Use this innovative note-taking technique that simultaneously facilitates understanding, increases readability and creates a framework for easy review.

Table Of Contents

  1. The Origami Note-Taking System | Use a 3-column foldable note layout that doubles as a self-review system.
  2. Use Abbreviations | Use abbreviations to cut down on writing time.
  3. Notebook Indexing | Organize your notes systematically and make use of an index.

1. The Origami Note-Taking System

This simple design that not only helps you structure your notes, but transforms them into a powerful review and quizzing tool.

Step 1: Set Up The 3-Column Layout

Draw 2 vertical lines with a ratio of roughly 2-6-2, that is 20%-60%0-20%, like so:

Origami Note-taking Template - Blank

Step 2: Take Notes

Using this layout, your notes will be divided into 3 categories: keywords, notes and review.

  • Keywords include names, titles, important dates, etc.
  • Notes include explanations, formulas, elaboration, etc.
  • Reviews includes questions, key points, unknown/missing pieces of information

Keywords go on the left, notes in the middle and review on the right.

Origami Note-taking Template - Template

For example, if you need to take notes about “shibas”, a type of dog breed, it might look like this:

Keyword Notes Review
  • The smallest of the six original and distinct spitz breeds of dog
  • From Japan.
  • A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain.
  • Originally bred for hunting.
  • One of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.
What are the ancient dog breeds?

Step 3: Review

The genius of this template is that your notes will be pre-made for reviewing and self-quizzing. All you have to do is fold the paper along the vertical lines!

Quiz from keywords by folding the keywords column over and testing your memory of the notes and review.
Quiz from notes by folding both side columns under and testing your memory of the keyword and review.
Quiz from review by folding the review column under and testing your memory of the notes and keywords.

2. Use Abbreviations

Fast note-takers use a wide range of abbreviations that extend beyond the commonly known ones. They may even develop personalized abbreviations specific to their area of study or expertise.

It will take a bit of work to start integrating abbreviations into your note-taking style, but after a short while they will become second nature. Start with the most common and useful ones, then keep adding more into your vocabulary. To get started, here’s a list of some of the most frequently used abbreviations.

Abbreviation Meaning Abbreviation Meaning
eg for example Q question
ex example A answer
ie in other words pg page
etc and so forth (et cetera) tho though
vs compared to, against, versus thru through
~ approximately/around v very
? questions, what? st something
minus, less so someone
+ plus, and sb somebody
= equal to sw somewhere
not equal to sh somehow
# number w with
excl excluding wo without
imp important/importance wi within
incl including b4 before
info information bc because
max maximum esp especially
min minimum tf therefore
* important ** very important
Abbreviation Meaning
eg for example
ex example
ie in other words
etc and so forth (et cetera)
vs compared to, against, versus
~ approximately/around
? questions, what?
minus, less
+ plus, and
= equal to
not equal to
# number
excl excluding
imp important/importance
incl including
info information
max maximum
min minimum
* important
Abbreviation Meaning
Q question
A answer
pg page
tho though
thru through
v very
st something
so someone
sb somebody
sw somewhere
sh somehow
w with
wo without
wi within
b4 before
bc because
esp especially
tf therefore
** very important

3. Notebook Indexing


The backbone of an effective notebook index is a well thought out categorization system. Unfortunately, there is no single system that will work for every class. However, all systems are fundamentally similar. See below for an example of 3 different classes with 3 different categorization systems.

Class 1

  • Chapter 1
    • Week 1
    • Week 2
  • Chapter 2
    • Week 3
    • Week 4

Class 2

  • Topic 1
    • Lesson 1
    • Lesson 2
  • Topic 2
    • Lesson 3
    • Lesson 4

Class 3

  • Week 1
    • Lesson 1
    • Lesson 2
  • Week 2
    • Lesson 3
    • Lesson 4

Make sure to use page dividers, tabs or something similar to break up the different chapters, topics or weeks, in order to make it easier to search through your notes.

Reference Sheet

The first page of every notebook should be a reference sheet. This acts as both a course summary and table of contents for the whole notebook. There’s no need to make it fancy, but each entry should have a short description. See the example below.

Business 101

  • Chapter 1 – Economics
    • Week 1 – Macro-economics
    • Week 2 – Micro-economics
  • Chapter 2 – Marketing
    • Week 3 – Web marketing
    • Week 4 – Advertising