7 Methods for Taking Organized Notes (With Tips to Improve)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 21, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Note-taking is a valuable skill for most professionals. Knowing the best methods for organized note-taking can help keep your ideas focused and clear. Learning more about the variety of note-taking strategies can help you find one that works best for you. In this article, we explain what organized notes are, list methods for note-taking, and offer tips for improving your notes overall.

What are organized notes?

Organized notes record important information from classes, meetings, or other learning opportunities and can be handwritten or typed out. You can use these notes to refer to the information later, so it's important for them to be well-structured and easy to read. Keeping your notes organized ensures you can quickly recall the information you're looking for when you need it most.

Related: 7 Note-Taking Apps You Can Consider Using (With Tips)

Methods for organizing your notes

Here are seven methods you can consider using to help ensure you have detailed and organized notes:

Outline

The outline note-taking method is one of the most common and easiest to structure. You can take outline notes by hand or on a computer. To use this method, make a heading for each topic discussed. Under the appropriate heading, add sub-points and details as needed to explain the idea fully. Outline notes are easy to take and useful for collecting a large amount of information, but they do take more focus to review as they're made up of large blocks of text.

Related: How to Take Meeting Minutes: A Step-Wise Approach

Cornell

The Cornell note-taking method is very popular with people who regularly review their notes for major takeaways. This method divides your paper into three sections: cues, notes, and summary. Typically, the cues and notes sections are each in columns, with the cues column taking up about one-third of the page and the notes column using the remaining two-thirds. The summary section goes at the very bottom of the page, with enough space for a short paragraph.

Take your notes in the outline style in the notes column. Once you've finished note-taking, fill in the cues section next to each heading with useful questions or descriptors to help you quickly review your writing. Finally, complete a summary that highlights the main points or key takeaways from the notes.

Mind map

Mind map note-taking is useful for making connections. Instead of writing an outline or list, you start with the topic in a circle in the centre of the page. Add connecting bubbles with subtopics and concepts to the main idea. Once finished, you have an interconnected map of main ideas, sub-points, and details to review. This is a great option for people who prefer visuals over large blocks of text.

Related: 16 Mind Map Examples (With Definition and Benefits)

Flow

Flow notes are one of the most open-ended note-taking methods to try. With flow notes, you use different colours, styles of writing, and drawings to help you organize your thoughts. For example, consider using blue for main ideas and red for sub-points. Draw arrows to connect interrelated ideas on your paper. Add drawings or graphs if they're helpful to you for remembering specific ideas or metrics. Flow notes, like outline notes, can be a challenge to review later as they're often quite complex. When organized, they're useful for making connections and recording a substantial amount of information on a single page.

Visual

Many people take notes during meetings or presentations to avoid missing vital information. If you can, ask for a printout of the slides or presentation before the meeting begins. Then, you can use that document to take notes during the presentation. The main points, graphics, and metrics are already available for your use, so you can concentrate on adding your thoughts and connections rather than transcribing the bulk of the information. This is also a useful note-taking method for students.

Related: 7 Meeting Minute Templates and the Importance of Using Them

Boxing

The boxing method of note-taking combines some of the elements of outline note-taking with mind map note-taking. With this method, you label the top of the page with the main topic. Then, group subtopics and details in different areas around the page using bullet points. After you've finished taking notes, draw boxes around the sub-points to make it easy for you to review the information you recorded quickly and find connecting ideas.

Charting

If you take notes that include substantial statistics or other metrics, the charting note-taking method can help you stay organized. Before the meeting or note-taking event begins, create a chart on your paper listing the main ideas in a column on the left and the associated sub-points or statistical areas across the top row. Then, you can simply fill in the appropriate information as it's shared. Charting notes are very easy to review as you organize critical information and data during the note-taking process.

Tips for taking organized notes

No matter what method you choose, here are some tips you can consider to keep your notes organized:

Use multiple methods

If you like aspects of multiple note-taking methods, take advantage of all of them. You can combine or eliminate as many elements as you like to suit your needs. You may even use different note-taking methods depending on your reason for each note. For example, you may create a mind map when brainstorming with your colleagues, but you may just use the outline method when taking notes by yourself.

Consider collaboration

If you're working on similar projects as your colleagues, you may be able to share notes. This improves your chances of obtaining all the details you need. If you're taking a collaborative approach to note-taking, it's best to create digital notes using a program or software that allows multiple users to contribute.

Use visuals

When appropriate, you can use visuals to enhance your notes. This includes drawings or charts that can help you understand a concept better. Looking at visuals may even help you recall information quickly when referring to your notes.

Add a summary

When you finish writing your notes, consider including a summary at the bottom. This summary can describe the point of the note in a few sentences, allowing you to determine its main purpose quickly. Including a summary is especially beneficial when you have multiple notes on a similar topic.

Only include relevant data

While you may want to include every detail of the meeting or event you're taking notes on, this can be time-consuming and cause you to miss important details. Instead, limit your notes to only include relevant main points. At the beginning of your note, include details that can help you identify what the note is about. This includes the date and time of the meeting, the names of those in attendance, or the purpose of the event.

Write your notes by hand

While typing your notes may be quicker, handwriting your notes first can help you process the information more efficiently, which makes note-taking easier. To try this approach, begin by writing your notes by hand using a traditional paper notebook or digital notebook. Next, transcribe them onto your computer so that you can access them from anywhere. Writing your notes out twice makes it easier to process complex information and retain important details.

Try out an app

If you don't enjoy handwriting your notes on paper, you can consider using a mobile app, tablet, or digital notebook. For example, there are apps available that convert handwritten notes into typed text. Using a note-taking app also allows you to include images or links to relevant websites quickly.

Keep your notes together

Once you complete your notes, organize them into specific locations. For example, you may have a file for meeting minutes and another file for client notes. This makes it easier to access your notes quickly. If you're storing physical notes and files, consider colour-coding them to identify each document easily.

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