Do you take notes while learning? What's your process?

โœ Taking notes is an essential part of my learning process. It helps me visualize clearly and emphasize the key points of what I learned. While following a course or a tutorial, I first go through the content once. Afterward, I go through the entire course again, but this time I make handwritten notes.

Why handwritten notes? Well, it allows me to write freely, draw quick diagrams, mental models, and unleash my creativity with doodles.

  • Do you take notes while learning? Share your process.
  • What is the most effective way of note-taking?
  • Thoughts on handwritten vs digital note-taking.
Oliver Earl's photo

There's a good bit of research that indicates that handwriting may be more effective at committing new learning to memory, but ultimately I always advise people to do whatever works for them and definitely don't be afraid to experiment.

My personal methodology that helped me maintain my high grades both as an undergraduate and in grad school is like thus:

  • If learning from a video or lecture / class, don't multitask - focus on the material that's being presented and what the presenter is saying and showing. Notetaking prohibits you from concentrating fully on new material, so pay attention.

  • Afterwards, write up what you have learned by hand. If you're struggling to remember, give it a rewatch. Don't write verbatim - paraphrase and add additional explanation. A strong indicator of successful learning is if you can explain the concept(s) in your own words, especially to someone else. I personally like to add sketches or mindmaps too.

  • You can then later type this up (I personally like OneNote) so you can look back at it later. I often scan the original documents in as well just to reference just because I tend to lose random pieces of paper.

  • If it's a class with other students, don't be afraid to share notes. They might've caught something you didn't.

  • For programming work, the best way to learn afterwards is to apply what you've learned in some practical sense, whether assigned coursework or your own projects. Doesn't have to be anything serious either - playing and building is perfectly fine!

  • You might also find success with flashcards that use a spaced repetition algorithm, like Anki. I've not had a great deal of luck with them for learning CS concepts, etc. but for learning foreign language vocabulary, definitely great. Your mileage may vary.

Just my 2c, but perhaps might be useful to someone! Good luck!

Rutik Wankhade's photo

Avid learner | Frontend Developer , open source enthusiast

Wow! This is great. Thank you Oliver Earl for sharing your process. I totally agree with the multitasking thing. One should always focus fully on the material first. You just covered all the key points here. This is very helpful. Thank you. ๐Ÿ‘

Nishant Mittal's photo

While learning something I first make handwritten notes and then I copy those notes on my computer this time in a organized format.

Rutik Wankhade's photo

Avid learner | Frontend Developer , open source enthusiast

Notion is best for organizing notes online. Try it out.

Nishant Mittal's photo

Passionate Programmer

Yup, it's awesome! I use it already. Rutik Wankhade

Tapas Adhikary's photo

Rutik Wankhade,

Somehow nostalgic about hand-written notes taking..


But realized that, translating the notes into an actionable item is way difficult and time consuming. Hence started this,

  • Taking notes on github by creating file. I create private projects like js-notes, gardening-notes etc. and each of these projects have logical folders and readmes inside to capture related notes. I can also maintain revisions of those easily there. Attaching code snippet is also easy that way.
  • Then I translate the actionable items to the tool(notion I use) to have required follow ups.

Looking for some good, free github => notion integration such that, I can create issues in github from my notes and that automatically creates the tasks in notion to have follow-ups. This gives me some hope about it!