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I’ve always seriously loved taking notes. It’s a weird affinity, but I believe it has helped me throughout my life and career.

While most of us associate note-taking with school, it’s an important element of business since it helps you record, organize and digest information. Taking careful, strategic notes during meetings and conferences can help give you a leg up–college-ruled notebook optional.

Here are a few great steps to become a better note-taker:

1. Opt for horizontal note-taking. Try to use a notebook or flat tablet for note-taking, not your laptop. Hiding behind a screen gives off an impression of separation from the group. A flat surface eliminates this. There are many strong opinions for and against digital note-taking, but I think you should use whatever works best for you.

2. Turn off the internet. If you decide to go digital, make sure you turn the wi-fi off. Note-taking should help you listen and engage more fully—receiving email alerts distracts from this completely.

3. Find a system and stick to it. There are countless systems and apps for taking notes. You may prefer the structure of the two-column “Cornell Notes” method or the freedom of drawing a “Mind Map.” No system is right or wrong, but research shows that having a note-taking method means you’ll take better notes. Take the time to test out different systems and find your favorite.

4. Highlight and underline. To better help you absorb information, data and concepts, highlight and underline what you find important or interesting. When you revise them afterward, your eye will be immediately drawn to these points.

5. Read & organize notes afterward. Notes are ultimately useless when you tuck them away after the meeting or conference. Make sure you take a short time—even just five minutes—to write a small summary or takeaway points. If you prefer to write notes by hand, transfer them to a digital document for the future.

How about you? How do you take notes? What do you find to be most successful?

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