Note-Taking Techniques That Will Change How You Retain Information

How many times have you listened to a speaker just to forget what they said a few minutes later?

Learning is critical to our development. We should take advantage of the possibilities to hear from professionals that are available to us. If you can’t recall what they say afterward, it’s time to work on your note-taking skills.

Taking notes is a skill that requires practice and discipline. It’s not easy to sort through a deluge of information and decide what’s vital to write down and what’s not.

This collection of 17 note-taking tips will come in handy in any class, meeting, or presentation:

1. Determine important content

Taking notes should never be a verbatim transcript of everything stated, but rather a summary of key points and questions.

You’ll want to recall names and dates in particular if you’re taking a history lesson. If a coworker is giving SEO training, you should pay special attention to terminology and best practices.

 Prepare ahead of time for any presentation, meeting, or class by anticipating the type of knowledge that will be critical to recall later.

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2. Eliminate distractions

Do you recall when your instructor asked you to switch off your phone in class? It’s possible that’s still a decent concept. 
Anything that unnecessarily diverts your attention during presentations should be eliminated as a source of distraction.

Close any irrelevant applications or resources if you’re taking notes on a digital device. If you know Hank from accounting will be talking to you a lot, you might want to sit next to someone else. 
The goal is to retain your entire concentration on the topic material and take notes.

3. Keep calm

If you’re apprehensive about taking notes, you’ll almost certainly make mistakes. Recognize that your notes will almost certainly not be great every time, but you can always seek assistance and clarity later.
Because taking notes is tough, be aware of your errors and work to correct them.

4. Go digital

Make use of a mobile app, an internet tool, or software.  Note-taking programs for your laptop, iPad or phone are available. They allow you to quickly take notes and add items like photographs, links, checklists, and places.

If you subsequently find that your handwriting is difficult to read, typing your notes will help. If you find yourself frantically erasing notes because you didn’t organize them properly, knowing how to copy-paste or hit control-Z can save you a lot of time.

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5. Start sketching

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. Many individuals comprehend topics better when they are presented in a visual format.

Make some sketches to go around the notes you’re writing. It can instantly refresh your memory about what you were thinking and make going over your notes more enjoyable.

Just be careful not to get carried away and overlook essential details. You’ll still want to include a lot of actual words in your pictures.

6. Make something visual

Take your notes and graphically organize them. Even if drawing isn’t your thing, you can still make your notes more interesting. To add some originality to your notes, use a program like Microsoft Publisher.

As you make your flyer, imagine that it will be used to teach someone else. This strategy pushes you to spend more time with the content and can assist you in organizing it in a more logical manner.

7. Mapping method

The mapping method of note-taking is based on diagramming your notes. It looks like a flowchart or a spider’s web between topics and subtopics. It’s a nice way to visually organize your notes that may be interconnected.

8. Cornell note taking method

The Cornell method is an excellent way to organize your notes into sections that are easy to review[1To make three boxes, draw a line a couple of inches from the bottom and another a couple of inches from the left side.

You can utilize the largest part to take notes in whatever way you like. The smaller left part is for quick reminders of what you should study later. Write a summary of what you learned in the bottom section.

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9. Outline method

The outline method turns your notes into easily digestible bullet points.[2]

Write them like you’re outlining a story. You’ll have main points from individual topics or subjects, then write bullet points underneath each one with the supporting information.

10. Charting method

You’ll create a table with categories to fill up using the charting method.[3]This is ideal for organizing material that will be organized in a specific order.

If you’re studying about different types of animals, for example, you can establish columns for where each animal lives, what it eats, and how long it lives on average.

Each row would have a different animal, and you would just answer each question by going across your columns. 

11. Sentence method

Make a basic sentence structure out of the key points from the lesson. To keep things organized, use headings and break your sentences into their own lines. 

This is very useful for jotting down statements or statistics.

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12. Record it

If you’re concerned about missing essential facts or want to improve your listening skills, you should record the presentation or class.

Use the recording feature on your phone or purchase software that automatically transcribes what’s being said. Because transcription software has technical limits, you may need to keep a close eye on it to catch any errors. 

13. Ask for clarification

If you don’t comprehend your notes while writing them, they’re almost useless. Make sure to ask any questions you may have to the teacher or presenter. Someone else will most likely be grateful that you inquired about the identical issue that they were perplexed about. 

Take courage and work hard to grasp the principles the first time so you don’t become even more perplexed later.

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14. Summarize afterwards

Write out a summary of the main ideas after a lesson, presentation, or meeting. This is critical for remembering the subject information and determining if you have any unanswered queries. 

Good summaries should include not just the main themes, but also add applications to the topic material, research questions, and a to-do list.

15. Continue the discussion

When you’ve finished listening and taking notes, turn to a close person and share what you’ve learned with them.

You might inquire about what stood out to them or what modifications they would like to make based on the information provided. You can ask questions regarding items you didn’t understand or for which you didn’t get a clear explanation.

Continuing the conversation with someone else is a great method to apply what you’ve learned and cement it in your mind.

If you have a meaningful discussion about it, the information is much more likely to be remembered.

16. Review your notes

If you don’t reread your notes afterward, what you remember from the first time you took them will swiftly go. Hopefully, you’ve used one of the ways listed above to make your notes easy to read and even entertaining. 

The most essential thing is that you review your notes afterward so that you can recall what you learned and reflect on the issues raised.

17. Share what you learned

Even better than going over your notes by yourself is going over them with someone else. This allows you to share what you’ve learned with others.

 Use a flyer maker to show off what you’ve learned in a unique way.[4] Doing so will assist you to realize what you didn’t comprehend or what you need to review more thoroughly.

Your review partner may even ask you insightful questions to consider and apply to your notes.

Related: 9 Steps to More Effective Self-Regulated Learning

Final thoughts

Don’t be scared to combine some of these note-taking techniques. You might find that an outline structure is helpful for organizing some of your notes, but that you need to build a chart for another.

The important thing is to be organized and do what makes sense for you. Even though the individual next to you is plainly using the Cornell technique to organize their notes, you could prefer a different approach.

Taking notes is something you should do for yourself, so do it in the method that works best for you.

Now is your chance to put what you’ve learned into practice. Taking notes is only useful if you can use them afterward.

If you learn anything new, think of ways to put it to use at work or at home. To uncover new uses, go over your notes frequently. Make a difference in your life or the lives of others by applying what you’ve learned.


  1. Oxford Learning: How to Take Study Notes: 5 Effective Note Taking Methods

2. GoodNotes: The Best Note-Taking Methods

3. Classroom: How to Take Notes Using the Charting Method

4. LucidPress: Flyer Maker

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