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Published on August 20, 2018

17 Note-Taking Tips That Will Transform How You Retain Info

17 Note-Taking Tips That Will Transform How You Retain Info

How many times have you listened to a presenter and forgotten what they said moments after the presentation?

Learning is important for our growth. We should take advantage of the opportunities we have to hear from experts. If you can’t remember what they say afterwards, then it’s time to start improving your note taking.

Note taking is an art that takes practice and discipline. It certainly isn’t easy when a flood of information is coming towards you and you have to decipher what’s important to write down and what’s not.

This list of 17 note taking tips will help you in any class, presentation, or meeting:

1. Determine important content

Note taking should never be a transcript of every word said, but rather a summary of important information and questions.

If you’re going into a history class, you’ll want to remember names and dates especially. If a coworker is doing a training on SEO, you’ll want to pay more attention to terminology and recommended practices.

Anticipate before any presentation, meeting, or class what kind of content will be important to remember later.

2. Eliminate distractions

Remember when your teacher turned off your phone in class? That might still be a good idea.

Whatever you find unnecessarily steals your attention during presentations needs to be eliminated as a distraction.

If you are taking notes on a digital device, close any unrelated applications or resources. If you know that Hank from accounting is going to talk to you a lot, maybe you sit next to someone else.

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The point is to keep all of your attention focused on the subject material and note taking.

3. Keep calm

If you’re too nervous about note taking, you’ll probably make mistakes. Understand that your notes probably won’t be perfect every time, but you can always get help and clarification later.

Note taking is difficult, so acknowledge your mistakes and improve on them.

4. Go digital

Use an app, online tool, or software. Note taking apps are available for your laptop, tablet, or phone. They make it easy to take fast notes and add things such as photos, links, checklists, and locations.

If you feel like your handwriting is hard to read later, typing your notes will fix that. If you find yourself madly erasing after not organizing your notes correctly, than being able to copy-paste or hit control-Z can save you lots of valuable time.

5. Start sketching

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Many people understand concepts better in a visual context.

Try sketching some drawings to go around the notes you write. It can quickly jog your memory about what you were thinking and makes your notes more entertaining to go through later.

Just don’t get carried away and miss the important stuff. You will still want to combine drawings with plenty of actual words.

6. Make something visual

Take your notes and organize them visually. If drawing isn’t your thing, you can still add some flair to your notes. Use something like microsoft publisher to inject some creativity into your notes.

Imagine your flyer is going to be used to teach someone else as you create it. This method forces you to spend more time with the content and can help organize it in such a way that makes more sense to you.

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7. Mapping method

The mapping method of note taking is based on diagramming your notes. It looks like a flowchart or a spider’s web between topics and subtopics. It’s a nice way to visually organize your notes that may be interconnected.

Here’s a more detailed guide on how to do mind mapping:

How to Use a Mind Map to Organize Your Life

8. Cornell note taking method

The Cornell method is a great approach for organizing your notes into easily reviewable sections.[1]

You draw a line a couple inches from the bottom and then another line a couple inches from the left side, to create three boxes. The largest section you use to take notes however you’d like. The smaller left portion is for short cues to remind you what to specifically study later. The bottom section is where you write a summary of what you learned.

9. Outline method

The outline method turns your notes into easily digestible bullet points.[2]

Write them like you’re outlining a story. You’ll have main points from individual topics or subjects, then write bullet points underneath each one with the supporting information.

10. Charting method

With the charting method, you will make a table with categories to be filled out.[3] This is fantastic for organizing material that you know will follow a particular outline.

For example, if you are learning about different types of animals, you can make columns about where each animal lives, what does it eat, and how long it typically lives. Each row would have a different animal and you simply go across your columns and answer each question.

11. Sentence method

Write down important points from the lecture in a basic sentence structure. You can add headers and separate your sentences into their own lines to help keep organization.

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This works especially well for writing down useful quotes or statistics.

12. Record it

If you worry about missing important details or find yourself a better studier by listening, then you should record the presentation or class.

Use your phone’s recording system or get software that automatically transcribes what’s being said. There are technical limitations with transcription software, so you may need to watch it carefully to correct any mistakes.

13. Ask for clarification

Your notes are close to worthless if you don’t understand them while writing them. Make sure to ask the teacher or presenter any questions you may have. Chances are someone else will be grateful that you asked about the same thing they were confused about.

Take courage and work hard to understand the concepts the first time around so that you’re not even more confused later on.

14. Summarize afterwards

After a class, presentation or meeting, write down a summary of what the key points were. This is important for memory retention of the subject material and to see if you have any lingering questions to be addressed.

Good summaries should include not only the key points, but also further applications to the subject material, questions to be researched, and a list of tasks to be completed.

15. Continue the discussion

Once you’re done with listening and note taking, turn to someone nearby and talk with them about what you learned.

You can ask them questions about what stood out to them or what changes they would like to make based on the material. You can ask questions about things you perhaps misunderstood or did not receive a clear answer to.

Continuing the discussion with someone else is an excellent way of applying the material and cementing it in your memory.

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If you have a meaningful conversation about it, that information has a much greater likelihood of being retained.

16. Review your notes

What you retain from the first time you take notes will quickly fade if you do not review them later. Hopefully, you have used one of the above methods to make your notes easy to go through and perhaps even entertaining.

The important thing is that you take the time to go over your notes later so that you can remember what you learned and further reflect upon the points made.

17. Share what you learned

Even better than reviewing your notes is reviewing them with someone else. This gives you the opportunity to teach what you’ve learned.

Use a flyer creator to creatively showcase what you’ve learned.[4] Doing so will help you realize points you did not fully understand or need to better review.

Your review partner may even come up with valuable questions for you to reflect upon and apply to your notes.

Final thoughts

Don’t be afraid to mix up some of these note taking methods together. You may find that a portion of your notes is better organizing in an outline format, but then decide that you need to make a chart for another portion.

The point is to be organized and do what makes the most sense for you. Even if the person next to you is clearly organizing their notes according to the Cornell method, perhaps a different strategy will appeal to you more. Note taking is meant for yourself, so do it in whatever way is best for you.

Now you have the chance to use what you have learned. Note taking is only valuable when it serves a purpose later.

If you learn something interesting, come up with ways to apply it at work or in your home. Review your notes often to find different applications. Use the knowledge you have gained to make a difference in your life or the lives of others.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Christina Sanders

A digital marketer who is experienced in marketing and communications, helping people to lead a successful business.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

How do you usually go about your day?

Do you wake up in the morning, get ready for work, and then spend the whole day looking forward to being at home and unwinding?

We often hear about work life balance – having a good balance between work and personal time. Whilst this may sound like a smart idea, it can also imply that we should dedicate at least half of our time to work–and sacrifice time for our “personal life”.

To me, that seems…off balance. Because, the truth is, it’s nearly impossible to split your time equally between the two. And, you may end up stressing out if you’re not able to meet that expectation of balance.

Instead, why not think of having work life harmony instead?

With this mindset, you can actually integrate work into your life in a way that feels more complete. This way, you don’t need to view work and having personal time as separate.

So, how do you achieve work life harmony?

Work Life Harmony Explained

The difference between work life balance and work life harmony is pretty simple.With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work. But, this is the worst way to go about things! How can you truly be at peace in life if you dread 8 hours of your day?

Work life harmony on the other hand, allows your work to be a part of your life. This means that you can choose to be happy both at home, and at work! Work no longer needs to be seen as the ‘bad’ or un-fun activity.

Having work life harmony also ensures you’re truly present in whatever place you find yourself.

Just take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon for example.

He uses a non traditional approach to work by making time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules surprisingly few meetings, and still puts aside a few minutes every day to wash his own dishes.

He believes that all his staff should stop trying to achieve a ‘balance’ in their work and personal lives as that implies a trade off. Instead, he envisions a more holistic relationship between the two.

As the world’s richest man, he must be doing something right!

Rethink Time Management

Now, when we think of striking a balance, we usually associate it with time, don’t we? How much time are we spending at work versus how much time are we spending in our personal lives?Are we taking enough time to be with our loved ones, to do meaningful activities with others or even for ourselves, or are we just dedicating all our time to work?

This is the so-called-balance that many struggle with.

With work life harmony, we learn to rethink time management. By re-assessing how you manage your time, you’ll have a lot more of it. It’s incredible how much time can get wasted over the period of a day–especially when you’re not accurately tracking it.

Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls when it comes to prioritizing. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefit; when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is otherwise known as Priority Chaos.

In order to overcome this and be in better control of your time, identify the tasks that need the most focus to get accomplished. If it’s a big task, then it’s good to break it down into smaller bite-sized actions that will provide you with a clearer short term benefit.

When setting up tasks, give yourself a time limit. The brain has a bias towards short term benefits, and your attention span is limited, so if your tasks are going to take ages to complete, you’ll end up losing focus… and wasting time.

Once you have all your tasks written down, it’s time to prioritize them. Since you have a time limit, your focus should be on the top priority tasks. By doing this, you will already be able to get more done in less time at work!

Have Passion for What You Do

Managing your time is important in achieving that work life harmony. But, perhaps of greater importance, is loving what you do in life.One of the most effective ways to achieve a work life harmony is to really enjoy, or find a purpose, in what you do for a living. Even though everyone isn’t always lucky enough to find a position that pays them for pursuing their passion, you can strive to find meaning in what you are already doing, or pursue something new entirely!

For example, say you work at an office that sells paper. While many people wouldn’t consider this a world changing pursuit, I beg to differ. Think of all the individuals in the world that rely on paper. From creative types to quantum physics experts, your role at your workplace brings incredible value to many many people all over the world. You will have, without a doubt, helped bring a new idea into existence. Several new ideas to be precise.

So have a think about what you’re doing now. Is it something that allows you to embrace your passion?

Or perhaps you might not even know what it is that you love or enjoy doing. Why not explore and reflect on what gives you joy and contentment? Is there an area or industry that you could see yourself exploring to experience that fulfillment?

Can you find a deeper purpose in what you’re already doing?

When you’re able to find meaning in your work, you’re that much closer to achieving work life harmony.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Obstacles and Limitations

Creating work life harmony is also about understanding yourself–which includes your limitations and past obstacles–as this allows you to become more resilient.

If you never had to experience struggles, challenges or setbacks, then you would never be forced to adapt and mature. So in theory, having to face obstacles in life is actually quite necessary.

Most of us think of setbacks and obstacles as negative. Though, if you’re able to maintain an optimistic attitude, you’ll almost always have a higher chance of success of overcoming those obstacles to reach your eventual goal.

Your attitude towards setbacks will define the outcome of whether you rise from the challenge or remain stuck in it. So, in order to achieve work life harmony, it’s important to have a resilient attitude as challenges will always come your way–especially when you strive to integrate work into your life, and not a separate or dominant part of life.

Delegate When You Need To

Of course, when you want to increase productivity and minimize the time or effort spent, a great way to do so is to delegate!

If you spend a lot of time doing tasks on your own that could be delegated to others (whether at work or at home) you’re losing a lot of precious free time that could otherwise be spent elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we all have a limited amount of time. So we should all be striving to create a harmonious work and living situation where we can find meaning in all that we do.

While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones or tasks needed to get there may be meaningful. That’s because we have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Not every task is going to be enjoyable or easy to complete. That’s where delegation comes in.

Delegation simply allows you to leverage time from an external source, thus giving you opportunities to increase your own quality of time. Keep in mind that delegation should be done with deliberate attention, otherwise you may end up over relying on others.

If you find that you’re running into the problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Embrace the Circle and Become Happier and More Productive

Living in harmony is about feeling good about the ways in which you spend your time, despite how busy you may be.Your switch from work mode to a more personal mode should be effortless. It’s about integrating your personal life and the things you love into your busy work life!

It all begins with the shift in perspective. Understanding what your passions are, and learning to be resilient, before taking a different approach to the way you manage your time and everyday tasks.

These are steps that you can start taking to move away from balance to harmony. 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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