note taking tips

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught but it’s one of the most crucial skills that you’ll need during your time at university. Not only do good notes help recall facts but the actual act of writing things down helps us to remember them in the first place.

What’s more, effective note-taking isn’t one of those skills that has an expiration date, but you’re certain to use it even after you graduate when you enter the world of work. The last thing you’ll want to do after a long and arduous meeting, after all, is to sit down at your desk and have to stare at a messy, incomprehensible scrawl of notes that are no longer of any relevance to you.

So how do you break from this unproductive habit? Here are seven killer note-taking tips that will help you get the most from your lectures.

1. Organisation

First things first, the golden rule of killer note-taking is ORGANISATION. Without having a clear structure to outline your notes, there’s no logical order to follow. Setting some architectural foundations such as headlines to use as a skeleton helps to set out and categorise the key takeaways from your lecture or meeting.

Once your basic building blocks are in motion, use bullet points and not paragraphs of text to summarise the key points of each topic.

2. Don’t Take All Your Notes in One Location

Research shows that sitting and working in one place for too long actually hinders productivity and drains motivation, so embrace the digital age that we live in and work remotely from new locations. Why not summarise two pages of your lecture in the library and then relocate to your Student Union for round two?

You also don’t have to sacrifice your social life. As we’re living in exciting times where we’re always connected, you can now work with your social plans and not around them. For example, if you’ve got a coffee date that you don’t want to miss, arrive an hour early and do a power hour. You then have time to sip your latte without having the guilt and pressure looming over you that your work is incomplete. By planning out your tasks in different intervals, you can set yourself deadlines and work in small but beneficial bursts. Remember, constantly changing your environment refreshes your mind, body and brain, making you more productive as a whole.

Simply having all of your important documents in one place so that you can access them instantly from anywhere gives you that flexibility. Allowing instant recall of everything from everywhere, straight from your mobile phone, The Memory App is a powerful technological solution that empowers the remote work ethic. What’s more, the innovative personal organiser allows you to save and categorise all notes using your own unique memory tags so that you recall a specific photo, document or video file in seconds using labels that make sense and are relevant to you.

3. Record Lectures

The problem with typing up notes in lectures is that often you’re so focused on jotting down important information that you end up missing the next part and spend the rest of the class playing catchup. Worse, you’re not actually paying attention to your professor and that means that you’re losing valuable opportunities to understand what’s being discussed, or your chance to ask questions about anything that’s unclear.

The best way to combat this? Record your lectures and instead of writing down all the details, you can scribe the main points and then go back, listen to the lecture and add in details or fill in any gaps.

4. Take notes by hand

A study conducted at Princeton University shows that note takers retain more information when they write down notes by hand in lieu of typing. This is due to the fact that laptop users tend to transcribe what they hear verbatim.

Those who take notes by hand, however, cannot write fast enough to copy word-for-word and so they’re forced to pay attention and process what’s being said and to pick out the most important and relevant information.

5. Always come prepared.

Before you come to your seminar, make sure that you’ve taken the time to review notes from previous lectures. This will ensure that you’re fully up to speed with the topic being debated and can write notes building on from foundational understandings of that subject.

In addition, by going over your notes before your lecture you’re making sure that any prominent themes, concepts or ideas that are essential to grasp the essence of the module are at the forefront of your mind and therefore will be integrated where relevant with your new notes.

Stick to the old adage: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

6. Write shorthand

Did you know that the average student writes 1/3 word per second while the average speaker speaks at a rate of 2/3 words per second? This means that in order to transcribe as much as you can from the dictation, you need to adopt the shorthand strategy for note-taking.

While it might seem like a difficult thing to do, remember that your notes are just for you and so you only need to use a code that works for you. For example, I often use three dots positioned in a triangle to denote the word therefore (∴), and an inverted dot triangle to mean because (∵) and while to most readers this wouldn’t make a lot of sense, when I go over my notes, it’s easy for me to understand what these symbols represent.

So, if you understand that “wd” means would, or a plus sign means “and”, then shorten away!

7. Colour-code

Many people find that adding a splash of colour to their notes helps to make information easier to remember. This is because memory is at it’s core a cognitive process and colour is the most powerful stimulus for the brain, affecting many areas of the mind allowing for greater recall.

The association of a particular colours can trigger certain responses, for example, the use of warm colours such as yellow, orange and red can have a greater affect on attention than cooler tones such as blue or grey.

Using colours that sit at opposite ends of the colour wheel is also important as the high contrast attracts more attention due to the high visibility and therefore influences memory retention.

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