The ability to take quality notes either for work or school is invaluable. It could be the difference between getting “that” promotion and not, or the difference between getting an “A” and getting a “C” on that big exam that’s worth 35% of your grade. I’ve had to take a lot of notes up to this point in my life, in school and in work. Because I was in an intensive program during college, I quickly realized how powerful and advantageous taking thorough, effective notes could be… so I’m going to share my note-taking process with you!
First and foremost, I find it incredibly valuable to take notes by physically writing them down. I am a strong proponent of writing things down by hand, and here’s why:
- You’ll remember the subject matter better because you physically wrote it down and didn’t blindly type something, or inattentively skim over the text on the PowerPoint when going back to review it. You’ll have quality notes to study off of and the material will come back quickly.
- You can write down small side-notes that help you make sense of the subject matter and allow you to brain-storm ideas.
- If you take notes the right way, you’ll always be able to refer to them in the future and trust that the notes contain the proper information.
Secondly, I love to use different colored pens to help illustrate different material while taking notes. For example, while obtaining my undergraduate engineering degree, I would use a black pen for writing text, a red pen for equations, a blue pen for charts/graphs, and a green pen for call-outs on those graphs/charts. I would also highlight important text or equations I felt were key. Yellow highlighter for the text, and I would circle the equations with a blue highlighter. Utilizing different colored pens/highlighters helped me find exactly what I was looking for quickly and know what material was most important for me to understand. Also, studies have shown that writing with certain colors can spark creativity and strengthen your attention to detail. This isn’t just a great tactic to use while in school, this can be invaluable when taking notes for work. Don’t be that person that gets out of meeting and has already forgotten what was discussed!
Third, I find that I help my future-self out if I give all of my notes a proper title and date. This way, when I’m frantically searching for a certain page of notes a year or two after I wrote it, I can find it much easier. Also, organizing your notes by date will save you a few headaches when flipping through hundreds of pieces of paper. Tabs that stick out from the top of your notes can also help further categorize your notes and make certain pages of notes easy to locate.
Lastly, and I had to learn this the hard way, always give yourself enough space! Don’t be afraid to waste some paper, chances are you’ll never quite fill up the entire space of the notebook anyways, so you will end up wasting paper regardless. This is specifically true for diagrams and graphs. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have drawn a figure or graph just to end up with zero space to actually write what I need to write on the figure or graph itself. Give yourself enough space and thank yourself later.
These tactics will undoubtedly come in handy when you go back to review for that important exam, meeting, or for work that needs to be completed based off of the notes. Therefore, spend a little more time and effort to organize your notes in such a way that will only continue to benefit you!