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5 Note-taking Strategies That Will Boost Your Memory

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5 Note-taking Strategies That Will Boost Your Memory

Memory is a funny thing—even if you’re actively listening to a conversation, you only remember 70 percent of it. If you’re multitasking or daydreaming, which many of us tend to do, that number drops dramatically. To counter this handicap of the human mind, successful people take notes. Here are some note-taking strategies to help boost your memory.

1. Use your tech.

    When AI declares war on humanity, I’m siding w/ the machines…

    Whether you have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, it likely comes with a microphone. Both the Apple iOS and Google Play app stores have a variety of voice recording apps, and many are free. On the laptop, Audacity is one of the best free voice recorders on the market. In addition, you can find voice-to-text dictation software that can type your notes for you.

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    2. Typing is faster than writing.

      A day in the life of a data entry worker…

      If you’re in an environment where voice recording isn’t possible, you can always type your notes. People giving a presentation speak at 100 words per minute (during conversations, we average 150 wpm, which is the speed audiobooks are recorded at).

      The average person writes at around 22 words per minute, whereas the average professional typist hits speeds of 50–80 wpm. Even if you’re not comfortable with a keyboard, the average person types 33 wpm. This 50 percent increase makes a huge difference in how much information you can jot down, so use a computer whenever possible.

      3. Use shorthand and abbreviations.

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        Women had better handwriting than men…until texting was invented…

        If you must write, using shorthand is a great way to increase your note-taking speed. Shorthand competitions have recorded participants writing over 300 wpm, which is more than enough to keep up with a presentation. This method takes some getting used to, however, and you may not have time to invest in it.

        Regardless of whether you type or write, use abbreviations as much as possible. The Oxford English Dictionary has a comprehensive list of commonly used abbreviations, but if you’re only taking notes for yourself, you can use any abbreviations you want, so long as you understand what they mean.

        4. Focus on key points.

          Tennis…boring sports fans since 1873…

          When taking notes, focus on the important points to save yourself some work. In school, your teacher will often say “this may be on the test.” Teachers understand you can’t memorize their every word, so they give hints to help guide your learning. If they tell you to pay close attention to something or make a note of it, it’s a good idea to take heed.

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          In the business world, the training wheels are removed. You’re expected to understand the key takeaways, and missing them can have consequences. While working as a manager, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to put people on disciplinary action for not paying attention to an important procedural change from a meeting. If you’re ever unsure whether or not you notated all the important points, don’t be afraid to ask someone.

          5. Highlight and use colors.

            Pretty much…

            I’m a huge fan of highlighters and markers, especially ones that smell. I hung out with a lot of graffiti artists growing up, and the smell of a Sharpie or Mr. Sketch marker brings back vivid memories of my childhood.

            When taking notes, highlight the parts you know you’ll need to reference later. This includes times, dates, numbers, and names. Whether taking a test, writing an essay, or working in a business, it’s the numbers and names that you’ll constantly search back through your notes for. Making them stick out with color will save you headaches down the road.

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            The act of note-taking in itself helps you memorize information by forcing you to activate more of your brain. Even if you don’t remember the exact information, you’ll at least remember writing it in your notes. After your class or meeting, refer back to your notes to help you utilize the information and apply it.

            Featured photo credit: unsplash via pixabay.com

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            Last Updated on October 21, 2021

            How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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            How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

            Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

            Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

            The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

            Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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            Program Your Own Algorithms

            Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

            Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

            By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

            How to Form a Ritual

            I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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            Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

            1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
            2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
            3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
            4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

            Ways to Use a Ritual

            Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

            1. Waking Up

            Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

            2. Web Usage

            How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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            3. Reading

            How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

            4. Friendliness

            Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

            5. Working

            One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

            6. Going to the gym

            If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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            7. Exercise

            Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

            8. Sleeping

            Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

            8. Weekly Reviews

            The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

            Final Thoughts

            We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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            Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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