Three quick but effective note taking tips

Whether you write your notes in full paragraphs, i.e., blocks of writing, on each page, or you’re a bit more sophisticated and use bullet points, there’s probably something you can do to save time and prevent yourself from simply ‘scribing’ what the lecturer is saying (generally a bad idea). Here are a few quick ideas:

1) I use Tim Ferris’s method of using a notebook, and writing an index in the front page. This is so much easier than using A4 sheets and punching them into folders afterwards, you never lose notes, and it’s massively easier to find the notes you need. Wish I’d heard of this years ago.

2) I have used Cal Newport’s recommendation for subjects like psychology. He says to write the broad question that the lecturer is driving at on one side or in the margin, then the answer and evidence below it. This is really useful in some cases, but cumbersome in others. Sometimes the speaker jumps between ‘questions’, and it’s too slow to write out a question for each one. Although some lectures are practically designed for this method. This method makes notes infinitely more useful both afterwards and during lectures; you never think “Why the hell did I write that down?”, and by working out and writing down the underlying question behind what the lecturer is saying, it forces you to engage your brain right there. Which is something you should do anyway; if you just passively listen to the lecture and wait to leave, you’re simply burdening yourself further down the line with things you could have already done. Save time and do it in the lecture.

3) Use keywords, not full sentences. When taking notes in the standard, linear way, don’t write out full sentences. It will only slow you down and make your notes less appealing to read later. Use bullet point lists wherever possible, and indent and space them nicely.

Some people use a laptop too, which might also be useful; I can type much faster than I can write. But I’m also a big believer in not carrying things whenever I can help it, and notebooks weigh less than laptops (for now…).

Loading comments...