Strategies for Better Note-Taking

Note-taking for classes, meetings, studying, or research is a skill you develop over time. Use any note-taking style that works best for you. Experience with different formats, combine them, or improvise to create your style.

As a student, I was always a good note-taker. I had to live up to my last name, of course! Over time, I developed systems to help me document meetings, share ideas, and write books and articles. 

Here are some strategies to improve your note-taking habits:

  • Try note-taking templates available in stores or online. Investigate systems like Cornell Notes or Smart Wisdom, for example.

  • Experiment to see if prefer to write or type your notes.

  • Make key points stand out.

  • Circle, underline, or color-code key words and ideas.

  • Make notes more concise by leaving out unessential words and by using abbreviations, arrows, and symbols.

  • Show how ideas are connected, such as by using the mind map style.

  • Organize notes using boxes, arrows, exclamation marks, and other symbols.

  • Use colors, highlighters, and visuals, if helpful.

  • Compare your notes with others studying the same subject; they may have captured information that you haven’t.

  • Write as if you were capturing information for a friend unfamiliar with your topic. How can you explain the information clearly for future reference? When I was an undergraduate, I earned money taking notes in class for students with learning disabilities. Because I was taking notes for someone else, I made sure to be as clear as possible.

  • Take notes twice. For example, I write down everything I can capture on the fly for business calls. I later transfer these notes, neatly and better organized, into my business notebook for posterity.

Keep practicing. Note-taking is a skill that requires regular development.

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