{Strategy} | Active Note-Taking Strategy With Detailed Examples

You can use your bullet journal to take notes that are easy to review later. In this article I explain and show examples of a technique I’ve developed (one of many) for effective note-taking and synopsis. It only requires simple access to a photocopier, pens, paper, and a highlighter while you read.

Here’s a copy of the notes I took while reading the book How Women Lead (more on the key takeaways from that book here – coming soon!). You can click on the pictures to make them larger so that you can actually read my notes:

The takeaways here: “Show, don’t tell.” “Looks are almost everything” when it comes to personal branding. Personal branding details listed here as ways to show without “telling.” Notice also how you can spot that verbal summary from miles away because I wrote that simple sentence directly above the portion of the reading that discusses it. I used my own words (a paraphrase) to make it easier for me to digest and remember the critical meaning of the reading.
The takeaways from this page are visually-obvious via highlighter and red pen: professional self-promotion and personal branding are essential for women to gain positions of high prominence and leadership. Projecting confidence is necessary to make this progress, as well as deliberately asking for opportunities to speak. Finally, the women who wind up making it into positions of leadership style themselves with clothing and a haircut that emphasize confidence, power, and femininity.
Projecting confidence , as well as deliberately asking for opportunities to speak and be nominated for awards, is necessary to gain publicity and recognition that materialize as leadership roles and better compensation.
 The strategic steps for asking for promotions or raises. I summarize it in my own words rather than merely pasting in yet another page (again, we’re trying not to get bored while taking the notes!).  You can also see as you scan down the page that the orange highlighter in the reading shows a specific phrasing I can use later to demonstrate my justification for asking my boss for a higher salary later.
Steps for The Big Ask, continued. You can also see that I’ve listed important features of a portfolio career and how it differs from a traditional one on the right side. I’ve numbered that section #2 to show it’s a completely different topic than the rest of what I’d been discussing to that point.

Basically, what you aim to do is encapsulate snippets of juicy, important detail within their original context, so that you can gain a cohesive mental picture of what the article (or textbook) is talking about. This allows you to build the context and scaffolding you need to proceed fluidly and easily through your course. I think it also helps you to complete problem sets, because you’ve already identified where the key ideas or techniques are located throughout the book – without having to read every word as you do it. I like this strategy because it changes a traditionally passive, boring, belabored activity such as reading a whole chapter of a college-level textbook into an active, kinesthetic activity. The goal is to create a cohesive piece of art out of all of the puzzle pieces you are given. You basically skim to find the types of information you figure you’ll need for the class – then you chuck the rest. Your eyes won’t have time to glaze over, and you’ll be more efficient because you won’t have the opportunity to get distracted by your thoughts. Got ADHD? No problem! You’re constantly copying, flipping, snipping, highlighting, and pasting. No need for intense focus on just the reading. And, studies show that including movement in the learning process increases the number of synaptic connections being made in your brain to long-term retain the information you’re trying to put in there!

Note: the most effective learners do the following:

  • pick and choose the key points from a reading passage or lecture, leaving the rest to the wind.
  • summarize the key ideas in their own words, not merely copying the text.
  • find ways to make their learning process more active so that they don’t procrastinate or get bored or bogged down by the complexity of the reading/lecture.
  • relate the material to some other aspect of their lives, personalities, experiences, or classes. In other words, they make their own personal connections with the material.
  • go back over the notes they’ve compiled and write summaries of those notes. This is an opportunity for further reflection and integration of the ideas into their own minds.
  • find opportunities to practice their learning immediately after getting the information (e.g., speaking and listening foreign language labs or cafes, doing science laboratory experiments, setting up and running at-home DIY experiments, writing, playing with or constructing tactile models, and working key problems from problem sets and checking against the key or peers).

Give it a shot for your next high school or college reading assignment! Leave a comment below to let me know how it worked.

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