"The way you interpret information is the key to remembering it". - Tristan Ahumada
I took time to outline some of the research I found and also what to do when it comes to different styles of taking notes.
The first objection I get about taking notes is usually the same one and the most popular one I hear is, "I’m an auditory learner". Which means you think you learn by just listening, rather than by taking notes. There is a partial truth to that, but let’s dive into the facts of taking notes first.
It’s a scientific fact that writing something down will dramatically enhance remembering what you just listened to. Research has shown that writing things down triggers more brain activity, stronger neural encoding, and more memory retrieval. (Paper Notebooks vs Mobile)
As I started doing more research into better memory recall for everything I read and listened to I ran into Hermann Ebbinghaus and his forgetting curve. I attached the picture of the exponential decay model, which shows how we forget what we listen to quickly if we don’t review it in some way often quickly. You can see how spaced learning, which is just reviewing what you learned, helps you retain more of that important information.
Here are our challenges when taking notes when listening or reading. Our mind naturally daydreams. Why? Because research has also shown that the mind needs positive constructive daydreaming, and that’s what we all fight against. Our brain is often going between focused and unfocused. When the mind finds something interesting that it reads or thinks is important it will take a tangent to think deeper on it. This is why we tinker, doodle, or write all over our notes sometimes.
Knowing that we are naturally distracted by our brain, that we forget what we learn quickly and gradually, it’s even more important to write down what you are learning and listening to. But you’re right… We all learn differently and that’s the key to this research I did. We all must take notes differently in order to retain information better. There are four ways of learning and thus four ways of taking notes.
Auditory learning: It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take notes, it just means that you have to take notes differently. With auditory learning, it’s a great idea to summarize ideas as you are listening. Summarize into small chunks of incomplete sentences and stick to remembering the stories that are being told. The key is to review the summaries and tie the stories that you listened to or read so that you can retain the information deeper.
Kinesthetic Learning: These are people that like to move around or fidget with things as they read or listen to information. It’s easy to identify these people because they usually are twirling a pen, tapping the table with their fingers, or moving their legs up and down a lot. The key to taking notes for this type of person is to make sure that you have something that distracts that part of the brain, whether it’s a stress ball, a pen in your hand that’s twirling around, or an even better type everything you are listening to. The action of typing occupies both hands and allows this person to focus.
Visual learning: This learner is similar to the auditory learner in that they need to see the big picture. A visual learner should take notes with big words and big ideas. Not summarizing anything, but instead having words that are circled that almost look like mind mapping. One big idea moves to the next big idea in the notes. I’ve also seen some visual learners draw and color words, important words that matter to how they interpret the information.
Read/Write Learning: This is exactly what it sounds like. These people learn mostly from reading so when they are listening to someone speak they have to write things down in complete sentences so they can go back and process the information completely. This person will do best by using headlines and complete sentences.
Taking notes and reviewing them after takes practice, so if you want to retain more information you can either do it or not, but it's up to you.
I know that most of us are a mix of some of the 4, but I want you to also pay attention to your emotions as you are listening to or reading anything. When you’re listening or reading anything, what will determine how much you remember is also how you are feeling at the time. How you feel affects your memory.
Written by Tristan Ahumada
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.