As a coach, being an excellent listener is a balancing act. You must stay present in the conversation, maintain eye contact, ask the right questions, and take notes.
Given the importance of fully engaging with clients, note-taking is a task you might be tempted to omit. But keeping a record of your sessions allows you to reflect on past discussions, refresh your memory, and prepare for the next meeting.
With help from technology, you can successfully juggle note-taking amid a focused conversation. There’s a wealth of virtual note-taking apps made by developers who work hard to create the most functional tools for people like you. In fact, the industry is worth an astounding $5 billion — that’s a lot of apps. The only question is which tool to choose.
We can help you narrow down the best options. Check out our guide to the top eight note-taking apps and why they're a must for coaches.
The benefits of note-taking
Coaches take notes to remember essential details of conversations — but this is far from the only reason to do so. Note-taking provides several other benefits that improve the coach-client relationship. Here’s why you should type away during your sessions:
- Notes help you track themes: When you take notes, you synthesize recurring themes during a session and over time. Let’s say a client tells you they feel insecure about asking a domestic partner to help more around the house, and you jot this note down. The second time the client makes a similar point, you quickly realize the trend, flagging this as a critical issue. And as you look over session notes between meetings, you spot and identify self-esteem as a persistent challenge.
- Notes show you’re engaged: While active listening habits such as eye contact and body language are essential, a client may feel comforted to see you jotting down notes, too. Doing so shows you care deeply about the conversation at hand, are making observations, and are actively trying to “crack the case” by identifying roadblocks and solutions.
- Notes give the client a break: Coaching sessions can be intense. Pausing to take notes gives the client a break from eye contact and the heavy focus on them. When you’re finishing a particularly lengthy thought, there may be a welcome lag in the conversation when the client can gather their thoughts.
8 excellent apps for coaching notes
Technology has made note-taking easier than ever. Numerous apps support handwriting, typing, and drawing, making it simple to jot down ideas in the way that best suits you. Plus, you never risk losing your coaching notebook when your virtual notepad backs up to the cloud and syncs across devices.
Check out the following eight tools to find the perfect note-taking platform for your practice:
Evernote allows users to create dynamic notes that include multimedia content and attachments, shareable task lists, and a schedule all in one place.
Pros: Evernote syncs between devices, features a powerful search tool, and works well for teams that share notes.
Cons: The app limits features on the free version — a paid subscription is required to access the full version.
2. Microsoft OneNote
This note-taking software feels as flexible as taking notes by hand (you can even doodle) and is backed by high-tech features such as web page clipping.
Pros: OneNote allows users to take notes as they please by adding multimedia content, drawings, and voice memos.
Cons: It can be challenging to learn the app because of what may feel like an overwhelming number of features. OneNote also has limited export options.
3. Google Keep
Google Keep is a straightforward note app perfect for users who need basic functionality and enjoy an easy-to-use interface.
Pros: You can color-code notes and set reminder alarms, and the app loads quickly.
Cons: Google Keep has a text limit of 20,000 characters and fewer advanced features than other apps.
Notion is a project management platform that started as a note-taking tool, meaning users now enjoy advanced features in addition to being able to jot down notes.
Pros: Users can access AI support, wikis, and templates, gaining a suite of tools instead of just note-taking ones.
Cons: Notion’s offering may be too extensive for users seeking a straightforward tool.
This tool for Apple devices allows users to take quick notes or write more extensive texts. Bear boasts flexibility with easy-to-export plain text documents and support for coding languages (calling all the coaching bloggers out there).
Pros: The app is user-friendly, with a quick and easy learning curve.
Cons: Bear isn’t available for Android devices and doesn’t have voice note functionality.
As the name implies, this app keeps things simple. The tool allows users to take comprehensive digital notes without distracting features.
Pros: This free platform is available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux. Plus, it offers sharing functionality, automatic backups, and synching.
Cons: Users can’t record audio, attach files, or insert videos.
Trello is a Kanban-style project management tool, so you can use the platform to organize tasks and stick notes on them for context.
Pros: Trello offers private and public notes you can tack to workflow boards or specific task cards.
Cons: Trello is a highly-functional project management tool, meaning that notetakers looking for just the basics may find the platform’s features challenging or overwhelming.
Notability touts itself as a “digital canvas,” allowing users to handwrite or draw notes and annotate PDFs.
Pros: Notability supports many note-taking styles, from audio notes to stylus drawings. The app also offers endless scrolling and easy backups to frequently used document storage tools like Google Drive and Dropbox.
Cons: Notability charges users for some advanced features.
Get notes and more with Practice
At Practice, we understand how difficult it can be to provide quality sessions for your clients while also tackling the administrative work of your business. That’s why we created a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for coaches and small business owners that makes taking notes, payments, sending messages and documents to clients, and storing data simple and safe.
We also have a library of educational blog articles and templates to help you run a better business. Up your note-taking skills with our coaching notes and coaching log templates, and keep your communication sharp by following our best practices.