Note taking lesson with Phil Chen


Why note taking is one of the easiest tools to double your learning speed and how to do it!

In a time where we are bombarded with information everywhere we look, it has become more important than ever to know how to retain all that information. By retaining I don’t mean mindlessly memorizing numbers and names. Context and application is key. No matter how mind-blowing a new bit of information can be, if you are not going to apply it, it’s worthless. And guess what, you are going to forget it very quickly. This directly applies to video tutorials and podcasts, which have both become a very popular way of information intake. The danger here is, especially when watching on YouTube, that we binge watch a whole series of tutorials without applying anything of what we have “learnt”. But I get it, it happens to me, too. It is not a habit that is easy to suppress.

One technique that really works wonders for me is note taking. If you’re taking notes while watching, you are rephrasing the information into your own “language”. Just make sure that, when you are taking notes, you’re not just writing things down word by word. Try to compress the information. Think about how you would explain it to someone else. Someone who might not know much about the topic and the technical terms and expressions that might come along with it. Stop the video and rewind if necessary. Give yourself the time to process the information instead of letting it just pass through.

The next thing you’ll want to do is to take these notes and schedule the application of each newly acquired bit of knowledge. If you have the time, apply them right away. But I would still schedule at least one repetition. A good starting point is: One hour from now, one day from now and one week from now. If you think it seems like a lot of effort to memorize something, then it’s probably because what you’ve just learnt wasn’t relevant enough.

So next time you watch a tutorial or listen to an educative podcast ask yourself: “Is this worth taking notes?” Because, if the answer is “No!”, you’re not going to learn much from it. In scenarios like this I usually bookmark the video to rewatch when applicable, and end up forgetting about it before that day comes.