In case you were worried about my silence on this blog; I haven’t stopped studying, I have stopped posting (my usual fault). In between promises to do better, here’s something I’ve  learnt, from an university exercise on learning from lectures.

When listening to a speech, the best way to actually remember anything is to take notes (I do this spasmodically). My technique is to use the form of an outline to write down the key words, instead of writing paragraphs of thoughts. Ideally, I try to have about four words to a point (the four most important words). This is quick and it portrays the meaning of the point.

My problem is that I take too many notes. I must confess that I have been known to walk away from a presentation with over 100 bullet points! When I come back to my notes and try to refresh my memory about what was said, I find a deluge of information. I can’t see the most important facts or statements that the speaker made; they are drowned out by lots of little points and examples. So my first lesson is to prioritise.

Only write down the overarching theme, the grand scope of what the speaker is saying. If an example or a minor point is particularly good it’s probably still a good idea to write it down; however, I need to avoid the temptation to be overcome by the details. It also helps to skip a line; that gives a visual break and signifies different information; sort of like a paragraph.

One way I can discern the major themes and main topics of a lecture/sermon/speech is to watch and listen to their delivery. Speakers use certain phrases, certain tones, certain movements and certain body language to emphasis a point. When they use a poignant pause, say something like “secondly….” Or “On the other hand”, or move their hands or pace about, you know that they are probably stating something important. Being aware of the speaker’s style can show you what they think is the important points, and “important points” is what note-taking is all about.