In these days for millions of students, it is time to go back to school and many of these will have started again, as usual, to write down the key points of the explanations that follow, more or less, daily in class. Take notes is also a good habit for many professionals to focus on the most important concepts of various kinds of reading or not to forget what is interesting in the many meetings and/or congresses. Taking notes, however, is not as simple as it may seem so much that it can be considered an art that few can interpret in the best way.
A question that I think came to many people is if there is an infallible technique to synthesize on paper the fundamental concepts of the speech we are listening to or the reading we are doing and then re-read them at the right time and have an overview of the ideas that they have been exposed in the past by someone or something. In my opinion, there is no univocal and universally effective method to take notes in a profitable way because the aspects to be evaluated and adapted from time to time are varied and there is not a technique that is particularly well suited to all occasions.
Here are some considerations …
You do not need to take notes if you do not understand
Very often when you are faced with something or someone new you cannot immediately understand how the professor or speaker on duty that we have in front of you intends to articulate your speech or as the writer of the book, the lecture or report that we are reading intends to expose the key concepts in the reading we are doing. So the fundamental thing is to try to understand the thread of the discourse and how we will be presented with the fundamental aspects of the same.
In fact, it is useless to try to take notes if we do not understand the fulcrum of the discourse that is being heard even though it is a very common mistake. But in doing so, you lose time twice and double the effort. Write down every single proposition or copy what is written on the book simply by using some synonym to make everything slightly different without understanding what you are listening to or reading is useless.
If we have not understood the crux of the matter our notes will be confused as our ideas when we took them and then we would have lost some time in losing them as well as having lost the opportunity to understand the meaning of the contents that have been exposed to us. Consequently, when we go to reread we will continue to not understand anything and we will have to activate in some other way to get clearer ideas on the subject going to draw from other sources and wasting more time that we could use instead for more important things.
In my opinion, it is in fact much more important to keep the attention and concentration rather than the pen. Writing down everything and even more, will not help us if we are not understanding anything that we write down. It is much more useful to try to understand what is important and is explained to us or is reading maybe stopping who is talking, if possible, asking him to explain what we are not clear using a language a little simpler: at least in the end we will have used in our time profitably and we will have understood concepts that when we are going to resume there will be clear.
Nothing is done without paper and pen
An old professor of mine said that going to follow a conference, a speech or a lesson without a pen and paper was like going to war without weapons: defeat was assured. So if you are willing to take notes in a profitable way it is obvious that without the material to do it you will not go anywhere. The problem now remains to choose the right material for the best results.
The paper and the pen nowadays could be outdated, it must be said that they are always the most convenient, at least in terms of price-quality. If you are lucky enough to have more advanced technological solutions good for you: the important thing is to know how to use them properly because otherwise, they will only be a distraction as well as a reason to make you nervous and impatient.
Today, as I believe today, the technological solutions used to take notes are reduced to a good Tablet PC, which has its advantages and disadvantages. If it is true that if you take notes already “digitized” you can always take them with you without having to rummage every time between the desk drawers and without an additional space occupation and you can have as many copies as you want simply by printing them, it is also true that a Tablet PC has quite high prices, is more delicate than the paper solution as well as more “precious” and “desired”, print has its costs that are more or less comparable to those of a photocopy and also the fact that together with your Tablet PC you always bring together all your knowledge is a risk because if something goes wrong and you do not have a copy you have lost everything.
The “analogue” solution is much more tested and in most cases economic: the important thing is not to fossilize and adapt to various occasions. Try to always choose the right tools in order to get the best with the minimum effort. Choose the right pen for your calligraphy and for your hand: if you write small, choose fine-tipped pens if you write large choose a thicker pen, if you have a light hand use pens that do not need too much pressure to leave their pen otherwise if you have a heavier hand, do not use too sharp feathers to avoid puncturing the sheet. Even the colour has the most importance: choose the colour that tires you less blue or black and uses other colours, with the appropriate parsimony (you are taking notes you are not making a painting) to highlight the key points or the beginning of a new topic.
Talks about a comfortable grip I think your calluses will do to you if necessary. But if writing is a pleasure, you take notes more pleasantly, but be careful not to make it too much pleasure that can distract you from your main goal.
Write down everything but do not write too much
As mentioned and given again, the notes must be an aid that cannot make us forget the important concepts of a lesson, a speech or a reading. So it is not the transcription of what the professor or the speaker said or a recopy of what we are reading. In doing so, you waste so much energy to write, losing very often the concentration and the thread of the speech and getting much more tired and the results are what they are.
So try to mark all the essential but not too much. So that when you go to reread you will be able to reflect on certain aspects that you may not have noticed before, something that is difficult to do if you write too many things and channel your work in one direction. Use abbreviations, abbreviations and other techniques that can make you write less when possible: always try to be clear and use terms whose meaning you know or that is easy to guess. Being too cryptic saves time when writing, but sometimes it gets lost just as much when you go to read.
Always with a view to not fossilize and to achieve the goal that you have set yourself, or take notes, are very useful diagrams, diagrams and concept maps especially when it is impractical to report on paper what you are listening to or reading. If you have available paper material to lean on to follow a speech, be careful not to rewrite what is already there and to use it intelligently to work less: underline or highlight the pivotal points and add to the side or where there is it is space that you think is missing. This can also be useful when taking notes during a reading, taking care to use bookmarks or similar things at the topical points of the book for example.
I think I said everything I wanted to say. Now I want to know what you think, how you usually take notes, if you do it habitually or not, if you use a technique in particular and if there is any method that is particularly “infallible” and you want to share it with those who pass by here.
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