5 tips for taking better notes in class

Want to make your class notes clearer and more memorable? Note-taking has always been a challenge for me since I struggle to keep my thoughts organized because of ADHD. By using a few helpful strategies, I’ve gotten much better at taking notes, and so can you.

Here are five tips for taking better notes in class.

1. Avoid writing everything down. 

Information overload is a recipe for disaster! If you write or type everything, you won’t actually be listening as well as you could be.

In lecture, try to jot down specific key phrases that connect to the main idea. If you do this on a computer, you can revisit longer blocks of text later using my best friend: command+F to find. (Control+F on PC.) There’s no point in furiously scribbling down an entire paragraph when all you need to remember is one simple key idea.

2. Spend 5 or 10 minutes after class reviewing your notes. 

The point of taking notes is to help you learn and remember.

Re-reading your notes after a quick stretch will help you internalize the information while it’s fresh in your mind. Sometimes, after I read my notes, I even talk out loud to myself about what I’ve learned. If you don’t want to feel silly talking to yourself as you walk to your next class, fear not! Just use your phone and pretend like you’re on a call.

3. Take notes differently in different classes. 

I realized halfway through college that taking all my notes in Google Docs made everything blur together. 

Now, I use a different style for each class: handwritten, OneNote, Bear, and Google Docs. It depends on the type of class. In science, drawing diagrams by hand helps me understand concepts more easily. In other classes, typing works better. If you want everything in one place, try using different fonts or color schemes for each class.

4. Eliminate distractions. 

You can’t control your peers’ smartphone beeps, but you can make your notes the only thing in front of you. Clear everything off your desk, and put all your extra electronics away in class. One note sheet, one browser tab, one stylus. Keep it simple!

5. Meditate. THEN note-take. 

It’s hard to take notes if your brain is all over the place.

Try to be as mentally present and calm as possible by the time you sit down. Before class, you can take a meditative walk, or close your eyes and breathe, or even listen to some peaceful music. Do whatever you need to do to bring your best focus to the space.

Looking for more help? Learn about five helpful note-taking methods that are better than just writing everything down.


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