Kwik Brain 013: How to Take Notes for Rapid RecallThere isn’t just a learning curve but a forgetting curve – most of us lose 80% of the information we learn in just 48 hours. But it doesn’t have to be this way! In this episode, I teach you how to remember what you learn by taking notes effectively.

Show Notes

We lose 80% of the information we learn in 48 hours.

Taking notes is one of the best ways to mitigate this loss.

Principles of Effective Note-Taking

  1. Be active.
    • Learning is an active process, not a passive one.
    • The same principle applies to note-taking.
  2. Know your purpose.
    • Knowing why you want to take notes will help you do it well and remember more.
  3. Have a hierarchy.
    • Have a way to prioritize what’s important.
  4. Be organized.
    • You remember better when the information is organized.
  5. Use your own words.
    • Other than not taking notes at all, taking notes verbatim is the worst way of taking note.
  6. Develop a system.
    • The best note-takers have their own systems, which improves the speed of their note-taking.
    • Use abbreviations, symbols, etc.
  7. Filter.
    • Differentiate between what’s important and what is just fluff.

Handwrite (Don’t Type) Your Notes

  • Multiple studies show that when you handwrite your notes, you retain more information.
  • Handwriting forces you to synthesize the information, so you remember it better and are more likely to recall it later.
  • The fact that you can’t keep up verbatim forces you to differentiate between what’s important and not important.
  • The visceral action also helps the information stick:
    • If you want the convenience of digital notes, consider using a stylus on a digital pad.

The Capture & Create Method


  • Split your note-taking paper into two sides:
    • Left Side = Capture:
      • Take notes & write what the speaker says.
    • Right Side = Create:
      • Create notes and write down your impressions – your feelings, how to teach it, questions, etc.
      • This is a focusing tool – so instead of doodling and getting distracted, you’re creative in an efficient way.
  • When you’re doing this:
    • Think (about what to learn).
    • Identify (what’s important/relevant).
    • Prioritize (the information).

Review Your Notes

  • It’s ESSENTIAL to review your notes regularly after you take them.
  • Fill in the blanks you missed.
  • As you review:
    • Summarize.
    • Teach the notes.
    • Test yourself.
    • Memorize the notes.