Does chaos reign in your notes? If it does, prepare to spend more time on studying – and to lose it a few times in the process. After all, those are your main sources of knowing what’s going to be on a test or what’s needed for an assignment.
The good news is, note-taking is a skill, and so is keeping your notes organized. This means that all you need to do is practice and stick to an organization system. If you don’t know where to start, essay writing service EssayPro has selected the top six time-proven tips to help you get rid of the chaos. Let’s get started!
Find Your Note-Taking Method
How you write things down is the make-it-or-break-it aspect of keeping yourself organized. Writing down every word and having walls of text on every page won’t cut it. It will only make reviewing what you wrote down a living nightmare.
To avoid this scenario, experiment with different methods and find the one that would be the most time- and energy-efficient for you. The following three most popular methods are a great place to start.
This is the most common method out there. It is natural to most people. It’s nothing complicated or out of the ordinary: this method just means writing down the key points of the lecture or discussion to create its outline. Bullet points or numbered lists are a great way to make them more organized.
To use this method, divide each page into three sections:
- The main section on the right, 6 inches (15.24 cm) wide;
- The cues section on the left, usually 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) wide;
- The summary section at the bottom of the page.
The workflow is as follows:
- Use the main section to write things down during the class (follow the outline method to structure them);
- After the lecture, review what you wrote and add questions and keywords in the cues section;
- Finally, sum up the key point(s) of the class at the bottom of the page.
The Mind Map
You might be already familiar with the concept of mind mapping. To apply it here, write down the lecture’s topic – or each of its key points – in the center of the page. Then, add nodes to it. Those can represent the key points of the lecture, reasons behind a historic event, main characteristics, etc. Add lines to show connections between nodes.
It is a visual and creative method, so it’s up to you how you use it. However, it may make it harder to understand what you meant as time passes. So, remember to create mind maps that will be clear to you even months after the class.
Summarize Your Notes
Whichever method you choose, the summary section is a handy addition to your daily studying routine.
First, formulating a summary will help you process the information and understand the key messages. Second, it will speed up preparing for an exam or the next class: it’ll take just a glance to refresh your memory.
So, leave some space for the summary section either at the bottom of every page or at the end of the notes for each class.
Make Information Easy-to-Find
Imagine you need to quickly find what you wrote down during the fifth lecture on the History of Art. Flipping through the notebook and trying to remember the topic of that lecture would be time-consuming.
Here are 3 ways to organize the contents of your notebooks to make information search faster:
- Use arrow post-its as bookmarks to mark every new entry;
- Number the pages and add a table of contents;
- Highlight dates and topics with a specific color.
Store Your Notes in One Place
Besides the notes from classes themselves, there are textbook notes, assignments, essays, slides, the list goes on. Bring them all to one place to minimize the time needed for finding what you need. It can be the same folder on your laptop or a binder on your table.
Students are likely to have a mix of digital files and papers for each class these days. Make sure to bring them all to the same realm: either print out the digital files or scan your handwritten notes and upload them to the cloud.
Using highlighters of different colors can turn out to be either a blessing or a catastrophe. To avoid the latter, make sure to keep their use to a minimum and have a clear color-coding system in place.
For instance, you can assign a yellow highlighter for definitions, a pink one for names, a green one for dates, and so on.
Use Different Text Styles
Another way to make your writing easier to read is by styling different parts of the texts. Think of your notes as a text in Google Docs: there are styles named Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on.
Come up with your own styles for each type of text. For example, write titles (i.e. lecture topics) in big capital letters, headings – in smaller capital letters, important definitions – in a different font or color.
The only limit here is your imagination and creativity. Remember to keep it simple, however: using these styles shouldn’t make writing things down more time-consuming.
Keeping your notes organized is a continuous process. Should you slack even for a week, all the previously done work may go to waste. So, once you settle on an organizational system, make sure to stick to it.
At the same time, it’s fine – and even necessary – to experiment with different organizational styles and tips first to figure out what works best for you. Once you’re done experimenting, however, keep the rules clear. You can add a legend to the first page of the notebook and write these rules down to cement them.