Thinking in Colour

If you wrote 50 items on your grocery list but then forgot to bring the list with you, how many items would you remember? What if you had 200 items? Or thousands?

Students? study notes sometimes resemble grocery lists?bulleted lists of jotted words and phrases. Students pore over pages of such notes, willing their mind to remember every word. Yet on exam day, you won’t have your notes with you. If your brain can’t recall what you put in your notes, you will be as aimless and confused as when you wander the supermarket without your grocery list.

If you could “see” your notes in your mind, you could recall more. But It’s difficult to visualize your notes when they’re just boring black words on white paper.

How much of your brain is engaged when you make study notes? Many students use only the left-brain for note taking while the right-brain dozes off. Your left-brain oversees words, numbers, and lists. That’s perfect for getting linear, monotone notes on paper or screen, but it won’t help transfer those notes into your memory. Your right-brain is in charge of colour, rhythm, and imagination. To visualize your notes, You’re going to need your right-brain’s help.

To get your whole mind working together, spice up your notes with colour and texture. Here are some ideas:
? Use colour for key terms. By setting off key words and concepts with colour, they’ll stand out in your mind as well as in your notes. Use a variety of font and highlight colours for memorable impact.
? Experiment with different fonts. If every word of your notes is in Arial or Times New Roman, you’ll put your mind to sleep. Try some unusual fonts to make critical words pop out.
? Add shapes and arrows. Set off important word groups with circles, arrows, or other shapes. When you need to recall that information later the mental picture of the shape will help your mind recall the info. You’ll find a stock of ready-made shapes, lines, and arrows in most software. don’t forget to use colour!
? Be messy. Orderly notes look very neat but You’re not usually being marked on your notes. Arrange your study notes in an eye-pleasing way that will help you to remember. Radiate groups of words from a central point. Display process steps like the steps of a staircase. Link related concepts with arrows or dotted lines. Have fun. Engage your brain?all of it.

Adding colour and texture to your notes does take a bit longer, but if it helps you retain and recall information it will be worth it. For those times you need to take notes quickly, at a lecture for example, you might need to add colour later. Going through your quick notes to spice them up with colour and zest serves as a valuable review of the material, too.

With visually engaging notes, studying will be easier. You’ll be able to scan your notes often and more quickly without your mind zoning out. Exams are never going to be easy, but you’ll do much better if You’re thinking in colour.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

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