30 December 2013

Taking notes...

So I recently shared my thoughts with you about being 'organised' so we have got ourselves an organiser (or two)! Today I would like to give some thought to what we write in our organisers, with view to improving the quality of what we write in there.

So this might not apply to you, you might already be an excellent note taker, if this is the case I hope you will share some of your secrets of success with us or me specifically.

So what triggered this post.. ok let me step back a little and explain. Firstly I never went to university... unless you count 'The University of Life'. Does this matter? Well I've worked with plenty of young graduates in my time, trained quite a few as well. I admire their ability to adapt quickly to a topic and absorb new ideas and learnings.

Most but not all of them took excellent notes which they were able to refer back to and then use in their work...

If I'm in a meeting (rare these days) or in a class (French in my case) then I find it difficult to make meaningful notes at the same time as listening and taking part in the meeting/class. So how do you guys do it?

Now I'm sure applying any lessons I learn from this shared knowledge will improve the notes I/we write in my/our Filofax organisers and won't result in me trying to workout what my short notes refer to days or weeks later!! Yes it is sometimes that bad!!

So to get started on this I did some searching around on the web, naturally a lot of the posts are written with students in mind. But I'm sure we can adapt them to our own use.
I'm sure there are plenty of other examples just search for 'Note taking' on Google and you will find lots of others.

One thing I have learnt with note taking or in formulating ideas in my Filofax is record your thoughts, get them on paper, it doesn't matter if it looks messy, you can always rewrite it later on a fresh bit of paper.

A Filofax is flexible enough to accept updated pages without having to leave your original notes in there. So let's use that flexibility.

Do you have any tips you can share on this topic??? Pop them in the comments, thank you

15 comments:

  1. I find that if I use colour and/or graphic organisers (like boxes or clouds) to highlight topic headings, then that helps me to organise my information and give it some structure. I also re-read the notes at the first chance I get, supplementing them while the information is still fresh in my mind.

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  2. The problem is no one really gets taught how to note take anymore a lot of it is assumed learning...great piece of writing and the links are definitely worth reading and following up on

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  3. Those links look useful - I'll investigate later. I can do shorthand, which is useful for interviewing people and for meetings, but I find I don't use it in my Filofax. I rely on key words when I take notes/write in my diary. I can't get used to colour-coding - I use underlining or capitals if something's important!

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    1. I would love to learn how to write shorthand - how did you learn it?

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    2. I'm a journalist and had to learn it as part of my training - and I'm glad I did, although I hated every minute of it at the time! Sadly, it appears to be a dying skill unless you're training to be a journalist, as colleges phased out secretarial shorthand and typing courses years ago. Which is a shame, as I know so many people who say how useful they'd find it.

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    3. I use shorthand, too. I learned it in high school and still use is occasionally. When I worked at a law office, I used it ALL the time! My boss was always dictating letters to me and I couldn't have survived without knowing shorthand. I'm not as proficient now since I don't use it regularly so I usually have a combination of shorthand and words.

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    4. It is definitely a useful skill! I was hoping to be able to use it in university when I start towards the end of this year - it would have come in real handy in lectures!

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  4. I use sketch notes and I find this a much better way of note taking for me. I'm more visual than wordy, so simply glancing at my notes reminds me of the entire concept, without having to read through my tiny handwriting and usually badly explained prose.

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  5. I like there to be a wide, unlined margin on the RHS which is blank (a bit like Cornell notes) and a blank space at the top of the page. In the top space I fill in things like date, purpose of notes/where they were taken and any key things (so perhaps for your French classes, you might put Irregular Verbs or whatever as the key bit of the class). The wide margin on the RHS is used for putting key words relating to the notes taken and is a way of finding things quickly (so you might indicate 'aller' at the appropriate bit of the notes etc).
    The key with any notes though is to go back over them within 24 hours and 'tidy them up' - make sure it is all legible and to add in anything that you remember now but forgot to write down at the time. Which is why I also only write on one side of the page, so that I have a blank page opposite in which to do this 'tidying up'.
    Don't know if that's any help or not...

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  6. I have a son in 8th grade and we've been working on mastering the Cornell method. He finds it's the best way to organize his notes for later studying and I use it for notes in novel writing (I'm a writer). It's a simple yet effective way to organize your page for future studying and reference. I recommend this highly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornell_Notes

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  7. I take notes for work, school and life all in the same manner. The way in which I process information. I typically jot down everything of importance (who, what, when, where and why) and then I go back and rewrite it later (neater) and organize the thought. Create diagrams or dig deeper into the thought and clarify. I am a write and then rewrite kind of girl. However I use my Filofax for so many things. Work, spirituality and journaling. Some is just free flow writing. Whatever pops in my head. I never edit that work. It is what it is. If it is something I must study or remember or lead a meeting about, I will research further.

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  8. If I'm paying attention, I'm probably not taking notes. And if I'm busy writing, I'm probably not paying attention. For the most part, I find it best (but very difficult to motivate myself to do this) to pay close attention in the class/meeting and then immediately afterwords jot down notes.

    I have ADD (very easily distracted) and a fine motor control impairment (takes a lot of concentration to write things down) and so I just have to get on my own way.

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    1. I'm the opposite, Josh. With my ADHD, if I take notes, it helps me pay attention and remember what I heard. If I don't take notes, I'm fidgety and can't remember a thing.

      My notes are pretty messy but I like it that way. I don't always write on the lines. I leave blank space. I use symbols and lots of numbers and underlines and boxes. All that helps me remember and helps me know where to find specific information.

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  9. At Uni, a few moons ago, in lectures students were encouraged to use Cornell, and for reading and planning, mind mapping was encouraged initially, which could be expanded into several larger mind maps. In undertaking a dissertation, it is vital to record your references as you go along and to update those reading notes and citations daily.

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  10. First of all you need to figure out what makes the most sense to you. I like linear word notes (usually with my own shorthand), but other people like mind maps, visual representations of the words or themes, word clouds... There are plenty of different ways of representing what is being said.

    Secondly work out why you need to take the notes and how you are taking the notes - writing from a book is different to writing in a lecture. Is it for reference? In that case you might need to scribble down as much as you can and go back and tidy it up later (put it in a more visually pleasing style, which for me might be colour coded, tables, organisation into subheadings). Is it so that you can go away and find more information? In that case a Cornell type system might be best, so you can add extra information when you do your own research. Revision notes usually work best if they have a visual element as this helps to memorise the information, so a non-linear page format and using colours. Taking notes from a book (or article, or webpage...) for use in essays for example I personally use a three column page - 1 is small for page numbers, 2 is half of the remaining space for the direct quotations, 3 is for my own notes like links to other books and how I'm going to use the information.

    You might find it helpful to try several different types of methods and see which one suits you best. You might also find it helpful to create a structured page for your meetings rather than just using lined, or blank, paper. I don't know how much detail you need, but perhaps a box for the date, time and location and another box for the attendees at the top; a box at the bottom for the things you need to do as a result of the meeting and the rest of the space for your own thoughts.

    In terms of concentration the only answer I have is that it takes practice. A useful exercise might be to pick a documentary on tv or radio and to take notes from a short portion of it, and then using your notes explain the key arguments or key facts to someone else. This will give you the practice of concentrating on listening and writing and it will show you where your notes are working and where they don't. A tip: key information is usually repeated and you don't need all of the information to get an idea of the argument so don't try and take down information verbatim.

    I have had a lot of practice at this as I'm currently doing a Masters in History, after three years doing a BA in English Literature and History, and I work with other students with disabilities taking notes in lectures on their behalf so they get the most out of the lectures. Having said that, I only know what works for me, and what the other students want from me. You have to experiment and personalise it. It's ok to switch from one to the other and to do mixtures of them all, and IMO it's a skill which is worth spending time on now because good note-taking makes life so much easier!

    Good luck.

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