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Last Updated on August 17, 2020

How to Organize Notes and Stop Feeling Scattered

How to Organize Notes and Stop Feeling Scattered

There are notes for just about anything in life: meeting memos, grocery lists, study sheets, speech lines. Learning how to organize notes can give you a huge personal and professional boost and keep you organized while living life.

To stay on top of things, regroup and start picking up your notes one at a time to start organizing. The famous author, Anne Lamott[1], in her book about writing, teaches writers to do it bird-by-bird; in other words, do it step-by-step.

What could you achieve if you learned how to organize your notes in a neat package so that, whenever you needed them, you could snatch them out and use them, pronto?

This article will walk you through some detailed tips on how to organize your notes so you can remain on top of your game.

1. Take a Breath

Feeling scattered is normal when your notes are not organized, so take a breath. Remind yourself that you’re in-charge. Now that you feel in control again, stop everything and take three deep and long breaths. Gather yourself together, and take this time take stock of the kinds of notes you’re working with.

Just the mere act of stopping and knowing that you’re in charge changes your perspective. You’ll feel on top of things immediately. Once you’re in this state, you can start to work.

2. Choose Your Method

There are different methods of taking notes, and I will walk you through some of the most popular ones, but, first, why is it so important to take notes properly?

Let me break it down for you. The following are manners of recording notes[2] that will make you more successful with any endeavor:

The Cornell Method

Cornell Note Taking Method | Study Tips | UM at Fort Kent

    The Cornell note-taking method helps organize notes into summaries that are easy to digest. This method is convenient because the main points, details, study cues, and summary are all kept in one place.[3]

    The note page is divided into three sections[4]:

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    • Take notes during a conference or class using the main section.
    • After the conference, write down things you’ll need to remember and a prompt for each at the cues section so you can review your notes.
    • Write a summary of your notes in the summary segment at the bottom.

    Using the Cornell method, you can cover all types of events, lectures, or even meetings.

    The Outline Method

    Methods of note-taking. There are a number of different ways to ...

      The outline method is one of the best and most popular note-taking methods for students and professionals. It allows you to organize your notes in a structured format. This helps you save a lot of time for further reviewing and editing.

      As the method’s name suggests, it requires you to structure your notes in the form of an outline by using bullet points to represent different topics and subtopics.

      Start writing main topics on the far left of the page and add related subtopics in bullet points below using indents.

      This method can be used in a variety of situations but works best if the lecture or class follows a relatively clear structure.

      The Charting Method

      Note-Taking: The 12 Best Methods. In a world of information ...

        This is a practical and organized method for note-taking that involves a lot of data in the form of facts and statistics that you need to learn thoroughly.

        The info will be jotted down in several columns, similar to a table or spreadsheet. Each column represents a category, making the rows easily identifiable.

        3. Ask Questions

        Asking questions leads to insightful information, and this ultimately adds up to more knowledge.

        To keep you on par with the challenge of keeping notes organized, you need to list down questions you have in your mind. These questions will help you understand matters about the information you just listened to.

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        Always allot a section of your note pages for questions. This way, when you go home and review your notes, you can answer those questions. They will solidify the info you took home and enable you to use them for assignments and any work.

        If you want to get good at asking relevant questions, don’t miss this article.

        4. Use Visual Cues

        Use visuals. They will do wonders, especially for visual learners.

        Visual learning is one of the three basic types of learning styles in the VARK model[5]. Learners usually utilize graphs, charts, maps and diagrams in this model.

        Also, to enhance knowledge absorption, use visual cues: try highlighting, underlining, or drawing arrows or huge exclamation points beside main or difficult concepts. They can help.

        5. Record Main Points

        This is a must when you are learning how to organize notes. This section on your note pages includes lecture titles, chapter titles, and big ideas only[6].

        If you do this, you will have an easier time adding the sub-headings and the details under each subheading.

        6. Write Down Important Headings

        Under the key points, you can write down important headings. Headings are a crucial element in taking notes. They help you pin down topics you want to focus on[7].

        Headings are very important because, without them, you won’t be able to identify sections. You can take headings as titles of sections. Usually, extremely short documents don’t require the use of headings.

        7. Include Relevant Quotes

        It’s common for speakers, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc., to feature quotes related to a lesson, a workshop, or an event. Grab your pen and scrawl down those quotes or encode them digitally if you like. These will help you solidify points you need to remember.

        Quotes are easy to remember because they are short, easy to digest, and generally focus on a single point. By keeping them in one place, you assist your mental faculties to drive them into your memory so that when you need them, you’ll remember them, or at least be reminded of where they’re stored.

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        8. Remember That Your Thoughts Matter

        This is very important when you’re learning how to organize notes. Writing down your own thoughts about the lessons, topics, and subjects you’re getting is crucial to having notes that are usable.

        Writing your opinions increases your chance of learning and remembering things. Don’t write whole sentences. Scribble short phrases, or you may draw shapes or simple sketches.

        For example, in notes on the history of music, you may draw a guitar. This can signify the time when the guitar was invented and other details about the musical instrument.

        Your own insights that are written down make it easier for your brain to function way better when reviewing notes or when working on something wherein your notes are needed.

        9. Leave Spaces

        This could look unnecessary, but it’s not. In your notes, leave some spaces for future notes that you may need to add later.

        The premise here is that when you review your notes, you’ll have more insights and opinions that are crucial to learning more about the topic of your notes.

        This space can also be utilized to add more notes that you missed adding during the event. These notes may be more important than the ones you already have, so it’s important to make room for them.

        10. Get Creative

        Make it your own, and use your creativity.

        If you draw, then use drawings all over your notes. Don’t mince your ideas. Just keep drawing things.

        Just make sure they are clear to you. This may facilitate note taking, too, because instead of too many words, you can use simple drawings to stand in for two or three sentences, or even a whole paragraph.

        If you’re good at using colors and symbols, fill your page with highlighted sections and symbols. The beauty of taking notes is that nobody will criticize you because you are the main recipient of the work.

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        If you need a little help tapping into your creativity, check out this article: 10 Techniques to Unleash Your Creativity.

        11. Keep an Eye on New Vocabulary

        When you’re learning how to organize notes, capture and gather vocabulary words you have never encountered before. Look up their definitions and understand them.

        These new words will do two things:

        • They will enrich your word-arsenal.
        • They will assist you in making dents in your memory, making way for a more insightful and more intense recording in your brain.

        Pages of notes will sparkle with new words. You can highlight them, or you can set them aside in one area. Check the note-taking methods under tip number two. No matter what method you use, just make sure they are defined and set apart, underlined, or highlighted.

        12. Give Examples

        Don’t neglect given examples. Most teachers or lecturers give examples of points and facts about their lesson or topic.

        Examples, if properly written down, will help you study and understand facts and lessons presented.

        Given examples enhance the learning curve of workers and students alike. They solidify the information being discussed.

        The Bottom Line

        Your notes are tiny reflections of your thoughts, and your very thoughts are reflections of the various aspects of your life. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to capture notes like a pro and to organize them in a way that allows you to pluck out a specific note when you need it.

        The tips I gave can be done in combinations. You can also follow all the tips if you want. It really depends on what works best for you.

        I suggest you pick one note-taking method and mix in some of the tips above. When you do, you can take notes without feeling scattered and will be able to organize your notes effectively.

        More on How to Organize Notes

        Featured photo credit: Adolfo Félix via unsplash.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Anthony Dejolde

        TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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        Last Updated on November 6, 2020

        How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

        How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

        Practice makes perfect. It’s a cliché saying that gets pulled out time and time again. For many, they loath to hear it, but that saying has some truth to it. After all, this saying pops up the most when we are in the midst of motor learning.

        While this saying is off, as perfection is impossible, the practice side of it is the only way for us to get closer to that level. And the only way a motor skill can get to that level is through motor learning. It’s through this concept where we can grow the various skills in our lives, but also to learn effectively by learning the right way.

        What Is Motor Learning?

        To present an example, it’s best to explain what the theory of motor learning is. For starters, it’s been described as such:[1]

        “A set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior.”

        Our brain responds to sensory information to either practice or experience a certain skill that allows for growth of a motor task or the ability to produce a new motor skill. This happens because our central nervous system changes to allow this to happen in the first place.To see this at work, consider one of the first skills we learned as a human being: walking. While some think toddlers get up and start trying to walk, there are many complex processes at work.

        The reason people started to learn to walk was because of motor learning.

        At the base stage, we started to walk because months before even trying to take our first steps, we saw how important it was. We witnessed several people walking and understood how helpful it is to walk on two feet.

        The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

        There is more to motor learning than you might think. Over the years, the learning community has uncovered that there are three stages of motor learning:

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        • Cognitive
        • Associative
        • Autonomous

        Each stage has its own requirements for further development and what each stage brings to the learning experience[2].

        Motor learning for performance

          Cognitive Stage

          This base stage is where a lot of learning and context happens. At this stage, we’re not overly concerned about how to actually do the skill properly. Instead, we’re more concerned about why we should bother learning the skill.

          Once we’ve got a grasp of that, this stage also starts the trial and error process. You can call it practice, but at this stage, the idea is to at least try it out rather than nail it.

          This is also the stage where we are heavily reliant on guidance. We can have a coach or a teacher there, and their role is to provide a good learning environment. This means removing distractions and using visuals, as well as encouraging those trials and errors to guide the learning process.

          One example of this goes back to the walking example, but other instances are things like driving a car or riding a bike. Even when we are older, you can see this form of learning working.

          Associative Stage

          The second stage is where we’ve got some practice under our belt, and we have a good grasp of general concepts. We know what to do in order to perform this particular skill. The only problem is that we might not be able to do that skill all that well when compared to others.

          Indeed, we know what to do, but not “how to do it well.” It’s at this stage where the saying “Practice makes perfect” rings true. The more that we practice, the more we can refine and tighten the loose ends of that skill.

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          An example of this motor learning at work is seen in sports. Generally speaking, people can perform better the more that they practice. That’s because the more we practice something, the more we understand what input does to our bodies as well as where our current limits lie.

          Autonomous Stage

          At this stage, everything is more or less automatic and will stick in the long term. We can still improve, but you don’t need to tell yourself to go and do a certain task or assignment constantly. Your body has become adjusted to the idea of doing this.

          .

          An example of this learning is the skills that you use at work. When you get to work, you need very little persuasion to actually do your work. Whether that’s writing, lifting, operating a machine, or performing, there are a set of skills that we don’t think about and merely do.

          The Principles of Motor Learning

          The principles of motor learning are few and far between. Generally speaking, there is a consensus that the key to production of a new motor skill isn’t so much on the amount of time spent practicing, but the way that we practice.

          This idea was brought up in a 2016 study published on Science Alert, where scientists uncovered that making changes in your training can enhance your learning experience.[3]

          With this in mind, the core principles focus on the methodology of learning. Not only that, but ensuring they follow through the stages that I mentioned above, which are simple in concept.

          The core principle of this learning is to reinforce a skill so much that our execution of that skill is nothing but mindless consistency.

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          The study that I brought up is a new addition to that principle, as we now know that making alterations during our practice can cause new aspects of learning to grow and enrich our learning and mastery of a skill.

          How to Use Motor Learning Theory For Effective Learning

          The theory as we know it is to practice movement patterns until they become second nature and to experiment and make small changes in order to improve performance of a skill.

          How does all of that help with us being better at something? That study found something called memory reconsolidation.[4] One of the senior study author’s, Pablo A. Celnik, M.D. stated that:

          “What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

          Motor learning through memory reconsolidation

            Celnik also stressed why this is such a big deal:

            “Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation.”

            In other words, by using memory reconsolidation, we can learn faster and ultimately gain the ability to perform a skill faster than by practicing something for several hours without making changes[5].

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            Why does this variation enhance practice? Because the act of recalling our memories isn’t a passive process.[6]

            Whether you are learning a new skill or recalling an event, the sheer act of recalling changes the memory itself. In essence, our memories become highly unreliable as we focus and subtly alter those memories in light of recent events.

            This is because our brain is more interested in the most useful version of the world and disregards useless details.

            Bottom Line

            In order to incorporate motor learning into your life, it’s a matter of mixing up your practice session slightly. Whatever skill it is you are trying to do, urge yourself to make subtle changes to how you perform.

            If you’re writing, try applying a new word you never used previously that you picked up.

            Are you practicing an instrument or playing a sport? Try to use a different muscle or a new movement to achieve the same sound. This can be something as simple as posture or body position.

            The idea with motor learning is to keep practicing, even if you are at the stage where your movements are automatic. This variation can very well bring you to the next level of that skill.

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            Featured photo credit: Jordan Whitfield via unsplash.com

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