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Back to Basics: Perfect Your Note-Taking Techniques

Outdated techniques

Rereading your notes, highlighting them, underlining them, and even summarizing them  - all take a lot of your time.

Better methods include taking breaks and spreading out your studying (known as distributed practice), and taking practice tests (which isn't really applicable outside of school).

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Back to Basics: Perfect Your Note-Taking Techniques

Back to Basics: Perfect Your Note-Taking Techniques

https://lifehacker.com/back-to-basics-perfect-your-note-taking-techniques-484879924

lifehacker.com

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Key Ideas

Purpose of taking notes

Note-taking serves one simple purpose: to help you remember information. 

Although we might associate note-taking with school, it's something most of us continue doing for the bulk of our lives.

Keep your notes simple

Keep them short, but have enough triggers in the keywords to jumpstart your memory when you look at them again:

  • Stick to keywords and very short sentences.
  • Write out your notes in your own words.
  • Find a note-taking style to fit both your needs and the speakers.
  • Write down what matters.

Outdated techniques

Rereading your notes, highlighting them, underlining them, and even summarizing them  - all take a lot of your time.

Better methods include taking breaks and spreading out your studying (known as distributed practice), and taking practice tests (which isn't really applicable outside of school).

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Adapting to context

Different types of information demand different styles of note-taking. There are lots of reasons to take notes: to retain information, to capture ideas, to problem solve or brainstorm, to visualize...

The Outline/List

Is a linear method of taking notes that proceeds down the page, using indentation or bullets to denote major and minor points.

Pros: it records content relationship in a way that is easy to review.

Cons: difficult to go back and edit information written in this system.

Works for: recording terms, definitions, facts and sequences, when taking notes on slides or readings.

The Sentence Method

The goal is to jot down your thoughts as quickly as possible. Format is kept to a minimum: every new thought is written on a new line. 

Pros: Is like free writing for notes.

Cons: lack organization and notes can be hard to understand.

Works for: meetings or lectures that lack organization; when information is presented very quickly.

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The Outline method
The Outline method

It requires you to structure your notes in form of an outline by using bullet points to represent different topics and their subtopics. 

Start writing main topics on the far left ...

The Cornell Method
  • The page is divided into 3 or 4 sections (top for title and, bottom for summary, 2 columns in the center).  
  • 30% of width should be kept in the left column while the remaining 70% for the right column.
  • All notes go into the main note-taking column
  • The smaller column on the left side is for comments, questions or hints about the actual notes. 
The Boxing Method

All notes that are related to each other are grouped together in a box. 

A dedicated box is assigned for each section of notes which cuts down the time needed for reading and reviewing.

Apps are especially helpful for this method because content on the page can be reordered or resized subsequently.

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The Cornell Method
The Cornell Method

Divide your paper into three sections: a 2.5” margin to the left, a 2” summary section on the bottom, and a main 6” section.

  • The main 6" section is used for note-taking during class.
The Mapping Method

The page is organized by topic. While in class, start with the main topic. Branch off and write a heading for each of the subtopics. Add important notes underneath each subtopic.

This method is useful for visual learners. It helps you understand the relationships between topics.

The Outlining Method

Use headings and bullet points with supporting facts.

  • During a lesson, begin your notes with a bullet point for the main topic.
  • The first subtopic is placed below and indented slightly to the right.
  • Jot down the details below your heading and slightly to the right.

This method is useful when a topic includes a lot of detail.

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Note Taking - Starter Tips

Preparation steps before a note-taking session:

  • Try to get familiar with the topic that is going to be discussed, beforehand. This leads to better understanding.
  • M...
Outline Method

Taking a structured approach to note-taking is the best way. Put the outline notes by choosing four or five key points of the lecture, followed by in-depth sub-points. One way to review is to use the Cornell Method, which divides the note sheet into three sections:

  • Cues: It includes key questions and main points.
  • Notes: Which you write during the class using the outline method. 
  • Summary: Which you can write after class while reviewing.

The Mind Map

The mind map is a visual diagram of abstract concepts.

It works best in subjects like chemistry, history and philosophy, subjects having a neural network like interlocked and complex topics. 

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Note-taking: a powerful tool for learning
  • Notes extend your memories: writing can be seen as an external enhancement of your brain, allowing you to think more complicated thoughts and solve harder problems.
  • Not...
How to Take Notes While Reading
  1. Figure out your purpose.
  2. Choose a technique that maximizes your focus on what is most relevant for your purpose. 
  3. Decide whether to optimize for review or retrieval practice.  
  4. If you do need to go back into the text again and again, create clues in your notes that can help you find what you’re looking for faster.
Figure out your purpose

Ask yourself why are you reading:

  • What am I trying to remember? 
  • How am I going to use this information? (e.g. on a test, cited in an essay, etc.)
  • What do I plan to do with the notes later? Will you be studying off of them extensively? Or maybe you’re just taking notes to stay focused, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll look through them after?

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Don't just take notes. Read them

If you have a bunch of pads or notebooks filled with meeting notes that you never consult, your note-taking isn't providing the most value over time.

Re-reading notes does make a diffe...

Digital vs. handwritten note-taking

There's little research into the benefits of digital note-taking over handwritten notes.

But the findings underline that typing out notes improves later recall, while copy and pasting text into notes is actually detrimental to learning because it encourages wordiness.

Structure and hierarchy

The most rigorously structured notes, those with hierarchal ordering and numbered subsections, are of the highest quality and accuracy. 

But although these notes are significantly more precise than freestyle note-taking, there is little difference in the ability of the note-taker to recall the material.

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Note prioritization
Note prioritization

Most common reasons to search through old notes:

  • Figuring out who is supposed to do what
  • Revisiting/clarifying decisions made
  • Looking for greater context on requir...
Must-Capture notes in meetings
  • Action Items: to-dos, tasks, action requests etc. These will serve as the foundation to keep everyone aligned and moving forward.
  • Decisions: Clearly defining the outcome and decision agreed to by the group is essential.
  • Requirements/Specifications: Sometimes they pop up unexpectedly in the midst of conversation, but they’re important to document.
Honing your note taking strategies during meetings
  • Create an agenda, to be able to better control the pace of the meeting and plan for the likely key notetaking moments.
  • Take notes in advance: Write your key discussion points to present in advance.
  • Prepare your note-taking tools.
  • Prepare the setting before the meeting, especially before video calls: being able to hear everyone = better notes.
  • Block 10 minutes after the meeting, to clean up your notes, add details where there may be gaps, and delete notes that turn out to have no value.
The Art of Note-Taking
The Art of Note-Taking

Even in an age where laptops rule, notetaking is still the tool of choice for highly successful students, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Tim Ferris attributes his notetaking style as one o...

The Cornell Method

This simple and highly systematic note-taking method helps you to understand key ideas and relationships easily. Best used for:

  • Gathering information from a seminar or presentation.
  • Recording college lecture notes.
  • Studying literature or a textbook.
Cornell Method: How to take notes
  1. Write down the lecture name/seminar/reading topic at the top of the page.
  2. Write down notes in the largest section of the page (right-hand column). Transcribe only the facts using bulleted lists and abbreviations. Take notes of questions that arise.
    3. Create question cues in the left-hand column that you will use later as a study tool.
  3. At the bottom section of the page, summarize the main ideas of your notes. Ask yourself how you would explain this information to someone else. Keep it concise.

Read over your notes in the left-hand column and summary at the bottom as often as possible. Quiz yourself with the questions you've included in the left column. Repeat often to increase your recall and deepen your comprehension.

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Taking Smart Notes

When we take notes, it should not become a stack of forgotten thoughts. Our notes should be a rich and interconnected collection of ideas we can draw on regardless of where our interests lead us.

Luhmann's slip-box

German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) designed his slip-box made up of index cards. They were thematically unlimited. His simple system produced a prolific output. Over his 30-year career,  Luhmann published 58 books and hundreds of articles while completing his two-volume masterwork, The Society of Society (1997).  He regularly pointed to his slip-box as the source for his fantastic productivity.

How Luhmann's slip-box worked
  • He wrote down any interesting or potentially useful ideas on uniformly sized index cards on one side only.
  • Each new index card got a sequential number, starting at 1.
  • When a new source was added to that topic or something to supplement it, he would add new index cards with letters added to the number (1a, 1b, 1c, etc.)
  • These branching connections were marked in red as close as possible, where the branch began.
  • Any of these branches could also have their own branches. (For example 21/3d26g53)
  • As he read, he would create new cards, update or add comments to existing ones, create new branches from existing cards, or create new links between cards.

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Benefits of note-taking
  • Taking notes keeps you focused.
  • It triggers critical, constructive thinking.
  • It enables you to stay engaged.
  • It captures in-the-moment insights, qu...
Effective notes taking
  • Choose the right tool: digital or paper, whatever works for you;
  • Give your notes structure: this focuses your thinking and simplifies review and retrieval;
  • Record whatever’s important or interesting: questions, key insights, quotes, diagrams, etc.;
  • Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later: e.g.: "*" for important/insightful or "?" for things that require further research;
  • Schedule time to review your notes.