Are you taking enough notes?

As someone who likes writing with pen on paper (and loves her own handwriting), I take copious notes. In cases like business development calls, I also write down what I feel in the moment. “This man feels a bit sexist, but can’t put a finger on it,” I’d written in one of my meeting notes. A few paragraphs later, I had put a finger on it too.

Recently, I’ve been noticing that note-taking is not as common as it should be. I’ve been in meetings where people just listen to me talk until I remind them to note it down. Here’s why that doesn’t work:

  • You can’t possibly remember everything.

  • Through the course of a conversation, ideas might evolve, which might confuse you.

  • In case of a dispute, it’ll be a matter of your word against theirs. Notes can offer some kind of backup.

So, as part of your everyday work, take good notes. Meetings, presentations, online courses, even distractions, write them down. How I take notes:

  • I paraphrase what the other person is saying. When I write down their exact sentence, I put it between quotes. (Sometimes, I amuse myself too: “Let’s double lick on that”)

  • I underline sources they recommend.

  • I write down questions I want to ask, but don’t want to interrupt. I add a question mark inside a circle next to it.

  • I list items they said they’ll send (if you’re thinking they should be writing it down because this is their task, LOL). I add a star next to this and sometimes send a reminder email for these things after the call.

  • I add ideas I get. Sometimes when I’m being briefed about a whitepaper, I get ideas for the narrative I can follow. I write it down for later use. I add an exclamation mark within a circle next to it.

  • I include some feelings, like I said earlier.

  • Of course, I write down my tasks with a triangle next to it.

  • I also spend 5 mins after the conversation recapping and adding things I’d missed earlier.

Not just in the moment or for that project, taking good notes helps in the long-term too. I send meeting notes to my team as part of the brief — even old meeting notes. I refer to it when client gives feedback 4 weeks after submitting the work. Most importantly, when the client says what I’ve written is not what they meant, I look back at my notes to see what I’ve misunderstood.

Also, there is absolute joy in looking back at your notes, they are proof that you’ve come a long way!