Note-taking hacks to improve student mental health and well-being

It is unsurprising that 71% of students say university is one of their main sources of stress. For the staggering 1 in 4 students who suffer from a mental health condition, stress can make existing problems even worse. 

Having good note-taking skills, which is a common part of any educational experience, can give an important boost to any student. OneNote, which is free to download on Windows and iOS, is a multiplatform digital notebook for capturing thoughts in free-form text, drawings, screen-clippings and audio notes. 

Technology can be harnessed to help students focus on their mental health and organise their time better for improved wellbeing. OneNote enables students to feel in control, which not only helps general mental wellbeing but can alleviate mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD. 

Discover the ways note-taking in OneNote can make university life easier for you:


Researcher in OneNote is an invaluable tool for students who are not sure where to start. In just a few easy steps Researcher helps you to find relevant quotes and citable sources to start an outline in OneNote. Begin by typing a keyword for the topic you’re researching, and then sit back as OneNote pulls together a list of relevant and credible sources.Screen grab example of OneNote Researcher in use 

Bonus Hack!

Concentration can be a real challenge at the beginning of a project, even more so if you live with conditions such as ADHD and depression. Whether you’re in a lecture or you’re trying to keep to a deadline, use Microsoft’s Focus Assist in Windows 10 (Quiet Hours in earlier versions of Windows) to switch off distracting email and social media notifications in order to stay focussed.

Note Tags and To-Do Lists

Student Minds encourages small mindful actions to manage self-expectations, such as writing to-do lists, because “clear, time-specified goals enable us to succeed, as goals can be achieved”. Tags in OneNote are perfect for creating intuitive and versatile to-do lists.  Use interactive tick boxes or create custom tags to organise both typed and handwritten notes. Your notes can be visually flagged by importance, action, question or topic. You can search your notes by tag, and on OneNote 2016 you can even see a tag summary, which gives you the option to narrow your search scope and create summary pages of chosen tags.Screen grab example of OneNote tags in use

Share Notebooks

With group work, make sure you are all on the same page with OneNote. In OneNote for Windows 10, Mac, iOS and online you can share whole notebooks with other people and give them access to view and edit content. The ability to virtually collaborate on shared work in real time can alleviate the pressure of coordinating busy schedules and allows you to avoid crowded and loud communal areas.

Bonus Hack!

Working with new people you are not familiar with in group projects can be daunting and difficult. The ability in OneNote 2016 and for Mac to show and hide the authors of edits is a valuable tool for differing study preferences. Perhaps seeing the author’s initials clutters the page for you or seeing the pace of your peers’ work creates unneccessary pressure? Hide the authors and settle into your own rhythm. Or maybe seeing the authors of edits provides the insight and motivation you need to feel more at ease in a group project? Reinstate the authors with the click of a button.

Tell Me

Microsoft’s new Tell Me feature in all Office 365 apps, including OneNote, is a multi-purpose feature. A lightbulb icon for those eureka moments aptly represents a text box which says ‘tell me what you want to do’. Simply type in a feature you want to use or an action you want to do and Tell Me will take you there. Struggling to understand a word used by an author? You can use Tell Me to access Smart Lookup, which researches and defines the term you enter. 

AbilityNet can help

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps people to use technology to achieve their goals. If you have questions about disability and technology you can call us on 0800 269 545 or email

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