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Published on November 18, 2019

7 Simple Note Taking Techniques for Efficient Learning

7 Simple Note Taking Techniques for Efficient Learning

Whether you are going back to college or have decided to take learning into your own hands, note-taking is a skill that is truly unique.

On the surface, it can seem like jotting down the important points or stating everything word for word. But delving into the world of note-taking begins a realization that there is more to it than that.

So if you feel like your note skills are rusty, or if you didn’t care much about note-taking, here are some strategies to help you prepare and succeed in this area.

What to Do Before Note Taking

There are all kinds of strategies and systems in place to be taking notes. Some are more formal methods for taking notes while others are strategies that have helped others in the past. But before jumping into note-taking techniques, there are some things to consider prior to learning:

Adopt a Note Taking Mindset

Even our attitude and behavior plays a factor in our ability to take notes. For example, snacks with high sugar or high salt will impact our ability to pay attention to. This also applies to coffee which – if not consumed in moderation – can impact sleep and your ability to pay attention and focus as well.

In this regard, we can see already how mood can impact our ability to take notes. If we’re not focused or easily distracted, we will have a tougher time putting together accurate notes. But that is a more extreme case.

If you’re someone who doesn’t drink coffee or has a snack before class, attitude can still play a significant role. Think back to classes that you weren’t that excited for or that you were bad at. The only reason those topics are not your strong suit can be chalked up to your attitude.

Think about it:

The topics you excelled at made you feel good and you had a vested interest in. This is no different from other pursuits in your life. Compared to things you lack interest in, it’s clear that you would make no effort to learn about something that you don’t want.

So attitude makes a difference and this logic can be applied to even topics you’re not big on. All you need to do is have a positive attitude, pay attention, and study with a classmate or two.

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Preparing Before Class

First, if you are taking a formal course, it pays to be prepared. One study by Spies and Wilkin[1] found that law students who read a legal case before getting to class displayed deeper understanding of the material compared to others.

This doesn’t apply to courses where you are assigned reading but in all manner of courses. With plenty of information made available at our fingertips, there is a lot of opportunities for us to learn about the subject before a course or a training session.

This will pay off for you as you’ll spend more time focusing on understanding the tougher aspects of a topic rather than absorbing the information as is.

7 Note Taking Techniques for Effective Learning

In Miami University’s public database, there is a course outlining note-taking and active listening [2]. These particular methods are some of the more popular methods for taking notes.

1. The Outline Method

This method is used for simplicity and is one of the easiest methods of taking notes. Anyone can pick up this method and use it with no issues.

When using this method, the idea is to select four or five key points that are going to be covered in a specific lesson. Under those key points, you write more in-depth sub-points based on what is being discussed on those topics.

The idea with this form of note taking is so it doesn’t overwhelm you. But you’ll pay attention in a different manner. In the case of this approach, if you know what’s being discussed, you’ll focus on the important aspects of that topic rather than wonder what’s coming up next.

Use this method in cases where:

  • You want your notes to be organized from the start.
  • To see the relationships between both topics and subtopics.
  • You want to convert the points into questions to quiz yourself on later.

2. The Cornell Method

Developed in the 1950s by Cornell University, this is the most common note taking method around. In fact, the outline method is likely inspired by this method as there are similarities to it.

In this method, you are still using key points, but this method goes deeper into the organizing method. For one, the page is broken into three sections:

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  • a narrow column called the “cue”
  • a wider column for your actual notes
  • a summary at the bottom

The cue section is the section where you fill out main points, people, potential test questions and more. This section is devoted to helping you recall larger topics and ideas.

The note section is devoted to expanding and explaining those cue points. You still want to summarize them to an extent using headings. When getting into specifics, you want to indent them and use a numbering system, either roman numerals, numbers, or letters.

The summary section is the section you write up at the end summarizing all of the information in a clear sentence or two. You want both the summary and the cue to be simple seeing as your notes are where you want all of the details.

Here’s an example illustrated by Comprehension Hart:[3]

    This method is great if you:

    • Want notes to be organized even further and easier to review.
    • Want to pull out major ideas and concepts quickly.

    3. Mind Mapping Method

    Mind mapping is a method that works for subjects that have interlocking topics or complex and abstract ideas. Chemistry, history, and philosophy are examples where this method shines.

    The use of the map is to serve as a visual aid for how every topic is related to one another. It also allows you to go into detail on particular ideas or topics. An example of this at work is looking at the French Revolution.

    First, you’d start with that concept at the center and then begin branching off that led to events, and people that sparked the French Revolution.

    You can start off with broad general ideas and during the course or when you are reviewing, you can add in sub-concepts to those branches. Things like dates, support facts, concepts that you see between people and events.

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    That being said, this method doesn’t apply to  only those kinds of topics. Any kind of topic that you can break into various points can also help as well. Another example can be talking about different forms of learning and using the nodes to discuss each method and what each one is like.

    Learn more about this method here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    This type of method for note taking is great for:

    • Visual learners who struggle with studying via notes.
    • For people who need to remember and connect relationships, and events with topics.

    4. Flow Notes Method

    Discussed in a post in College Info Geek,[4] this method is for those who want to maximize active learning in the classroom and save time in reviewing.

    The idea of flow notes is to treat yourself as a student rather than transcribing word for word. In this method, you’ll jot down topics, then start drawing arrows, make doodles, diagrams and graphs to get a general idea out there.

    This method also helps in drawing other bridges and form connections in various fields or within the subject. If some information reminds you of another piece of information or technique, make a note and jot it down.

    Take a look at this video to learn a bit more about this method:

    The only catch with this method is that while it’s great for learning at that moment, you may have a tough time reviewing them later. You may want to pair this method with another method mentioned above.

    5. The Sentence Method

    Another simple method and is a lesser version of flow notes. The idea with this is a simple note-taking. You’re jotting down everything that’s being said to the best of your ability. It’s genuine transcription at it’s finest.

    The problem with this method is that it can be tough to keep up with everything else that’s happening. If you’re writing notes by hand, you will definitely be missing key points and ideas. On a computer, you may be able to keep up, however, you may face challenges still.

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    Despite those problems, there are still advantages to this method. Compared to every other method, this provides the most details and information for review:

    • You can still be brief by covering the main points.
    • Your notes are already simplified for you to study and review them immediately.

    6. Charting Method

    Charting notes take the Cornell method and divide a sheet into three columns. Similar to the mind mapping method, this helps you in connecting relationships and facts together between topics.

    This method is a lazier method than the other ones mentioned above but works for the people who want to highlight key pieces of information on various topics and want to organize facts for easy review.

    7. Writing on Slides

    The final method is another strategy for people who can’t be bothered to take extensive notes. This method works well particularly in classes where the instructor provides slides that they’re using for their lectures.

    Whether it’s a handout or you can download them online, all you need to do is print them off and start writing away on them.

    This method is great because it removes a lot of the worry of taking general notes. Since ideas and concepts are already discussed, it’s a matter of expanding those notes already.

    What Note Taking Techniques Are the Best?

    As you may have noticed, each method is good in its own situation. Depending on what you’re learning – and your own preferences – each method has advantages.

    It’s also worth noting that every person learns and studies in a different manner. With this in mind, consider how you study and figure out the method that best compliments it.

    More About Learning Fast

    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever The Lifehack Show: Overcoming Anxiety Through Personal Agency with Dr. Paul Napper How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) When You Never Stop Learning, These 5 Amazing Things Happen

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Highly-Desired Skills You Can Acquire By Self-Learning

    10 Highly-Desired Skills You Can Acquire By Self-Learning

    When you look past the swarms of shallow content, the internet can be an extremely helpful database. Never before did we have access to such a vast amount of knowledge, and it is distributed for free. With the right sources, each and every one of us has an opportunity to acquire a decent level of expertise in any particular field. It is also worth mentioning how a lot of tutorials are now uploaded in video form, allowing us to learn much more efficiently, due to the fact that we retain more information from watching a video than from reading a book.

    Passion for self-learning is truly great, since we are, in a way, always perfecting our skills and constantly improving. In addition to self-improvement, you can easily acquire useful skills, and become competent enough to earn a good income. Another advantage of self-learning is attention to detail. People who took the time to educate themselves about a certain topic did it because they loved it, and managed to turn their hobby into a professional skill. They are, in the majority of cases, their own boss. They take special care of their customers, and not because someone else ordered them to. Of course, sometimes your skill-set will require you to work for someone else in order to efficiently monetize it. However, thanks to self-learning, you may be able to advance to a better position within the company much easier.

    Finally, even if you don’t have a passion for certain jobs, do not be afraid. When you fully invest your time and effort into mastering something, it eventually becomes interesting. As long as you advance at a normal pace, you are highly unlikely to back off from self-learning projects.

    Here are some great suggestions of skills anyone can acquire, and in time make some profit within the next few years.

    1. Become a self-made handy man

    Due to the vast change in lifestyle, and various advancement in technology, modern job descriptions usually involve a lot of sitting and typing. It is quite rare to be a proficient handyman, considering how these skills were usually passed on from our mentors face-to-face. Moreover, our educational system has conditioned our minds to regard these professions as something only underachievers take up. This is wrong. These skills are actually essential for a normal life.

    So, if the ambition of your parents stirred you in a different direction, and you had no chance to learn how to be a handyman, you can go through some tutorial videos to learn how to do some basic tasks. You can also learn how to repair items – as long as the job you have to do is simple enough.

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    Once you have fully mastered your handyman skills, you can start charging for your services. Believe it or not, there are job platforms that are specifically designed for handyman and people who are in need of house projects.

    2. Learn photo and video editing

    The art of photography and video making are skills that will rarely be left underutilized. As long as you are creative, and have a sharp eye for aesthetics and composition, you can become extremely successful in this area. Once again, these skills are compatible with self-learning procedures. There are plenty of tutorials on how to manipulate videos and photography. If you don’t find this line of work appealing, or you don’t really like to pay attention to details, I strongly suggest that you do not attempt to master these skills, since the whole thing will start to irritate you pretty quickly.

    Photo and video editing is extremely slow at the beginning. It is only once you are fully acquainted with the different software that you can do achieve greater speed and efficiency. Then again, you can grow to love these hobbies, since your progress is clearly visible, and you will always strive to bring your photography editing skills to the next level. Job platforms like Upwork or Elance are the best places to start you career as a freelancer. IT firms which develop games and posters are constantly employing people with these skills. When you look for a job, there is no need for prior academic qualifications. All you need to do is show the sample of your work. This is definitely a plus.

    3. Learn how to blog or vlog

    Blogging is a great hobby. If anything, you will hone your writing skills and find your particular style, allowing you to eventually advance to blogs of greater quality and higher authority. Bloggers are really popular, since they offer valuable insights, tips, and hacks for people who need them. In fact, the tutorial videos and articles that are mentioned here all come from bloggers and vloggers. Because of their usefulness, some become popular enough that they are approached by companies to do product reviews.

    Now, becoming a minor celebrity is not easy, and relying on celebrity status to make a profit is foolish. Luckily, even regular bloggers with good writing skills are noticed. Their services are financed by small business owners, so you can easily operate within your own niche. Also, there are sites like CareerAddict that are willing to pay for a quality post, so you can build your portfolio and get paid in the process. When it comes to self-learning, I strongly recommend finding a niche you are comfortable with and blogging on the subjects that are close to heart.

    When we see a channel with a ridiculous amount of subscribers, we always wonder if we could pull the same thing off. Making videos on a topic you love and getting money for it is a dream job, right? Well, you don’t have to be a professional in order to get there; however, solid video editing expertise is also required. You will also need to know how to be a good performer if you want to make your show more enticing.

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    Another important aspect of blogging and vlogging is how you present the information that you have. You can be an expert data-wise, but if you are unable to efficiently transfer your knowledge or get your point across, you won’t be able to attract a massive audience audience.

    4. Learn to be good at a particular video game

    Becoming an active member of the gaming community can be a true gold mine. Personally, my dream was to get paid for playing video games, but realistically speaking, it would only result in me hating what I do for living, since it becomes your obligation and really takes all the fun out of it. Now that is only my opinion, plus it only applies to extremely popular games with competitive play, mostly MOBAs (like League of Legends and DOTA).

    A great deal of people who stream their gameplay experience and make “Let’s Play” videos are making good profit out of the hobby. The website called Twitch is filled with streamers and some of them receive ridiculous amounts of money. However, you do not work for anybody. Basically, people donate their money as they watch you play. If you are considering this option, do not bother with mastering the games which are already popular, find what’s the upcoming trend in the industry and begin with it immediately. You’ll have the best chance of attracting visitors.

    5. Software and hardware hacks

    This one is really self-explanatory. We heavily rely on our computers, so both software and hardware problems present quite a challenge. Due to the sensitive nature of the stored data, we choose not to try anything, and immediately call for help. Well, self-learning can eliminate this feeling of powerlessness, and knowing your way around the brain of the computer will always be useful. This does not apply only to computers – smartphones, tablets, and consoles are devices that we use all the time and are afraid to fix ourselves.

    In other words, buy an external hard drive and store all the essential documents there, so you’ll have no fear if something goes wrong. If or when something goes wrong with your PC or other device, just browse the web for help, people have definitely experienced the same problem before. Find solutions and try to fix it yourself. If you are going to pay someone to do it, attempt to fix it yourself first – you are already paying, so why not make it a learning experience.

    I did not have much experience when it comes to PC problems, but have conducted more than enough experiments on my Xbox. I always used a forum for figuring out those problems. Trust me, once you are capable of fixing these problems you become a hero in your neighbourhood, and your reputations starts to spread. One day you can definitely charge for those services, or provide great tutorials on the topic.

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    6. Become an expert on a particular subject

    This one is closely connected to blogging and vlogging. A high level of expertise will be helpful, especially if you pick a field which was not explained thoroughly so far. Now it is also important how you present your subject matter, because if it isn’t fun, people won’t stay on your channel for long. This is what being an expert is all about. Finding the best way to explain something to someone who has no idea about the subject. We all love to learn, but if we are unable to understand the subject it becomes tedious. I recently started to watch crash courses on YouTube, and I was sad I did not have this during elementary school and high school. I found most of these subjects tedious, but now I just go through the videos one after another. I can’t help being amazed by how good they are.

    Another good example of this sort of channel is Extra Credits. They are really good at giving tips for game design, as well as covering interesting events from history. In other words, find what you love, delve deep into that topic and provide some constructive criticism. You should try to incite good debates and introduce some new points of view. If you love a particular book series or TV series, express your theories or find other good fan theories, and make videos to incite engagement among the community. These kinds of efforts are always noticed, and people in a similar niche are always willing to help you get noticed. When it comes to self-learning these channels are outstanding and the community is indeed friendly.

    Experts are always needed. By having proof of your expertise, you can find a job more easily. A lot of firms rely on their websites as marketing tools, but Google made sure that spam material is no longer regarded as a viable link. In other words, you need to have truly useful information on your site, the type of information an expert can provide. I recently stumbled upon a great blog on one website. You can actually find out a lot about law and rights and how it works. This is a topic people usually neglect to study, we only memorize a few rules which we see in crime and lawyer TV shows. There is another section about criminal psychology, which is a topic I personally find extremely interesting.

    These were all examples how one topic can provide a myriad of unique content ideas for vlogging and blogging, as long as it is tackled in a correct manner. So, do your research, become an expert, show your expertise, and you will surely get noticed. Use the links as your guidelines to adequately transfer your knowledge on video or text.

    7. Start inventing your own recipes

    We have all seen those shows on 24 hour food channels, and yes a lot of meals look delicious, but when I look at all the ingredients they use, it just seems like too much trouble. Wouldn’t it be so much better if one could come up with a recipe for a delicious meal made out of things that are most commonly found in the fridge and cupboard. If there is one thing people love it is easy and delicious solutions, and this is quite hard to pull off.

    You do not even have to be a professional cook to be famous, take a look at the Epic Meal Time channel. They rely on excessive use of bacon and other ingredients high in cholesterol, but their meals are simply awe-inspiring. You do not need to learn how to cook simply to have your own show, and there are many more advantages. Believe it or not, cooking can be helpful if you want to travel the world. There are many programs in search of cooks who are willing to prepare food for passengers on a cruise. The job is exhausting, but the pay is good. Plus, you get to visit all sorts of interesting locations.

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    Cooking is one of the best examples of self-learning. After all,  you can’t become good from reading a recipe – you have to try it on your own, add a personal touch, and experiment with ingredients before you find the perfect balance. Here is a good place to start learning, it’s called the Cooking ChannelOnce you master some of the meals, you can add your personal touch to them.

    8. Learn some artistic skills – illustration or photography

    These skills are best combined with the previously mentioned photo and video editing. Being a designer and drawing what you want is great, but working for clients can be bothersome. It can be difficult to transfer someone else’s vision to the screen or a piece of paper. We live in the era of comic books, video games, and movies packed with special effects – good illustrators are always welcome. Once again, this is a dream big scenario, more down to Earth solutions include working for IT firms or designing covers for books and albums. Still, it is an impressive skill that can be attained through self-learning. Once again, rely on tutorials to aid you in your progress, and learn how to be a self-made graphic designer.

    With all this new technology, photography is much easier now than it used be. Plus, with all the filters and different lenses, high quality photography takes up significantly less time. However, you’ll still need some sort of guide to get you started and a good camera, of course. After that, you can let your imagination and inner artist guide your actions. People are always willing to pay money for good photography. They need it for articles, blog posts, commercials, posters, web sites, etc. A good photographer is also hired to take pictures and record special events, making this another good choice for a self-learning career.

    9. Learn how to code

    If you know how to code, create, and maintain websites, you’ll have job in no time. It is hard to master, and will take some time. It is also not as interesting to master as other skills, but the pay is great. WordPress is the most learner-friendly platform. Everyone will tell you to start with this one if you are new to programming. In order to be good at coding you will need to learn programming languages, but after numerous drills, you’ll get a hang of it. I really love that one saying, “Programming is like writing a book… except if you miss out a single coma on page 126 the whole thing make no sense.” Unfortunately, this is quite true, and once you start learning you’ll see why people pay good money for this job. It’s not impossible to learn on your own, but buckle up for one uncomfortable ride.

    Also, coding will not get the job done on its own. You’ll need to be a solid web designer to create a website that someone would buy. We have all seen poorly designed sites and did not bother to check what they were about, since no one is impressed with sloppy work. Once you master coding, go through some web design guides, and build your own website as a portfolio. You can start as a freelancer, and you’ll be able to find a job offer rather quickly. In other words, if you are looking for a high-paying self-learning skill to master, you can’t possibly go wrong with this one.

    10. Learn how to present what you are capable of

    Finally, in order to get the job and be chosen over your competitors, you’ll have to know how to present yourself. After all, you only got one shot at a first impression. Find out how to build your resume, find out what is required of you as an employee, and how to adequately express yourself during a job interview. You can be brilliant, but if you lack certain qualities of a good employee, you’ll have a hard time monetizing your skill-set. We commonly feel nervous during these situations. However, if you can manage to navigate through the interview correctly, you can score your first job.

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