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Ness Labs: Make the most of your mind
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A Summary of

The 5 Rs of Note Taking

Yath Prem
Ali Abdaal
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A good note-taking technique helps us remember, retain, and recall the most amount of information.

  1. Record
    1. Somewhere to take our notes
    2. Have a blank page to write down all the meaningful points and ideas
    3. Use bullet points, bold headings, abbreviations, symbols
    4. Be sure to leave white space and be brief
  2. Reduce
    1. Somewhere to summarize these notes
    2. Summarize while notes are still fresh in our mind
    3. Strip away information that is not 100% essential
    4. Create questions to test ourselves on later
  3. Recite
    1. An easy way to test ourselves using our notes
    2. Use the Feynman Technique to explain information in simple terms and identify knowledge gaps
    3. Recitation helps us recall more information
    4. More beneficial than passively reading our notes
  4. Reflect
    1. Notes regularly related to other notes we have already taken
    2. Build scaffolding (i.e. backward thinking reflection)
    3. Make predications (i.e. forward thinking reflection)
    4. The big picture (i.e. present thinking reflection)
  5. Review
    1. Regularly revisit our notes to ensure maximum retention
    2. Spend fifteen minutes a day to review to avoid knowledge decay
    3. Schedule time for distributed review to better encode information in long-term memory

Implementation: The Cornell Method

  • Divide a single A4 page into four sections
  • The right column: main notes = recording
  • The left column: comments and key ideas = reciting
  • The bottom row: summarize main points = reducing
  • The top row: related topics/web of knowledge = reflecting and reviewing
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