Thinking about a key concept?
RamSync is the perfect study companion
RamSync is the perfect study companion

Ready or not, a new school year is upon us. New challenges and more importantly, new opportunities await! We love learning new things, but sometimes with classes and life there is just too much to do, and it can all be a bit overwhelming.

For Better Grades and Less Time Studying, A Note System is Key!

A better note system can increase your efficiency in both note-taking and note studying. This is the key to success and studying smarter. It’s all about efficiency, to find balance by learning as effectively as possible.

It’s Not Just About Grades. . .

As a good teacher will tell you, success in school is about more than the grade at the end of the semester. Success should include lasting understanding and connections throughout your knowledge network, connections with others, and enriching life experiences. Luckily a good note system checks all these boxes!

Connected notes will not only help you retain knowledge long-term, but they will also build your own personal knowledge management system which you can use for years to come. Collaborating and learning with others can also build lifelong relationships and hone valuable skills.

It is the perfect win-win!

So, let’s dig into the how and the why to ensure you are all set to succeed.

Step 1: Take Notes

Every journey starts with a single step. Taking notes is a skill, one that is rarely taught and requires practice. Start practicing now!

Over time, your skills will grow and capturing thoughts, ideas, and insights will become easier.

But what should notes include? Great question, good notes distill key information into simple, complete components. This distillation component is the next skill in maximizing your studying.

Good note-taking skills come from practice. Get started now!

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Step 2: Distill Key Information

Good notes are direct. Clear.

Simple.

Notes for learning should distill and highlight key information. This is where things get trickier. Often, we are inclined to write facts without connecting them to context or purpose, without including our own interpretations and insights. Avoid the temptation of fact-copying. Facts are tools, but the real value comes when connecting ideas together into concepts, understandings, and inspirations.

There is a balance between including context and maintaining concision. Avoid lengthy copy-paste blocks, or re-writing entire passages. These techniques don’t force the brain to engage the same way.

Notes should help you understand the topic, not just to create a record of the topic! Let your notes apply to you and your thoughts, that’s the key to maximize learning.

National Human Genome Research Institute, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

For example, you might hear your instructor say that “mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell.” What do you write in your notes? Should you write it word for word? Or describe it using your own terminology? Perhaps “mitochondria produce energy for the cell” is a simpler note that fits with how you understand the function of this organelle. It is concise and uses familiar terminology.

It is even better is to link the note to what you already know, for example: “mitochondria produce energy for cells. Converting @glucose into @ATP energy, maybe something to do with @krebs cycle?”

The best notes should distill your understandings, capturing the essence of your journey to discovery. They don’t have to be perfect! Taking notes this way does two things: first, it forces your brain to extract the most important details and attributes of a concept. Second, by capturing these details, you can begin to form a concept image of the idea, creating and solidifying pathways in the brain. Solidified pathways mean it will be even easier to ace those exams when the time comes!

As a bonus, refined notes are a powerful review and study tool, especially when visualized. Refined notes help spark memories, seeds creativity, and gives perspective. When the lightbulb moment of understanding occurs, capture the epiphany, your future self will thank you!

Step 3: Connect Notes to Knowledge

Connections are what give ideas, information, and facts power and placement. Data and facts by themselves are useless.

For example, many studies attempting to stimulate learning while sleeping have shown knowledge stored without connections cannot be retrieved at will. It is only with connections that learning and creativity can occur.

Everything we know, everything we have learned, occurs by linking pieces of knowledge together. In fact, even the 100 billion neurons in our brains work by connecting pathways to other neurons, storing and transferring information.

Students do better on exams when the material is connected to meaning and other knowledge.

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So how do we do this with our notes? By connecting each distilled note to other pieces of distilled information! Remember how mitochondria create energy for the cell? They create that energy (called adenosine triphosphate or ATP) by converting the food we eat into chemical energy through cellular respiration. Connecting mitochondria to the cellular respiration process creates a more stable connected understanding of the function of mitochondria in our bodies.

Connecting ideas within our notes move us from a static image to a moving picture. We can see how one note fits in within our larger body of knowledge. Instead of visualizing a lone mitochondria, you might start seeing a mitochondria taking in that apple you just ate and breaking it down into energy for your cells.

As your note system grows, you will find that connections branch out across different subjects and into all areas of your knowledge. This is often referred to as a Knowledge Management System, second brain, digital garden, or Zettelkasten. Basically a network of connected notes that link key ideas and add structure to your knowledge.

Step 4: Review and Refine

Great notes only get so far. Repetition and review are necessary to keep memories alive and ensure neural pathways are strengthened.

One of the best way to implement repetition and review is called spaced repetition. This repetition is a critical step in efficiently solidifying memories by periodically reviewing key information.

This repetition can take many forms, from scheduled programs like Anki flashcards and Leitner boxes to a simple visual review of your notes.

Connected note systems like RamSync make it simple to not only review key pieces of information, but also the critical interconnectedness of that information and your knowledge network as a whole.

Reviewing not only your notes, but how the knowledge is connected, is a studying power-technique!

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Step 5: Bonus Tip, Visualize with RamSync

Visualizing your knowledge is key to creative discovery!

Visualization is the final super-secret tip that ties all the previous techniques to the next level. Human brains are the ultimate visual processing machines, and our studying should take advantage of those natural abilities.

For example, mind mapping is a time-tested technique to both connect and visualize knowledge, taking advantage of the brain’s spatial ability to aid in understanding and memory building. Unfortunately, mind mapping is often seen as a separate process to note taking, and rarely used when studying. Most mind maps don’t store longer segments of notes, and are slow and clunky to build, wasting valuable study time.

So, exactly how does one combine all these pieces, from connections to visualization in one note system?

Well, allow us to introduce RamSync! RamSync propels notes to the next level by making connections intuitive and automatically building mind map visualizations from your notes. Every step in the study and note-taking journey is fast and powerful with RamSync, ensuring every student can make the most out of their study time.

Conclusion

So, go ahead, find some balance this school year by studying efficiently. Take some awesome notes, learn some new things, and make some new friends. Collect your ideas all in one place with a Zettelkasten, boost your creativity, and rock those exams. We believe with a little bit of practice and a solid system and you’ll be well on your way to your most successful year yet.

If you haven’t given RamSync a try yet, go ahead and jump in! It’s fast and easy to use, and can immediately help with organization and staying on top of projects.

We are all cheering for you in your endeavors, and wish you all the best, scholastically and personally. As always, if you have questions, or just want to say “hi”, drop us a note, and we’ll get back to you quickly.

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