How to Take Notes Effectively

Sitting in a two hour and two hundred person lecture, it is extremely difficult to pay attention and to remain patient without looking at the clock every two seconds. What I have recently learned is that the best way to make sure you are paying attention is by taking notes. Taking notes not only allows me to keep busy but also forces me to pay attention. I have recently also learned that there is, in fact, science to it. Here are seven simple methods in ensuring productive classes and beautiful notes. Image Courtesy of d-teach  

1. Find a pen or pencil that speaks to you!

For myself, I have learned that I am more inclined to take notes when I like the pen or pencil that I am using. As trivial as it sounds, the way the pen or pencil feels when writing on a piece of paper tremendously affects the note-taking experience. When I like the way a pen or pencil is writing, my handwriting is often a lot better than usual. There are certain pens and pencils that make my handwriting look beautiful which makes me enjoy taking notes, and others that make my handwriting look embarrassingly awful. Everyone just needs to find a writing utensil that speaks to them!

2. Laptop or Notebook?

If manual note taking is not your thing, then the other obvious option is using a laptop. When using a laptop, however, it is important to make sure that you do not get distracted. There are an endless amount of enticing social media websites you can find yourself getting distracted on, so it is important to stay mindful of your objectives. I know for myself I get easily distracted when I focus too much on the font, the spacing, etc. However, if taking physical notes seems too tedious for you, typing notes is definitely a solution.

3. Is color coding the solution?

When you go on Pinterest and look at people’s perfect notes they are almost always written in many colors. Sometimes they are so extra that people manage to handwrite their notes in different fonts! In my opinion, if you are taking notes in class, bringing hundreds of different colors to organize yourself is simply overwhelming. All you need for taking notes is your favorite pen or pencil. If you spend your class time searching for the perfect color to start writing your next point with, you will not be able to focus on what is important. If you are like me and like to rewrite your notes as a study method, then feel free to get fancy!

4. Choose a format and stick to it.

If you like to keep your notes neat like me, choose a format from day one and stick with it. It is ok if you need to digress from it every once in a while to accommodate some topics, but it is good to have a method to taking notes so that you can indicate which are topics and which are points on the certain topic.

5. Do not write down every word the professor says!

This is essentially all I have to say on this matter. Writing down every word leads to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. I made this mistake a few weeks ago when I got overly zealous when the quarter started, and now I cannot even look at my notes because they are crazy long for no reason. Just write down the important things, and you will be fine!

6. Leave room for more note taking when you are confused on a topic.

Often times in big lectures I am left confused and unable to ask questions because the show must go on for the rest of the 200 other students! In these frustrating moments, do not freak out - leave room under the topic and go back to it when you have the opportunity to put more time into it. It is okay to have random blank spaces every once in a while if it means you are soon going to fully understand the topic.

7. Highlight topics the professor emphasizes that you will be responsible for.

Although I did mention to not go crazy with color coding, highlighting for emphasis can help you focus on the important subjects to know. People often get carried away with a highlighter and begin to highlight every word. Just make sure that the highlighter is used for special occasions. I typically use highlighters for when I do not understand something or because it is super important.

I hope these little tips will help everyone thrive this quarter! Happy midterm season! :)