7 Effective Methods for Taking Organized Notes (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 29, 2022

Published February 15, 2021

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.

In most careers, it's helpful to record what you learn and observe at work so you can reference the information later. Whether you take notes in meetings or while speaking with customers on the phone, knowing the best methods for keeping organized records can help you track your thoughts clearly and find the record-keeping style that works best for you. 

In this article, we discuss the importance of taking organized notes, list seven methods of doing so and offer tips to improve your note-taking skills.

Why is it important to take organized notes?

Taking organized notes is important because you may refer to the information in your notes later. Taking legible and well-structured notes allows you to remember and understand what the notes refer to and use the information correctly. Developing practical note-taking skills and methods can make your work more efficient and helpful.

Related: 25 Effective Tips for Note-Taking

Methods for more organized notes

If your job requires note-taking, either for yourself as an individual or for a team or department, it's worth taking the time to figure out which note-taking system works best for you. Consider this list of seven methods for taking organized notes:

Related: How to Take Notes

1. 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 to explain the idea. Outline notes allow you to collect a large amount of information while offering a simple process and structure. However, reviewing the large blocks of text may take additional focus.

Related: FAQ: What Is an Outline Used For?

2. Cornell method

Professionals who use their notes to remember major takeaways can use the Cornell note-taking method. The Cornell method divides your paper into three sections: cues, notes and summary. Typically, the cues column takes up about one-third of the page and the notes column uses the remaining two-thirds. The summary section goes at the very bottom of the page, with enough space for a brief paragraph and synopsis.

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 highlighting the notes' main points or key takeaways.

Related: Meeting Notes Template (With Tips and Examples)

3. Mind map

The mind map note-taking method allows you to make connections while note-taking. Start with the topic in a circle in the center of the page. Add connecting bubbles with subtopics and concepts to the main idea. Once finished, you can review your interconnected map of main ideas, sub-points and details to check.

Read more: 16 Mind Map Examples (With Definition and Benefits)

4. Flow

For a more open-ended note-taking method, you can use flow notes. With flow notes, you use different colors, writing styles and drawings to help you organize your thoughts. Consider using blue for main ideas and red for sub-points, for example. 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 challenging to review later since they're often quite complex. Still, they're helpful for making connections and recording substantial information on a single page.

5. Visual

Often, you need to take notes during a meeting or presentation. Ask for a printout of the slides or presentation beforehand if you can. Use that document to take notes during the presentation. This provides you with the main points, graphics and metrics, so you can concentrate on adding your thoughts and connections rather than transcribing the bulk of the information.

Related: How To Write Meeting Minutes

6. Boxing

The boxing method of note-taking combines some elements of outline note-taking with mind map note-taking. With this method, 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 and find connecting ideas quickly.

7. Charting

If you often take notes that include substantial statistics or other metrics, the charting note-taking method can help you stay organized. Before note-taking begins, create a chart on your paper that lists the main ideas 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 since they include neatly organized data and ideas.

Related: FAQ: Should You Bring Notes With You to a Job Interview?

Tips for taking more organized notes

Regardless of the method you select to take notes, you can use these tips to help you keep your notes organized:

  • Use multiple methods. Depending on the content you're recording, you may benefit from using more than one note-taking method.

  • Keep your notes together. After you've written your notes, file them in a single location, so you can find them again when you need to reference them.

  • Handwrite your notes. Handwriting your notes and then transcribing them to your computer can help you process the information from your notes more effectively than handwriting or typing alone.

  • Include relevant data. Ensure you include details like the date and time of the meeting, attendees and the purpose at the top of the notes.

  • Add a summary. Include a summary at the bottom of your notes that you can refer to when you need a reminder of the main ideas or purpose of the notes.

  • Consider an app. There are several apps you can use on your mobile phone or tablet to handwrite notes digitally, often with the useful inclusion of images or links to websites or data.

  • Use visuals. Add drawings, charts or doodles as you wish to your notes to help you remember specific ideas.

  • Consider collaboration. If you need to share your notes with others or want others to add to the notes, consider a digital note-taking program that allows multiple users to contribute simultaneously.

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