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Write this Down: How are Your Note-Taking Skills?

December 17, 2014 | Career Blog

Taking Notes in Meetings

Unless your mind is a steel trap, you probably need to make some notes to avoid forgetting about important to-dos, deadlines and project updates. But taking notes in meetings feels so, well, high school. Is it really necessary? As a matter of fact, yes. Not only does it keep you from forgetting key bits of information, but it also shows you’re serious about your work.

If you have to constantly apologize for missing a deadline or forgetting a key detail on a new client project, soon your boss won’t be very forgiving. All the can be avoided by taking pen to paper … or fingers to keyboard.

Must you have a fancy Moleskine? No, although sometimes a nice notebook and pen are motivators. But a plain, old legal pad will certainly do the trick (hey, if it’s good enough for lawyers …).

Here are five tips to have you taking notes like a pro:

  1. Find a note-taking style that works well for you. It might be outline format, bullet points or shorthand. Everyone is different but the important point is using a technique that makes sense to you and allows to take notes both thoroughly and quickly. You can also create some of your own shorthand and abbreviations, but just make sure you know what they mean and can decipher them later.
  2. Review your notes afterward while the details are still fresh in your mind. This way you can fill in any gaps as well as add reminders to your calendar, complete any quick action items and prioritize your to-do list.
  3. Whether you take notes on a piece of paper or your tablet/laptop is typically a matter of personal preference. But do take your cues from the company. If there’s a mandate to go paperless, bring your iPad. Or if everyone else uses paper, maybe you should go that route as well. Some people find the click-clack of keys during a meeting distracting.
  4. Do make use of technology as your organize your notes. Programs like Evernote and OneNote allow you to create digital notebooks, save images, bookmark webpages and even share notes with others for easy collaboration. If you’re old-fashioned, that’s OK too – use one notebook for all meeting notes or create separate paper notebooks/folders for each project or client.
  5. Build note-taking breaks into the meeting. Not everyone is skilled at listening and writing notes simultaneously. As this article, “The complete guide to taking notes effectively at work” from Quartz, points out, research found incorporating short breaks in a meeting – maybe between agenda items – improved the quality of the notes people took.

So the next time you’re headed into a meeting, think about your note-taking process and what you do with them afterward. You just might find your workdays become more productive and stay on task because you remembered what you were supposed to be doing.

Here are some more tips on taking notes at work from