Your new semester has started and you feel a bit lost with all the things to keep track off? Always writing lecture notes but can't seem to use them well later on? No idea how to learn effectively? I felt similar until I dug deeper into books & studies on how to study well and that’s when I discovered Notion. Notion is the tool I wish I knew about during my university years - it's incredible powerful and can be used to organise pretty much anything. I'm done with most of my study career now (I just finished my written bar exam in April), but I wanted to distill my findings into a Notion template while I'm still immersed in all these things. With this Study Planner in Notion Template, you will be able to stay on top of your assignments, write notes that actually work for you and implement research-based study techniques.
Read on for more explanations or jump to the bottom of the page to get this (free) Study Planner in Notion Template!
Your Study Planner Hub
The main page of the template gives you all the information you need to stay on top of your to-do list.
See upcoming assignments or check the general progress (s/o to Red Gregory for the formula) of the semester up top. You can embed your gCal so that you don't even have to switch between programs to check your upcoming schedule.
The page comes with a sidebar that lists all your current classes alphabetically for quick access.
Further down the page, you can drop any thoughts or spontaneous notes into the Quick Notes section. All notes will land in a separate inbox and wait for you to go through them at a more convenient time.
Lastly, it shows you what to study next and offers space for all your links that you need to access often.
Let's take a look at the individual features:
Assignments & Exams
Do you have a place to easily keep track of all the upcoming assignments and exams, the corresponding notes you need to pass and the topics you should revise for them?
The Assignment & Exams Database is specifically designed for that.
It comes pre-loaded with templates for both an exam and an assignment and one of Notion's most powerful features: self-referential filters.
Thanks to those, creating a new assignment via the template button will automatically show you all notes that correspond to the course of the assignment. That way, you can directly access all relevant notes and don't have to switch over to a different section first.
In addition, creating a new exam will not only show the relevant notes, but also the corresponding revision sessions for the relevant topic. To enable this, simply tag the new exam with the relevant topics and let the template do the rest for you!
Get control over your workload and see at a glance everything related to a specific course. Add the assignments & exams, link your class notes and tag it with topics to always know where you're currently at.
The Course template creates a unique dashboard for every course that shows you all you need to know on a separate page. So when you're in class, you don't need to switch between pages - all information is in one place.
- See all done and upcoming assignments & exams
- access your notes or write a new one directly from the dashboard
- see when you last revised the relevant topics and how well it went
Sometimes one class covers exactly one topic. Sometimes it contains several. And then again, there are occasions where classes across several semesters all relate to one topic. How to organise notes & revisions if so many things can change?
With a normal folder structure, you'd have to search deep within subfolders for that one note on animal related tort law from two years ago.
This template however leverages the power of Global Tags in Notion. Topics live in a separate database and you can assign them across other databases. In practice that means:
- you can easily assign the same topic to courses of different semesters and still see all relevant information in one place
- notes are tagged with topics too so you start to see connections between classes more easily and knowledge structures grow more organically
- assignments & exams get a topics tag too - so the template will resurface every relevant note immediately and you don't have to go hunting for information
How do you find the correct topic? That all depends on how granular you need your notes to be. Are all classes self-contained and cover more or less one topic? Have one topic that corresponds to the main theme of the class. Classes span several aspects? Check the big headers in the course syllabus to build understanding for the topic structure and use several topic tags per course.
Notes - a big change
All your class notes live in one central space. You can connect them to the relevant topics and the classes they come from - that way, instead of spending a lot of time gathering your learning materials, all relevant notes will find you once exam period rolls around.
Taking notes in class is surprisingly controversial. Mosts of the people I studied with took notes in one way or another. I rarely took notes during class, but I'd spent hours afterwards going through the same source material again to write my own summaries.
However, studies have classified note taking as a "low value activity". Unlike other popular study techniques which are universally bad (hello re-reading!), note taking isn't necessarily so ineffective as it is... hard.
Good note taking happens when you think actively about the content and transform it from the source material into your own words. Transcribing however is pretty much useless - unless you happen to take a class where no material whatsoever is provided.
Even great note taking has one pitfall though: it consumes a ton of time.
This template is designed to help you take better notes without wasting time.
Questions are the new notes
- use the Really Smart Notes template within the Notes Database
- focus on writing down questions over transcribing or rephrasing the content of the class. That way, you engage with the material during class and already prepare the base for revisions later
- assign every note a
Topic- this enables the Revision Function of the template and will ensure that your notes find you when you need them instead of you having to go look for them
Ask Feynman for help with the really hard stuff
The focus on questions over classic notes doesn't mean there's no place to go through a certain aspect in detail and writing that down. But writing a thorough & comprehensive note takes a lot of time and should be reserved for actually hard stuff.
When should you do it?
Only for concepts that you don't understand after going through the initial source material. You can usually spot them quite easily because when you go through your questions, you feel a certain resistance when it comes to answering them and you're never really happy with your answer.
These are the kind of complex, hard-to-grasp aspects that are worthy of a thorough note.
My favourite method to approach these notes is the Feynman Technique. You can find a step-by-step explanation within the template Explain it like I'm five.
Organising new notes
Sometimes there's just no time to assign a note to a class and list the topics covered. Don't worry - the template has a specific section to see all these incomplete notes. Simply click on "My Inbox" in the Notes Database to see all notes that need more context.
Revisions - smart setup to save time
Not knowing what you should revise next or often wasting time making elaborate plans for the upcoming months when to study what only to see them fall apart after the first week?
Then you want to check out the Retrospective Revision Timetable. Inspired by Ali Abdaal, it ditches long and time intensive planning ahead and focuses instead on showing you what revision would have the highest impact right now.
That way, you not only save the time usually spent on elaborate planning - you also avoid studying a topic you already know quite well just because the plan you made several weeks ago lists it for today.
Here's how it works:
- open the Retrospective Revision Timetable
- check the Topics for something that requires attention. Pick a topic you've never revised or that is amongst the lowest scores for progress
- revise topic using your smart notes that - thanks to the use of global tags - will automatically appear when you click on a specific topic
- end your revision by quickly noting down the date of today's revision, the topics revised and how well it went.
Got a topic that's just more important than others? Maybe it has the highest impact on your grade or is the key piece to understanding? Whatever it is, simply check the Priority Box and the template will make sure that you give it the attention it deserves.
The Retrospective Revision Timetable provides you with two views for maximum control.
The first one is a Kanban Board showing you all your topics sorted by status. See at a glance which topics you haven't studied at all (New) and where you stand on the others (using a simple traffic light system). The variation called "High Priority Topics" will only display the ones you flagged as Priority.
The second view is a table sorted by the number of times you've revised a topic so that you always know where you spent most of your time on and what areas might need some more attention.
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More like this?
You want more resources on how to improve your learning, waste less time and get more out of your study sessions? Check out the Effective Learning Hub.