Stop taking detailed notes in meetings

Making notesKhoi Vinh’s post titled “Remembering What’s Important After Meetings” touches on a better approach to participating in meetings and highlights a pretty useful IFTTT applet to facilitate that.

For one thing, taking copious notes in meetings isn’t always the best approach. You risk focusing too much on your notes and missing opportunities to be meaningfully participate in the meeting and just be present.

Instead, he recommends making note of the meeting highlights afterwards:

This advice absolved me of the pressure I previously felt to write down everything. Without that distraction, I’ve been able to generally stay more focused and absorb more of what’s said in meetings. And with fewer notes, the act of searching them later becomes much easier too.

I tend to take a lot of notes in meetings and capture those notes into Evernote afterwards for future reference. I prefer handwritten notes because I’ve read that handwritten notes tend to be more conducive to actually absorbing what you are writing about.

As useful as it is to have comprehensive notes of your meetings, I’ve also noticed that other meeting participants tend to find it a little frustrating sitting opposite someone who seems to be writing down everything they say instead of being part of the conversation.

Something to think about in my next meeting.

Image credit: Stickler Mule


One response to “Stop taking detailed notes in meetings”

  1. nuclearpengy avatar

    I tend to find in person meetings good for general discussion but very inefficient for anything where productivity and getting actual work done is concerned. I’ll usually make note of an action item if I need to, during the meeting, but otherwise I won’t take notes or have anything open in front of me.

    For productive meetings, I find a Skype call (or Google Hangout) with a shared Google Doc open works really well.

    We have more or less standardised our meetings process now and have two main templates we include in all project documents.

    General meeting
    Date start time – end time
    People present (virtually)
    * Discussion point 1
    * Discussion point 2

    Progress meeting
    Date start time – end time
    People present (virtually)
    * What did you do since last meeting?
    * Person’s name – feedback
    * What is next on your list?
    * Person’s name – feedback
    * Are there any impediments in your way?
    * Person’s name – feedback
    * General Comments
    * Person’s name – feedback

    We use the Google doc to draft the agenda and everyone adds their notes in the same document. Sometimes one person will take the lead in making notes during the discussion. What’s great about this is that all of our notes are contextualised around the agenda and everyone can see the same notes. We can include links in the notes or screenshots and the agenda transitions into meeting minutes and becomes a usable reference.

    Any further action items such as creating new BitBucket/GitHub issue can happen after the meeting. based on the notes.

    The meeting document becomes a central reference for the project and if someone can’t make a meeting, she/he can review the meeting document to catch up on what was discussed. We sometimes also have text only meetings where we set up the agenda and everyone gives their feedback in the Google document.

    Implementing this approach has been a huge time saver for us and helped us keep meetings more focused.

What do you think?

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