Imagine this

You are working on a mission critical task, with a delivery date soon approaching. Along with that, the task even asks for a lot of interdepartmental collaboration, bringing the Stakeholders on-board with the developments, and delivering on the challenges that the technology being used has to offer. So you call for an All Party meeting with a set agenda. Everyone shows up and after an hour of electrifying brainstorming, you all together chalk out a plan to tame the beast! -by deciding the who’s who, the whats and the whens!

Now as the delivery date nears you are observing that the dates and the deliverables are not being met. They just don’t seem to match up with what was planned and envisioned in the meeting! Now, you again meet all the members, and they tell you that they are doing everything right. Just as it was decided! But you are not convinced as evidently it isn’t and there is nothing to refer to as you did not take any notes!

Notes Taking - a Forgotten Art

Although, it does not require a genius to figure that the human memory has its limitations in terms of remembering spoken words and that taking notes is a powerful tool at our disposal to counter it. That said, taking notes has been one of the most underrated activities. Whether it’s your engineering college classroom, a brainstorming meeting at your office or writing a personal journal to capture your thoughts and ideas, notes taking is considered unessential and boring!

So why is taking notes so important? It actually works at two levels. Firstly writing something down when you hear it is key to remembering. Secondly when you take notes you have an artefact which can be used at a later point in time to make sense of and trigger your thinking about what was discussed in the meeting.

Listed below are some tips on how best to ensure that we take notes often and can we think of putting a structure that enables effectiveness of this exercise:

  • Start before the meeting: Even before you get into a meeting you should know the high level agenda and the key objectives of the meeting. And yes you should actually pen it down.
  • Know what to write: You cannot possibly expect yourself to pen down every word spoken in a meeting. So it is essential to separate the grain from the chaff.
  • Paraphrase: True to its definition, paraphrasing is your own way of making sense of a topic and achieving clarity in a discussion by using different words or words of your choice. You can also interpret this as making your own mental map i.e., a flowchart or a diagrammatic representation of what is being discussed, the challenges, and the solutions.
  • Every person should be involved: It has often been seen in a meeting that one of the persons is assigned the task of taking the notes to be shared with others later. While this may seem like a harmless alternative to taking individual notes, it defeats one of the key objectives of taking notes – helping your own understanding and ability to remember what is being discussed.
  • Focus on the Specifics: An essential objective of note taking is to write down the key action items, timelines/deadlines, conclusions or in short the specifics related to that meeting.

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