Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

On Taking Better Notes

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been good at taking notes.

For most of my life I’ve gotten by on a really good memory rather than learning to take proper notes. It got me through all of school including graduate school and all my work life until rather recently.

In September my role changed again. Since taking over as an Engineering Manager 2 years ago I’ve actually had a dual role. I’ve been both the Engineering Manager and the Product Manager for the team building Faust.js. Since September that role has actually doubled with a second team where I am also forced to take on the role of both the Engineering Manager and the Product Manager.

For one team it wasn’t too bad. For two I simply switch contexts too much during most work days to keep everything straight. It’s time to take better notes.

I’ve tried most note solutions on Mac, Linux, etc. Taking better notes has always been a goal it’s just never been a requirement. For the last 6 years I’ve done most of my note taking with a regular notebook and fountain pen and it just can’t keep up. I simply write too slow.

For 2024 I’m trying to fix this as simply as possible. I’ve started really using Apple Notes and treat them something like a journal. In my paper notebooks I took a notes as things happened in something of a journal format. This week I’m taking that same format to my work Mac with a twist. Here’s what I’m trying.

Each day I use a single note in Apple Notes and format it with a bulleted list. When a meeting happens I simply indent the notes from that meeting and, at least so far (today was day 1) take notes where I can during the meeting but also do my best to summarize the meeting after it is concluded along with, most importantly, any action items I need to finish. Finally, at the end of the day I review the day’s notes and transfer what I need to Reminders or just handle quick tasks as I get to them.

It’s a work in progress but I’m really hoping that this will be a far more effective solution that trying too hard to rely on my memory alone which simply doesn’t work when you have 6-12 meetings a day.

Yes, this is a skill I wish I had learned as a child but, better late than never. Wish me luck.