Introduction: Why Is It Important To Take Notes
The average person has much information to capture: contacts, to-dos, ideas, solutions, reading materials, notes, reference and more sorts of information pass in front of our eyes daily. We tend to ignore most of this information, but some will matter to us, and we will take notes.
As a doctor, I tend to take notes of new information, new medicine tips, and data on diseases and unique treatments. Also, I take daily notes on my patients and their details and follow them appropriately and don’t miss anything. I also take notes of new ideas, scientific articles, books I read or listen to, videos I watch, or any content I consume.
I noticed there is too much information to take notes of, and sure many people struggle with the same problem. That’s why I decided to organise the notes I take daily using Notion.
Notion is an excellent software for taking notes, organising your to-do list and your workplace. I have tried several notes taking apps like Apple Notes and Evernote, But I found Notion the best option. While I take notes using Notion, this guide will address taking better notes on any app you might use or in a handwritten way.
Although I use Notion, this article will discuss how to take better notes in general. If you are in the thing of taking better notes, this guide Is for you. I share my experience and what I learned over the years as a person who takes daily notes. This guide will focus on some tips I found important to improve notes.
How To Take Better Notes: A Guide For Beginners
First Step In Taking Notes: Choose Your App.
Many people will still prefer to use a notebook for notes. But in the digital era, and with all the solutions available, choosing an app looks like the best thing. A digital option for taking notes will make things easier, automate some of your actions, synchronise over different devices, make notes available anywhere, anytime, and make writing, editing, sorting and organisation easier.
So, the first step is to choose your app. There are many apps available, and information is widely available on this subject. The app I use is Notion. I used Evernote in the past and still using it sometimes.
Among the best apps are:
- Apple Notes
- Microsoft OneNote.
- Google Keep.
Second Step In Taking Notes: Build A System.
You will become better at taking notes with time and practice. It’s a skill that you can build over time.
But why not using a system when taking notes?
A system can make things effortless and much more comfortable, enhancing productivity and providing results earlier.
There are many tools to build a system for notes. Some of these include the well known note-taking apps listed above. Nevertheless, many people still find writing down their notes in their notebook a better and more creative way. Either option is acceptable, but there is a need to implement a system of taking notes rather than writing everything down without an intent to do something.
I will not go in this article into the practical steps of building a system, but we will discuss the basics.
There are many systems and tools to use, but I found GTD the most convenient and productive way of taking notes. It reduces stress related to the accumulation of information and enables you to review your notes quickly and make things more transparent. Also, I think it’s an excellent method to take actions and progress with your project, no matter what your notes are about.
Every note you want to take should go into the following steps:
First, capture the information you want to make a note of. It can be a quote, information, a speech, podcast, textbook, lectures notes, or anything else.
Once you have captured your notes, you have to decide what to do with them. Is it important? Significant? Should it be kept or deleted? Is it an action? You have to clarify what is the target of the note.
Organize your notes once you have written them. Use the tips below: big to small, projects to actions.
Reflect on your notes by thinking about them, reviewing the words you have written before. If these notes are part of studying, you may want to use the active recall technique. By reflecting, we decide how much our notes are significant and what they mean to us. Reflecting is one of the most important parts of journaling.
Finally, you engage with your notes, take actions and complete what needs to be done. It can be transforming tasks to your to-do list, changing a habit, memorising information, and so on.
Now you understand that choosing an app that fits your uses and implementing a taking notes system can improve your notes and make them better.
But besides choosing an app, what should you do with your notes to make them better. Here I share the tips that I found most useful.
Use A Tool With Powerful Search Options.
If you want to take notes better and review them once in a while, you need powerful search options. A powerful search will provide immediate, relevant and exact results. Powerful search can save the energy and time wasted on correcting the search phrase and reduce errors. Also, an adequate search should be fast and not slow, so it will not interfere with the workflow.
Any note-taking tools should be flexible, easy to sort and organise. To do that, you should be able to move notes around to any place, from any location. The organisation’s flexibility makes a colossal difference when you want to re-order notes or review them once in a while.
For example, in Notion, notes are organised as blocks that you can move anywhere you want. It has a lot of organisation flexibility that made it my favourite tool.
Arrange From Big To Small
One of my favourite tips is to use the toggle feature and build an infinite database. This database should be arranged from big to small, from major to minor. By arranging from big to small, we make things more precise and more comfortable reading, reviewing, and engaging. Size can be used to highlight something or correlate to priority.
We tend to arrange our notes into categories, such as food, lessons, finance and so on. It might be better to organise your notes by the projects you work on rather than by categories. This is one of the basic tips in productivity, and David Allen also recommended it in GTD. Arranging notes under projects make notes clearer and prevent confusing tasks with notes. It’s also a better way to give control over the projects and avoid stress around Notes.
When notes are arranged under projects, arrange notes in a big to small fashion. So projects can be broken down into small, realistic actions steps that can be completed quickly.
If you are using a digital note-taking app, I recommend using toggle; you can segment your notes according to categories. The options are endless, and you will have infinite sorting possibilities. It’s like a tree with permanent branches. I like to resemble the toggle sorting to the trachea-bronchial tree in the lung, where every primary airway continues to divide for more and more segments and sub-segments. When you use a toggle, you can build an infinite database. This database should not be limited and can grow endlessly so that notes can be stored in it all the time.
I explain active recall in this article and its benefits in remembering notes. Taking notes in the form of asking questions is better than stating facts or a bullet list. By this, you can remember more in less time and store points In long term memory.
For example, I use asking questions in my studying notes or taking notes from a new article. That’s how I increase the risk of remembering information and correlate it to the article or the data I read.
Combining the asking questions technique with the toggle option, high yield notes can be created easily. These notes will not just disappear in your database; they will be saved inside your memory.
Create Time And Physical Sense In Your Notes
You can do this by using several simple techniques. These techniques intended to add benefits and not just to decorate your notes. Adding time, place, and other physical sense aspects create more synapses inside our brain (connections between the brain cells, the neurons). These connections become stronger each time we view our notes; therefore, we enhance our memory and improve them over time. Hence, the chance we remember our notes is higher.
The system you choose to use for note-taking, should have the features of adding time and physical sense.
So, what we can add to our notes?
Here are some suggestions
- Add a date or a link to your calendar ????. You can also sort your notes by the most recent date.
- Add a place or a link to maps ????. Using locations is a great way to create a sense of place.
- Write specific notes in a particular place that relate to a particular topic. This Can be used as a memory palace or the method of loci. The method is using a visualisation of an environment to enhance memory.
- Attach a photo or an image.
- Assign a specific person.
- Add Emojis.
Use Visual Features
The notes’ notes’ visual component makes notes easier to capture, read, remember, and highlight important notes.
Visual features are numerous and include:
- Photos or images that can be added.
- Colors of the text or it’s background.
- Highlights using a marker.
- Bold, underline and italic.
Basic features are integrated into every note-taking app or software. These features are usually available in all the note-taking apps, but it’s up to you to use them.
Why Notion For Taking Notes?
Notion is an excellent workspace where you can manage notes, workflow, database, wikis and more. Notion has all the features that make taking notes more comfortable and more straightforward. It also can apply the GTD method if you invest some time in thinking and creating the system. Given that the data is written in blocks, organisation and arranging notes become easy.
I also use Evernotes occasionally, and Apple Notes takes voice notes using Siri when I don’t have an option to write down my notes.
Conclusion: How To Take Better Notes
The way we take notes on the content we consume, whether professional or not, can make the difference between high quality, valuable and memorable notes and notes that will be forgotten into the notebook or the software.
Creating a system that makes taking notes an easy action is so critical. Therefore, in the digital era, using a good app or software can help you take notes better. Anyway, the software will not replace your brain, so use it for your benefit.
I hope this guide will improve the note-taking process for those who will read it. If you like it, share it. If you have other suggestions, please comments and share your experience.