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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 July 13, 2020

            How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

            How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

            Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

            If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

            1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

            The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

            Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

            For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

            The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

            2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

            Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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            As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

            Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

            3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

            Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

              This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

              We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

              Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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              When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

              Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

              4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

              Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

              For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

              Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

              5. Make Decisions

              For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

              If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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              If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

              Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

              I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

              This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

              The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

              6. Take Some Form of Action

              Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

              The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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              It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

              Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

              The Bottom Line

              Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

              When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

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              Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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