Have you experienced attending meetings and being torn between completely focusing on the discussion and writing down notes? Or having difficulties catching up with whatever is being discussed because you were caught up writing down important notes?
These are among the most common struggles of people who attend a lot of meetings. Writing down and looking at our notes makes it difficult for us to listen effectively. According to a famous study conducted by Professor Albert Mehrabian, when we focus on our notes, we’re losing over half of what each speaker is communicating through body language.
But because it helps us sharpen our focus, remember topics that were discussed during the meeting, all the while serving as a document of proof, note-taking is still being practiced by a lot of professionals. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as you get accustomed to practices that make your note-taking more efficient.
Tips to Help you Improve Your Note-taking for Meetings:
Develop your own shorthand
This is usually best applied when you encounter a speaker or a host who talks fast. Have a set of codes ready before attending a meeting so that note-taking becomes faster and you can avoid getting left behind and missing some of the important discussion points. Below are a few samples of using shorthand:
- Abbreviations like ‘mktg’ for marketing or ‘esp’ for especially.
- Symbols such as ‘<’ for greater than and ‘+’ for additional
- Mnemonics like SAMPLE (Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past history, Last oral intake, Events to present)
- Illustrations – drawing an arrow from one person to another, denoting the assignment of tasks.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be understood by everyone, just make sure that whatever you’re writing makes sense to you.
Develop or look for a note-taking method that works best for you
You can either structure your own or apply existing methods. You can also try utilizing each method and see which one works best for you.
Below are illustrations of the five most effective note-taking methods:
Outline method (This method works best if the meeting or lecture you’re attending is following a clear structure)
Cornell method (This one is ideal for all types of lectures or meetings)
Boxing method (This method works best if you have several meetings that are split into different schedules and are still related in a sense)
Charting method (This is the most effective method when you need to memorize a lot of information with numbers and stats)
Mapping/flowchart method (This method is best applied to lectures or meetings with heavy content and there’s a need for you to organize all the information in a structured form.)
To further learn about these note-taking methods and be able to differentiate them from one another, read more here.
Review your notes
As soon as the meeting is done and while everything is still fresh in your memory, go over your notes real quick and check if there are portions that may need editing for better personal comprehension.
Highlight main points
Check the meeting agenda beforehand so you can set your expectations straight. This way, you are able to easily plot an outline of your notes before the meeting starts. Make sure to write the main points first as it becomes your point of reference.
Seek digital assistance
While there are people who prefer manual note-taking during meetings, another part of the population maximizes technology by transcribing recorded meetings in the form of audio files. There has been a lot of automated transcription services offering affordable packages with appealing features. Research and see which one caters to your needs the most.
These are just five ways to improve your note-taking. If some of your fellow colleagues are reaping better results than you in this particular task, feel free to ask them about their best practices and see if you’re comfortable with their process too.