bottom,  you write a Summary of what was said. This gives you excellent practice in writing the main ideas in a few words.

Example: I recently gave a talk about the G.A.I.N.S. networking tool, developed by Dr. Ivan Misner, that I used when I was president of  a chapter of Business Network International in Montréal.

Keywords / Questions                 Notes
Goals (what is the time frame?)       things to accomplish, short-term, mid-term, long-term, should be S.M.A.R.T.
Accomplishments                                what I’m proud of, personal & professional
Interests                                                 what I love doing in my spare time
Network                                                  important business contacts, could be family, friends
Skills                                                        what I’m very good at, could be mental or physical

an excellent tool for breaking the ice when meeting someone for the first time;  covers five important areas of our personal and professional life

In another blog post, Note Taking Tips,  I’ll talk about two other note taking techniques: the Outline Method and the Flow-Based Approach.




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