What are some effective note taking tips while listening?
How to take good notes
I used to have the Speak Pipe plugin on my website, which allowed readers to leave me messages. One college student left a message asking me what is the most effective way to take notes while listening to a recording. From that message, there are three important questions to answer in this blog post. And the answer to each of the questions would be the same. They are all forms of taking notes while listening.
- What are the best ways for improving note taking skills while listening to a recording?
- What are good note taking techniques for attending class lectures?
- What’s an effective note taking method when attending speaker events?
The book, How to Take Good Notes is so highly rated that I bought a copy for myself. When I read it, I will review it, since so many people are interested in effective note taking tips.
All images in this blog post are clickable!
UPDATE: I’ve read How to Take Good Notes, and it’s an excellent book. Read my Review.
Update: First Published January 2015
Introduction to Effective Note Taking Tips: The Art of Writing While Listening
Related Post: How to Abbreviate Words for Better Note-Taking
Taking notes while you are listening is very different from when you are reading. When you are reading, you can easily flip the pages if you missed key information. That is not the case when you are attending lectures and speaker events. And even if you are taking a course online, it is annoying when you often have to rewind or pause. I’ve been there, and it’s no fun when a lecturer is speaking so quickly that you have rewind the video.
When you are taking notes while listening the key is to do the following things:
- Know common abbreviated words and use them.
- Rephrase what you are hearing, which speeds up your note taking. On an ongoing basis, work on improving your vocabulary. So yo never have to think about which words to use when taking notes.
- After the lecture or speaker event, rewrite your notes, which gives you the opportunity to review them. You remember more of what the lecturer said. This moves the information into your long-term memory.
Many of you who have hung out here for a while, know that I conduct many interviews and that I dislike transcribing. I am working on a paid project where I am conducting interviews and writing success stories for a trade organization. Before I conducted the first interview, I crafted the questions, and in between each question, I had several blank lines to write the responses.
Usually when I conduct an interview, I record it, and my only focus during the interview is asking the questions and listening to the responses. This time around, although I recorded the interview, I took notes, using all the information that I have learned so far about effective note-taking. The ability to abbreviate came in handy. I took such good notes that I didn’t have to listen to the recording, and I typed up my notes immediately after the interview while the information was still fresh. Some things I noted word-for-word, so I can use them as quotes. But I was able to paraphrase some of the interview, which helped to speed up the note-taking process. It’s still important when interviewing someone to always record the interview because you will not be on top of your game all the time.
There are many times when the interviews that I conduct are very long, so it would be very difficult to take effective notes. But taking some notes will make the transcribing process faster.
Note Taking Skills Strategies: Activities to Perform Before Attending a Lecture or Speaker Event
- If you are taking a class and have to attend in-person lectures, chances are that you have a course outline. Use the topics and sub-topics to create your own outline for note-taking. Leave enough blank lines for you to record your notes. This is important for the question and answer section where you will often find a goldmine of important nuggets.
- If you are attending a speaker event, more than likely there is key information in the promotional material that you can use to create your note-taking outline.
- Use the image of the Cornell Note Taking System to create a template.
- Write down any questions that you may have, as a reminder to ask if the lecturer doesn’t provide the answers.
- Write down what you already know about the topic in your template.
Effective Note Taking Tips: During a Lecture/Speech
- You need to listen, think and take notes at the same time.
- Focus on what the lecturer/speaker is saying and not on the delivery.
- You have no control over the speed at which others speak, so be prepared for anything.
- Do not write in complete sentences and remember to use abbreviations.
- Develop the habit of distinguishing between essential and non-essential information. Peel away all excess information and record only the key points.
- Paraphrase what you are hearing because you will take notes faster and remember more of what you hear.
- Based on the course outline or promotional material for a speaker event, track the stages of the lecture. Experienced lecturers and speakers often tell you what they are going to tell you, tell you, then tell you what they just told you.
- They also give clues that alert you that they are talking about key points and main ideas. Some will even say something like, “If you write nothing else, write this.”
Conclusion: Effective Note Taking Tips – after the Lecture
Immediately after the lecture/speech, or not much later, read through your notes, review and revise if necessary, then write a short summary that includes the key ideas. Effective note-taking is not difficult, but it takes practice to become second nature.
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. The book is short, so you not find it overwhelming, but your copy today!
Tips for Taking Good Notes: Note-Taking Resources
I use the Livescribe 2G Echo Pen (Please read Most Effective Note Taking Techniques – My Experience). I bought the book, How to Take Good Notes because it is highly rated. I plan to buy Wacom Bamboo Spark because I am learning to doodle, and it will work with my iPad. For people who are into doodling and sketchnoting, this form of digital note taking may be for you.
Note Taking Books
How To Take Great Notes Quickly And EasilyReading and note taking – preparation for studyThe Sketchnote HandbookCornell Note Taking SystemElectronic ShorthandMind Maps: Quicker NotesMemory, Speed Read, Note Taking