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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 September 18, 2020

        How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

        How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

        Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

        Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

        In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

        The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

        While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

        Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

        Attention

        Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

        Stay in the Moment

        When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

        Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

        social learning theory

          Be Mindful

          Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

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          For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

          If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

          For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

          Don’t Multitask

          In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

          However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

          Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

          Engage Actively

          Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

          When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

          To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

          Retention

          Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

          Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

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          These tips should help increase your retention power.

          Repeat to Remember

          Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

          A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

          Increase Brain Power

          You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

          Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

          Make Connections

          Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

          Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

          Remember That Less Is More

          When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

          Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

          Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

          Motivation

          The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

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          When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

          Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

          Find a Role Model

          Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

          The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

          Make a Note

          Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

          Talk About It

          Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

          An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

          This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

          Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

          Reproduction

          In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

          Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

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          Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

          Direct Reinforcement

          This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

          To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

          Vicarious Reinforcement

          Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

          A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

          Self-Reinforcement

          Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

          Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

          The Bottom Line

          Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

          If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

          More About Effective Learning

          Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

          Reference

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