The Noble Art of Note Taking


Let me paint a familiar picture, you are a judge at event x and you have been assigned a buddy.  Your buddy has asked you for a review.  So you probe, observe and question putting together a profile.  You identify strengths and areas for improvement (with possible solutions) and at the end of the day you give them an oral debrief based on what you have seen.

So, a question to you the reader, when do you catch up with your written reviews?

Are you the judge that uses the trip home to transfer the oral debriefs to the written medium?

Or are you the judge that writes up their reviews as soon as they get home?

Or are you the judge that needs to set aside time to catch up on their written reviews because your non-judge life is super hectic (high power job/family/studies)

Whenever you decide to sit down to type up your reviews you will need to consult your notes so that everything tallies up.

But when you look back at your review notes they seem to be less than helpful. You read and re-read them and try and remember the cards or situation specifics but things are looking hazy.

You panic and either go one of two ways, you either writing a generic review that doesn’t help anyone or you step back from the written review consoling yourself that the oral debrief was enough.

If this situation is all too familiar to you and you want to do something about it then keep reading.



The philosophy behind note taking:

Like with any aspect of judging, note taking has its own philosophy and it’s pretty straight forward.

When taking notes for review purposes, include only the details that are necessary.

What this basically means is this: When you are at an event you need to find the balance between taking notes and doing your job.

Example: The first three rounds of a GP are super manic and its all hands to the pumps, if you stop during these rounds to write a page and half of review notes you are not being an effective team member or judge. Wait until things have calmed down and then write up your notes in bite size chunks so that you are on hand when needed.

The next thing to consider is how much detail you need to include when writing your notes. There really isn’t any hard and fast rule but here are some things to consider.

1) No one but you is going to look at your notes so they don’t have to look like a 19th century calligraphist has written them, as long as you can read them they are effective.

2) How much detail really depends on your memory recall.

You should build robustness into your notes as necessary. E.g. If your notes read like day 1 round 6 Shorecrash Elemental – lack of technical skill and that is enough to expand your review to match your oral debrief 3 months from now then that’s how much detail you need.

If you are like me you then my notes read something like this: Day 1 round 6 – rules call – cards – Shorecrash Elemental – activated ability – judge x was not able to answer the player’s direct question with confidence.  Judge x then panicked at the table, was appealed and  the appeal was upheld. To improve, the judge could excuse himself from the table and check with his buddy before returning and issuing a technical response. Reason for the lack of technical response is a gap in judge x’s rules knowledge. I need to think of a way to help the judge engage with their gaps.

As you can see I require a lot more detail with my notes but my recall isn’t what it used to be and it might be a while before I sit down at my laptop before I type things up. I need to build in that robustness to ensure I remain effective.

3) Try and keep your notes about a specific judge at a specific event as close together as possible. Seems silly to mention this but when notes are spread over many pages things could get lost in translation.

So that concludes my article on the introduction and the thinking behind your note taking.  My next article will look at introducing a template for organising your thoughts and your notes.

Stelios Kargotis

Level 2 Judge – United Kingdom

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