In today’s world, where the internet has made it very easy for almost everyone to have access to an infinite source of data and information in the form of articles and facts and figures represented on fancy charts, it has become crucial to understand what is the goal of consuming any form of data that comes your way. With people becoming more opinionated and everyone having something to say about everything, there’s just too much noise and if one does not pay attention and summarise the daily flood of data and information around them, they may soon find themselves lost, unorganized and inefficient.
To begin with, one needs to be clear on the objective and end goal for this note-taking activity. Whether you are a student who is taking notes from a lecture to prepare for a test later in the semester or a working professional who is summarising the key takeaway from client calls and meetings, you need to know your WHY before you learn your HOW. The why is what will keep you consistent and determined. It will even go as far as to establish how religious and serious your note taking should be.
- The importance of being an active listener.
- Handwriting your notes
- Attention to detail: keywords and concepts
- Grouping new information vs old information
- Shorthand writing
- Maintain neatness
- Testing and Sharing
This one is a no brainer and yet many of us fail to do it. Whether it is a class or a meeting, being aware of the general agenda and topic of discussion is key to the overall success of achieving the goal you have in mind. You may need to answer some tough questions during a class or a meeting ( in which case you need to have another set of advanced notes prepared). In any case, having your pen and notebook or laptop ready and charged is the first and most important step in the note-taking activity.
2.The importance of being an active listener
Learn to listen. Notice the tone and pace of the speaker. Does he/she zone out briefly and go off topic between discussions? This would allow you more time to organize your thoughts and take notes. If you are an assistant or a secretary, you would be required to take notes even when you are not being directly spoken to, taking in details of meetings, decisions and what not of your superiors so that you do not miss out on anything important hampering their schedule in turn. Being an active listener, focusing on the key points is more important than writing every single detail down. Listen first, understand and then write, in your own words.
3.Handwriting your notes
Studies have shown that taking notes by hand helps in better retention when compared to doing the same on a laptop. Reading something in your own handwriting is another way to better remember your notes rather than reading it off a screen in typed writing.
Of course, you can rewrite your notes, or write them in details after further textbook and secondary research to clear your doubts and back it up with evidence and save it on a computer, however the easiest way to ensure that you retain and use your notes to your maximum advantage is through writing them down in a journal or notebook, carrying it around and adding to it whenever necessary.
4.Attention to detail: keywords and concepts
Paying attention to the details is key when it comes to taking notes. By noting down individual keywords or phrases most relevant to the topic as well as making a note of important names, dates, definitions, formulas or theories you will find yourself with a backbone of the topic being discussed which can or cannot be built upon depending on your requirement. If you need to study in detail, refer a textbook and add to these notes. As we all know, many times the most important parts in a test or an evaluation comes from when the professor or manager was talking (as they generally like to do) rather than the follow-up mail or notes which they share.
5.Grouping new information vs old information
There will always be something new which is being discussed. Something that you need to read upon further or investigate. This is more important because it is new and needs processing. Equally, in each discussion, there will be some points and concepts which are old and are being brought up to make a connection to the previous discussion, these can be ignored, given that you have already covered these in your notes and familiarised yourself with them.
The speed of talking is quicker than that of taking notes and in order to keep up, we need to use shorthand writing whenever possible to save time. Using short forms like a plus sign instead of and, “cd” and “wd” for could and would and “w/” for with. These will help you speed up in taking notes and keep you on caught up with your speaker.
7. Maintaining neatness
There’s no point in note taking if you cannot understand at a later point in time on what exactly was written by you. Writing in your best neat and clean handwriting while maintaining the required speed is sufficient to fulfill the purpose of the neat note exercise. Using a column on the left for future notes is a great way to divide your page and thoughts. Similarly, if you are someone who enjoys using a highlighter to remember your notes and make them visually appealing then go ahead. However, studies have shown that highlighting tends to isolate a concept and it is better to remember it as a whole and part of something rather than signaling it out.
Saving your notes into categories is a great way to search for them at a later point in time as well as create ideas around them. It is also very useful to have themes and categories when trying to remember and recall concepts. Categories can be as broad or as detailed according to your preference.
Re-reading and reviewing your notes later during the same day when you write them is a scientifically proven way to retain them better in your memory. You can read about the concepts in detail, add to your notes or simply review and refresh. This is just as important as preparing to take notes. It may sound like this is obvious but if you do not go back to your notes you might as well not have taken them in the first place
10. Testing and Sharing
Giving yourself a quiz to check how much you can recall is a great way to see if your note technique is working. Sharing your notes with a friend or co-worker or your employees is another great way to share ideas that they can use as a guide. Don’t be that guy who does not share their notes simply because they are selfish. It is a great way to help out one another and to build trust at school or at work.
There are specific note-taking methods and templates that one could use depending on the level of detail and topic of discussions such as the Outline method, Cornell method, Boxing method, Charting method and Mapping method as described in detail on this article on Medium. I personally used the Mapping method and the Outline method the most.
I hope that this blog post has inspired you to keep taking notes and be more mindful about them going forward in order to get the most out of them. For more such blog posts on productivity, business and marketing, stay subscribed to Wyzebulb: Tips for your Business Growth. If you find this article useful be sure to like, comment and share it with those who may find it useful.
P.S If you are someone who loves to take notes as much as we do, let us know if you like to do it classic and old school handwritten style or on an App. Want us to make an article on Evernote or Google Keep? Comment below and we’ll do it!