Is Your Note-Taking Routine Burying Your Best Opportunities?

Notebook Everyone has meetings, whether in person or on the phone, right? When you meet with someone, they could be a client, prospect, team member or strategic partner.

I’ve read in the past that if you’re meeting in person with someone you shouldn’t take notes on your laptop because it could indicate you’re not listening. I happen to disagree. Hugely.

With the advent of iPads and other devices and software for taking notes, how can you go backwards to using paper (leaving LiveScribe out of this for a minute)? It’s so much more efficient to type up what you’re hearing and save it electronically. And how is writing lots of notes on paper while someone’s talking different than typing? I don’t see the difference.

So if you’re inclined to use a laptop or an iPad to take notes in a meeting, go for it. Explain to the other person what you’re doing and I bet they’ll think you’re on top of your game and taking care of your relationship with them.

Beyond the paper vs. electronic smack-down, let’s talk about what you can do with your notes after the meeting, shall we?

On Paper (if you insist): As you’re taking your notes, keep the very top or bottom of the page just for a short list of action items that result from the meeting. Or you can use a separate page entirely. After the meeting when you’re back in your office, you can tear off the pages and enter the action steps you need to take into your Task list (hopefully in Outlook or a similar system). The pages you want to keep for reference can be scanned and saved or filed according to client, prospect, team, etc…

Electronically (I beg you, please): As you’re taking notes in a Word Doc or another software, be sure to have your Task list open at the same time on your computer or device. When an action comes up that you need to take later, you can quickly jump to the Task list and enter it. As you discuss final deadlines with whom you’re meeting, you can also enter a target “do” date for your task so you know when to take action. When the meeting is over, you can save your notes in the appropriate drive/folder in your computer and trust that your action steps are captured on your electronic Task list. How nice.

Tasks resulting from a meeting don’t go on your calendar…

I’ve heard the advice to “calendar” your tasks, but tasks go on a Task list, not a calendar.

Scheduled meetings, calls, appointments, doctor visits and vacations go on a calendar, but unless you’re scheduling a big appointment with yourself to focus for an hour or two, no other tasks should go there.

Plus, you can’t possibly put all of your tasks on a calendar, so don’t even try. It will skew your sense of available time on your calendar and you won’t get a realistic picture of your tasks or your time and how you’re prioritizing either.

(There are SO many danger zones to putting tasks on a calendar I’ll have to write another article about it!)

Follow-up from meetings…

Once you complete your meeting – any meeting – it’s always good to follow up with the other participants to cover meeting highlights, recap next steps and target action dates, and expected outcomes. Typically, for more formal meetings, these are captured in Meeting Minutes drawn up by a specified minute taker and distributed soon after the meeting. For less formal meetings, an e-mail can do the trick.

Either way, this kind of documentation puts everyone on the same page and gives participants the opportunity to ask questions, agree or disagree. From there, changes can be made if necessary and, if not, then clear expectations are in place until the next meeting.

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