Are You A Minimalistic Note-taker?

If you are a college student, at some point in your schooling career, you have probably read an article on note taking. After a quick trip to the school supplies aisle, you come back to your dorm, clutching a shopping bag full of multicolored highlighters, sticky notes and pens of all varieties and colors. With this arsenal of supplies, you are sure to take the most comprehensive notes of your entire career this semester. Right?

Wrong. As soon as you get into class and the professor starts talking, your pens are taking up your entire desk, your highlighter ends up under the chair in front of you and the first writing utensil you had the chance to grab is not leaving your hand for at least the next 45 minutes. The last thing you want to do is fight your hand cramp just to decide which ink color you should use for this section of your notes.

I have been there, done that. I have bought the multicolored pens and the highlighters, all because I wanted to take the perfect notes. Granted, it’s awesome if you can maneuver around a desk full of writing utensils, but if you’re like me, you want something simpler. So, here are a few of my tips for neat, comprehensive note taking.

Show up to class a couple of minutes early, this will allow you to find your seat and get out a notebook and a pen before class starts. When your professor starts talking, look for things he or she repeats or spends more time explaining and then write down those key points. Don’t try to write down everything, just write down the basic statement and, if needed, an example. Think about your notes in terms of test questions; test questions revolve around the basic ideas of a subject, not the details. So save yourself the scrambling for information, pick out keywords and immediately you will be able to slow down, listen and make legible notes.

Second tip, don’t start a new page of notes for each class period. Instead, label the top of the page with the chapter or topic you are covering and keep those notes under the same label until your professor moves on. If you cut off halfway through a chapter during the class period, open your notebook to the page you left off on during the next class period and continue your notes from there. It will ultimately make your notes flow better, so you know exactly where each section/chapter/topic begins and ends.

The last of my tips is only use one pen. Fumbling around with pens and highlighters will make your handwriting sloppy as you start rushing. If you must highlight, use one color as well. And the same goes for highlighting or taking notes as you read your textbooks on your own time, try to just use one pen and one highlighter. I know if I try to use different colored highlighters to highlight my textbooks, I end up highlighting things the wrong color and I get frustrated.

In short, use one pen, keep your notes organized by subject matter, look for keywords and show up to class a couple of minutes early so you have time to prepare. And that’s it, three simple ways to take better notes this semester.

Amanda Gibson can be contacted at [email protected]