Take Note

by | Apr 12, 2013 | General, Writing | 10 comments

I admit that I am a compulsive note taker. I’m sure it springs from my 20+ years as a journalist. When you get paid to ask people questions, it’s certain that they expect you to write down what they say. So, I do.

The note taking isn’t reserved, however, for the forum of interviewer-interviewee. Nah. It’s way past that.

In organizational meetings, I take copious notes. Even when not asked. So, invariably, I am the one who sends out the minutes. I’ve got them anyway. Why not?

When the phone rings, I automatically open up my notebook to a crisp new page. As I say hello, I’m already writing the date at the top left corner of the page and the name of the person calling. Yeah, it’s that bad.

In some ways, it’s good, too. I’ve created a kind of archive for myself. Open up any random notebook and I can tell what I was working on, who I was chatting with, on any given day. In the kind of work I do, having a record of information is useful. Juggling a lot of projects at once, it’s easy to forget who said what to whom and when, or what I’m supposed to do for one client and not another. If I’m unsure, I look it up in my notebook for the date of the last meeting. It’s sort of like having a personal assistant. Only the personal assistant is me, taking notes, three weeks or three months earlier.

And in some ways, yes, it’s bad. One client of mine was particularly litigious and his foes knew about my note taking addiction. It’s not a lot of fun having your notebooks subpoenaed when you’re as attached to them as I am, believe you me. No fun at all.

When I moved from Florida to Washington, I was faced with my overwhelming archive. Thirty or so notebooks filled with thoughts recorded over a period of the previous eight years stared me down as I filled cardboard boxes with dishes and linens and trinkets. The day I moved those notebooks from their suddenly bare shelf to the dumpster was both distressing and liberating. (Oh, and please don’t berate me for not recycling. I couldn’t stand the thought that those pages would be turned into someone else’s notebooks. No, they had to be dead and gone for good.)

My best friend, Janiene, knows about my notes, too. She’s known me since we were both 17-years-old, and she loves me despite my odd quirks and scribbling obsession. Three years ago, when I came up with the What’s Your Avocado? concept, Janiene had a notebook custom-made for me. On the front is my name and the words What’s Your Avocado. The notebook was the first printed document to have those words on it. It is in this notebook that I’ve recorded all of my thoughts on the concept that eventually grew into to my company, countless workshops, and the blog you’re reading now. Without this notebook, I wonder how far the concept would have emerged? With all of my thoughts, arguments with myself, challenges, doubts, dreams and triumphs recorded in this one spot, I have a chronicle of my progress and a guide for the steps to come. What a perfect gift. What a lucky and grateful friend I am, indeed.

All of this writing about note taking gets me to wondering if I’m the only one out there who has this notes fixation? I wonder what strategies you use to record your important notes, tasks, action items or thoughts? I’d love for you to share. And believe me, I’ll take note.



  1. Steve Krizman

    Stacie, as a former newspaper reporter, I also take copious notes in corporate meetings. When I was a reporter, I had a tough time reading my handwriting. I wish we had iPads back then.
    I take notes with Notability, which has the option of also making an audio recording. You can tap the spot in the note to hear a replay of that portion of the meeting/interview. I don’t use it I the corporate setting, but it would have been awesome in my reporting days.
    I file my notes in Evernote. That way, I can retrieve them from any internet-connected device by simply doing a word search.

    • Stacie Zinn Roberts

      Hi Steve,
      I’ve recently heard, too, about the LiveScribe digital pen that sounds similar to the Notability. You write on digital paper and it records sound at the same time. When you tap on the paper, it plays back the audio from that part of the text. I’m seriously thinking about investing in that!

  2. Rebecca Murray

    I am a non-note taker, so always appreciate people like you. Takes the pressure off people like me! P.S. Who will inherit all those notebooks 40 years from now?

    • Stacie Zinn Roberts

      I promise to purge the notebooks periodically. I will not leave them to future generations!

  3. Andrea Carroll

    I am a non-notetaker, but I am married to an compulsive note-taker. On occasion, this is a good thing because I can always refer back to his notes if necessary. This is also a bad thing, because like you, he never wants to discard any of his multitude of notes. You would have to come into our office to see the piles that he has accumulated over the years we have been together.

    • Stacie Zinn Roberts

      Please be kind to your husband, the note taker. This one weakness, I’m sure, is outweighed by countless other good qualities! 🙂

  4. Carol Johnson

    Thanks for the inspiration to ditch old notebooks! In addition to the notebooks I have from 12 years of night school, I also have notebooks from prior jobs (apparently I’m compulsive at saving my notes too). Perhaps a spring cleaning project will be to purge some of them…
    I have moved to using Microsoft’s OneNote and I have to say I love it! The best part about it is being able to search for something, which is not all that easy when dealing with regular notebooks.

    • Stacie Zinn Roberts

      I’m thrilled to hear you’ll part with some of the old notebooks. Good for you!
      I need to check out OneNote. You’re the second person who has mentioned it.
      Has Spring arrived yet in your part of the country? Please share your progress as the cleaning begins.

  5. Amira

    Hi, Stacie! I had never know that I was a compulisive note taker until the other day. I was in my communications class and my teacher handed us a paper about our “Bad Habits.” I went through the list and saw “compulisive note taker.” So I did what anybody would have done and Googled it. I stumble onto your very interesting blog and noted that I also take many notes. Even when I’m not asked to or if I’m on the phone. It’s been going on for as long as I can remember!
    I usual do it the old school way and write them in notebooks with arrows pointing at important dates & cicrle address. It’s nice to know that other do the same thing!

    • Stacie Zinn Roberts

      Hello Amira! How delightful to hear that you share my same affliction! Thanks so much for your comments. Keep writing!!!