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5 Note-taking Strategies That Will Boost Your Memory

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 September 20, 2018

            8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

            8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

            You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

            Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

            When you train your brain, you will:

            • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
            • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
            • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

            So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

            1. Work your memory

            Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

            When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

            If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

            The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

            Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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            Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

            What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

            For example, say you just met someone new:

            “Hi, my name is George”

            Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

            Got it? Good.

            2. Do something different repeatedly

            By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

            Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

            It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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            And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

            But how does this apply to your life right now?

            Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

            Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

            Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

            So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

            You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

            That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

            3. Learn something new

            It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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            For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

            Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

            You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

            4. Follow a brain training program

            The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

            5. Work your body

            You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

            Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

            Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

            Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

            6. Spend time with your loved ones

            If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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            If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

            I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

            7. Avoid crossword puzzles

            Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

            Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

            Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

            8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

            Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

            When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

            So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

            The bottom line

            Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

            Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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