How to take quick notes

May 31, 2010  |  In class tips, Productivity

How to take quick notesHaving a hard time keeping up with what the prof is saying in a lecture? And after reading about the awesome Cornell Notes you probably want to write everything down. But you cannot keep up, so you cannot write anything down and you cannot learn anything from that lecture! Stress stress stress.

There must be a way right? To keep writing everything down the prof is saying and to pay attention. And lucky you, there is. All it takes is a little (really a little) creativity and 3 minutes after the lecture.

How to keep up with your notes in a lecture
When you are sitting at a lecture, writing down the material your teacher is covering, find little abbreviations (shortcuts, however you wanna call it) to write down. For instance, if the teacher is talking about cardiac heart failure, you probably don’t want to write down that word all the time, so you write CHF instead of the long word Cardiac Heart Failure.

Isn’t this obvious? Yes it is. But nobody is using it in a smart way. When you are jotting down notes, make sure you abbreviate a lot. Have a lot of abbreviations for words, so you can write faster and pay more attention. But! Make sure what these abbreviations mean. You can write down the word you are going to write down a lot one time completely and write the abbreviation after it (e.g. Cardiac heart failure (CHF)). This can be done in class, so you don’t need the extra 3 minutes after class. But you can also revise your notes (as you are already doing probably because of your Cornell Note Taking) and write down the abbreviations at the top of your paper. You will have a short, cool list on top of your notes with a couple of abbreviations. Awesomeeee!

Quick tip for the people who take notes with their laptop
When you have your laptop to take notes on, install WordPilot (TextExpander for Mac) and fill in a couple of words ahead. What this little application does is making you able to write only the abbreviation, but the full word will appear in your word document. This is how I answer my email 5 times faster. Instead of writing ‘Kind regards, Stefan Knapen,,,’ I just write down ‘kr’ and it will expand that abbreviation to the whole sentence.

Put words in ahead of a lecture. If it is about microfinance, fill in words like ‘mf = microfinance’, ‘pfia = poor farmers in Africa’. You are creative enough to find you own abbreviations!

Good luck, have fun, write faster.

How to take quick notes



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About the author

Stefan Knapen is the founder and big boss of As a 23 year old med student he is trying to become more productive, more successful and more awesome overall in life. Stefan loves coffee, but tea as well. He is currently busy building niche sites and start to create a full-time passive (student) income on the internet!


  1. I’m a TextExpander addict. :)
    Gotta love that app, well worth the money!
    .-= Niels Gouman´s last blog ..Geïnterviewd voor =-.

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