Have you ever been in a meeting, felt like the discussion was decisive and productive, then realized that you didn’t write down the important information you need to follow up on? Well, you’re not alone. This sort of thing happens a lot. Whether they weren’t taught to do so or they don’t see the value, the majority don’t like to take notes. Here’s why you should:
The WHY of Note Taking
Meetings will inevitably surface insightful thoughts and questions. These are often the questions that make key differences in setting goals and creating big wins for the organization. How will you digest and process through those insightful ideas if you’re not writing them down? They may just hold the answer to a huge problem you’re currently facing, or will face in the future.
When you’re not physically engaged with a meeting or discussion, it can be easy for your mind to wander. Taking notes helps you to stay tuned into what is going on. In turn, this will give you the opportunity to be more in the know and add greater value.
Taking notes reinforces the importance of the information. When you see your co-workers jotting things down while the boss is talking, you feel like you better be writing some things down too. It’s an unspoken pressure and it helps to jolt your team into being more engaged.
The HOW of Note Taking
Pick Your Method – Different tools will work better for different individuals. I’ve used a mixture of digital note taking apps and pen & paper. I’ve found that pen and paper is less distracting overall and jolts my brain into a different way of thinking about what I’m writing down since it’s out of the norm. Ultimately, you need to stick with the method that works best for you.
Utilize Symbols – Symbols are a great tool for when you need to come back to your notes. They help you scan for specific types of information. Use different shapes and types of bullet formats to specify different facets of information. This could be to signify the difference between an action item for yourself / someone else, or a personal note, reminder, or idea.
Create Structure – Structure is important to keeping your notes organized. Break your notes down into sections and know how you will approach recording different topics or types of information. This is particularly important when you’re working with people who don’t think in an organized fashion. If you’re going to get random information you’ll need to know where it’s going to go in order to avoid a mess of notes that don’t follow a path.
Get Your Notes Into Action – Of course the point of note taking is to catch what is important and then take action on it. Make sure that you set aside time to review your notes and get the information into the right places and into the right hands. I personally like to set aside some time immediately after my meetings to input all of my action items into my task management app. This allows me to begin taking action while the information is still fresh!