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note taking strategiesSo, exam season rolls around again and you find yourself missing the key quotations that would tie your arguments together. Or maybe you find yourself short a few points the night before a big presentation. Or perhaps you find your friends avoiding you in the days leading up to major deadlines, only because they know you’ll be pestering them for notes.

Learn how to take minutes during meetings with this course!

Most of these problems in your student (and work) life can be avoided by taking notes. As any serious productivity geek will tell you, taking notes is part art, part science. We’ve distilled the best note taking strategies into five points, which you can see below:

1. Get with The Program

Now that your phone has better computational capability than anything Bill Gates used during the first half of his career, you might already be using a laptop or other mobile device to take notes. While word processors are universal in their accessibility and ease of use, you might consider using a specific note-taking app instead. Apps such as Google Docs and Evernote are free and easily available. They serve the dual purpose of reducing clutter (since notes are automatically arranged in a common location according to date and time) and, more importantly, better synchronization (since you can access your notes across multiple devices). All changes are automatically updated on the cloud, so you have one less thing to worry about if something unfortunate befalls your laptop/tablet/phone.

Key Takeaway: Use cloud-based note-taking solutions like Google Docs, One Note and Evernote to organize notes. You can learn how to take smart and effective notes with OneNote in this course.

2. Dates are Important

And no, that is not a reference to historical milieus. Most word-processors and note-taking softwares take care of this aspect, but even if they don’t (or if you prefer physical notes instead of typed ones), it only takes a moment to jot down the date and time before you begin. This will allow you to keep a handle on important topics and discussions, since they often spill over between lectures/meetings. More importantly, the dates will help you keep track of which lectures you’ve missed, so you don’t have to wait till D-Day to start groveling.

Key Takeaway: Label each and every note clearly by date to make organization so much easier.

3. Use Loose Sheets Instead of Notebooks

Once again, if you prefer scribbling on paper instead of typing, consider using loose sheets instead of notebooks for every subject. This might seem counterproductive at first – a single page is easier to lose than a whole book of them – but if you can just get in the habit of marking the date on top (see above) and filing them in binders on the same day, you’ll find your notes organized both chronologically and by subject when you need them. This not only cuts down on the amount of stuff you have to carry on a day-to-day basis, but also saves paper in the longer run – no more half-filled notebooks to replace at the end of the year!

Key Takeaway: Loose sheets require more organization, which invariably helps you manage your notes better.

Learn the art of taking visual notes with this course from Udemy.

4. Abbrv. r Imp.

Again, a minor effort with big payoffs. Many people use abbreviations in some form or the other while taking notes, but doing it systematically will help cut down the time you spend on each point. Just take a few minutes at the start of each topic to lay out a key, comprising the long words that might recur in that particular lecture/meeting. Make a conscious effort to use these abbreviations judiciously. Before long, you’ll find yourself doing it unprompted. Bonus points if you can do it with phrases, or even entire arguments – just mark out sidebars and fill them in when you have time.

Key Takeaway: Create a legend of your most commonly used abbreviations to make note taking easier.

Learn how to supercharge your note taking with this non-geek’s guide to using Evernote.

5. You’re the Boss

This is probably the most important point of all. Notes differ from project reports and formal assignments in one major regard – they are for your own convenience rather than anybody else’s. These guidelines might work for you, but they’re not rules. You have to pick whatever works for you – and as long as you’re being fast and efficient, you’ll find yourself gaining ground. So break out the multicoloured pens and wacky fonts – you’re the only one who can put the fun back into taking notes.

Key Takeaway: Create your own note-taking strategy that works best according to your situation and personal habits.

What are your favorite note taking strategies? Share with us in the comments below!

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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