What do you do when the meeting is over?
l have learned the hard way that unless I take good notes during a meeting, I cannot be very effective afterwards and therefore the meeting ends up being a big waste of time. When discussing a new campaign, the direction that the new ad should take, and the pages we need to update on the website I have to be able to identify the following items after the meeting:
- What was discussed
- What decisions were made
- What action items were decided
- Who will do what by when
The best way to turn meetings (which are, unfortunately, inevitable) into productive time spent with the team, is to take effective notes. During note taking I try to write only key pieces of information (and not to simply transcribe what was said) and place symbols next to each one that helps me easily and quickly identify what is important.
Here are my identifiers:
- The letter “i” in a circle: Informational only. Something that was told to give context, specific background information or other piece of data that I don’t have to do anything about.
- An empty square [ ] (empty checkbox): Action item assigned to me.
- An exclamation point “!”: Important information or decision made that I have to remember or that affects an action item.
- Someone’s initials: Action item assigned to someone else.
- “FUP”: something I need to follow up on. Usually a task assigned to someone in my team that I need to check the status.
These are the most commonly used symbols during my note taking, and sometimes I add a couple more (asterisk, pointing arrow, circles, etc.) depending on the note. The key for me is to be able to review my notes and act on what needs to be done.
When I have to create meeting minutes, this system helps me to go through my notes quickly and identify things that should be in the minutes versus superfluous stuff. For the action items assigned to me, the first thing I do when I get back to my desk is open my Outlook and create Tasks for each one. This way I capture all my to-do items quickly and am ready for the next item on my agenda (usually another meeting).
Since I use a tablet PC (currently an HP Pavillion Tx2500), my notes are electronic and I can easily go back to them and search for them. Below is a sample meeting note with my system, I hope it gives you a better idea of how I use it.
What is your system? Please share!