How to make most of your notetaking

28 August

When taking notes, writing, recording or sketching them out is only half the job. The other half, and probably, the crucial thing is organizing them in a way that makes it easier for you to access and revise them. You can use different methods depending on the aim of your note taking; teachers, students, businessmen, and poets have drastically different notes. However, it is undeniable – if they are messy and chaotic, there is little use of them later.

We have compiled a list of useful tips that will help you organize and structure your notes.

Color coding

No matter what kind of notes you are making, be it you writing down physical ones with a pen, or using the latest pieces of technology like apps or devices it might seem a bit inconvenient to use an array of colored pens and highlighters on paper or clicking tons of little editing buttons on your phone.

Nevertheless, studies say that color improves recall time for graphs and charts, and can be a very effective performance factor. Pick your own colors, though – whatever resonates with your memories, or whatever lines up on the opposite sides of a color wheel will work better.

Michael Tipper, an expert on mind-mapping and organizational software, believes that colors matter. On his blog, he says that separating parts of your map by color stimulates the creative side of your brain, helps you visually separate and recall distinct themes of the things you are working on, and encourages you to map through even boring topics that seem cut-and-dry.

Chris Smith, a senior systems engineer at Oracle and former target intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force, uses four colors when taking notes. For instance, black is for the general stuff, blue is for clients’ notes and comments, red is action items for his team, and green is action items clients need to take on. The system comes from the Air Force, where notes are often needed to be taken and organized quickly and carefully.

However,  do not overdo it! Attorney Jennifer Phillips says that a friend of hers book looked like she squashed a clown to death between the pages; everything was highlighted, emphasizing nothing as a result.

Organizing the notes in one place

Keywords, hashtags, folders, cloud – organize your space. Rewriting the highlighted words with paraphrasing on index cards works as well, as they are more portable than a textbook or article. You can use index cards for the paraphrasing with the keyword(s) on one side, and then its related meaning in a wider context on the other.

When using a physical diary or a notebook, try using labels and different paper to separate different topics and ideas. Underline, embolden, italicize, and highlight. Introduce some textual hierarchy into your notes so that you can decipher them more easily later on.

For meeting notes, record the initials of the person who made the noteworthy comment. This makes it easier for you to follow up with them. Date, time, who’s in attendance, meeting topic, and project are all housekeeping items that add context to your notes for a future self.


Revising your notes is the last step of work. Experts say: if it feels like you forget new information almost as quickly as you hear it, even if you write it down, that is because we tend to lose nearly 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. If we take notes effectively, however, we can retain and retrieve almost 100% of the information we receive.

For your revision to be productive, leave spaces and lines between main ideas for revising later and adding information. You can also develop your own system of abbreviations and symbols that will help you make associations, and therefore get through the text faster.

There is no universal formula or instruction on how to keep your notes in order. At the end of the day, you must find out what works best for you. Your note-taking skills will develop with practice and as you realize the benefits we have listed for you. Understanding how your mind captures, retains, and recalls information can help you become more productive. Stephen Graham advises to think of the ideas in your head as rushing along and you are trying to transcribe them: “The faster you can do that when you are, the less likely it is that words and ideas will escape and get away from you.”

Many modern gadgets, apps or services offer filtering and organizing topics and texts.
Check out Senstone LIVE campaign on Indiegogo

Senstone allows you take notes with your voice and covers all the features you need for a great experience: cloud storage, topic labelling, and organizing your thoughts with the help of hashtags, keywords, location and timestamps – all in one place.