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Are You Taking Effective Notes?

The average worker spends almost 25% of their work week in some sort of meeting. These meetings are intended to do one primary thing: provide everyone in that meeting with specific information to use later on. Taking notes during a meeting, therefore, is an important skill to have! Yet many workers either try to rely on their memory or take ineffective notes and lose the information that they received.

You can take effective notes at each meeting. Here’s how you can do it:

Actively listen. The more you pay attention during a meeting, the more likely you’ll capture information in your notes that can benefit you later on down the road. Put down your iPhone, ignore the text messages, and focus on what needs to be written down. Ask questions if you don’t understand something!

Treat your notes like a blog. Give each meeting its own title and even subheadings if you wish. Make sure you date each entry too. This gives you the chance to always go back and reference previous entries to make sure you’re staying the course.

It’s not about finding answers. Meetings are always a great place for a question and answer session, but good notes don’t try to create inspiration to answer difficult questions. Instead they are simply a means of capturing the information that was passed along at the meeting. Nothing more, nothing less.

Establish accountability. Taking notes over the entire content of a meeting, no matter who is participating in that meeting, creates another level of accountability. If something is said, it will get recorded. If follow-up is required, that will be documented. If ideas are asked to be perculated in a mind for a week, you’d better come back with ideas for the next meeting!

Use a dedicated notebook for specific meetings. If you’ve got multiple types of meetings to attend each week, keep a dedicated notebook for each type of meeting so you don’t get mixed up with what your follow-up responsibilities might be. Also use a notebook system that works well for you. It could be a diary type of notebook, a standard lined journal, or some other format. Once you find that system, don’t change it!

Make notes easy to follow-up upon. Come up with specific symbols that you can use to quickly scan your notes to make sure you’ve fulfilled your responsibilities. If you need to bring ideas back to the next meeting, you could use a star. If you need to ask questions, put a question mark next to the note. If you need someone else to follow-up on something, you could use an exclamation point. Whatever you use, utilize symbols that work for you.

Review your notes every day. Where most people fail in the note taking process isn’t in the actual notes they take, but in the follow-up on their notes because they forgot to review them. Take a few minutes each day and review the notes in each notebook. Make sure you don’t have anything that is pressing that needs to be done or schedule time on your calendar to accomplish tasks that have an upcoming deadline.

With better management and a little more engagement, everyone can be an expert at taking notes. Implement these principles in your next meeting and you’ll discover that you can retain even more of the important information being passed along to you

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