📝How do you take notes?

How do I take my notes? This is a question that we have asked ourselves since we were back in school. We take notes every day: at school, at work, at home, and we use different instruments and tools to do that: notebooks, phones, tablets, laptops, and even our minds. How can we take notes easily and also help us to better memorize the information? I don’t think there is a perfect way to do that, but I consider every person has his own system that makes his life easier.

I will start talking about my experience, and even now I don’t think I have found the best way of taking notes for me. Furthermore, I am a person that, in order to learn quicker, I need to translate and create some diagrams to structure the information. But this cannot apply to all my notes, so here comes the struggle, how can I find a system that works for both parts?

I don’t know the right answer, but by trying multiple ways, I managed to create, step by step, a custom template for me. For example, taking notes about computer science concepts at the beginning was a mess. Initially, I started by trying to memorize the concepts and the examples of pieces of code (this was the way that our teachers’ expected us to do, to know exactly what they said/ wrote, and sadly this happened also in the high school and faculty). Indeed, I managed to memorize what was needed, but in a maximum of a week, the information disappeared.

The big shock appeared when I had my first job and I realized that this needs to be done differently and that I will need to change my way of learning things completely. Also in my first job, I thought that I would be able to retain all the information discussed, details that appeared in meetings, and all the steps that I needed (for example, how to open a solution for the long term). But also here after a period of time, I had a big disappointment about my learning system. From that point, I started to try to delve deeper into detail and to avoid learning as a parrot all that I saw. Basically, I started thinking more programmatically and going to the root of the problem, not only on the surface.

My first step was to correlate what I’m reading with a real example to create a more solid mapping in my mind and to make it easier to remember things later only by using a single word correlation. And this appeared as a moment of success but also the first brick of my custom learning template. But this is not applicable for the long term, because the volume of information will increase, and mapping everything in a single word becomes more complicated (it’s possible for a single word to be correlated to two or three concepts and result in confusion).

Here comes the next step, where I start writing all my thoughts in a notebook application (Notion) to be able to make a quick search to find the topics more easily and also to be able to better manipulate the notes to look at, to add images or code scripts etc. Worked fine for a period, but also failed. Why? Because I’m not a person that has the patience to reread pages with lots of information and to extract only the information that I need. But all this experience was another brick that consolidated my custom template.

The last experiment that I did (is still in progress) is to create a GitHub repo where to have the implementation for a specific feature and to add comments where I know that in the feature I will need to remember why I did some things (in case I won’t work daily with it). I know the comments are not a good practice from a clean code perspective, but I consider it faster to understand why I did something after some time and to be easier to spot the piece of information that I will need.

These are the steps that have helped me to achieve what I consider so far to be a reasonable amount of information, but it is far from being perfect. But here comes the curiosity: How do you take your notes? And if you want to share your thoughts, to help me and hopefully others to improve their learning plan, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment 😊

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