6 Great Tips for Better Note-Taking was originally published on Firsthand.
Whether you’re a student or a professional, the ability to effectively take notes is critical to your success. When you understand and retain information at a high level it has a direct impact on your performance, and will often help you achieve better grades or stand out from the crowd. Today we’re going to be talking about some helpful tactics that you can use to take better notes, so without further ado, let’s get started.
Practice Writing Neatly
Even the most meticulous of note-taking can be easily undone with messy penmanship. We want to be able to write fast, of course, but we also want to be able to refer to our notes later on. If you’re like yours truly and your handwriting is so sloppy that it has a shelf life before being completely incomprehensible, you might want to work on tightening it up a bit.
Practice writing more neatly first; efficiency will come in time. Believe it or not, the type of pen (or pencil) you’re using can also have an impact on your handwriting, so try experimenting a bit. To practice taking notes more neatly, simply take notes more often and place special emphasis on improving the clarity of your handwriting.
In order to save time, you can use writing techniques such as shorthand. Shorthand writing will allow you to take notes on detailed information much faster, as long as you can interpret the shorthand later on. Now, there are many different types of shorthand writing, so you could choose to learn an existing form, or develop your own.
If you’re thinking of creating your own form of shorthand writing, try to come up with abbreviations for long words that you find yourself using more often. Additionally, you can devise symbols to represent any number of ideas or even certain sentence fragments. Always remember to create a legend with all your abbreviations, symbols, and what they mean so you can refer to it later.
If you find that more often than not your notes resemble hastily crafted chainsaw sculptures, it might be time to work on your organizational skills. Students and professionals alike can organize notes by topic (or class, or subject) or by date in order to make it easier to locate notes at a later date.
Another good tactic for organizing your notes is by creating a header and adding bullet points below. This will help you stay on topic, and will keep your notes in chronological order, which means they’ll be easier to understand when you go back to check them in the future.
During the course of your note-taking, or even shortly after, jot down any questions you might have regarding the material at hand. Depending on whether you’re a student or a professional, your questions could be directed at the professor who gave the lecture, or the person who led the meeting. Either way, don’t be afraid to ask questions in the event you’re confused or if you missed an important part of the presentation.
If a particular part of the presentation piqued your interest, write down some questions you’d like to answer for yourself. This can be especially helpful if you’re a student who plans to study with a friend later on, or if you’re looking for a greater depth of knowledge on a certain topic.
Review Your Notes ASAP
If you’ve got particularly sloppy handwriting or hard-to-decipher shorthand, it might be best to review your notes right after class or a meeting so that the material is fresh in your mind. This way, you can straighten up any notes that are difficult to read or understand, expand upon ideas that you might have glossed over, and put concepts or topics in order if necessary.
Take Physical Notes
By now, we’ve all got a plethora of devices at our disposal that are intended to make our lives more convenient; however, the act of physically writing things down will actually help you remember the material better. Ah yes, the pen truly is mightier than the…ehem…tablet.
The act of taking notes with a pen and paper will not only help you absorb the material better, but it will also improve your written communication skills over time as it will serve as a good source of practice. If you’d like to learn more about developing your communication skills, you can check out our previous blog here.
The art of taking notes is like anything else—it takes time and patience to hone your skill. With better note-taking you’ll find that you grasp the material quicker while possessing a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. Further, by taking notes we create references for ourselves that in some cases can be useful to look back on far into the future.