Streamline Your Notes with the 5 R’s of Note-taking

Struggling to make sense of all your notes? This five-step process can help you easily organize your thoughts and remember information.
Matthew Ritchie
September 13, 2022
6 minute read

According to Cornell University, the birthplace of the famous Cornell note-taking method, good notes are notes that are useful. Plain and simple. 

The problem is we’re inundated with so much information that it can be hard to decide what’s worth recording and how to phrase and organize it for future reference.

That’s where the 5 r’s of note-taking comes in. It’s a simple and easy-to-do method for taking memorable notes. And, despite its academic origins, it can be applied to a variety of situations at work.

Here’s what the 5 r's of note-taking entails:

Step 1: Record

Each note-taking method begins with the act of actually taking them. And, like most things, it’s best not to overcomplicate them.

The key here is to write information down in a clear way, so it’s easy to understand when you look at it later.

You want to focus on taking note of anything that seems meaningful. If you’re in a fast-moving meeting or learning something new, deciding what to jot down can be difficult, and you’ll likely note a few points that actually aren’t worth remembering. But that’s okay—you can clean up your notes in a bit.

For now, focus on taking notes in brief sentences, using bullet points and abbreviations to simplify your notes, and bolding any key points as you go along, so they’re easy to look over. 

Related: You’re Probably Taking Meeting Notes Wrong—Here’s a Quick Fix

Step 2: Reduce

Once you’ve written down your notes, you want to condense them, so only the essential points and need-to-know information remains.

Take out unnecessary words and summarize key points in your own voice, so they’re meaningful and legible to you when you re-read them. (If any of your notes don’t make sense, you may need to do some more research or ask someone for help clarifying specific points.)

Step 3: Recite

This step is where we veer into the academic origins of this note-taking method.

According to productivity expert Ali Abdaal (whose synopsis on the 5 r’s of note-taking informed much of this post), reciting what we know about a topic helps us retain information by transferring it from our short-term to long-term memory.

For students, Abdaal says this is much better than passively reading notes. But in a work setting, reciting aloud what you’ve written out may not be entirely necessary—especially if you’re taking notes in a note-taking app, so you can reference them later.

That said, with a few minor tweaks, there could still be some practical benefits. 

Say you’re reviewing your notes after a meeting where you did some project planning. Speaking about what was discussed with a colleague may help clarify certain action items or highlight important information you may have missed or misinterpreted.

Overall, though, consider reciting your notes an optional step unless you’re studying for an exam or a big presentation.

Step 4: Reflect

This may be one of the most important and beneficial steps in the 5 r’s of note-taking.

After recording, reducing, and (maybe) reciting your notes, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve written down and think about how it connects to other things you may be learning, already know, or working on—doing so creates new associations in your brain, which helps with problem-solving and memory formation.

In a note-taking app, you can strengthen your notes by adding any relevant hashtags or cue words related to topics, making it easier to reference and connect ideas in your notes.

Related: Looking for the Best Productivity Apps? Use These Four

Step 5: Review

Once you’ve written your notes, it’s important to review them regularly.

Again, this is an especially salient point for students, as regularly reviewing your notes can help encode them in your memory and (in Abdaal’s words) prevent knowledge decay. 

In a work setting, reviewing notes can help you better prepare for meetings, remind yourself what tasks still need to get done, and ensure you don’t forget about any information you need to know and remember.

Final Thoughts on the 5 R’s of Note-taking

Taking a thought-out, systematic approach to your notes can help you organize your thoughts, understand concepts, and retain (and remember) information more easily.

Need some extra help? 

We’re working on a professional information system disguised as a note-taking app to help you capture, organize, and surface everything you need to know and do.

Join our waitlist to try Bloks.

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.