- Do you have good note taking techniques?
- How much of what you read do you remember?
- How important is professional development to you?
The questions are meant for you to think about good note taking techniques. Note taking is a skill that you’ll use throughout your career.
Below are my thoughts in note taking based on research I conducted.
Good Note Taking Techniques to Remember More of What You Read
Research shows that if you do not take active steps to remember what you learn, within an hour of being introduced to the new information, you forget over 50 percent. A good way to prevent the Curve of Forgetting from setting in, is to take better notes while you are reading that you review from time-to-time.
But what does it mean to take better notes? That’s a very good question, which I will try to answer. I also purchased Effective Notetaking, which deals with taking notes while reading. I will review the book for you.
Additionally, a study by two psychological scientists, Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA, found that when students took notes by hand they were more likely to reframe the information, while those who used a laptop simple typed word-for-word. The result is that those who took notes by hand recalled more information. I suspect the same results would apply when you reframe what you are reading.
This post is the second installment of the Good Note Taking Techniques series.
UPDATE: This is an updated post from January 9, 2015.
Have you read?
Why Note Taking Skills Are Important: 10 Reasons
- Taking notes helps to extend your attention span and keeps you focused on reading the book.
- Taking notes changes you from a passive learner to an active one, which makes the retention of the information more likely. It forces you to read actively.
- The act of writing helps you to remember more of what you are reading.
- When you sum up the book it aids your long-term memory.
- Helps you to organize your thoughts on the information that you are learning.
- It’s a record of important points and ideas to use later.
- If you spend time distinguishing between essential and non-essential information, it aids your understanding of the book.
- Reading and taking notes could help to keep your brain sharp.
- Helps you to identify important concepts.
- When reviewing and reflecting on the notes you have taken, you are able to evaluate the information, and even make connections that would be difficult to make while reading. It also helps you to connect ideas between different books
Cornell Note-Taking System
Create your Cornell Note-taking template based on the information in the above article titled, The Cornell Note-taking System I was first introduced to the Cornell Note-Taking System in Jeff Cobb’s book, 10 Ways to be a Better Learner, and I have used the system for two years now. The Cornell Note-Taking System is recognized across the globe, and is easy to create. Although there are specific dimensions for creating the template, I did my thing and you can too.
Activities to Perform Before Reading a Book and Taking Notes
- Determine why you are reading the book.
- What type of information do you need?
- What questions are you trying to answer, then list them in a notebook, or print a copy of the Cornell Note-Taking template that you created, and write them in the left column.
- Look at the Table of Contents of the book to get a sense of what’s included.
- Take 20 minutes to scan the entire book.
- Spend five minutes writing down what you already know about the topic. And if you do not know anything about the topic, that’s okay too.
Active Note Taking Strategies: 11 Steps to Better Note-Taking
- Know your purpose for reading the book.
- Cornell Note Taking System and Livescribe Echo Smartpen:
- Cornell Note Taking System: In the right column of the Cornell Note-taking template, record your notes that contain key ideas from the book. In the left column, write down key words or cues, as well as any other questions you may have, insights and evaluations. At the bottom of the template, there is a third section of the template, which is where you summarize the book, reducing your notes to the most critical points.
- Other Note Taking System: I used to use the Cornell Note Taking System, but the problem is that after I have handwritten my notes, I have to type them up. I really dislike typing notes, so I bought the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. The pen is a computer, so I can connect it to my computer to convert my notes to text. You can also use a regular notebook. And you can even use the sketchnoting technique.
- Think before you write any information, to make sure that you understand what you have read.
- As you are reading, look out for the answers to your questions.
- Develop the habit of distinguishing between essential and non-essential information. Strip away all excess information that does not contribute to understanding the book.
- Take notes in your own words.
- Note key words and main ideas. One of the things that I do, is to write a note to myself, if I find information that I can apply to my business.
- Do not write complete sentences – use phrases and abbreviations (How to Abbreviate Words for Better Note-Taking). State concisely essential information for understanding.
- Write full references if you decide to include a direct quote when using the information at a later date.
- Note anything you wish to query in the left column of your Cornell Note-Taking template. Or designate a place to park that information in your notebook for future reference.
- Check over your notes as soon as you finish reading the book. You may need to add points, ask yourself questions to clarify your understanding of the book, and note anything you need to follow-up. Also look for associations or relationships in the book that you may not have noticed while reading.
You may be tempted to type your notes into the Cornell Note-taking template, but restrain yourself, and take notes by hand. Later, you can type up your notes, and that is also a way to review your notes, making you remember the important concepts that you noted. And isn’t that the point of taking notes while you read? In the next installment of the Better Note-Taking series, the focus will be on taking notes while listening to a speaker. At this time pick out the big ideas from the book.
Good Note Taking Techniques: Practical Use
I host and am participating in the Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge. The purpose of the reading challenge is to read for solutions. If you take the purpose to heart, that means that when you read, you are searching for solutions to questions that you have. Questions you may have, include:
- How can I develop cultural awareness to compete in a global workplace?
- How can I acquire the employability skills to thrive in the future?
- How can I generate new ideas to improve work and life?
- How can I create a side hustle to improve my financial situation?
- How can I learn to work with people from different generations?
I’m sure that you have many more questions than I’ve listed above. But the point I’m trying to make is that you can use the reading challenge to better your work and your life. Now we’re getting to the really good part that involves note taking. When people participate in the Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge, I recommend that they take detailed notes. I have already talked about good note taking techniques.
I’d like to add, that what you read is as important as the amount of reading that you do. To expand your mind and way of thinking, you have to read broadly. This means reading about diverse topics. You could read about current events, business, history and biographies of people whom you admire and so on. But make sure that you are reading enough books to make you more valuable and marketable. Books that answer the questions listed above.
You have to think about how you can apply what you’re reading to improve your personal and professional life. And that’s why an effective note taking method is key. Since an important element of the Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge is reading books to acquire new skills and to perform better at work, you’re reading books to gain specialized knowledge and skill. This makes note-taking skills even more important. You have to remember the new concepts, so that you can apply them to your work.
Additionally, I have created a handy guide to walk you through the process of taking better notes, while listening and reading. In the guide, I include common abbreviations to speed up the note taking process, as well as a lot of tips and hacks. This will also give you what you need to thrive in 2020, because you’ll know how to take better notes while reading books to learn a new skill. I have put all the information you need in one spot, and the guide is very short. Buy a copy today!
Good Note Taking Techniques: Resources