My new & improved note-taking system is up! I talk about my learning + study process, efficient note structure, and why it all matters!
Note: The video is an updated version of my note-taking series.
I’m taking a variety of content- and practice- heavy courses, so I’m sure you’ll find some of my tips relevant to whatever you’re studying at the moment!
foreword on my raspy voice
First off, I think it’s a funny and relevant blog post entry to share the story of how my raspy voice came about. On Saturday, I went sailing as part of the recreational university sailing club I signed up for. The day was cold and only moderately windy, and I’d just been recovering from a mild cold and sore throat. Normally, when we take the boats out into the water, we get our feet wet; but today I was determined to not be wet and cold at all. Clearly, the day had other plans. While out on the water, the waves and wind picked up, and ripples started appearing on the waves. Long story short, we capsized, and not only were we in the water for 10 minutes trying to flip the boat back over in the strong winds, but by the time we got into dry clothes, an hour had easily passed by. Thankfully, I recovered fairly fast from the experience (which my sailing partner and I have agreed is classified as “Type 2” fun), but I’ve emerged with a giant bruise on my arm and a lovely raspy voice.
This video is easily one of the most content-dense I have ever produced, so I’m going to make an effort to lay out the key ideas that I talk about. Most important of all, before we get into the tips and the note-taking, we’ve got to understand what the point is of taking notes so that our entire process can be created in cognizant awareness of it.
Why are you taking notes in the first place?
- To make order of disordered information
- To highlight difficult information that warrants more of our time
Make studying efficient
Studying should be as efficient as possible, as should most other things in your life. There’s so much you can do with your time that you’ve got to prioritize checking off your tasks over perfecting one single thing on your to-do list.
- get enough sleep
- don’t be a perfectionist
- get used to the chaos
The Learning Process
There’s a whole, studied, psychological learning process that occurs and that’s useful to follow when developing your course of studying for your classes.
My study system
1. First contact
The first time you come across information, read it. Don’t annotate or make frequent pauses. Trust your brain and learning process that you’ll remember the key information and sort through the less relevant.
And don’t assume you have to tackle it all at once – because that makes it seem scary and you’re less likely to do any of it. A little bit of skimming is better than zero in-depth reading.
- do not annotate
- use sticky notes to pinpoint questions or areas for clarification later
- pay attention to key headings and the layout of the information
- fill out a “skeleton” of a note with the headings or definitions you’ll want to take notes on later
At this point, you’ve got to lay out the information in your brain in a way that keeps the two purposes of note-taking in mind.
- use the para-textual features like the headings, chapter summaries, glossaries
- take short and simple notes (don’t rewrite things you don’t need or already know!)
3. Applying the information
3.1. To lectures
Once you’ve been over the information once, the lecture will be really fun (assuming you like the content)! It’s a chance for you to engage with the material by hearing someone else discuss it (or discussing it yourself).
- ask your professors questions! If anything, it saves a lot of time!
- add extra clarifying information (I use pink pen for this)
- make as many connections as possible to the material
3.2. To practice questions
NEVER neglect this. You don’t know what you don’t know until you try remembering it. If you haven’t finished your notes or read the chapter, doing the practice questions anyway will help you pinpoint what you don’t know (so you can take notes on that) and what you know (so you don’t spend so much time on that).
- do practice questions
- highlight your notes to further re-organize what you now know and what you still need more focus on
Check out the video below for more of my tips and details on my process!
For helpful links, visit my LINKS page!