note taking

Level Up Your Note Taking: Make the Next Meeting Matter

First Things First

You likely spend time in meetings, and maybe some of you, a majority of your work life is within meetings. We’ve all experienced the draining, demoralizing feeling when a meeting is not productive. So before we begin to discuss best practices in note taking for said meetings, I want to turn you on to these useful tips by David Grady that help you attend less meetings and make sure, before you even attend, that they will be useful. Here is his hilarious TED talk called How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings.

note taking

However, when you are in productive meetings, why might you want to make sure your note taking is masterful?

  • It will help you be more engaged and focused.
  • You will remember and capture needed information.
  • You will document proof that certain things did in fact occur.
  • Excellent note taking allows strategic thinking to emerge.

Upfront Guidelines

Your job when taking notes is to listen for and summarize key messages regarding:

  • Action Items,
  • Decisions,
  • Learnings,
  • Context, and
  • Notes relevant to you.

The whole purpose is for your learning and reference. Do not go in depth, you are not a court reporter. Less is more. Take partial notes that you can fill in after the meeting. In other words, write down enough to trigger your memory.

Preparation

Block ten minutes before the meeting for preparation. Ask yourself the follow questions and consider beginning your notes for the meeting at this stage.

  • The person leading the meeting, what are their objectives and agenda?
  • What are your objectives or agenda for the meeting?
  • What do you need to bring: discussion points, check-in data, etc?
  • Are there questions you need answered?
  • What would success look like for this meeting?

Block ten minutes after the meeting to synthesize your notes. Organize your to do’s, next steps, and deadlines in your tools of choice (project management software, calendar, app, etc.)

note taking

What Must be Captured

  • Action Items. To do’s, tasks, action requests. Keep this as clear as possible: Person X to do (specific task details) by (due date.) Who is suppose to do, what, by when.
  • Decisions. Outcomes and decisions agreed by the group.
  • Learnings, or follow-ups to learn something.
  • Intel, Observations, Strategy in summary.

Questions to Get the Right Info

While you never want to ask questions that take the meeting off course, there are questions that help clarify, keep you engaged, and help the meeting stay productive. Here are just a few that can help:

  • “Can someone please state the decision we’re making?”
  • “Can we recap decisions and next steps?
  • Use reflective listening. “Am I hearing that Barb will own X and Ted will deliver Z by this date?”
  • Ask the speaker clarifying questions that have them state key takeaways. “What do you think are the most important takeaways?”

Best Note Taking Apps in 2019

Using the best and most appropriate tools for the job at hand is an important aspect. Here are the best note taking apps in 2019.

Conclusion

note taking

Becoming masterful at taking notes in meetings means that you have all the information you need to do your job well. This basic skill is one that will set you apart and have you be more effective in your role. Topics and skills just like this are part of the support you can expect from an Ignite Your Potential career coach.

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