How to Take Notes at a Meeting
One of the reasons that meetings are such a time-suck is that few of us know what to do afterward. Even if there is a follow up meeting scheduled, knowing how best to parlay our time in the meeting into concrete action can be a challenge. Therefore, I think it's essential to take the right notes at a meeting. Whether I'm typing on my laptop or writing notes out with a pen, I do so in a way that lets me know what I need to do after the meeting to keep a project moving forward. Whether I'm leading a project or serving in a strategic implementation role, here's how I take notes in order to be more productive.
First, I divide my sheet of paper or screen into four sections. As items are discussed during the meeting, notes go under a particular heading so I know what to do with the information discussed during the previous hour (or two).
This section is for newsworthy items - things that were shared that I may need to share with others. This is also where I put quotes said by other attendees that could be used later as some form of copy or that might be used as continual motivation towards some end goal. If the information is shared elsewhere (like on a handout), I don't write it down here. This space is for what people say and is a good place to capture it and compartmentalize it for future reference.
Sometimes, ideas come more quickly when someone else is talking. When you focus on the subject of the meeting at hand, you'll find your mind racing in a very specific direction. The ideas section is where you put the ideas that come to you mid-meeting so you don't forget them, especially if you need to share them. This is also a good place to look back after the meeting and see what ideas still seem good and are worth spending time on.
Every meeting should beget questions, whether they are internal ones for you to consider afterward or big questions you need to pose to the group. Having a running list of questions will also serve as a reminder of what needs figuring out before launch or what needs to be prioritized. Once a question is answered, mark it off the list and keep going.
This is where I keep the list of immediate action steps to follow up on after the meeting. People to email, things to write, stuff to research - it all goes here so I have a nicely organized and highly relevant list of tasks.
A lot can get shared and said in a meeting. I've found these categories to help as I sort through the data and ideas shared in any brainstorming meeting. Give it a shot; it may work for you, too.
How do you take meeting notes? What format do you use in order to be productive once the meeting is finished?