Topic of the Week Duly Noted: Taking Effective Notes at Work
- My To Do
- Their To Do
Duly Noted: Taking Effective Notes at Work
Ever look across your desk to see stacks of note pads and notes that are mostly unintelligible? Welcome to the club. There is a way to track meetings that is efficient and easy to digest, even months later. Which reminds me of my last vacation. I was so focused on recording everything with pictures that I barely saw anything on the entire trip that wasn’t through a viewfinder of a camera. At which point I realized that I actually missed most of what happened.
Just like I missed a lot of my trip, you can miss a lot during meetings, even when you’re taking voluminous notes. The key isn’t to document every bit of minutia, but to capture what’s really important in a way that you can easily access it. The next time you’re in a meeting, try dividing your notepaper into the four sections I’ve outlined below. Or use the symbols to define each reference in your notes. This is excerpted from a feature in the magazine Fast Company entitled "Work smart with Gina Trapani." For more, check out FastCompany.com.
Facts: Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a fact junkie. I think that there are pieces of information that you can get a lot of mileage from. That’s why facts have their own section on your note’s page. It is very helpful to note who said the fact, in case you want to track down a citation or find out more information later. If you don’t want to divide your paper into four sections, you can just signify facts by putting an asterisk next to each.
Questions: These questions can be yours, or can come from other people in the room. An example of this is when you are meeting with a customer. Often it can be helpful to have a record of the questions that they ask, this can really help you to find out what concerns they have and how they change over time. An obvious way to highlight questions is to put a question mark after each. To make them standout however, I put a question mark at both the beginning and end of the sentence.
My To Do: Ever promise to do something during a meeting only to forget about it as soon as the meeting ended? Me too. That’s why it’s so important to have a dedicated part of your notes focusing on your assignments. You can also signify your personal to-do list items by putting a check mark next to each one.
Their To Do: Have you ever had someone claim that they never said they’d do something during a meeting? Or worse, were you accused of being the one who didn’t follow up? You can avoid this by simply noting whenever anyone is assigned a task. The simple way to document this is with an arrow next to the task and the person’s name.
Follow these tips and you’ll have a great snapshot of everything that happened during all the meetings that you attend.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss’s Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via email@example.com.