A method for understanding confusing lectures

Some teachers have a disorganized lecture style that’s difficult to follow.

One reason this can happen is if there’s like 5 things they want to talk about, but they don’t do it in an organized way. Like they keep moving from one topic to another, then back again.

For instance, in a class on vegetables, a teacher might talk about carrots, onions, peppers, celery, and for some reason, cows. They might jump around from one topic to another, saying things about each as they’re reminded of them. 

It can help to use a computer to take notes, make topic headings, and add to each topic as it is raised.

So it could look like this, in the hypothetical class about vegetables:

Teacher says: Carrots grow in the ground. Onions grow in the ground. Onions are delicious when you caramelize them. They’re good with steaks. So are peppers, even though they don’t grow in the ground. The other thing about carrots is that they are orange, and they are sweet and have more sugar than you’d think a vegetable would have. Cows like to eat vegetables. Celery needs to be washed before you eat it. So do carrots. Cows can eat vegetables without washing them. 


  • Grow in the ground
  • Orange
  • Sweet
  • have more sugar than you’d think
  • Need to be washed before you eat them


  • grow in the ground
  • delicious when you caramelize them
  • good with steaks


  • Good with steaks
  • Don’t grow in the ground


  • Like to eat vegetables
  • Don’t need to wash vegetables first


  • Needs to be washed before you eat it

You can do this with Word files, but I’ve found that it’s easier with outlining software. (I use OmniOutliner). The advantage to outlining software is that it’s really easy to drag things around if you change your mind about which topic they go in. You can also collapse topic headings when the topic seems to be over, then reopen them if it comes up again.

If you think more visually, a diagraming program might work well for you. Idea Sketch works reasonably well on iPad. This works well for following lectures, but notes taken this way can be harder to use later than more conventional notes. It’s also difficult to share notes taken in this format.