You walk out of a meeting confident that you have all the information you need. Then later that day or days later you look at your notes. You wonder:
- What was I supposed to do?
- What does that mean?
- What did Joe say about that project?
You just can’t remember. Yes, it is that wonky short term memory. Unless you take good notes that you can also decipher later, following up from meetings can be frustrating. At times, it can even be embarrassing, if you need to go back and ask people from the meeting:
- What did I say I would do?
- When did you say you wanted the documents?
If you find yourself struggling to remember important information later, it is time to stop relying on your memory. You can make it easier for yourself by adopting a system for taking and reviewing notes.
Another benefit of taking notes during a meeting is to help you focus on what is going on in the meeting.
It may be challenging when you have ADHD to follow all of the bouncing balls in a meeting. Add in the distraction of Sally tapping her foot, the fly buzzing about loudly, the conversation right outside the room, and it can seem nearly impossible to pay attention at times.
No doubt you will still miss some things. It happens.
- If you miss something because you get distracted, you could ask for clarification in the moment when you refocus.
- Alternatively, if you caught the gist of what was going on, write a question in your notes to ask a trusted (safe) colleague later, like: “Ask Bill what Jane said about Project X.”
Sometimes meetings just go too fast!
And you may find in your efforts to keep up with what is going on with the meeting you scribble notes that are later barely decipherable. It is just too difficult at times to process the information quickly enough.
If you have a system for taking notes, you will have a better chance of understanding them later when you need them.
Whatever method you decide to use the key is to have an organized way of taking notes so you can easily access the information later.
Method 1: Use Symbols
Indent the pages of your notes as shown below. Then use a simple system of symbols to identify different types of information in the left column. (This method was created by Michael Hyatt.) Use the amount and types of symbols that make sense to you. For example:
[ ] A square checkbox denotes a to do item
( ) A circle indicates a task to be assigned to someone else
* An asterisk is an important fact
? A question mark goes next to items to research or ask about
After the meeting you can easily scan your notes and add the note where it belongs (see below for follow-up).
Method 2: Split your page into quadrants
Another way to visually separate information types is to split your note-taking page into quadrants and record different kinds of information as shown below:
Of course, if you do not actually review your notes later, taking notes is of little or no use.
So, as soon as possible after each meeting, within a day so, review and take action on your notes. Here are examples of the different types of actions you may take:
- put to dos in your task management system (to do list)
- add scheduled items to your calendar
- email follow questions to the appropriate person
- add factual information to your Evernote page for that project
- if a task is assigned to somebody else and you need to track it, put it in your task list under “waiting for”
Find a way to take notes that works well for you. You may need to experiment with a few different methods before you find one you like.
And once you find a structure that works for you make sure you have a system for following up on your notes.