5 strategies to make note-taking better—and more productive

Published 7:30 pm Monday, November 14, 2022

Vadym Pastukh // Shutterstock

5 strategies to make note-taking better—and more productive

After 24 hours, we forget up to 40% of the new information we learn. But we can retain up to 100% of our memory with a simple tool: note-taking.

In a 2021 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, participants who took notes could recall information better than those who didn’t or took pictures of lectures on their phones. When we don’t attempt to retain information, our memory of that experience gradually declines until we remember little—or nothing—about it. 

Luckily, note-taking helps with memory retention by actively engaging with the material to connect new knowledge and past experiences. 

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The most effective note-taking strategy for you depends on the type of content or the information you’re gathering, how you assess it, and the time you have to retain it. 

Your process should allow you to take productive notes in any environment and encourage you to learn and retain information efficiently. ClickUp curated a list of some tried-and-true strategies for improving virtual and in-person note-taking and making it more productive.

Read on to learn about the five best strategies to help anyone take better and more productive notes, whether listening to a podcast, following along during a lecture, or watching a documentary.

A woman in a black shirt concentrating while taking notes.

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Try a traditional note-taking method

Traditional note-taking methods, like the Cornell and Boxing methods, are two of the most productive and widely used. The Cornell method, developed by Walter Pauk in the 1950s, breaks up notes into three parts: the cue, notes, and summary. These sections help to improve your ability to memorize and retain information in an organized fashion.

The Boxing method groups different pieces of information into small boxes and labels them or includes a broader idea at the top of each box. This method keeps things concise and works well with digital notes.

It’s easier to reorder and move the sections after lessons. Other traditional methods, such as bullet journaling or the outline method, can also be effective.

A young woman with red hair listening to headphones with a notebook.


Leverage AI tools to take notes

AI note-taking tools create an easy path toward giving any learning experience your undivided attention. You can wholly contribute to lessons and meetings and get as absorbed as you want without so much tedious writing.

On the surface, AI tools appear to transcribe words into notes simply. But they also erase the potential for human error, providing searchable time-stamped transcripts, transforming ideas into trackable tasks, and making lessons available in numerous languages.

College students take notes in class.

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Shorten everything in your notes

Using shorthand letters and abbreviations are pivotal to faster note-taking. Shorthand allows you to gather a lot of information quickly. While shorthand letters may be too tasking to implement, abbreviations work perfectly. There are three abbreviation techniques when writing in short form: using the first few letters of a word, removing most of the vowels from a word, and using the first letters of phrases to form acronyms. To make the most of this strategy, try including a glossary in your notebook for later reference.

A young woman in an orange sweater takes notes in different colors.

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Get visual with your logs

Color coding is an effective way to recall specific information in notes. This method uses colors to highlight important information and speeds up your reading process as you easily interact with these colors to find particular points in your notes.

Get even more visual when you use tools such as mind maps and sketch notes. A mind map is an illustrative tool, like a tree, that groups information around a central topic. Sketch notes are visual notes which use calligraphy, drawings, and elements like clouds and boxes to capture ideas on a page.

A group of young people sit together taking notes.


Take notes collaboratively

Writing collaboratively in groups or with partners can help everyone receive multiple perspectives of a lesson and critically assess ideas in a subject. In collaborative note-taking, tasks are divided so each person can take up a different element of focus—whether the summary, cue, or actionable ideas.

Collaborative note-taking can enhance interaction with the subject and creates space for better, deeper questions. This style of note-taking can also help group members keep track of what happened during a learning activity for reference later.

This story originally appeared on ClickUp and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.