Welcome to the November issue of Boho Berry Guests!
One thing I love about this “little” community of ours is how diverse we all are. We comprise all ages, genders, and walks of life. While I love sharing my Bullet Journal system with the world, I’ve come to realize that I don’t always have all of the answers for all of you out there.
On that note, I’ve decided to start inviting guest bloggers to come on and share how they are adapting the Bullet Journal system to meet their needs.
In this month’s installment of “Boho Berry Guests“, I am over-the-moon excited to welcome YouTuber Mariana Vieira to the blog. Mariana is a law student from Portugal, a self-proclaimed Planner Nerd, and an excellent note-taker (which is how she caught my eye). I am beyond excited to welcome her to the blog today!
Please join me in giving her a super warm welcome. Take it away, Mariana!
During Highschool I had never really thought about the correct way to take notes. I was mostly taking Arts courses, which made note taking a very negligible part of my academic routine.
My bad habits ended up being carried to Law School and I remember that, as a freshman, I was appalled by how poor my notes were in comparison to my classmates’. My inadequate note-taking methods translated to bad grades since I was unable to conveniently write down all the facts, references and footnotes stated during lectures — details that would prove to be essential while solving my final exams.
I had to re-learn everything during my first year of college, trying out different methods and techniques. I went from handwritten to typed notes and, most recently, a weird hybrid of both, comprised of Microsoft Word documents with incorporated Cornell columns merged into the template.
Today, I will show you the basics of effective note taking techniques as well as my favorite tips on how to make the process more fun.
1. The Cornell Method was the first thing I tried out when I started learning about study techniques. This method basically consists of dividing your page into three sections:
- a main section for writing your notes
- a vertical column to jot down the titles and topics that your notes are referring to
- a final box where you should write a quick summary that recaps the content written in
As good as this method proves, I found out I didn’t have enough time to write a summary for each page since a one-hour class could end up in almost 8 pages of handwritten material.
As the semester went by, I started leaving that box empty and, near the end of the term, I was ditching that section altogether.
2. That column, however, always proved a good supporting element for my notes. I could organize my topics there while adding notes and references that would not fit in my main note area – I am talking about page references, the lecturer’s personal opinions on a specific subject, article recommendation and comments.
You can see in the pictures below how I ended up adapting the classic Cornell Method to my own needs and how I transported that, further along, into typed notes.
3. Another thing that I learned to do over the course of time was how to optimize color usage and ditching distracting decor from my notes.
As soon as I got my hands on my pack of Staedtler Fineliners and graph paper I felt the urge to fill my notes with banners, textboxes, flourishes, and garlands. During revision week, I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of color that I felt the need to change my system.
Thanks to the Bullet Journal community (of which I’m a proud member since January 2015), I started to understand the power of using symbols and a minimal layout to maximize productivity and work efficiency.
In no time, I transitioned all of my knowledge on the subject to my notes – and it works like a wonder.
Before, I used highlighters to distinguish different categories of writing; now, I use symbols and a bullet system.
◇ – References
⊗ – Titles
× – Definitions
Δ – Examples
I also use colored pens to draw these symbols, one symbol for each color. The graphic aspect of it, paired with the color contrast, is the best combo to quickly reference facts and find information on a page.
It is also adequate for a minimalistic approach to note taking, something which I have been trying to slowly accommodate into my life and academic undertakings.
The best way to take notes is writing short sentences. Use your pen as a filter for the words you are hearing and only jot down the most important aspects of the lecturer’s speech, as well as simplifying your phrasing and vocabulary.
Unlike assessment papers and other formal assignments, you should be taking notes for your own benefit. Using quick referencing techniques to treat information works wonders for short-term memorization and learning.
You can take this tip from the most basic bullet-journaling principle – rapid logging. As the official bullet journal website states,
“The more complex the entry, the more effort is expended. The more effort expended, the more of a chore it becomes, the more likely you’ll underutilize or abandon your journal.” Source
This does not only apply to Bullet Journaling and planning, but to your notes, as well.
Your notes should be something easy to come back to – a place where information is summarized to the max and which you can rely on to give you answers, quickly, when you need them. If your notes are so complex that they become a handwritten copy of your textbooks, they become useless.
As soon as you start taking your notes, think about creating a separate index or table of contents for each class. Having a page solely dedicated to referencing topics and chapter titles will ease the process of revising and organizing your study before exams.
It’s useful in case you need to add pages in between and re-organize them as you build up your note stack as the semester goes on. And this leads to the old question: notebooks or binders?
There’s something aesthetically pleasing about a hardcover notebook, filled to the brim with notes. However, after trying for years to deal with them, I am now forced to admit that they are not very practical to write full-fledged college notes.
First of all, there is the weight factor to consider – if you are using a notebook for each subject you will probably find yourself stuffing your backpack full of notebooks every day.
What bothers me the most, though, is the incapability to move things around. I can’t add more notes or interesting secondary sources of information in the middle of a notebook without screwing up the whole setup and having to end up using page flags and sticky notes to signal those lost pieces of material.
That drives me crazy. I love to build up my knowledge on certain subjects. If I find a really interesting article about a chapter I was lectured about two months ago, I like to freedom to just print that article, hole-punch it and place it between the notes related to that chapter.
The sense of continuity pleases me and is absolutely helpful during revision week. So after you create all of your organized notes, I would definitely recommend you to invest in a good, solid binder.
You can change your study methods now. If something is not working out for you, try different things and experiment with several note taking techniques until you find what suits your life the best.
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Mariana is a Portuguese law student. She started making Youtube videos back in 2015 to help other desperate students and share her love for planning and stationery.