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Do You Take Notes?

Taking Notes

When I'm in meetings of various sorts, I often take notes. I guess that's how I ended up being the secretary of the deacons so many years at church. It's probably a hold-over from my student days, but jotting down notes also helps me pay better attention.

This past Sunday morning we saw a news clip about people who doodle as they take notes. If you'd like to see the clip, here's a link to it. I've never been a doodler. I guess my artistic expression shows up in other forms.

I don't usually get to see the notes that my students take in class, but if the following is an accurate reflection, the notes may be full of misunderstandings, missstatements, and wrong conclusions. It could also explain why a student sometimes says, "Well, in my notes I have that you said...." I want to say, "Well, if it's in your notes, I must have said that," with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. But I don't, being the nice man that I am. 🙂


When the professor says:

"Probably the greatest quality of the poetry of John Milton, who was born in 1608, is the combination of beauty and power. Few have excelled him in the use of the English language, or for that matter, in lucidity of verse form, 'Paradise Lost' being said to be the greatest single poem ever written."

Student writes: John Milton — born 1608

When the professor says:

"When Lafayette first came to this country, he discovered that Americans needed his help if their cause was to survive, and this he promptly supplied them."

Student writes: Lafayette discovered America

When the professor says:

"Current historians have come to doubt the complete advantageousness of some of Roosevelt's policies"

Student writes: Most of the problems that the US now faces are tracable to the bungling and greed of President Roosevelt.

When the professor says:

"...it is possible that we do not understand the Russian viewpoint..."

Student writes: I think the prof is a Communist


I'll be interested to see how many of my readers are either note-takers, doodlers, or both. Why do you do it, and is it effective for your purposes? Do you actually refer to your notes later? If you doodle, what types of things to you usually draw? Do any of you take your notes on an electronic device? If so, do you still doodle on it?


"Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong." — Tim Keller


Lay stepping-stones, not stumbling blocks.

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10 Comments on “Do You Take Notes?”

  1. #1 Rhonda
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I give oral quizzes in some of my classes. When I do so, I read each question twice, and the students write the answer on their own paper, which they submit to me. The whole process takes no more than 3-5 minutes. It always amazes me that in that brief time, some students create the most amazing doodles! I think some people can’t stand to be still–for even the briefest time. They just have to keep moving, so the artistic among them keep their hands going with the doodles. I’m afraid that too often the doodles are more elaborate than the notes the artists should be taking! Like you, I don’t doodle at all. But I do take notes during sermons, mostly to help me concentrate on the message.

    Rob adds:
    Thanks for the anecdotes, Rhonda! Neat perspectives!

  2. #2 Sarah
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I don’t doodle either, but I take extensive notes in church. One of my coworkers at the pharmacy doodles, and we often find little flowers or animals drawn in the corners of prescriptions she took over the phone.

    Interestingly, I just discovered this art resource called “Dan’s Doodles,” artwork by a man who habitually doodles intricate designs. His wife collected his work into small books, and her commentary is interesting. http://phyllis-sather.com/?page_id=2477

    Rob adds:
    I checked out the page, Sarah, and it looks very interesting.

  3. #3 Rachel Hrinko
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I doodle notes. =) Will have to show you at church sometime. I left my notebook out at my senior show and so many people liked it, that I made little tiny books with doodled songs and gave those to people to have visual representations of words that spoke to their hearts so clearly.

    Rob adds:
    I’d love to see your doodles, Rachel. With all your artistic talent, they’ve *got* to be great!

  4. #4 Rachel Hrinko
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Here is an example—not my best one but one that I actually blogged about. =) I take notes in similar fashion.

    Rob adds:
    I just *knew* your work would be awesome!

  5. #5 Bill
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 12:17 pm


    I still have course notes in a file cabinet from undergraduate work (1976-80) and my grad courses(2000-2003). I intend to clean those file drawers out…but it is a “some day” project.

    Rob adds:
    I did that a while back, Bill, when I really needed more space for stuff I’ll need to throw out in a few years, wondering why I had ever held on to course notes from the late 60’s and the 70’s.

  6. #6 menolly42
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I take notes during most any sort of meeting (or class) I’m in, but rarely doodle. The act of writing helps me focus and remember, so I only refer back to the notes about half the time. I’m also a list maker, but don’t usually go back and check things off the lists. The writing seems to help me organize my thoughts.

    Each time I move, I get rid of a few more undergrad/grad notebooks.

    Rob adds:
    I also rarely refer to my notes. My note-taking, though, is how I come up with so many quotations from Drew Conley.

  7. #7 karen
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    A doodler and a note taker… I find it helpful to be able to go back to a particular sermon, pick up the thought thread, and then do more studying. Doodling definitely helps my memory as I am a visual learner. Don’t laugh! I encourage my students to take notes and to doodle.

    Rob adds:
    Karen, do some students express frustration concerning their lack of artistic skills for doodling?

  8. #8 Cindy
    on Jan 22nd, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I’ve been a note taker since way back. I don’t have to look at the notes again because, as a visual learner, just seeing it on the page helps me to remember it. However, in college I referred to my notes often because I studied engineering and my notes often had formulas that I needed. I still take notes in meetings and in church.

    An interesting thing I learned while teaching Math to middle schoolers years ago. In my remedial class of kids I had several who seemed to learn best while their bodies were moving. They didn’t have to be taking notes, just moving. During tests, one boy continually tapped his pencil and did better on the test as he tapped. That, however, was a terrible distraction for others as you can probably guess. I finally worked it out by allowing him to tap the pencil on his leg. That being said, I suspect that doodling may be more than artistic expression for some learners. Perhaps it helps them focus their mind on what is being presented.

    Rob adds:
    I agree, Cindy, about the movement being helpful to some. I also agree about some doodling because of their artistic bent.

  9. #9 Jonathan
    on Jan 23rd, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I still take notes. Probably similar to the students in your blog. I used to get complaints that my desk at work was an archaeology dig of my notes. Now I use my smartphone. (Evernote is good). Problem is, it looks like I’m texting and not paying attention, and it’s bad posture. Biggest benefit is that I buy my wife better gifts now. Any time she wows over something, I can take a pic, write it down and retrieve it from the cloud when I need a gift idea.

    I still think that prof was a communist.

    Rob adds:
    I have just started to use Evernote in ways you described. I am making more and more e-notes, but at church I still jot my notes in a paper notebook, even though my Bible is electronic.

  10. #10 Vikki
    on Jan 23rd, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    My doodles amount to maybe a few lines at the most. Then again, I’m not an artist either.

    Rob adds:
    Artist or not, your doodling is a few lines longer than mine.