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I have just joined with a company. As I am a fresh passout from graduate college, I had a habit of writing every important point that I hear.

As I am in IT industry, every single point that we hear about technology is useful for long run to us. We usually have presentation and some training sessions also, where our seniors provide us with some presentation over what we are going to work upon. During that session, I think I am the only one who keeps on writing the whole matter, that is being presented.

The fellow colleagues advised me, not to write everything as it shows up a bad habit.

I dont think it as much embarrassing, as I had a habit of remembering details by writing briefly about them.

I would appreciate to have suggestions on whether or not to write everything that I hear at office.

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Fine answers have already been given here, but perhaps it would also be helpful to read some Q&A that have come up on other SE sites. Although these are different situations (specific to meetings), they're similar in that people have questioned whether they should or should not, and how, to take notes throughout their workday: "How to Take Minutes of Meeting Effectively" and "Not okay to take notes at meetings?" –  jcmeloni Oct 20 '12 at 14:35
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Well...if the person talking has to wait for you to write down you notes then that would become really annoying. But I guess less annoying that assigning work to a junior developer and they do something completely different than asked because they didn't write it down. Is your note taking affecting the flow of the conversation, if so then learn to take notes without affecting the flow. –  Dunk Oct 22 '12 at 15:41
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When I'm in a meeting I want us to make eye contact, because then I am sure you understand what I'm talking about. If you don't remember things, you can ask me to send you follow-up documentation. I want meetings to be an engaging back-and-forth, rather than at school were lectures are one-way transfers of information. If all I see when I look at you is you robotically jotting down everything then I might as well just save time and send you links to documentation. –  MrFox Oct 23 '12 at 17:21

7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

If you write down every single point, it can create the impression that you do not understand the subject under discussion enough to identify the key points. It can also simply be irritating or perturbing, as colleagues wonder what you are writing.

If your work is of good quality, it shouldn't matter. Even so, it can take a long time to correct any first impressions made on your colleagues.

Can you still remember by just writing down single keywords and then reading through them afterwards and reflecting on you just heard? If so, it might be something to try.

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+1, its really a valuable suggestion, though i just write the key points and write the details on it later by having some research on it. –  Sahil Mahajan Mj Oct 20 '12 at 12:03
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An interesting idea, but as a fresh graduate he probably doesn't understand the subject under discussion. However if he keeps writing things down he probably will pretty soon. Maybe more so than the people who object. –  DJClayworth Oct 20 '12 at 15:47
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@DJClayworth Not only is it an interesting idea, if you read the comment above yours, it seems to be what he actually does. –  itsbruce Oct 20 '12 at 19:06

If writing down things is something that helps you remember important details, you should keep doing so. Having a written record is valuable later on if you do forget things and need to review.

I don't know why your colleagues are saying this is unprofessional, one possibility being that it makes them look bad (as they are not writing things down and it may seem, in comparison to yourself, that they are not paying attention), so they don't want you to continue.

In short - keep doing what you are doing. If it helps you and hurts no one, I don't see the harm in it.

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As a senior person, I am far more worried about the new graduates who don't take notes. –  HLGEM Oct 22 '12 at 15:22

I also have the habit of writing many things down, at least much more than my fellow colleagues. In particular when I started at the job I am right now, I wrote a lot of information down. And guess what, from time to time I needed to look back at it. As a technical person involved in many systems this was in fact the only way to get around for me.

Now I am already there since some time, I need to write down less. For two simple reasons:

  • the most important stuff is already written down; the most frequently used stuff usually organized in (shared) Corporate Google Docs or Wiki (or I just have it in may head)
  • it is now more easy for me to see what I probably need in the future and what not

However, one reason why it is good to limit the stuff you write down: eventhough already the writing helps memorizing, you lose some of your attention to writing. Sometimes you can be more productive by concentrating on listening and writing only the most important points when you have more time.

And yes, from time to time people will address your writing habit. Having frequently external Sales persons at our office, one of them once told me he did the same when he was a programmer. ;)

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Do you write down everything that is important or just everything? Many graduate programs expose you to a lot of information which you're required to synthesis into something meaningful. And like a job, no one is going to spoon feed you what is on the test like undergraduate work. My guess is you know what is important, but may be a little anxious with your new job and are writing things down just in case.

Make sure you let others know you are paying attention. If you're constantly making people slow down so you can keep up, you may be writing too much information.

Review you notes and work on condensing them. If you have to trim it down too much, it could be another indicator of writing too much.

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Many people write to learn, don't be ashamed of that. If you find it helpful, keep it up, but realize that:

  • It's worth asking about documentation. Trying to write down, for example, every step in a technical process may be less useful than listening to the talk about the process, when you know the actual steps are written down in a how-to document. In that case, knowing where to find the documentation is many times more useful than having a written record.

  • Certainly you'll learn as you go and after a while you won't need all the detailed notes since you'll know the basic information. If many of your coworkers are deeply familiar with the system they work in, they may have forgotten what it's like to be new.

  • Be aware that some discussions are not set in stone. A conversation about how to design or approach a given problem may mean that nothing is all that certain - not every opportunity is a training session, and it may be less useful to take notes and more useful to simply listen, ask questions and offer thoughts when the final out come is uncertain.

One particular note is that sometimes eye contact is more important than perfect recall. Particularly in cases (in a Western office... anyway) where a boss or customer is giving instructions to a subordinate, it can be as important to show that you are actively engaged in listening by looking at the speaker. To slow down the conversation and clear up any confusion, reframe their statements, ask for clarification and take notes only when you know you have an action to take or a particularly crucial shared understanding to jot down. At times where you are trying to please a superior, very intense note taking can be perceived as a listener who is not actively engaged in the conversation. A good rule of thumb on this is to watch the body language of any speaker with more power than you have - if they seem jumpy or tense, they may feel they are not being listened to, and you may want to give more eye contact at the risk of less note-taking.

Probably the biggest transition from school to work is to realize that in many situations, you are expected to question, consider, and provide comment to the technical information being discussed. When you are very new, it is likely that your questions will outweigh your comments, but people at your work are likely to expect that to change over time. The mindset of wrote learning and relay that works well in many school settings may work poorly in an office that expects a lot of conversation and commentary... but don't worry too much over it, as you learn, you'll be able to provide mroe thoughts and less questions!

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I don't know if it's a bad habit, but you may want to write down stuff that pertains to you, or what you could do is what I do, which is bring in an audio recording device (iTouch in my case) and record the conversation, then go back and take notes to what you deem is important at your own convince later that day, or week if need be.

What I do though is if someone has schematics or concepts that are written down on the whiteboard, I record those so that the audio makes more sense later on.

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No, it is a GREAT habit that I wish I did more of. Of course, within the limits of relevance. And a great tool for organizing your notes is Evernote, unless your company, like mine, blocks access to it (I understand why they block FB and such but Evernote is a slam dunk organizational enhancement for everyone).

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