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A Habit of Note Taking ~ Marie Minniear

Today's post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with avid note-takers in our congregation. They will share why they started taking notes during the message, what the benefits are, and provide some of their tips on how they take notes and what they do with them.

Why are we sharing interviews on note taking? We want to encourage a more active listening and engaging during the message portion of our worship service. That may look like note taking, or maybe it’s an encouragement to sit with a Bible in your lap and follow along through the message. Whatever the method, we want to encourage each of us to participate and engage more actively. We have designed message notes handouts and folders as a tool to help us.

Today's interview comes from Marie Minniear.

Why do you take notes during the message? Why did you start and what are the benefits?

I’ve always been an avid note-taker. I took miles of notes in college and still take notes at meetings, conferences, classes, and in church. I do not regularly go back through my notes although I would like to make that more of a habitual practice. But the practice of taking notes helps me process and remember things, and there is research to support the idea that taking notes the old-fashioned way, using pencil and paper, leads to better recall than typing notes using a device. We had outlines for many years at Grace, and I would fill up the back and front and write in the margins too. At some point – maybe when we discontinued the outlines – I started buying spiral notebooks for my notes.

How do you pay attention to the message and take notes at the same time? Any special tips?

Everyone’s notes will look different and there is no one right way to take notes. Trying to write down everything isn’t possible, and learning to listen and write is a skill that takes practice. I do occasionally miss something – when that happens, I leave myself a little side note (pardon the pun) to go back to the video of the service and get it.

Successful note taking means finding the right balance of writing down enough to help you remember the important things but not so much detail that you miss other important things. It helps to use abbreviations and/or symbols and diagrams to save time, or to figure out a way to order and arrange your words that helps clarify the meaning. For example, if I want to highlight contrasts, I might put my notes into two columns so that my contrasted items are next to each other. I will underline, circle, or box words that are significant or to show that they are related – something to get my attention later. Some people use colored pencils and highlighters during note taking, but I just use a pencil so I can erase easily. (I use colored pencils when I am studying and annotating, but not for taking notes during a message or class.) Another strategy I use is writing key words that will remind me about the bigger ideas with just enough detail after to clarify the meaning. A list of words with no explanation at all isn’t always enough for good recall later. They do not have to be the same words used in the message; I write down what is “jumping out at me”.

For really good quotes that I’d like to have in their entirety, I’ll write one sentence or part of a sentence that seems unique to the quote and the author so I can go find it later, or I'll write down the scripture reference, but I don’t try to write the whole thing. Sometimes I leave space in my notebook so I can add the quote or scripture in its entirety later.

Do you do anything with your notes after Sunday? If so, how has this benefited you?

I also use my notes to leave myself little reminders about other things that come to mind during the message – other scriptures, related ideas for study or devotions, things I want to look up or pray about, a song we’ve sung that I particularly like – anything that I don’t want to forget. I hate it when I have what seems like a great idea or a bit of insight and then I cannot remember it later! When I am studying or preparing a lesson, I do sometimes go back through my notebooks in search of that bit I wrote down – I cannot always remember the details, but I do remember that I have something good in the notes.

Thank you for sharing with us, Marie!

Next week we will hear from another avid note taker in our congregation.

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