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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.

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation 17 Note-Taking Tips That Will Transform How You Retain Info

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

Have you ever thought of yourself as a problem solver? I’m guessing not. But in reality, we are constantly solving problems. And the better our problem solving skills are, the easier our lives are.

Problems arise in many shapes and forms. They can be mundane, everyday problems, or larger more complex problems:

What to have for dinner tonight?

Which route to take to work?

How to fix a project that’s running behind schedule?

How to change from an uninspiring job to a career you’re really passionate about?

Every day, you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realize that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

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No matter what job you’re in, where you live, who your partner is, how many friends you have, you will be judged on your ability to solve problems. Because problems equal hassles for everyone concerned. And people don’t like hassle. So the more problems you can solve, the less hassle all-round, the happier people are with you. Everyone wins.

Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important?

Problem is something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with. It can be a task, a situation, or even a person. Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems.

Problem solving is important because we all have decisions to make, and questions to answer in our lives. Amazing people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are all great problems solvers. Good parents, teachers, doctors and waiters all have to be good at solving different sort of problems as well.

Problem solving skills are for our everyday lives.

How to Enhance Problem Solving Skills

Most people believe that you have to be very intelligent in order to be a good problem solver, but that’s not true.

You don’t have to be super smart to be a problem solver, you just need practice.

When you understand the different steps to solve a problem, you’ll be able to come up with great solutions.

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1. Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem.[1] This is because when you focus on the problem, you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity,’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions.

I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem,’ instead, try to remain calm. It helps to first, acknowledge the problem; and then, move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be, rather than lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

2. Adapt 5 Whys to Clearly Define the Problem

5 Whys is a problem solving framework to help you get to the root of a problem.

By repeatedly asking the question “why” on a problem, you can dig into the root cause of a problem, and that’s how you can find the best solution to tackle the root problem once and for all. And it can go deeper than just asking why for five times.

For example:

If the problem is “always late to work”…

  • Why am I late to work?
    I always click the snooze button and just want to go on sleeping.
  • Why do I want to go on sleeping?
    I feel so tired in the morning.
  • Why do I feel tired in the morning?
    I slept late the night before, that’s why.
  • Why did I sleep late?
    I wasn’t sleepy after drinking coffee, and I just kept scrolling my Facebook feed and somehow I couldn’t stop.
  • Why did I drink coffee?
    Because I was too sleepy at work in the afternoon, not having enough sleep the night before.

So there you see, if you didn’t try to dig out the root of the problem, you may just set a few more alarms and have it beep every five minutes in the morning. But in fact, the problem you need to solve is to quit Facebook surfing endlessly at night so you’ll feel more energetic in the day time, and you won’t even need coffee.

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3. Simplify Things

As human beings, we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be! Try simplifying your problem by generalizing it.

Remove all the details and go back to the basics. Try looking for a really easy, obvious solution – you might be surprised at the results! And we all know that it’s often the simple things that are the most productive.

4. List out as Many Solutions as Possible

Try to come up with ‘ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first. It’s important you keep an open mind to boost creative thinking, which can trigger potential solutions.

Coming from 10 years in the corporate advertising industry, it is drummed into you that ‘No idea is a bad idea’ and this aids creative thinking in brainstorms and other problem-solving techniques.

Whatever you do, do not ridicule yourself for coming up with ‘stupid solutions’ as it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other more viable solutions.

5. Think Laterally

Change the ‘direction’ of your thoughts by thinking laterally. Pay attention to the saying,

‘You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging it deeper.”

Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You can try flipping your objective around and looking for a solution that is the polar opposite!

Even if it feels silly, a fresh and unique approach usually stimulates a fresh solution.

6. Use Language That Creates Possibility

Lead your thinking with phrases like ‘what if…’ and ‘imagine if…’ These terms open up our brains to think creatively and encourage solutions.

Avoid closed, negative language such as ‘I don’t think…’ or ‘But this is not right…’.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing scary about a problem when you start to adapt my advice.

Try not to view problems as ‘scary’ things! If you think about what a problem really is, it’s really just feedback on your current situation.

Every problem is telling you that something is not currently working and that you need to find a new way around it.

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So try to approach problems neutrally – without any judgment. Practice focusing on defining a problem, keep calm and not to make things too complicated.

More About Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Planet of Success: Problem vs Solution Focused Thinking

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