Sometimes it isn’t enough to just verbally tell someone something, or sometimes you have a really great conversation, but no one was keeping track of what was being talked about, and you forget it by the time you hang up the phone or walk out of the meeting room. It’s not that we don’t care, or we don’t think it’s valuable, but let’s face it, when do we ever have time to just stop during a work day? We are so concerned with going 100 miles a minute that we forget what we were even doing in the first place.
This is why it’s important to actively listen and take notes. Simply paraphrasing back what someone is relaying to you can make it stick to memory better. It also reassures the person that you’re listening to that you you are actually listening to them, not just hearing them. If anyone has ever had a meeting with me, or any type of a conversation that will warrant further action, you have gotten “the notes”. I believe firmly in taking notes during meetings, and conversations, and also in follow up emails. How many times have you been in a meeting, and 3 different possible solutions were brought up, and now here you are days later trying to work through though solutions and you can’t even remember the smallest thing about them? We have such busy days that we can’t possibly keep everything stored in our memory banks. Now, imagine if someone had taken notes during that meeting, detailed notes that you can look back on? It would make your life a whole lot easier, right? Not to mention, how much time would you have wasted on trying to remember, then going around and asking everyone in the meeting what they remember?
They key here isn’t just taking notes, but making sure they are valuable and provide enough detail to jog someone’s memory, and you that you actually do something with those notes. It’s great if you took them, but if you don’t send them out to everyone in the meeting, then what good are they really? A great rule of practice is to type your notes directly into the meeting invite, and edit as you go. Then, once the meeting is over, all you have to do is quickly proofread them to make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammar issues and hit send. This makes sure you don’t forget to send it out, and that it gets to everyone who attended the meeting. I like to use a template for my notes that I just keep in my onenote and copy paste into meeting invites and fill it out as the meeting goes. I have a section for notes, a section for action items, and then a section for any decisions that were made. Sometimes, full note taking isn’t warranted, but instead just a simple follow up email. One example could be when you call a co worker or a customer and a decision is made on something during that call: I just like to send an email right after the phone call and reiterate what we talked about, so that there is no room for error. I always invite people to add anything I may have missed, or anything that they may remember differently from what I documented.
Verbal communication followed up with note taking and follow up emails are key to keeping everyone on the same page. It gives people the opportunity to look back at what was discussed, and keep a documented trail of action items or decisions (which leaves little room for he said/ she said/ I don’t remember that later on).
-Krystina Hodge, Consultant | Project Manager