This is probably stating the obvious, but we believe that taking good notes makes life easier. We hope that you believe that too – because if you didn’t, we don’t think you’d be visiting our website today!
Taking notes, when done correctly, helps us absorb information better when we see or hear it for the first time, and also helps us to remember it better when we come to look at our notes further down the line. Whether they’re notes that are intended to help us pass an exam, or notes that are intended to help us during our working day, there’s a clear benefit to having them.
There are, however, ways of taking notes that work better than others. You can probably recall occasions where you feel like you’ve made plenty of notes, and yet you can’t remember anything about them. You probably put this down to random lapses in memory, but your memory isn’t supposed to give or take at random, like the reels of an online slots game.
Always Ask Questions
Your notes should never reflect someone else’s understanding of a situation or idea. If what’s being presented to you doesn’t make sense when you’re writing it down, it still won’t make sense when you come back to read your notes later.
Even worse, it might make even less sense than it did at the time because you no longer have access to the context that went around the information you recorded. Never be afraid to slow someone down, and always ask questions so you can ensure that you completely comprehend whatever it is you’re recording.
Use Active Listening Skills
There’s a big difference between passive listening and active listening. Active listening is one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn, and yet most people don’t understand what it is or how to apply it. The difference between listening and active listening is all about where the focus of your attention is when you’re watching or listening to something or someone else.
A passive listener taking notes will write down whatever’s being said, without any framework around it, and without pausing to actually listen to the words and their meaning. Their notes might represent a full record of how an idea or situation was communicated, but the information went directly from their ears to their fingertips without being assessed by the brain.
An active listener will pause, process the data, and record it in a way that makes sense to them. They may not write down as much, but what they do write down will have been carefully considered.
The human brain remembers pictures more easily than it remembers words. Advertisers and marketers have known this for years, and that’s why the first five adverts that come to mind when you try to think of them right now will be heavily visual. Go on, do it, and tell us we’re wrong!
This is called the picture superiority effect, and it’s a known psychological phenomenon. If the information we want our brain to retain is arranged in a visually appealing way, it’s more likely to be stored in and easily recalled by our long term memory than something that isn’t.
That’s why you can’t remember the entirely accurate wall of text you wrote down two days ago, but you can probably remember word for word everything that was written in bubbles during a brain-storming session you attended six weeks ago. You don’t have to draw particularly artistic pictures to improve your note-taking abilities, but use bubbles, colors, and other bits of visual flair to give your memory a helping hand.
Rephrase Things Into You Own Words
This piece of advice doesn’t apply to anybody who’s required to write things down exactly as they’re said. That’s only a very small number of people, though. For everyone else, you have the luxury of wording your notes however you’d like to – so why do it in someone else’s voice?
You have a voice and a style of writing that’s entirely your own. If you were shown a video and you were asked to describe what happened in that video in fifty words, the fifty words you wrote would be different to the fifty words anybody else who saw that video would use.
There may be similarities in terms of content, but the precise wording would be unique. You know your own language, and you’re more likely to remember information if you use it when you’re making notes. When you read them back, the data will be processed more easily because it’s already written in the type of language you best understand.
Use A Note-Taking App
Well, of course, we were going to say this! There will always be a time and a place to make hand-written notes, but technology has moved on since the invention of the pen, and there are better ways of doing things now. Note-taking apps have been developed by people who have extensive experience of taking notes, understand the psychology behind taking notes, and know-how to help people when they’re taking notes.
A good note-taking app is laid out and designed to make the process as easy as possible for you and to formulate and record your notes in a manner that will best encourage you to remind them. Plus, if you have a note-taking app on your phone, it’s with you wherever you go. How many times have you lost a vital piece of paper that had vital notes on it? We’ll wager that you’ve done that many more times than you’ve lost your phone!
Taking notes is a practice that’s as old as time, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done in a 21st century way. Whether it’s through advice or through our product, we’re here to help you in any way we can.