Cody Bunch Some Random IT Guy - OpenStack, DevOps, Cloud, Things

Note Taking as a Professional Practice Part 2 - Should you take notes?

Other tentative titles were “Why Take Notes” but hell if I’ll be seen asking why. Why why is a terribad question however, is the topic for another time.

So: Should you take notes?

The Case Against Notes

I don’t take notes.

Well, more correctly, like dieting, I don’t do it as often or as consistently as I should. There are a number of reasons:

  • Most anything I’d take notes on, ends up in a blog post, like this one.
  • I’m lazy
  • Also disorganized
  • My handwriting is crap. No really

Crap Hand Writing Exhibit one

Now, computer notes can help with a few of these things, and there have been large amounts of money spent on products to help you do just that. Things like remember the milk for tasks to Evernote and OneNote to any number of cloud back apps from the hipsteresque notebook companies, say mosaic from Baron Fig and the like.

Thing is, unless the practice is deliberate and consistent, it won’t become a habit. If it isn’t a habit, you can’t much gain the benefits. Further, as you dig in, there is some research that hints it’s may or may not be the note taking at all that does it. Rather, remembering what was happening while you were learning the bit of information, the music, how warm it was, the smell, your brain may be able to use that association to help recall. If that’s the case, well, should I take notes?

Some anecdotal links against notes:

The Case for Notes

The flip side of not taking notes, therefore, is taking notes. Note taking, and it’s various iterations, techniques, practices, and the like, have been explored extensively. That is, regardless of medium, there is some benefit to recall when taking notes. Be it for learning a new topic, making a task list, or logging some manner of data or design.

One learned how to take notes in school, practiced it, and depending on the teacher(s), you were graded on it too. That is, graded on your English class notes, and then again on the other format the Science teacher required. Then, of course there were engineering and higher math classes, etc etc.

The benefits of note taking have been studied, at length. I recommend the one on Juror note taking if you have a mild to sever case of insomnia.

Early in my IT career, I moved between a few styles of note taking. The first on something akin to book 1 in the earlier picture. That is, it was lined, had a sewn binding, and some signature counter signature blocks. I wasn’t doing much with said signature blocks, apparently they were a hold over from accounting. These books held task lists, customer details and other tidbits to get back to.

From there I moved into some flavor of Google Desktop searchable text files. These were great, as all I had to recall was a tiny bit, and my notes file, and with luck, solution would come up.

In turn, that sort of gave birth to’s early days. Field notes from the guy fixing ESX (it was still ESX then), when it blew up.

My anecdotal benefits abounded. When I was in the habit of note taking, recall was a bit easier.

Now some links FOR:


Well, here we are at the end of another long post. As my clock ticks past midnight, I’ve only discovered how much I don’t know about note taking. Therefore, I’ll leave you with what you’re likely expecting, do what works best for you. If like me, you find job or learning specific recall fading as you get older, or overburdened with other stimuli, give note taking a shot.