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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

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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 June 1, 2021

        How to Use the Learning Style Quiz to Accelerate Your Learning

        How to Use the Learning Style Quiz to Accelerate Your Learning

        If you’ve ever taken a learning style quiz, you know that the idea is to find your most prominent learning style. The question then becomes: what do you do with that information?

        A textbook definition of learning styles is:[1]

        “Characteristic cognitive, effective, and psycho-social behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment.”

        That’s a fancy way of saying that different individuals interact with their learning environment in different ways. You’ll often see learning styles in conjunction with higher education and other types of cognitive learning courses. The theory is that, if the teacher is aware of the various ways in which people perceive information, they can differentiate the instruction to meet those needs.

        To the casual learner, understanding your learning style can help you find the best way to learn new information. There are seven different learning styles, and everybody uses a little of each one (on a sliding scale).

        In this article we will talk about how many different learning styles there are (and what they mean), get you to try the learning style quiz, and find out how to use your specific learning style to improve your life.

        The 7 Learning Styles

        The following is an overview of the various learning styles[2]:

        1. Visual / Spatial

        A visual learner thinks in pictures. They prefer having illustrations, pictures, and other types of images to help form a mental image of what they are learning. Visual learners are typically spatial thinkers.

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        2. Aural / Auditory-Musical

        An aural learner learns through music and rhythm. While actual music isn’t necessarily required to reach an aural learner, it certainly is more effective.

        3. Verbal / Linguistic

        A verbal learner prefers using words, both in speech and in reading. A person with this learning style might prefer a good lecture or textbook to more visual and auditory styles.

        4. Physical / Kinesthetic

        A physical learner prefers using their body, hands, and sense of touch. A person with this learning style is more of a “hands-on” learner who prefers to learn by doing.

        5. Logical / Mathematical

        A logical learner prefers information to flow from one thought or idea to the next. A person with this learning style prefers mathematics, logic, and reasoning.

        6. Social / Interpersonal

        A social learner prefers to learn in groups or through social interaction. A person with this learning style usually prefers group-work and project-based learning.

        7. Solitary / Intrapersonal

        A solitary learner prefers to work alone. People with this learning style are great at teaching themselves and often prefer self-study and online courses to more traditional learning methods.

        Did you see yourself in more than one learning style? If so, then you understand that no one person has just one learning style. Each of the above styles exist in everybody to a certain degree.

        If you take a learning style quiz, you might see a certain style emerge as the strongest (and, thus, more preferred). However, that does not mean that person cannot learn in one of the other ways listed.

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        Learning Styles and the Brain

        Learning styles influence and guide the way you learn. They affect the way you internally represent your experiences, remember information, or even dictate the words you choose[3].

        Learning style quiz: Dunn & Dunn learning styles brain map [Source: Kos, (2017)]

           

          Research suggests that each learning style makes use of a different part of the brain. Here is the breakdown for each learning style:

          • Visual: Visual learners use the occipital and parietal lobes at the back of the brain.
          • Aural: Aural content is mostly processed through the temporal lobes (especially the right temporal lobe for music).
          • Verbal: Verbal content is processed through the temporal and frontal lobes.
          • Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic learning is processed using the cerebellum and the motor cortex.
          • Logical: Logical learning is processed through the parietal lobes (specifically using the left side of the brain as it pertains to logical thinking).
          • Social: Social learning happens in the frontal and temporal lobes.

          How to Use the Learning Style Quiz to Improve Your Life

          Perhaps you didn’t realize that people had different learning styles before you read this article. Maybe you already knew about learning styles.

          Whatever the case, you can learn a lot about yourself just by taking a short learning styles quiz. But what do you do with the knowledge you get from the results?

          Here are some tips:

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          Visual Learner

          If you’re a visual learner, focus on how you can make the material you’re learning more visually appealing[4].

          1. Stay Organized

          If a learning style quiz tells you you’re a visual learner, focus on getting your material organized. Your brain will likely feel overwhelmed if your notes are chaotic.

          2. Use Color

          Try color coding information in order to help your mind visually separate each bit. For example, if you’re studying for a history test, highlight dates in yellow, people in blue, and places in pink. This technique will set important pieces of information off in your mind and make them easier to remember.

          3. Watch Videos

          Ditch the audio-books and podcasts and either read or watch videos and lectures online. Your strength is found in visual explanation — seeing the information in a book, diagram, or demonstration.

          Auditory Learner

          If you’re an auditory learner according to your learning style quiz, focus on using your ability to hear to take in information[5].

          1. Limit Distracting Noises

          Traffic outside your window, students speaking nearby, or music blaring from a speaker won’t help you while studying. You’re already prone to take in the sounds around you, so if you want to learn something specific, find a quiet place to work where you can limit distracting noises.

          2. Read Aloud

          If you’ve taken notes in class, try reading them aloud to yourself. You can even create jingles or rhymes to help you remember specific bits of information.

          3. Record Lectures

          Instead of just simply writing notes as your professor or boss speaks, record the lecture or conversation and listen back later. This will help solidify the information with aural cues. Also, try speaking with classmates or coworkers to help “fill in” the information.

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          Kinesthetic Learners

          Your learning style quiz tells you that you’re a kinesthetic learner. Here are some study tips to help you[6].

          1. Teach Someone

          After you’ve studied the target information, try teaching it to someone else. This dynamic activity will help turn on your ability to recall the information.

          2. Be Hands-on

          Using your hands to create something will help your brain work through specific problems. If you need to remember 20 vocabulary words, try drawing a map and placing the words in specific places. This is related to the idea of a memory palace, which you can learn about here.

          Bonus tip: Try chewing gum, as the movement may help activate learning centers in your brain.

          3. Take Breaks

          As a kinesthetic learner, your mind won’t like being in one static position for very long. Take time to get up and walk around or do another physical activity for a few minutes between study sessions.

          Also be aware that most of the learning styles can fit into one of those three categories. You are essentially going to be one of these three types of learning styles paired with an interpersonal or intrapersonal preference. In other words, you either like working with others or you don’t.

          If you’re ready to take your learning to the next level with your learning style, check out the video below for some more tips and tricks:

          Final Thoughts

          Have you taken the learning style quiz yet? If not, scroll down this page a bit and try the quiz now!

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          If you spend just five to ten minutes on this quiz, it may give you insight into learning styles that will change your life.

          More on How to Use the Learning Style Quiz

          Featured photo credit: Eliabe Costa via unsplash.com

          Reference

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