Take Better Notes: 5 Ways To Optimize And Organize Information

Taking notes is a deeply personal practice, and everyone has their own style, but when you’re taking notes for professional or academic purposes, keeping them organized is critical. How, then, can you optimize your notetaking beyond having a collection of colored pens and notebooks? These 5 strategies can make a big difference and ensure you can find the information you need when you need it.

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1. Know Your Purpose

Before settling on a notetaking strategy, it’s important to be clear about the goal you hope to accomplish. If you want to become more creative, paper notebooks, sketchpads, or even an iPad and stylus may all be great choices. On the other hand, if you’re taking notes for a meeting, you’ll want to have a more precise organizational plan.

2. Learn To Prioritize

When taking notes on a meeting or class, one of the most important skills to have is the ability to prioritize information. That means being able to quickly identify what information you need, and what is ancillary content. Key pieces of information often include deadlines, tasks that need to be performed, and other requirements. Other details or bits of conversation are less important. You may also benefit from leaving gaps in your notes so that you make the most important information easy to find, even if it doesn’t come up until later in the meeting.

3. Consider Working Collaboratively

We typically think of notes as something we organize for ourselves, but that’s not always the best strategy. Particularly in business environments, you may find it’s beneficial to keep collaborative notes that include brainstorming sessions, team responsibilities, and deadlines. Taking notes collectively can also help your team manage meetings and presentations more smoothly, since you can trade off depending on who is talking.

4. Think Before And After

It’s obviously important to take notes during meetings or classes, but one thing really organized people have in common is the work they put in before and after meetings. Show up to meetings with notes that highlight key concerns to raise or questions to ask, and then review your notes after meetings to ensure you don’t have any remaining questions or concerns. The post-meeting review is also helpful because it can help you fill in any blanks while the information is at the top of your mind and highlight points that you want to remember.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

5. Use All Your Tools

There are a lot of advantages to taking digital notes, and one of the major perks is that these tools offer a lot of specialized organizational options. You can sort notes into folders, add tags, create shortcuts, and much more. Attaching these added pieces of information to your notes allows you to sort and access them in multiple ways depending on the needs of a particular situation. On that front, paper notebooks just can’t compete.

There’s a lot of research that considers how taking notes by hand can benefit learning and retention, but one of the great things about technology today is that you can often have the best of both worlds. There are tools that convert handwritten notes into digital pages or even to type, hybrid notebooks, and so much more. Don’t be limited by old notions about notetaking and organization. You have so much more at your disposal now.

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