Note-taking is important, whether you’re a student retaining the high points from a lecture or an entrepreneur familiarizing yourself with a new client. And thankfully, because we live in a technologically advanced, interconnected age, there are plenty of apps that can help you take, store, share, and access notes whenever you’d like.
Still, there are some inherent advantages to taking notes by hand as well—so your best bet may be hybridizing the digital and physical note-taking processes.
Best Note-Taking Apps
Consider some of these popular note-taking apps:
- Evernote has been the gold standard for nearly a decade, and it’s usually the first app people try out. You can use it for free (with up to 60 MB of notes, and limited features), and share your notes across devices, including your smartphone, tablet, and laptop. If you’re willing to pay a little more, you’ll get more advanced features like handwriting recognition.
- With all of Microsoft’s other products, it’s easy to overlook the practicality of OneNote. This app has a built-in audio recorder and allows you to take screenshots of slideshow presentations or whiteboards, to conveniently store information. Plus, you can speak, type, hand-write, or draw almost anything you want for future storage.
- Google Keep. Of course, Google is in the game too, with Google Keep. It allows you to create audio or written notes in a convenient, card-like format. You can even convert your notes into to-do lists, so you can keep track of your action items.
- Simplenote’s unique value proposition is what you think: it’s a simpler way to take notes. Available for most devices and operating systems, Simplenote tries to keep things clean and organized. You can tag and label all your notes, to make them easily searchable, and collaborate with other users.
- We’ll get into the idea of hybridizing handwritten and digital notes in the final section, but Squid beats us to the punch. It’s an app that allows you to take old-fashioned, handwritten notes using a stylus (or finger). Then, it keeps all your notes using a card-like interface, so you can review, search for, and edit them in the future.
The Advantages of Taking Notes by Hand
Those all have fancy features and a convenient platform, but don’t forget some of the most important advantages of taking notes by hand:
- Improved recall. Taking notes by hand is shown to give you improved recall. In other words, you’re more likely to remember a piece of information that you wrote down by hand than you are a piece of information that you typed into a computer. Scientists aren’t sure how this effect works or why it exists, but it may have something to do with the physical process of creating the words on the page.
- Promotional opportunities. If you’re in business, taking notes by hand is also a promotional opportunity. You could, for example, print your own notepads to bring to the meeting and offer an extra to your prospective client. It’s an extra touch that could help your brand stay top-of-mind or differentiate you from your competitors.
- As long as you can keep track of them, handwritten notes may also be easier to access. You can browse through your page more intuitively than you can on a screen, and add more flair, like circles, arrows, and other symbols to guide your eyes to the most important bits.
The Hybrid Approach
Unless you plan on taking notes with one hand on a keyboard and one hand with a pen, hybridizing the digital and physical approaches may seem difficult. However, there’s a sound approach here.
Take notes initially by hand. That way, you’ll get the benefits of improved recall and accessibility. Then, you can review your hand-written notes later, after you’ve had time to decompress. This is your opportunity to reorganize and reassess your notes while your memory is still fresh; you can enter your most important insights into one of the apps we listed above, then have both a physical and digital reminder of your meeting, lecture, or other important event.