What kind or amount of note-taking is optimal? I get lost while making a notation and miss other parts of the lecture.

First of all, you are not alone. Taking good notes is almost an art form. The key is to make sure you're listening and writing at the same time. Here are a few hints that have worked for me in the past.
  • Don't write down every word that your teacher says. Only the concepts and the facts. Your goal is to understand what the teacher is saying, so make notes in your own words.
  • Know yourself and your memory well. For example, if you know that you usually forget dates, make sure you write down dates every time.
  • Try to pay attention to things that your teacher may say that will signal you that something important is coming up. For example, "There are three reasons why . . ." or "Another important point is . . ." or "A major development . . ."
  • Use abbreviations or develop your own shorthand. You don't have to worry about anyone else having to read your notes.
  • Pay close attention to summaries. They usually include really important information.
  • Last but not least, really listen. You may be doing things that are distracting you. Are you twirling your pen or hair? Are you doodling? Do you sit in the back of the class and let your eyes wonder around the room?

Next time you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, practice paying close attention to everything going on in the program. Take notes on the concepts and major events at the same time. After the show is over, go over your notes (or have someone else have a look). Can you get the gist of the show by reading only your notes? Keep practicing until you're comfortable using your hearing power and penmanship all at the same time!