How And When To Take Notes
Notes are an integral part of the reading process, and they naturally help one remember details that they otherwise would not be able to at a later time.
While notes can be beneficial, the most common problem is taking too many of them! Some college students seemingly copy a professor’s lecture and highlight, underline, and annotate their textbooks to the point that they look like yellow phone books!
One of the best ways of taking more big picture or bird’s-eye view notes is with mind mapping (see “How Mind Mapping Helps You Remember”). Mind mapping is a fast, loose, and easy way to trigger main ideas visually and act as a top layer overview which can be expanded upon for more detail with more traditional ways of note taking. It is also a great way to visually structure non-linear information versus linear or more structured material (like textbooks) which lends itself well to traditional outlining. Once mind mapping is learned, it is fully recommended for all types of material.
Knowing when the take notes is equally important. It is recommended to first read through an entire section (such as 1.1, 1.2 etc) and then return back to take notes. Take a brief pause, and think about the truly important main ideas, key words, and items truly worth noting. Sometimes, after some brief consideration, one may realize that there was actually not as truly “noteworthy” information as initially thought when first reading through. Taking this pause after reading each section acts as a filter to not only help one decide what is truly important, but it also helps the brain filter out and retain the information better.
Expanding on this method, one could also do a mini preview of the material prior to being read (see: Previewing For Comprehension”) or do the 3-step process (see: 3-Step Process To Improve Retention) for even better comprehension and grasp of where to take the most efficient, important, and selective notes. By utilizing any (or all!) of these note taking strategies, maximum efficiency and effectiveness will be achieved.
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading and memory courses. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals worldwide at institutions that include: NASA, Google, HSBC and many Fortune 500 companies.