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How to Take Better Notes






Note-taking is defined by Wikipedia as “the practice of recording information captured from another source. By taking notes, the writer records the essence of the information, freeing their mind from having to recall everything.” If you are anything like me, then you have to take notes of absolutely everything. My days consist of 10 to-do lists and notes for every minute detail of the things I have to do. In college, I was the note-taking queen. So much so that I actually got a job as a note-taker for the school. In this blog, I am going to go through a few note-taking methods I find effective as well as some tips I have learned and found useful in my journey of note-taking.


Everybody has their own method in which they prefer to take their notes. Here are a few methods that I have found allow for quick and organized notes:


I think most people had to learn this style of note-taking at some point in their grammar school career, and hated it. However, this note-taking method is widely considered as one of the best ways to take notes. The Cornell method was created by Professor Walter Paul of Cornell University in the 1950s and has since taken the world by storm.

The method begins by dividing your page into four, sometimes three sections: two columns, an area at the bottom of the page, and a smaller area at the top of the page. The top area is for your title, the left column (usually smaller than the right column) is for your headings or topic titles. On the right is where you would take your notes on the topics that you listed on your left. The bottom section is where you would summarize your notes for that page. Personally, I skip the summary because I don’t feel as though it is that beneficial to me but it can be useful during study sessions. This method of note taking not only focuses on recording notes, but also on organizing and reviewing said notes.


The advantages of this method are that it helps to keep notes organized and creates efficient study sheets.


The disadvantages, however, are that it requires the student to closely follow the lecture and daily review of notes is essential.

This template for Cornell notes showcases the functionality and organization benefits of this method.


The outlining method is probably one of the most common note-taking methods but still one of the best. I personally use this method the most, however, I would say my style of note taking is a combination of the outlining method and visual bullet journaling. This method allows your notes and thoughts to be organized in a structured and highly logical manner, which in turn reduces the editing and reviewing time.

The method uses bullet points, numbers, letters, or arrows to indicate a new thought. The titles, subjects, or major topics of the content are placed to the farthest left of the page, and subtopics are added using an indent to the right. Each supporting fact or note is placed below the subtopic, using another indent. The clear structure of the notes allow for easy review after the lecture or meeting!


The outline method reduces editing and review time which can be useful if you are dealing with a lot of information in a short amount of time. It shows the main points of the lecture or meeting as well as the relationship between single items. It also allows you to focus on your lecture instead of your notes by having a clear and concise structure. I find that it is also the easiest way to take notes on a computer and the easiest way to make to-do lists if you have tasks to complete for the day.


A disadvantage of the outlining method falls into the category of visuals: if you are taking a class that requires graphs or a lot of formulas, the Cornell method is probably superior. Other than that, the outlining method is the superior method!

This is what the outlining method would look like on a Google Doc, this method of taking notes is super easy and convenient whether you are a handwritten note-taker or a typing note-taker!


The Bullet Journal method is an analog system created by Ryder Carroll, a designer based in New York. He describes the Bullet Journal as a way to “help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” It is a versatile method that can be used for nearly everything: task manager, sketchbook, journal, etc. This method has gained massive popularity and people have really put their own twist on Carroll’s creation. The Bullet Journal method has become a popular way of organizing your life and tracking habits while keeping a creative flow in your daily routine. The system is quite detailed and takes a long time to explain so to find out how it works, visit bulletjournal.com and then google people’s examples of their bullet journals because they are amazing!

Personalizing your bullet journal in order to maximize your productivity as well as your creativity makes your to-do lists feel less like chores and more like fun!
layout by @feebujo on instagram


The mapping method is an alternative to linear note taking. It is quite a simple method: instead of lined paper, you start on a blank canvas. The subject or topic of the lecture goes in the center of your page. Then, instead of writing whole sentences, you take note of key words or short phrases and connect them to the center with lines. Personally, this style of note taking was hard for me to do when I was in lectures, but I would sometimes use it while recreating my notes to study for an exam.


The mapping method helps you visually track your lecture. Relationships are easily seen between topics and there is little thinking required. It is easy to edit the notes you take and the visual aspect of it allows for better retention of information.


If the lecturer’s content is not well organized or presented, it would be hard to create your mind map.

The visuality of the mapping method is a great help in memorizing key words and topics.

Some people get really creative with their maps! These are great for visual learners.

In the end, everybody’s brains work differently and these note-taking methods may not be the best fit for your brain. My brain works the best with a combination of the outlining method and visual bullet journalling-like styles of note taking. Most often I will use the outlining method for straightforward information notes and to-do lists but when I am starting a creative project and need to make notes about it I will turn to the visual bullet journalling style of note-taking. I highly encourage finding your note-taking soulmate because it allows daily tasks to feel less like a chore and it feels good to watch your to-do lists get checked off!

Written by

MyLan Tran

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