Is Note-taking Important? 12 Reasons And Benefits Why

Wondering what are the reasons and benefits for note-taking? This article supports the benefits of note-taking with a research reference (Kim & Tan & Winkelmes 2013). Following are the ones that I can come out with. Hopefully, you will agree and start taking notes with logical understanding.

Possible reasons and benefits of notes taking:

  1. Record of our learning or any useful information
  2. Review purposes for memory or understanding
  3. Inspire self and others
  4. Concentration and infusing your own style and ideas
  5. Create your own little world of words, drawings & images and even sound or videos with modern notes 🐱 🎆  👏   
  6. Create a temporary todos list or reminders for action and checking off
  7. Extend and continuation from previous learnings and ideas
  8. Transfer from notes to continue writing an article, research or a book with ease
  9. To construct a reference for comparisons such as strengths and weaknesses evaluation and a basis for further developments
  10. To organize
  11. As a goal to develop a more subjective and logical thinking mindset
  12. Share or collaborate with others for creating something of value

Define you note purpose first: 

  • To make a summary? 
  • For art appreciation? 
  • Getting better grades? 
  • To help you concentrate? Research or blogging?
  • Records of financial expenditures? 
  • Writing for a business or monetisation? 

There are different types of medium or apps for each purpose. It is better a person should have a structured and clear direction towards a specific goal before and for taking notes rather than random scribblings going nowhere.

Following has examples and exercises for readers. 

General Purpose: Record of our learning or any useful information

We may remember an idea or two at a particular time in our life. But can we recollect and reference back tens, hundreds and thousands of points we had over the years and decades? This is not about recording our deeds for bragging sake, but for our own reflection and our undertakings’ references.

For example, we decided on a non-fiction book title for writing; We want to provide as much surprisingly helpful information as we can for our readers’ benefit, so we ponder & conjecture & assume an educated standpoint based on research facts,  we record our experiences and details learned in the process as notes, organises for re-writing and proofreading before publishing.

The other benefit of the information recording and learning note-taking habit is for the assistance of those who are losing their memory and understanding over time, including some elderly population. Read this news about how this woman fought dementia with note-taking, at least the effects to some degree.

I would recommend any good note-taking app such as Evernote for any general notes purpose. It can be used for most or all above reasons above. Another alternative is Google Keep for simpler and Zoho Notes that looks colorful but both has lesser features. It can be used for studying, records, reviewing, todos, book writing, evaluation, help to analyze a topic logically and sharing for others. You may even take notes to help yourself evaluate if a relationship is working out or not, you may see things more clearly when you take notes and look for signs or evidence that you usually ignore or trivialized. It is my humble opinion that it is entirely possible anyone can be his own mental therapist and educate himself by taking objective notes about himself, his relationships and situation independently without bias or prejudice, then review and evaluate what and how he can react or do better.

For studying: Review purposes for memory or understanding

Know that getting better grades or results depends on our grasp of understanding tested concepts, not how well the notes are written ultimately. So focus on understanding, and notes only as a tool to help. Even if no single word is written, you will still be the only one to pass a fair test if you are the only person who understood the lecture taught. That said, we can use notes taking to record and focus provided the hand movements do not distract us. I recommend only notes taking when there is a pause, break or end of the session. Notes do not have to be excessively decorated or delineated, they just have to be neat enough to convey the meanings effectively. They can be made special to keep you interested but it should be about the points taken, not the appearance. Remember the goal is to study, not make colorful distracting notes, so I would advise caution when viewing videos that tell you specifically how some people make their notes pretty. Just do not get carried away from understanding the teachings.

You may also write your notes on paper and take a photo image and attach into Evernote that can be searched for text within the image. If you want to take your notes with LaTeX (Maths rendering) or UML diagrams, then you may do so in a good markdown editor such as Typora (Mac app) or StackEdit.com or Visual Studio Code app. Please read Markdown Editors For Note-taking for more.

Inspire self and others

We sometimes may write short inspirational notes that we find beautiful and meaningful. They may take the form of poetry, haiku, drawing, and meaningful comparison and idea or a question on the unfairness or prejudice of society that compels people to rethink the way they live their life. Inspiring notes may promote selflessness, filial piety, positive art, beauty, love, compassion, peace, veganism, fight against global warming and animal cruelty, support for truth and equality. Base on these simple notes, we can find inspiration for ideas and writings and share with others in the hope of doing our part for a better world.

A note page with a nature view background may inspire self and others to take notes

Concentration and infusing your own style and ideas

We should concentrate on understanding first of all. Thereafter we take notes and look at our own notes, we direct our attention to the notes or may continue from where we left off. When we put in effort into concentration on understanding a topic, it will reflect in the quality of the notes ideas. We can opt to take time to deliberately use a different approach to take a note or spin-offs with a modified version after some thoughts. Putting in a different style such as writing a children book or drawing a picture book can all be done creatively giving a different experience to the readers.

For example, there are many Sherlock Holmes stories by the original author. But Sherlock Holmes movies and TV series may make the stories more explosive with intense action-packed scenes and special effects or modified with adaptation to modern interpretations and applications. Not all spin-offs are successful as it also depends on the quality of content i.e. the script/note idea.

Create your own little world of words, drawings & images and even sound or videos with modern notes

Modern notes can be very different in content, style and even purpose from traditional ones. Notes can now include digital text, reminders, bookmarks, images, audio, videos, drawings, diagrams and even Maths rendering. Note-takers may use video blogging to take short clips and upload to their vlog. We can also make codes notations and for decoding, create the table of elements for learning or attach a screenshot of your map location to add details for your story or notes.

Create a temporary todos list or reminders for action and checking off

This is more common as our life has more choices and options and we need to keep track of the many stuffs we need to do. And some note-taking apps such as Evernote has a reminder option to help you hit the target. In Evernote Mac app, click the 3 dots on top right hand corner and click Add Reminder…

Extend and continuation from previous learnings and ideas

This is a very useful or powerful way of learning or working. With notes and writings, you can continue off where you left off easily just like continuing from a story where you bookmarked. If you have a good idea, then you may extend to a few more from it and be creatively different from others. If you offer a different service or product that others need or want, then you may have a lucrative business. For example, a big coffee franchise offers expensive premium coffee at pleasant surrounding. But you may offer a healthier version (a study finds more coffee could cause migraine) by selling matcha or green tea at a more affordable price with a simple tea truck table stand near a school and residential park that appeals to the health-conscious, students and elderly folks. 

Transfer from notes to continue writing an article, research or a book with ease

Any article or book starts from an idea. When we collect enough good ideas and present it in a language or style suitable to our readers, we can have a good article or book. We can easily focus on one concept at one time, and when we record numerous we have a collection that we may name with a title. Notes may be indispensable to undertaking big or huge projects such as thesis and inspirational or informative blogs like this one. Some may be able to write a book from start to end without research or notes, but I think it makes sense many including prolific writers may do some sort of research and take idea notes before writing the final version for publication. Some may prefer writing from a blank page and see where their inspirations and mood takes them, while others may make a meticulous plan about every chapter and its details in points before even starting to write a single full sentence on the final draft. Keep taking notes or writing away and you should know yourself better through experience which works better for you.

To construct a reference for comparisons such as strengths and weaknesses evaluation and a basis for further developments

A practical example of how to use and benefit from note-taking:

Let me share a practical experience even though this is done mentally. I was deciding whether to make a certain internet purchase, then in my mind, I had a few points I note against it. I just knew to reject it once there were about 4 red flags going off. You can make a list of pros and another list of cons and tabulate the scores to clearly and objectively evaluate. If I had noted it, I might have further clarified and justified with reasons my analysis decision. Notes taking can be a very valuable technique to help you see things more clearly, analyze its points objectively and even avoid costly mistakes like high ticket purchases that do not deliver as promised. Remember to compare back with your research after purchase to better your analysis next time. Be wary of thieves, cheats, and scammers that come in various forms and types. Simple notes taken of their words together with looking for their microexpressions may reveal inconsistencies, contradictions, arrogance, insincerity, acting, and hypocrisies. Please refer to Resources for courses to detect lies.

Exercise one for relationships:

When you want to decide someone is lying, take note of how he looks, and the details of the way he is talking, how he speaks and say the words, is he speaking very fast or slow, his eyes, his hands and feet, and movements looks dodgy and fidgety or not, anything out of the ordinary that strikes you as odd or out of place. Pay less attention to what he says. There are many types of signs, and so does the types of cheats. He may not even take off his sunglasses for an interview, that should tick you off. Usually, honest people will be more relaxed overall, but be careful when they pretend to be overly confident or relaxed. Based on your findings, evaluate and note down what are your possible future potential and endings with this person. Be honest to yourself, if you just do not see a good probable outcome considering the pros and cons, past behavioral patterns and your personal experience with that person, then you should make an informed decision for a change. Personally speaking, one important factor that I find rare in people these days is kindness. Perhaps he/she may treat one or few persons well but they can be unreasonably cruel to other lives. So truly good people are hard to come by, so cherish him or her when you meet one.

On a side note, did you miss this post?   Top 17 Ways How To Take Notes For Sharing

Call to action: Start taking notes to evaluate your relationships.

Exercise two for teenage students:

Budget and plan ahead. Having a good education is a good start but take notes of how much is your tuition or course fees and all expenses for the duration of your student life. And then research and find out what is the probability of getting a job, what is the salary and how long will it take to pay off your student loan. Can you get a good education without getting incurring a large debt? Even if you are wealthy enough not to care about your spending finances, it is still a good exercise to know how does the maths work out and whether you should do it even if you can. In addition, an exercise as such can help us become more accountable and responsible for our own choices starting young. Debts can amount to quite a lot, there are people e.g. couple on radio talk show reporting just under 1 million in debt (part student loan) or another individual close to a million dollars in student loan debt), even when debts are not huge people may have to work for decades and even more than one job just to pay off so it really makes sense for parents and students to start calculating and planning ahead what are the alternatives and do you really need this or that. One should not be stingy on everything but just be thrifty and smart on spending less yet getting value for what you spend on. For example, when you buy something do you make sure you need or really use it well for its worth? If one such purchase is not working out well, did you stop the cycle of worthless spending? Should you plan to buy an expensive house, live in an RV and more rent-free ideas? Usually people are not willing to fix and make a positive change themselves but continue making the same mistakes over and again until it snowballs to a point it is difficult to see any options other than just paying interest every month or declare bankruptcy unless there is windfall of fortune. So plan well early on and do not let yourself become a victim of insolvent debt.

Call to action: Start taking notes to evaluate your current financial situations and alternatives. Show it and discuss with your family if you have to.

To organize

Normal popular note-taking should have some sort of organization such as notebooks and tags i.e. Evernote. But you may go further with an even more structured and organizational and possibly more intuitive placement of notes or writings. This is implemented with Gingkoapp which is free for 100 cards a month or go for an affordable upgrade. This can work for writing screenplay, novel drafting, thesis, notes collaboration, class notes and others. The way notes branches out seemed like a mind mapping diagram yet uncluttered with dynamic highlighting for relevant notes under the selected note. Students can benefit from class notes and academic papers while adults can use it for project planning as well. Gingkoapp uses markdown (Please read the section on How to use markdown in the post here) and also has LaTeX support. For Evernote, I have to copy multiple local note links and place them in one master note for easier access and overview. This is just a suggestion for what may work for you.

Goal to help develop a more subjective and logical thinking mindset

This is perhaps the most important of all the reasons combined. Developing a critical and logical way of thinking will go beyond note-taking for just this sitting, hour, chapter, subject or even this lifetime. The way we view everything should be right and correct without bias and prejudice or ignorance. I believe this is the foundation and purpose of education itself. And note-taking is just a mean or tool to help accomplish this objective – having a correct view and understanding. And when we have a firmer, more independent, objective and upright views, we can discard with the tool or note-taking in this case and still maintain the right mindset. 

Take for example fake news of someone, do and should we just readily believe what we want to read and believe because it is written to support our bias and prejudice? We may not know it is falsehood immediately but we can question and research more before deciding, and perhaps we already have the probable answers when we reflect and think back (with or without your notes) when his or her behavior does not support the news content. Logically speaking, a person usually keeps acting and reacting in the same way as a habitual pattern and a more perceptive or insightful reader will deduce that person’s telltale signs to that person’s character i.e. how and what he/she said. It really is not so hard that it requires Sherlock Holmes deductive skills, well, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes notes on Sherlock Holmes, shouldn’t we learn to?

Please refer here for more Resources.

Share or collaborate with others for creating something of value!

The more good you share, the more meaningful it becomes. Life experiences matters. Modern notes and web projects have more options for sharing and collaboration (Top 17 Ways How To Take Notes For Sharing). We can now easily share notes and projects that others can view and modify. A good example is the numerous GitHub coding projects members who contribute to the many open source projects. In collaboration projects, we are more likely to push ourselves to deliver because we committed to a project as opposed to working alone. It is also a learning process that we should humble ourselves when working with possibly more innovative and smarter coders.

An example of sharing:

You may write some notes on a topic that people may find useful. You make it into a video (perhaps with the help of Lumen5.com) and share on YouTube, and the views kept climbing with thumbs-up votes and good comments though you did not expect much. And you feel grateful to be given an opportunity to benefit others, even if it is just one person.

How to reap more benefits from note-taking?

To reap more benefits from note-taking, I would not associate homework and exam stress with it. Instead, I recommend having fun and excitement with note-taking. The next time you open up or start up your note app application, I hope it is with a positive, stress-free, relaxed feeling and composure. That way, you will more likely often open up your notes to review for study or work and then reap its rewards for better results. Good or relaxed mood -> creative ways to notes taking -> reviews -> results. Do not mess up the process.

Conclusion

There are a number of reasons and benefits for note-taking, whether by pen or keyboard (Is It Better To Write Or Type Notes), so long as you put down your ideas effectively. Once you have an idea down and shared out or published, people can read and judge its value. If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had not published Sherlock Holmes, the spin-offs such as movies and TV series would not have seen the light of day.

Note-taking to me is like a slow and steady race or path to achieve a goal or purpose. Like writing a thick book, you are likely to need time and perseverance to complete it. Notes-taking app may be like a typing playground where you experiment or put down your ideas one at a time. And you need confidence that comes with experience to go through with a long writing or notes-taking over an extended period. This can come with practise so do not give up on writing or note-taking too soon.

Good luck to your note-taking efforts and be kind.

Related Questions

Is note-taking worth it?

  • Some people think that ideas are a dime a dozen. Let us consider that for a moment. All successful businesses all start with an idea, doesn’t it? It can be an operating system (OS), or a dedicated machine built for an OS or an effective search engine or an online product store.
  • There are many factors before success can happen. And a good, feasible and viable idea to start off is one, whether or not it is written down. The basis of note-taking is having ideas or thoughts down on a paper or digital note. In fact, success can come after the implementation of numerous good ideas.
  • We can take notes to keep track of them and revisit to contemplate their value before decisions, rather than no record and forgetting over time potentially good ideas.

How to start with modern note-taking?

Please read up on TakeNotesGuide posts, including A modern guide to note-taking basics and Beginner’s Guide To Taking Notes On Computer.

Other purposes for note-taking?

There are other situations for taking notes other than for classes or meetings. 
For example, I take notes for blog writing. And one of the frequent methods I use is to just take notes when ideas come and this is a simple but effective way to develop into a habit or consistent skill. Please do not underestimate a simple method as such. A smart person with a good memory may belittle this way of taking notes, and he will miss out taking notes, and no one including himself nor his future generations or historians will see to benefit from his notes. Notes can multiply to stacks and these can be a chapter, short thesis or even books series. A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step.

When should you not take notes?

When it distracts you from understanding or when it is dangerous like crossing a road. And take notes for more meaningful and important matters, not taking notes for the sake of note-taking. Alternatively, please visit 10 Ideas When To Take Notes.

Tiny house living for debt-free finance?

Tiny houses are on the rise for the past years. For students and adults exploring and taking notes to evaluate what are their life choices to reduce their financial debts and financial outflow, they may notice their biggest liability and debt can be their house or home loan. And understandably so because housing loans are often the single largest liability debt of the average consumer. Perhaps you should consider jumping on the tiny house wagon as many have done. Read here about how some become debt-free and even have 6-figures savings with tiny house living.

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