Taking notes and keeping them in order is an integral part of studying and working. You will need organized notes in order to revise for your exams, write your essays, keep track of your professional decisions, and complete your homework. Keeping them organized will not only help you complete these tasks, but it will also help you remember topics more easily.
Method 1 of 2: Organize notes for class
Step 1. Take your notes correctly
One of the keys to keeping notes organized is making sure that you are taking your notes correctly. This means that you only write down the things that are really important and that you don't write down everything your teacher says (unless it's really funny, of course).
- Write down the things the teacher mentions over and over. Repeating remarks is one way of emphasizing the most important topics. Anything that is repeated will likely end up on the exam or at least be important to understanding the course.
- Be selective (don't write down every remark): jot down the main points of the lesson or discussion. Write examples or hypotheses, especially in math and science lessons.
Step 2. Mix up different ways of taking notes
There are many different ways to record information. You can use one style or mix a few. It is best to mix them together, as you can usually collect more information using different processes.
- Handwritten notes work best for lessons dealing with: numbers, equations and formulas, calculus, chemistry, physics, economics, symbolic logic and also language lessons, since it helps to memorize better /remember.
- If your teacher allows you, you can also record the lesson or the discussion. This is great, since it allows you to come back to it and listen to very specific parts of the course, although it may be more difficult for you to remember the information.
- Make sure to collect all the lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations that your teacher makes available to you. They can be valuable notes for your essays and exams.
Step 3. Find out which note-taking methods work best for you
There are different ways to take notes, some of which are more effective than others in helping you stay organized or get organized later. You will need to experiment to see which methods work best for you.
- One effective method is the Cornell Note-taking Method. On the left side of a leaf, make a 6 cm column. On the right side, make a column of 15 cm, from end to end. You will use the right column to take notes during the lesson or conference. After the lesson, you will summarize your grades, choose keywords and create questions about the topic in the left column.
- A lot of people use the roughing method. Basically, this means jotting down the main points of a lecture or course (you can jot them down as a list of dashes, for example). After class, summarize your notes with a different colored pen or highlight it.
- A more visual and creative form of note taking is the thought pattern. Rather than writing sentences in a linear format, you draw your notes. Write the main topic of the lecture or course in the center of a piece of paper. Each time the teacher makes a new remark, write it around the central topic. Draw lines to connect the different ideas. You can also draw pictures, rather than using words.
Step 4. Store your notes in one place
If you store your notes anywhere, getting organized for your exams and essays on time will be very difficult. Do not take your notes in the first notebook that comes to hand or you will never find them again.
- On your computer, make sure you have a folder for the grades for each different course. If you put them all together, it will be difficult to find them.
- It is generally easier to store handwritten notes in a binder, since you can add and remove pages as needed, without having to tear them out.
Step 5. Keep track of deadlines and schedule
Many people (especially first year college students) don't realize how important deadlines and schedules are. This is information you will need to know (like your homework, the course objective, etc.).
- They will also often detail information about the types of essays and what information you will need, which can be helpful in knowing what kind of notes to take in class.
- Keep all the schedules and deadlines for each class in the same place as your notes so that they are easily accessible, especially when your teacher mentions information about them during class.
Step 6. Have a different notebook or binder for each class
You really have to keep everything in one place. This makes it easier for you to locate them when you need them. If you have a different folder for each course, you'll know exactly where your grades are.
- Make sure you keep these different notebooks and binders handy. They won't be of much use to you if you add your course notes in the wrong place.
- The more specific you are, the better. This means that for the same course, you can create different folders for different parts of the course. For example: if your film class was divided into four parts, you might have a different notebook for each part of the class.
- Another example: you have different folders for each section of the course (for the Latin course, you have a different folder for each separate part of expression, nouns, verbs, indirect clauses, etc.).
Step 7. On a computer, have different folders for each course
If you keep all of your notes on your computer, make sure that even there you keep separate spaces for your notes. You don't want to have to go back and go through your computer files.
- Within these folders, have folders for specific information. For example: you have the main folder for your Ancient Astronomy course, but inside you have specific folders for the different sections of the course, as well as for the two essays you need to write.
- Another example: you may have a file for your thesis, a file containing information on gender identity policies in your gender studies course.
Step 8. Create a grade master plan for each course
This may sound like overkill, but it can be very useful in knowing what notes you have. You should only deal with the main ideas that each group of notes contains (the really basic ideas), but that will make it easier for you when you have to go back and go through them.
- Combine lecture and reading notes into a cohesive whole. Find the main ideas and how they relate. For example: if your course deals with women in the Middle Ages, the main ideas could be about building oneself, types of writing, notions of autonomy and sex, etc. You could show how these ideas relate to each other.
- Make sure you have covered the most important points, as well as the underlying points supporting the main points.
Step 9. Stay Consistent
You don't want to have to try to figure out how and where you kept certain information. This will make your organization more difficult in the long run. If you stick to one way to archive your notes and to specific places for each class, you'll be much better prepared.
Releasing the pressure on the organization will mean not maintaining your organizational system, which will be harder once the exams or essays come
Method 2 of 2: Organize notes for a meeting
Step 1. Take effective notes during your meetings
You don't want to jot down everything people say unless you jot down very specific minutes. When you are in a meeting, you should make sure that you only keep the most important things mentioned.
- Most importantly, be sure to jot down things to do, decisions made, and anything else you need to follow up on.
- Take notes by hand and type them later on your computer - this will help you remember what was said.
- One effective method is the Cornell Note-taking Method. On the left side of a leaf, make a 6 cm column. On the right side, make a column of 15 cm, from end to end. You will use the right column to take notes during your meeting. After the meeting, you will summarize your notes, choose keywords and create questions about the topic in the left column.
Step 2. Make sure you have kept track of the correct information
There are some very specific things that you will need to note that go with what was said during the meeting. This is especially important if you later need to send these notes to everyone in the meeting.
Make sure you have noted the date, the name of the organization, the purpose of the meeting and the people there (as well as the absent people who should have been there)
Step 3. Next, summarize your notes and the meeting
You will need to synthesize the most important elements to make sure you know what needs to happen and what has been decided.
- Make a different colored box around the summary, so that it is easy to read.
- Summarize, don't transcribe. You don't need every detail of what has been said. For example: you should only say that it was decided to order a new type of office supplies, rather than discussing at length the best types of office supplies.
Step 4. Make sure to organize the most important information
You don't need to categorize all types of office supplies (according to the example above), you just need to say that new office supplies are needed and maybe which ones were selected.
- The most important things you need to make sure you write down are: actions, decisions, and baseline information.
- Highlight the most important information or leave space for the most important keywords and ideas.
- Avoid trying to organize yourself during the meeting. Doing this later will help you memorize and ensure that you don't miss out on important things.
Step 5. Have different files for each meeting
You want to make sure the elements don't get mixed up and then get lost along the way. Do this by making sure that each meeting is marked or designated differently.
Or you can keep all the same kinds of meetings in one place. For example: if you keep the notes of your weekly meeting with your manager, you will keep them separate from the notes that you keep on your weekly meeting with the whole group
Step 6. Organize yourself in chronological order
By keeping your meeting notes in one place you are looking to make it easier to go back to them and see when certain decisions were made, who did not attend a particular meeting and therefore needs the information, etc..
Step 7. Keep your notes in one place
This way, you won't have to quietly search the desk after the meeting to find your notes. Or you won't have to worry about getting the notes for the whole group out on time because you can't seem to find them.