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7 Effective Note-Taking Strategies for Individuals with ADHD [2024]

7 Effective Note-Taking Strategies for Individuals with ADHD

Effective note-taking strategies are critical for individuals with ADHD, as they navigate the unique challenges that ADHD imposes on processing information and staying organized. 

This article deep dives into practical tips and methods to overcome these hurdles, improving focus, information retention, and overall productivity in academic and professional settings.

By looking at new technologies, personalized note-taking techniques, and supportive habits, readers will learn how to enhance their note-taking efficiency and effectiveness, making a significant impact on their success.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that begins in childhood. The ADHD brain has impaired ‘executive functions’ – this is the brain’s ability to focus, plan, sustain attention and complete tasks. In particular, ADHD is characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Individuals with ADHD often show ongoing patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. They may find it hard to pay attention to details, stay focused for long periods, or keep organized. 

There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Some primarily face challenges with impulsivity and hyperactivity (hyperactive-impulsive type),

2. Others mainly struggle with focusing (inattentive type),

3. And some experience a combination of these symptoms (combined type).

Note-Taking Strategies for Individuals with ADHD

In general, ADHD impacts information processing in several distinct ways. People with ADHD might find it challenging to manage working memory, executive function, and attention regulation. These issues can significantly influence how they process, remember, and recall information.

For example, let’s talk about the hurdles faced by ADHDer when it comes to absorbing information during lectures or meetings. 

It’s more than just losing focus or getting distracted by the smallest things. Imagine sitting in a room where every little sound or movement catches your attention, pulling you away from what’s important. This reality makes following through on a lecture or a meeting quite the uphill battle.

Then, there’s the issue of taking those mental work and trying to lay them out on paper in a way that makes sense not only today but also a week from now. 

Every idea feels important, making it tough to decide what makes it to the notepad and in what order. This makes both listening and note-taking more complex than just jotting down words—it’s about creating a useful map for future reference.

Now, why bother nailing the note-taking process, especially for someone navigating ADHD? Well, it boils down to this: notes are not only reminders, they are your roadmap to comprehension and retention.

When you’re able to jot down key points effectively, you transform a static lecture into a dynamic resource you can interact with on your terms. This interaction is vital for cementing information in your memory, turning fleeting thoughts into solid knowledge.

In the workplace, effective note-taking becomes your secret weapon. It can enhance your productivity by keeping you aligned with objectives and deadlines, not to mention making you superb at recalling critical details from meetings and discussions. 

Think of your notes as your personal knowledge system—accessible, reliable, and tailored to your way of processing information. This approach not only boosts your performance but also your confidence in various settings.

Traditional note-taking methods often aren’t quite up to the task for people with ADHD. 

These standard approaches usually rely on maintaining focus for long periods and organizing thoughts in a straight line, which can be really tough if you’re someone who gets easily distracted or finds it hard to keep thoughts neatly ordered. Traditional note-taking doesn’t always allow for the flexibility and creative flow that can be so crucial for those with ADHD.

An effective note-taking method for someone with ADHD should allow for a more dynamic and adaptable way of capturing thoughts. 

Imagine using features taking notes with a shortcut, AI suggesting tag, and personal AI assistant side by side note to effortlessly create new things

These features are perfect to reduce context switching and make it super easy to see how your ideas connect when you need to look back your notes later. It’s like having a friendly, assistant by your side.

Additionally, effective note-taking might involve embracing digital tools that let you shuffle your notes around, use different colors to highlight important points, and even add images or videos that make the content more engaging. 

They will make revisiting your notes more interesting and less daunting, boosting both your understanding and retention of the material.

Rather than trying to remember all your study materials in your head, try using these effective strategies to Improve Note-taking Efficiency

Adopting a structured approach to note-taking can significantly improve your focus and ability to capture essential information. Methods like the Cornell Note-Taking System or the Outline method provide a framework that helps you organize information as you hear it, making it easier to review and understand later.

    • Cornell note-taking is a popular note-taking method for taking, organizing, and summarizing notes. 
    • Outline method is a hierarchical system of organizing your notes that can help you understand the main ideas, key points, and how everything connects. It is a popular way to take notes that focuses on keeping things organized and logical.  
      • Starting with the main points and building the sub-structure of sub-topics, evidence, supporting information under each sub-topic.

Instead of trying to write down everything, focus on capturing the main ideas and key details. Use bullet points or numbered lists to highlight important concepts and actions. This will help you stay engaged without feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information.

ADHD note taking
    • Identify Key Concepts: As you listen to a lecture or read a text, actively identify the main ideas and key details. Look for phrases or sentences that indicate importance, such as “The main point is…”, “The key to…”, or “Remember that…”.
    • Use Visual Cues: Use visual cues like bullet points, numbered lists, or headings to highlight important concepts and actions. This helps to create a clear visual hierarchy of information, making it easier to review and recall.
    • Focus on Key Details: Instead of trying to capture every detail, focus on the key details that support the main ideas. Ask yourself, “What are the essential facts or data that I need to remember?” or “What are the key steps in this process?”.
    • Review and Refine: After taking notes, review them to ensure you have captured the most important information. Refine your notes by reorganizing or rephrasing them to make them more concise and clear.
    • Practice Active Recall: Test your understanding by actively recalling the key points without looking at your notes. Quiz yourself or summarize the main ideas in your own words. This helps to reinforce your learning and retain the information more effectively.

By prioritizing key points, you can stay engaged and focused without feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information. This strategy helps you to identify the most important concepts, organize them effectively, and retain them for future use.

Incorporate diagrams, charts, or mind maps into your notes when possible. Visual aids can help you better understand complex information and make connections between topics, which is particularly useful for ADHD adults who may benefit from visual learning.

For example:

When you use mind maps for taking notes, it enables brainstorming on paper. You and your team can quickly jot down and group ideas visually into different categories, helping everyone see how different perspectives connect. 

Mind mapping is useful when planning things out because it gives you a clear overview of all the concepts. It’s one of the best note-taking strategies for progressing with complex, creative projects.

Apply what you learned

Choose a note-taking spot away from major distractions. If noise is an issue, consider using noise-canceling headphones. Keeping your workspace clear of unnecessary clutter can also help maintain focus.

Furthermore, you can use apps to reduce distractions.

Consider using digital tools that can help you organize and search your notes easily. Apps like, Evernote, OneNote, or Google Keep,..can be particularly useful for ADHD adults as they allow you to tag, categorize, and even share notes effortlessly.

ADHD needs an ideal app for the brain, which needs to be highly engaging, customizable, and supportive of unique cognitive processes .

After a meeting or a lesson, take a few minutes to review your notes. This helps solidify your understanding and ensures you’ve captured the most relevant information. Highlight action items or questions that need follow-up. 

As for meeting notes, here‘s an easy way to handle them for ADHD 

Regularly revisiting your notes is key—not just to review them, but to refine and understand them better. Make it a weekly habit to go through your notes. This isn’t just passive reading; it’s an active engagement that helps you spot gaps in your knowledge and solidify your understanding.

Try using active learning techniques to boost your study effectiveness. Instead of just reading, try summarizing the notes in your own words or explaining the concepts to a friend or even your pet. This might sound quirky, but teaching is a powerful way to clarify your thoughts and pinpoint weak spots in your understanding.

Besides, the review process is one of the key factors in effectively applying what you learn. Regular review not only reinforces memory but also enhances understanding, making it easier to apply knowledge in practical situations. This is particularly crucial for those with ADHD, as frequent review can help in maintaining focus and understanding over longer periods.

organized and within easy reach to maintain a smooth workflow. You don’t want to lose a great idea while hunting for a pen!

You can use notes to list tasks in order of importance and urgency. This helps you visualize your day and ensures you are focusing on the right tasks at the right time.

Each time you complete a task, mark it off in your notes to track progress. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and clarity about what’s left to do.

You can use features like flags or tags to mark important notes and categorize them.

For example, you could flag urgent tasks or tag different projects.

Make sure to consider factors like deadlines, significance, and impact. This will help you focus on the most important things and achieve maximum efficiency in your work.

Apply what you learned

You are a busy person with work, having about 100 or even 1000 notes to remember and retrieve when needed. 

At this point, using a note-taking app is extremely effective. Many current note-taking apps support searching for information with just a “keyword”. Some apps go a step further by allowing you to search with any words you remember, so you don’t need to recall the exact keyword. has this ability

This saves you a significant amount of time and effort. You don’t need to flip through each page or remember the exact content; just type in what you remember and the app will help you accurately find the necessary notes.

Manage ADHD - ADHD Guide 2024

Imagine you’re in a classroom, jotting down notes as your teacher talks about the solar system. You’re writing as fast as you can, trying to catch every detail about planets, moons, and comets. By the end of the class, your notebook looks like a mini tornado swept through it—scribbles everywhere!

Now, think about how you’d feel if you had to study from those messy notes later or share them with a friend who missed class. Pretty overwhelming, right?

This is similar to what happens in meetings or when gathering important information quickly. The notes can end up all over the place because you’re trying to write down everything in real-time, that’s why using a note app will bring you more benefits in this scenario

Here are the benefits: 

    • Easy to look at: Not scribble words, note on apps are easy to read
    • Being able to Highlight the Important Stuff: Most note-taking apps offer text highlighting features to emphasize crucial dates, keywords, or decisions. 
    • Easy to convert to Bullet Points: Convert your notes into bullet points. Each bullet can represent a key fact or idea. This format is not only cleaner but also makes your notes quicker to scan and easier to digest.
    • Being able to Add Images or Diagrams: Visual aids can be incredibly helpful in explaining complex information. If your discussion included a workflow or a process, inserting a simple diagram into your notes could be more effective than a lengthy description.
    • Clean and Clear Formatting: Utilize the formatting tools in your app to organize your notes neatly. Use headings and subheadings to structure the content, and choose a clear, readable font size and style. Good formatting enhances the functionality of your notes.
    • Share with Ease: Note-taking apps allow you to share your notes effortlessly. You can send a link to your document, and colleagues can access, review, or edit the notes as necessary. This feature is particularly useful for keeping everyone on the same page and fostering collaborative follow-up actions
    • Record and transcribe to polished notes: Utilizing a note-taking app that offers recording and transcription features can significantly streamline the process of capturing every detail during meetings. Once recorded, the app can transcribe the audio into text, allowing for easy editing and formatting into polished, professional notes. 
    • Efficient Summarization: After a meeting, a note-taking app can help you quickly summarize the key points discussed. You can use features of like bullet points and headings to distill the essence of the meeting into a concise, easy-to-read format. This summary can then serve as a reference for those who attended and as a brief for those who couldn’t make it.
    • Easy Retrieval: Finding specific notes from past meetings becomes straightforward with a note-taking app. You can use search functions to look up notes by keywords, dates, or tags. This eliminates the need to sift through pages of handwritten notes or multiple files. Whether you’re looking for a particular decision made months ago or revisiting a project’s initial discussion, the search feature ensures you can retrieve information quickly and efficiently.

Finding the strategies for note-taking when you’re dealing with ADHD isn’t just helpful; it’s transformative. Whether it’s selecting the right tools that mesh with your learning style, crafting a space that minimizes distractions, or embracing visual aids to bring your notes to life, these adjustments can make a world of difference.

Beyond strategies, building habits that sustain focus and engagement—like regular breaks and a willingness to refine your approach—ensures this isn’t just a temporary fix but a lasting change.

And remember, leveraging a support network can amplify your efforts, turning struggles into strengths.

Additionally, you can read the full guide on how to manage ADHD here

Leave a comment

  1. Hello,

    I’m using a smartpen from neolab for taking notes. These can then transcribed in their web app and can be shared via google storage, e-mail, etc.

    It would be great to be able to send these directly into the inbox. I could use your telegram bot to do so. But the web app also allow me to tag my notes.

    It would be great if the tags were shared.

    1. Hey Marc 🙂 Yes we will explore about this soon

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