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How to Organize Your Notes for School or Work: 7 Essential Tips

Trying to figure out how to organize your notes in the most effective way possible? Check out these tips for students and professionals alike.

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By Scott Winstead

how to organize notes

Whether you’re a student studying for a big test or a professional working on a project, having good notes is essential to your success. But having notes filled with a ton of detailed information is only one part of the puzzle – if your notes aren’t organized, they’ll be next to useless.

Keeping your notes organized is key to being able to find the information you need, when you need it. The good news is that even if you’re someone who isn’t exactly prone to being organized (hey, that’s me!), there are some easy things you can do to get your notes in order.

In the guide below, I’ll detail some proven tips experts use to organize their notes and get more out of them.

7 Tips to Organize Your Notes

1. Use a note taking app

If you’re not already using a note taking app, now is the time to start.

Using an app like Evernote to take notes has a number of advantages over traditional methods like pen and paper.

One of the features I love (and use all the time) is that you can easily search through your notes for specific keywords or topics. This can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to find that one important detail buried in pages of notes.

Additionally, notes taken on an app are often more legible than those taken by hand, especially when you have chicken scratch handwriting like I do. This is especially helpful if you need to review your notes at a later date.

You can also easily integrate all of your research into your digital notes, like images, photos, websites, and more, making it easy to pull together everything you need for a project in one place.

Finally, many note taking apps offer features that can help you organize your notes, such as the ability to tag or flag certain notes, place them in folders, and sync them across devices.

While there are lots of great note taking apps out there, my personal favorite is Evernote (there’s a free version) because of its flexibility and wide range of features. As an instructional designer who isn’t always prone to being super organized, I can tell you that the app has been a real gamechanger for me.

2. Create a system for naming and tagging your notes

One of the best ways to keep your notes organized is to develop a system for labeling and tagging them.

This will help you to quickly find the notes you need, when you need them.

For example, you might label each note with the date it was taken, the topic, and a brief description of what it contains.

You can then use tags to further categorize your notes. For example, you might have a tag for each class you’re taking, each project you’re working on, or each client you’re meeting with.

If you’re using a note taking app, most will have built-in tagging features that you can take advantage of.

If not, you can create your own system by labeling each note with the appropriate tags. Just try to keep it simple because all of the tags can get overwhelming if you use too many of them.

3. Keep different types of notes separate

One mistake I’ve seen many people make when taking notes is mixing different types of information together. They might jot down a to-do list item alongside meeting notes from work.

While this might not seem like that big of a deal, it can actually make it much more difficult to find the information you need when you need it.

To avoid this problem, I recommend that you try to keep different types of notes separate.

For instance, you might have a notebook (digital or otherwise) for meeting notes, another for to-do lists and tasks, and another for general brainstorming and ideas.

If you’re using a note taking app, you can easily create different notebooks for each type of note.

This will help you to keep your notes more organized and make it easier to find the information you need.

4. Review and organize your notes regularly

Organizing your notes is only half the battle – if you want to keep them that way, you need to be diligent about reviewing and organizing them on a regular basis.

Set aside some time each week, or even each day, to go through your notes and make sure they’re still in order.

If you’ve taken any new notes since the last time you organized them, make sure to add them to the appropriate notebooks or tags so you can easily find them down the line.

While it might seem like a pain to do this regularly, it will pay off in the long run when you can easily find the information you need, when you need it.

5. Choose a note taking method and stick with it

There are lots of different note taking methods out there – from the Cornell method to the Outline method and everything in between – and there’s no one right way to do it.

The most important thing is to find a method that works for you and then stick with it.

If you’re constantly switching between methods, it will be much harder to keep your notes organized.

But if you find a method that you’re comfortable with and stick to it, you’ll be able to keep your notes more organized and make them easier to reference in the future.

6. Make a summary of your notes after each session

After you’ve taken a bunch of notes during class or at a meeting, I’ve found it’s helpful to spend a few minutes afterward making a summary of those notes.

This will help you to better understand, organize, and remember the information you’ve written down, focusing on the key points and leaving out extra info you might have written down but don’t need.

It will also save you time in the future when you’re trying to find specific information in your notes – you can just refer to your summary instead of flipping through pages of notes.

7. Get rid of old notes you no longer need

You don’t want to be a hoarder, and that goes for your notes as well.

If you have old notes that you no longer need, get rid of them! I admit it, this is something I struggle with.

Don’t keep them around just in case if you know deep down that you’ll never need them again. Declutter your notes on a regular basis and you’ll find it much easier to keep them organized.

If you really can’t bring yourself to delete old notes, you should at least archive them so they’re out of the way and not cluttering up your active notes.

Final Thoughts

If you really want to get the most from the notes you take at school, in meetings, or just in your everyday life, you need to make sure they’re organized.

By using some of the tips and tricks above, you can make sure your notes are always in order, easy to find, and ready to be referenced when you need them.

That way, you won’t waste time searching for information or trying to decipher your own handwriting – you can just find what you need and get on with your day.

So what are you waiting for? Get organized!

Have any more questions about how to organize your notes? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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