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How to Organize Notes and Stop Feeling Scattered

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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

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        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 August 11, 2021

        23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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        23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

        Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

        1. Coursera

        Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

        Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

        Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

        2. Khan Academy

        Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

        Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

        3. Open Culture Online Courses

        If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

        The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

        Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

        4. Udemy 

        Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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        Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

        5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

        Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

        In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

        These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

        6. Academic Earth

        Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

        Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

        7. edX

        Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

        8. Alison

        Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

        It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

        9. iTunesU Free Courses

        A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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        Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

        Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

        iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

        10. Stanford Online

        Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

        Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

        11. Open Yale Courses

        Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

        12. UC Berkeley Class Central

        Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

        13. MIT OpenCourseWare

        Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

        14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

        Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

        15. Codecademy

        Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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        The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

        16. Code

        Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

        In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

        Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

        17. University of Oxford Podcasts

        The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

        The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

        18. BBC Podcasts

        For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

        Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

        19. TED-Ed

        Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

        Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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        20. LessonPaths

        LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

        21. Memrise

        Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

        Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

        22. National Geographic Kids

        The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

        National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

        23. Fun Brain

        Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

        Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

        The Bottom Line

        With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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        Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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