Sometimes learning can feel like an up-hill struggle, especially in college. Everyday is a vigorous routine and at the end of it you want to be secure in the knowledge that the information you gathered and the notes you took were of a high enough standard, enabling you to revise with ease later on.
Here’s how to take notes effectively for peace of mind!
Try a range of techniques
You’ve been taking notes since primary school, but how well have you actually been doing it? Everybody is receptive to information in different ways so I suggest going back to basics and exploring all the different ways of note-taking there are.
Start with mind-maps, bullet points and doodles and try to take notice of which is the most effective for you. Good things to consider when working this out are – how enjoyable it was (there’s no point doing bullet points if you hate reading and writing lists), how much time it took (no matter what some Studyblrs want you to believe, it is impossible to draw a Monet masterpiece to represent each piece of information) and how much information you retained at the end (i.e can you remember what you just wrote on that mind-map or were you distracted by the pretty colours and artsy arrows).
Keep in mind that you might end up with several note-taking techniques which work well for you, in which case you are lucky and can combine them, or mix and match throughout the year!
If nothing is working try thinking outside the box, for example if you’re an English Literature student you could:
- Create an infographic for each character in the novel
- Write a blog post analysing a chapter or event
- Make yourself a quotation quiz, either online or on cue cards
- Record a song detailing key events and play it back
Make Them Aesthetically Pleasing
Whichever method works best for you, make sure you set it out neatly. If you find mind-maps are helpful but you often make them in a rush and the words are smudging into each other, or the points that are related are miles apart, they are soon going to start becoming more problematic than useful. So try and keep your page clean and tidy, you’ll thank yourself for it later down the line when you don’t have to waste time deciphering your own rushed writing. Add colour to things as long as it’s not distracting – colour coding important information is a good idea, whereas highlighting everything in dark purple is not.
Invest In Good Quality Materials
If all you have is a biro running out of ink and some scrunched up paper, taking notes immediately becomes much more difficult. Being prepared is imperative in all aspects of life but especially for note-taking, usually you only have a small amount of time to get down all the information you need so avoid wasting any of it whispering the person next to you to see if they have a spare pencil.
It’s also helpful to find out the type of pens you like the most. Although it sounds strange some pens really are just more comfortable to grip and, thus, easier to write with than others, and it’s really noticeable – once you’ve found a brand of pens you like note-taking will begin to seem like less of a chore. The same logic applies if you type your notes – find the app that is easiest and quickest to use with all the features you need, you’ll never have to spend time figuring out how to move the text on the page, without disrupting the images, again.
Filter Key Information
Not everything your teacher says is something you need to remember – which seems like an obvious statement. In reality it is a skill to be able to filter through information and pick out the key parts for your notes, it will take practice and attentiveness. If there’s one thing you need to take away from this, it’s that, as tempting as leaving one headphone in and listening with the other out, is. Don’t do it. Any and all music is distracting when listening to someone else talk, even if it doesn’t feel like it is.
Keep Your Notes Organised
Start your notes with the date, title and class name so that when looking back over them you know exactly which material it is. If writing on loose bits of paper, also invest in a ring binder for storage and some hole punch reinforcements; because there is nothing worse than losing a vital piece of paper that tore and slipped out somewhere.
Do you have any other good note-taking tips? Leave them in the comments!
Read the rest of the posts in this series: