8 Brilliant Ways To Up Your Note-Taking Game

12032334_10206127886870622_419393132_nI know this is a sore topic with school having just started but lots of us are still shooting ourselves in the foot with the way we take lecture notes, and that’s no way to start a successful semester. So while you determine how to consume enough coffee before class to function properly (pro tip: espresso), jot some of my tips down. I’ve been following them for years without realizing it, and they’ve always helped me get good grades. I’ll be happy if just one of my suggestions helps you out.

Forget perfect. Your handwriting should rival chicken scratch if it means you scrawl information down faster. It’s not like you’re being graded on your penmanship anyway; that’s so kindergarten.

Ignore the rules; spelling, grammar, structure, all of them. Accept that you will accidentally write “importnt” and jumble words and skip the ‘the’s in sentences. That’s just your brain working to get meaning down onto paper in the most natural, efficient way it knows how. I promise that Future You will understand what you wrote.

Draw! If you can draw something faster than you write it, do it. If a math symbol is worth a word to you, use it. Get graphic with your notes and you’ll not only jot points down more efficiently, you’ll remember them better too. Just make sure you keep track of what your symbols mean – I do it with a legend at the top of a page for new ones.


A few of my most-used symbols, if you can see them.

Ditch the keyboard. Handwriting activates more cognitive processes than the passive ones you use when you type so you’ll retain more information. I’ve jumped around in the past between typing and writing (some courses throw too much content at you to write down) and have been a much happier student using just a pen and paper.

Add a pop of colour. You can designate black for general info in your notebook, blue for little facts, red for action items, or whatever. The US Air Force uses this trick and I can attest to it’s value. It has something to do with the stronger memory associations that colour triggers. But for this tip, make sure your pen arsenal at the red-y when you write or go back over your notes post-lecture and add coloured underlines then.

List it. Take every opportunity you can to number, bullet or indent things. You’ll have ready-to-memorize groupings of information when you need them and your notes will look more organized. Personally, I love lists. Concept lists, idea lists, to-do lists, all of ’em.

Invest in a good pen. I’m not talking the expensive executive pens that cost an arm and a leg, I’m just saying get a good quality pen that you won’t hate. Because a) 20-packs of cheap pens seem cost effective until you lose them all because you don’t like them and b) the thing will carry you through so many classes if it’s a real trooper.

Stack your papers. When you write on just one, the hard surface of your desk makes your pen write blank spaces all over. You know what I’m talking about – the half-letters you have to go over again to complete. Adding a few sheets under the one you write on eliminates that problem, and the need to fix half-blank letters.

I have to mention this somewhere: I’m left-handed. If you are too then you know how hard it is to find a pen that agrees with you. I recently found Sharpie Pens work really well. They’re inky but they don’t bleed and they don’t have the mechanics that seem to cripple us all. [This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just a really happy camper. I paid about $8 for a pack of four and I’m definitely getting my money’s worth.]

Ok guys, I’m off to do some studying. Hope this helped you out! If there’s something that I missed, comment it down below so we can all learn from it 🙂 Also, if you found this helpful, let me know and I’ll talk about more school-success-related topics in the coming weeks. Until next Thursday, friends.



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