Note-Taking Strategies: 5 Tips and Tricks for Better Notes

Without a strategy, your meeting notes might get a bit messy. Here are five note-taking strategies to help you get organized.

You just got added to a project that involves launching a brand new product next fall – congrats! With your laptop open, you feel ready to take good notes at your first product meeting. But within the first 10 minutes of your meeting, your once-organized notes are a jumbled mess – great. It doesn’t have to be this way. Use the below five note-taking strategies in your next meeting for effective notes you can look back on afterward.

5 note-taking strategies

The best meeting notes are easy to go over. They’re also organized and full of essential information. The below five note-taking strategies can help you take your notes from chaotic to effective. 

1Abbreviate, reduce, and simplify

Abbreviating or simplifying your notes can come in handy if you’re in a meeting where speed is key. For example, maybe you’re discussing an upcoming project, and your manager is jumping from point A to point B in just seconds. To keep up with all this new information, you may need to abbreviate some words. 

When you do use symbols and abbreviations, keep them consistent so you can easily remember what they mean. You might want to create a legend (yes, like on a map) for your symbols so you can definitely understand them in the future.

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2Include pictures, videos, and other visuals

Adding images and videos to your notes can help you understand and remember them better. Before you add a photo or embed a video, make sure that you write down any notes related to it right above it. This way, you’ll know that the image matches the text, and you’ll make clearer connections among all the things you need to know. 

3Use headings, subheadings, and lists in your notes

Headings and numbered lists can help you organize your notes. You should add headings when your notes move on to a new topic. Then, within each topic, include indents and numbered lists to separate the most important points from the less important details. 

4Write phrases instead of sentences 

If you’re only writing notes for yourself, you don’t need them to look like a New York Times best-seller. Writing only the key points instead of typing your notes word-for-word can save you a lot of time. (One exception: meeting minutes need to be verbatim, but most of the time, plain old notes are fine.) Little words such as “a” or “the” won’t add any meaning to your notes – go for shorthand. You’ll still remember everything and save yourself the extra hassle and time. 

5Pick your favorite note-taking strategy

If you’re looking to take more effective notes and organize your material, try the below note-taking methods:

  • Cornell method

Cornell professor Walter Pauk invented the Cornell method in the 1950s as a way to better organize and review your notes. This system involves dividing your piece of paper into two columns: a small left-hand column and a larger right-hand space. You’ll leave a small row at the bottom of the page too. Once you draw your layout, it’s time to add content. 

On the top of the page, you’ll write your title or subject. This could be your meeting’s main topic. Once you’ve written your title, you’ll move on to your two columns. The left-hand column on your layout will be your subheadings side. This is where you can write down any keywords or questions. Then, the right-hand column is your note-taking section. 

Since the note-taking section is limited on space, you’ll automatically know not to write full, long sentences – and that’s a good thing. You’ll need to lean on symbols and abbreviations, leading to simpler notes. 

Lastly, the section at the bottom of the page is your summary or concluding section. Simply jot down your main points from above so you can easily look back at them without reading the entire page. 

  • Mapping method

Mapped notes are a graphic representation of your meeting’s main ideas. When you use this method, you can easily track, color-code, and find common relations within your notes. You can easily edit your notes with new sections, numbers, and marks too. 

This layout is best for meetings where you actively participate and think critically. It’s also great if you have a content-heavy meeting or there’s a new client in the room. It’s also great if you have a guest speaker and you don’t yet know how they’ll present their information. 

  • Charting method 

The charting method looks similar to a table (the type of chart, not the thing you sit at). To create this layout, you’ll need to figure out the main topics beforehand, then draw a column for each category. 

When you use the charting method, you won’t have space to write full sentences. Instead, you’ll need to quickly summarize your meeting’s main points. This method is great for when you need to memorize facts or compare and contrast ideas. 

  • Sentence method 

With the sentence method, you’ll write every new thought or idea on a separate line. This can be great because the layout is more organized than paragraph-based notes, and you can jot down more information. It’s a great choice if your meeting is content-heavy and not the most organized. This way, you can document each point on a separate line, then go through and see which ideas fit together.

  • Outline method 

The outline method highlights the most important ideas and groups everything else under them. To use this method, start on the left-hand side of your document and record your major points or topics. Then, under each keyword, subheading, or list of facts, add key points. You should indent every time you add a subtopic. You can use bullets or number your sections. 

If you’re super organized, you’ll probably love the outline method since you can easily review your in-depth notes. You should use this note-taking strategy if your meeting already has a clear outline or meeting agenda

Use Fellow for your digital note-taking process

At first glance, taking meeting notes may seem overwhelming – how will you get everything on the page? But take a deep breath – taking effective digital notes can be easy with a platform where you can create, edit, organize, and share your notes.

With Fellow, you’ll get all kinds of meeting agenda templates that you can use to take notes. You can create your own templates too, and you can scroll through notes from most to least recent with the Streams tool. You’ll have no trouble organizing your ideas and sharing them with the whole team. It’s the easiest way to take great notes you can look back on time and again.

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