1. Most of the times, you don’t have to. You might be thinking, okay then wtf is the point of this post? That’s a reasonable question. I would like to argue that more often than not, taking notes in the class didn’t help me that much, but sometimes, it really was useful. I didn’t realise this until one of my professors called me out on remembering a lot of the lecture despite not taking notes. I decided to do a little bit of research by myself and surprisingly, I wasn’t alone on this one. Bloomberg Business summarizes it: “The human brain, it appears, is wired to recognize when information is being documented, and to “intentionally forget” that info so as to be able to free up room for other things. The brain assumes that since the information is written down, there’s no need to remember it.” I would encourage you to actively engage with the lecture by questioning what is being taught, discussing and even experimenting. You’ll be surprised by how much your brain actually retains that way.
2. If you really have to, use the chapter outline. No one has a perfect memory, and we’re not good at everything either. So sometimes I do take notes using the chapter outline, especially in subjects I don’t get a lot. You know that one page where they outline the chapters paragraph and give it numbers? It’s been extremely useful to me. Why? Because the paragraphs are usually named after the main ideas of the subject. Let me give you an example. One of my introductory classes was Marketing. The first chapter is named Wat is Marketing? The first paragraph is The definition of marketing, the second The marketing concept and the last one The role of marketing in a corporation. So knowing the answer to these 3 paragraphs should give you a strong idea of what marketing really is. A 20-page chapter was easily summarized in only 3 paragraphs. This saves me lots of time and I’m able to identify the most important info right away.
3. Always write information that is not in the books. Most professors usually paraphrase what is in the textbooks but sometimes they come with original content. These can be additional information, examples or mnemonics. I don’t write these in great detail. Usually, one sentence at the margin of the page or on a memo would do the trick to remind me about it. Be as short as possible not to fall behind in the lecture tho!
4. Write in your own language. I get classes in Dutch but I write my notes in English. This helps me to truly understand what I’m learning and I’m able to remember faster too.
In a nutshell, you don’t have to take lots of notes. If you do, try to write the information clearly, in a few words and fast. That way, you can engage with the information that is being presented.