Now honestly “The Art of Effective Note Taking” sounds a lot more noble and interesting than “How to Write Mad Decent Notes”. But in my opinion, taking notes can be an art form. Unfortunately with my handwriting I doubt I qualify. But nevertheless I think note taking is a valuable skill that should be taken advantage of. Artful note taking can be boiled down to a few key points which I’ll jot down below and then expand on further:
- Do it often. Make it a habit.
- Summarise your notes.
- Review and revise. Look back and trim them down or expand where neccessary.
- What to take notes on? Doesn’t really matter, as long as they get taken.
- Personalise it. Make it enjoyable. They’re your notes after all.
HOW IS NOTE TAKING AN ART FORM?
Good point. It probably isn’t. But it effective and efficient notes definitely should be. Good note taking can help retain good ideas that otherwise were just a fleeting thought. Even help envigorate new ideas by listing old ones and springboarding off those.
A LOT AND OFTEN
For me, I try and write as many notes as possible as often as possible. Idea floats in my head? Write it down. Someone makes an interesting point? Write that shit down too. I would rather have too many notes than too little. Often if I have a mind blank when trying to write, I’ll go back to my notes and it’ll set me back on the straight and narrow. But important to note, I’m only usually writing key points. I can expand if I think it’s necessary or useful, but usually it’s short and sharp. Think about a lecture, do you write down every word the lecturer says? Of course not, it would include a lot of pointless information. Furthermore, you would then have to seperate the noise from the actual useful content. So in summary, I write key points and ideas as often as possible. To shamelessly take an excellent exert from one of David Perell’s articles, David Sodaris who is well known for note taking said:
“Everybody’s got an eye for something. The only difference is that I carry around a notebook in my front pocket. I write everything down, and it helps me recall.”
I couldn’t agree more. Writing things down is my key to recalling, as otherwise my memory could be generously described as ‘piss poor’. Just ask anyone close to me, they’ll vouch.
SUMMARISE SUMMARISE SUMMARISE
Following on from writing often is keeping it short and sharp. It’s mighty important to keep it clear and concise. Get to the point. Don’t expand if you don’t have to.
REVIEW AND REVISE
I’m going to sound like Captain Obvious here, but I still think it needs to be said. Taking bloody good notes is all well and dandy, but what’s the point if you never go back to them. Putting ideas and thoughts into notes is only useful if they have a use later on. I often go back at night to a days notes and refine some, expand on others and straight up delete some crazy talk that seemed enlightened at the time. Keep in mind the forgetting curve. If you don’t make an effort to retain the information, you will eventually forget it.
ONLINE OR ON PAPER?
Personally I take advantage of both. I love Evernote, as I can write notes that will sync between my phone and my laptop. This has been beyond useful when writing at night as I often write notes throughout the day on my phone, then need to access them on my laptop when trying to write. I also carry around a little notepad in my backpack, as sometimes I just want to jot something down without the possibility of opening my phone and getting distracted. Also my to do list is entirely on paper, as there’s something therapeutic about crossing off a checklist.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
They are your notes after all. You like typing and reading hot pink comic sans font? Do it. No one can stop you. If it’s conductive to your note taking, I say go for it. I read a tonne of content online bagging out Evernote (which I think is absolutely deserved), but I haven’t had any troubles with it just yet or have a solution, so I continue on with it. You do you.
Just do it! Overall the art of note taking may be overrated. But hopefully by applying some of these principles in regards to note taking, you will see steady, little improvements. That’s all I aim for so I can let compound interest of improvements do the work.