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04 Feb

Concrete meetings and high speed notes

Datum: 2010-02-04 10:47

In a nor­mal week at work, I have got a lot of dif­fer­ent meet­ings with dif­fer­ent peo­ple. It can be project-meet­ings, sales-meet­ings, lunch meet­ings or oth­er kinds of meetings. 

It is impor­tant for me that all of my meet­ings result in some form of pro­gres­sion, that they are tan­gi­ble, and that all par­ties know the pur­pose of the meet­ing. It is not nec­es­sary that we make deci­sions in every meet­ing for things to progress; some meet­ings’ pri­ma­ry pur­pose is to get to know each oth­er and our respec­tive busi­ness­es, but in these cas­es it’s still impor­tant for me to deter­mine what the next step is.

What’s the next step?

When I’ve got so many meet­ings, I risk for­get­ting what we were talk­ing about and what the next step was if I don’t make a few brief notes right after the meet­ing and write them down as tasks in my to-do-list (or wait­ing for”-list).

But, since my time is short as well, and the pro­cess­ing of and sup­ple­men­tary work on the notes can’t be time-con­sum­ing, I have cre­at­ed a stan­dard tem­plate for tak­ing meet­ing notes that I usu­al­ly use. It is quite sim­ply a blank sheet of paper with some pre-print­ed fields on it.

In the header

In the top left cor­ner I write what project, what client, or what idea the meet­ing con­cerns. At the top and cen­ter of the page, as a head­line, I write down what kind of meet­ing it is, for exam­ple Meet­ing on…”. Final­ly, I write down the par­tic­i­pants of the meet­ing in the top right corner.

First, rea­son­ing

Viewed rough­ly, almost all my meet­ings con­sist of two parts. First, a con­ver­sa­tion where we dis­cuss the sub­ject. One of us may present an idea or pro­pos­al which he wants the oth­ers to have an opin­ion on. At anoth­er occa­sion I may present the sta­tus of the ongo­ing project and what threats and pos­si­bil­i­ties I think lie ahead. On the upper half of the tem­plate I write short notes about this dis­cus­sion. Some­times it’s detailed, oth­er times it’s only brief notes.

Some­times, decisions

Now and then dur­ing the meet­ing it is pos­si­ble that deci­sions are made. If so, I write down the deci­sion made clear­ly in one of three pre-print­ed deci­sion-box­es on the low­er part of the paper. If it’s a project meet­ing, I’ll write down the deci­sions again in a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment, where I keep all made deci­sions. That doc­u­ment will serve as a set of rules that the project has to sub­ject to.

Always, the next step

Towards the end of the meet­ing, and some­times even dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, we define the next step, which can turn out to be sev­er­al steps. For me, the next step con­sists of a to-do-task, some­one respon­si­ble for the task and often also a dead­line. At the bot­tom of the tem­plate I’ve pre-print­ed three fields were I can write down the next steps.

After­wards, back at the office

So, when the meet­ing is over, my pri­or­i­ty is to write down the next steps as tasks in the to-do-list. This is the most impor­tant part. If I’ve got time and if the notes are essen­tial, I also write down the notes in the run­ning doc­u­ment for the project or the client. I often use what is called a wiki, which you can search through and edit easily.

Quick and effi­cient pro­cess­ing of the notes

The ben­e­fits with work­ing with a tem­plate for tak­ing meet­ing-notes has for me been the abil­i­ty to quick­ly take care of the notes and the to-do-tasks after the meet­ing, which is pos­si­ble since they are already defined clear­ly from the spon­ta­neous notes made in the meeting. 

I don’t have to skim through my notes search­ing for things that have to be done. All I need to do is to look at the bot­tom of the notes and be rest assured that all the impor­tant infor­ma­tion is there.

Mak­ing the pro­cess­ing of meet­ing notes so quick and effi­cient results in that no notes are left lag­ging behind unprocessed and I no longer risk miss­ing any com­mit­ments due to not hav­ing put them on my to-do-list when I should have.

What’s the struc­ture of your meetings?

If you want to, take a minute to think of how your meet­ings tend to be laid out, rough­ly speak­ing. In a stan­dard for­mat for your note tak­ing, what sec­tions, fields or box­es would you need? I am sure you have oth­er tricks to eas­i­ly and effi­cient­ly han­dle the result of a meet­ing, and I am curi­ous to hear what they are. 

Feel free to leave a com­ment below.