Hack your note-taking

It would be really cool if we could all draw as well as Mike Rohde and make beautiful sets of notes to view later. But don’t dispair if you want to take better notes (even if you can’t draw as well as Mike.)

Your teachers (and parents) were right if they told you that taking notes was a good idea to solidify learning, store information in your long-term memory, and just generally get better at doing what you said you were going to be doing at the time you meant to do it. But what methods should you use to become a more effective note-taker?

Here are a few ideas for making your note-taking more effective:

  • Make sure you identify the next action you’re going to take, and identify a time when that needs to happen, using a common symbol (the classic is a checkbox list.)
  • You can use a classic method, like the Cornell Method, that divides your page up in three areas – one for notes, one for larger conceptual thoughts, and one for a summary.
  • You can use an application like Evernote or these other options.
  • You can take a picture of a whiteboard, a sign, or other visual reminder.
All of these methods can work for you, and it’s best if you pick the right method for the right situation. Here are strategies that I use to take notes, remember things, and keep a synchronized list.
  • I use Evernote for lists that I need to keep on an ongoing basis, or partially written things that I need to pick up later
  • I use iOS notepad when I need to jot a quick thing (“introduce Dave to someone”)
  • I use pen and paper in a moleskine if I need to engage my brain
  • If I need to review the notes later I use a spiral bound or other 8 1/2″ x 11″ size notebook, and only take notes on the right side page. This allows me to make notes and summarize on the left-hand side if I need to review or highlight later. Alternately, I’d make a study guide by retyping my notes from a class.

What methods do you use to take notes?


One thought on “Hack your note-taking

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  1. Greg,

    Good thoughts here on note taking. I take a similar approach to you where I have a few different preferences, but most notes go into Evernote for the sheer purpose of simplicity, and syncing across multiple devices like computer, laptop, and mobile.

    If I am at a brainstorm session and a whiteboard is in use I do often take a picture for reference and put it into the same note I am writing my notes on in Evernote.

    Good old paper has its purpose, but I find it bulky carrying around a notebook, so I am essentially all electronic at this point.


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