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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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.

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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.

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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