I tried sketchnotes, but the Shaykh talks so fast! [Reader Question]

Anonymous says:
So I tried to sketch my notes whilst listening to a lecture bc I'm intrigued by the art and...idk how you do it!! Lol, I can't listen and doodle as fast as the shaykh speaks."


Wa alalikum salaam wa rahmatullah,

First I'm excited that you tried taking sketchnotes & in sha Allah you won't give up just yet. I want to share a few tips that will in sha Allah make the process a bit smoother.

Perhaps the MOST important thing to remember when taking notes whether or not you are going to include pictures is that you are not a court reporter. The goal of note taking isn't to transcribe word-for-word what the lecturer is saying, that is in fact impossible to do when writing by hand. The key to taking effective notes is to try to capture the main points. Think back to when you were in school and your teacher had you create an outline, you wrote down the main points and a few supporting details but not everything you read (no matter how interesting). This is definitely a skill to develop over time, one I'm personally still working at. When listening to a Shaykh whose style of delivery you really like, who cites 5 ahadith and 5 ayat for every point it's hard to resist the urge to write them all down.

Now that we've gotten past the court reporter mindset there are two more methods I'd suggest to help make your sketchnoting experience more enjoyable.

1. Don't take sketchnotes
This is actually a method I use pretty often, I'll listen to a lecture and initially just take notes the traditional way. I may stick an arrow or two in here or there, or include a quick doodle but the main goal here is to just capture the content, this is my draft copy. I'll then go back and use my draft copy to create my final sketchnotes. I'm able to then really narrow down the main points, and usually everything that I wrote initially doesn't make it into the final draft. This method does take an extra step, but it's actually a great way to review the material and going over it the second time while adding the pictures really helps you retain the material.

2. Leave spaces

Remember that content is KING, so make sure you get the information down first. If the Shaykh says something that really lends itself to a picture, but you don't have time to work it out, leave space for it. You can come back and fill out the pictures later as long as you have the supporting text so you don't forget.

Below is an example from a panel discussion I attended. Sr. Suzy Ismail used a quote about a coffee bean to illustrate her point of bringing benefit to your environment. I made sure to write carrot, egg, coffee bean and then came back and worked out the pictures either when there was a bit of a lull in the discussion or when it was over. You can see at the top of the picture the little people are all basic and something I can draw quickly without much thought, a coffee bean on the other hand isn't something that just pops into my head and you don't want to get hung up on stuff like that.

Keys to Activism: Panel (p4)

Also, instead of trying to furiously write down an ayah word-for-word as the Shaykh is speaking you can leave spaces for that as well. Make note of the verse, or if they just say, "And Allah says in the Qur'an..." with no reference to where you can jot as much of the verse down in pencil or on a separate sheet of paper as you need to look it up. I usually draw in a bracket so that I don't accidentally write something in the space. Once you are able to find the verse you can easily either take the time to write it in or, pop it into your uploaded notes using a photo editor. You can see an example of that in this post

In sha Allah those tips help. Keep at it, it will get easier & I'd love to see your notes. 

Ma' salaama, 

Umm Sultan
Sketchnote Evangelist


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