Can You Take Notes and Listen at the Same Time?


If you're like most people, writing and listening at the same time doesn't come naturally. As much as we like to think otherwise, the brain doesn't multitask well when asked to focus on two tasks simultaneously. We've all experienced this obstacle first-hand, missing out on important information in our attempt to capture each concept on paper. However, college students, business professionals and medical practitioners world-wide still scramble to take down notes during important lectures, meetings, and appointments.

For Students, Focus is Key

The brain multitasks on a basic level every day: it tells our legs to move while we're walking down the street, avoiding fellow pedestrians, thinking about what we want to have for lunch. However, things get complicated and drastically more difficult when you try to add texting into that mix.

Taking notes in class while trying to pay attention to your professor and retain information is much the same way. You can find the topic widely-discussed on internet college forums dedicated to college-related issues.

From College Confidential:

"...as I'm trying to finish up a note, my professor's already moving on to a new topic, which I try to listen to, but then I forget why I'm writing down what I'm writing down in the first place, and I can't concentrate as much on my professor's new point. As a result, I look over my notes after the lecture and get confused on many of the things I write. "

The solution? Many students end up forgoing notes entirely but then lack study materials. Others find that reading the textbook beforehand is helpful, but then they find themselves spending so much extra time learning the material before each class that it is unnecessary to even go to class. The most popular solution is recording lectures and jotting down quick notes during class to remind yourself which points are most important to review.

Note-Taking and Listening: A Common Practice in Business

Even though most people find that taking notes and listening at the same time doesn't work very well, the practice extends beyond college courses and into businesses of all types. Meeting notes, or minutes, are a staple in any business that holds meetings.

Meeting minutes are a detailed record of everything that the attendees discussed and agreed upon during the meeting. That way, days, weeks, and months down the line, everyone from each different department can refer to the minutes to review timelines, deadlines, and responsibilities. Minutes are also important to settle disputes (i.e., "I didn't agree to that. " "Yes, you did.")

But very few people and businesses have mastered the art of taking accurate meeting minutes. One reason is that no one can write by hand as fast as the average person speaks. When you take interruptions and overlapping speech into account, you can only jot down brief summaries of the points that you deem important, which is something everyone might not agree on.

Moreover, if you're involved in the meeting, you won’t be able to take exact minutes and engage with your colleagues at the same time. That means that you should have a separate party involved in the meeting just to take the minutes, which can end up costing more money than it would cost to record the meeting and have the meeting transcribed.

Doctor, Are you Listening?

It's important that doctors get a correct patient history, list of medications, and description of current symptoms before making any diagnoses or care plans. Patients also benefit from appointment notes, or a summary of their appointment, prepared by the doctor for them to take home and review as necessary.

However, most doctors split their attention between listening to their patients and quickly typing down notes into their computers, and this can cause them to miss important information and ask questions that the patient has already answered. Not only can this be damaging to the doctor-patient relationship, but the time spent in that office is valuable to both the patent and the doctor.

Many hospitals have transcribers on staff, but most doctors and medical practitioners do not. And the ability of any in-person hospital transcriber to keep up with a very personal medical appointment full of complex medical terms is extremely limited. Because of these limitations, the cost of longer appointments due to repeated information, and the cost of hiring a full-time transcriber, many offices and hospitals are turning to remote medical transcribers for help.

Stop Splitting Your Focus

Thanks to simple recording apps on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you no longer have to split your focus during class, meetings, or appointments. It's easy to send an .mp3 or .wav file to your own transcriber and transform it quickly into usable, detailed notes.

For students, this means you can pay attention in class and stop missing out on important key points.

For businesses, this means you can take accurate minutes without compromising one of the meeting members' ability to participate or bringing in another person.

For doctors, it means you can dedicate your full attention to treating patients; and for patients, it means you'll have a detailed record of your medical appointments to review later.

With transcription services, it's easy to stop splitting your attention between note-taking and listening and starting taking in every moment. All you need is an audio or video recording and an email address to get started.

#transcription #education #medicaltranscription

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Karin Lohwasser, Ph.D.& Tammy Tasker, Ph.D. 

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University of Washington College of Education

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