3 Reasons You Need to Be Taking Better Meeting Notes At Work — and 7 Ways How

woman taking notes

Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff

Michaela Rollings at Hive
Michaela Rollings at Hive
We’ve all been there: you finally wrap an hour-long meeting, move onto the next task at hand, and then a few hours later, forget what your next steps and action items are. Since we spend so much of our days in back-to-back meetings, it’s critical that the time we spend in meetings is actually pushing us forward, not hampering growth. That’s why making sure to take detailed meetings notes is critical.

What Are Meeting Notes?

Meeting notes are exactly what they sound like — notes that speak to the action items discussed and decisions made in a meeting. Ideally, there would be one point-person taking notes and detailing progress throughout the meeting, either on their computer, in a program like Hive, OneNote, Evernote, or by hand.
collaborate in meetings
Source: Hive
While taking notes digitally is definitely an easier option (we’re all used to using our laptops to record action items), some people prefer to take notes by hand. Benefits to taking notes by hand can include limited distractions from notifications on your device, increased comprehension, and memory improvement, as handwriting requires you to spend a few extra seconds processing the words before getting them down on paper. 
However, when you take notes by hand, you’re creating an extra layer of work for yourself — often, once you’ve taken notes by hand, you then need to transcribe them digitally for an email update or follow-up, which creates more work. Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference and if you think the benefits outweigh the extra level of output.

Benefits Of Taking Good Meeting Notes

There are so many benefits of taking good notes during work meetings — especially now, with more people working remotely and following various forms of a distributed workplace. Whether your team is calling into virtual meetings, getting together in person, or doing some hybrid of the two, meeting notes are essential for keeping everyone informed. Here are 3 of the top ways that notes can help you and your teamwork better.

Notes prevent information from slipping through the cracks.

It’s impossible for each person from the meeting to remember exactly what was discussed and what their next steps are. Meeting notes help not only individuals understand the actions they need to take, but also help everyone remember what actions others are taking to move the project forward. This will help save time in the future, as you won’t have to spend time refreshing your memory or asking coworkers to clarify next steps.

Notes help recognize future needs and determine next steps.

If you had a set of meeting notes from a prior meeting, that set of notes can help inform the current meeting’s action items and points of discussion. This is why it’s helpful to use a digital note-taking device that groups notes by recurring meetings or campaigns. When you’re working on a project alone or in a small group, you can forget what the macro-level goal of the project or campaign is. Meeting notes are a way to keep track of how the goals evolve over time, dispersing all information on past, current, and future steps.

Notes inform people who may have missed the meeting.

Things come up, and the relevant individuals aren’t always able to attend. With comprehensive notes, you’re able to keep the missing individuals up-to-speed on what was discussed without partaking in a lengthy conversation on the meeting’s contents. It’s most helpful here, once again, when the notes are widely available digitally and can be shared with those who were on the invite. With Hive Notes, all notes can be shared with colleagues with the click of a button.

How to Take Better Meeting Notes

There are many strategies for taking useful and productive meeting notes. Here are a few of the top tips we’ve gathered for taking great meeting notes.

1. Set outcome goals before the meeting starts.

Developing thorough meeting outcome goals, or problems you want to solve in the meeting, is important for the meeting’s success and the note-taking process. If you’ve got high-level objectives, you’re then able to identify what is important enough to merit a note. This will save you time and energy in the short and long term.

2. Create and share a meeting agenda.

Agendas are one way to ensure everyone starts the meeting prepared. A good meeting agenda outlines key talking points or topics that will be addressed throughout the course of the meeting. It does require time to make an agenda and share it with participants beforehand, but the trade off is definitely worth it. When you create and share an agenda using Hive Notes For Meetings, it can also serve as a living and breathing document where everyone collaborates and contributes their ideas throughout the meeting.

3. Designate a note-taker.

Figure out who is going to take notes before the meeting starts. It could be as simple as writing “Notetaker: Bob” in the meeting’s description. Realistically, you only need one person to take detailed notes, but if you’re using a collaborative tool like Hive Notes, everyone can contribute ideas in real-time.

4. Don’t write everything down.

This sounds counterintuitive, but it goes hand-in-hand with the meeting outcome point we made above. If you’re writing down everything that’s said in the meeting word for word, you’re wasting your time. If you’ve got ideal outcomes already outlined, you can take notes only on the things that relate to those goals.

5. Assign next steps the same day.

Never send meeting follow-ups the next day. You’re far more likely to forget something or misunderstand a point you made in your notes if you send follow-ups the next business day. Take the extra 15 minutes to write a follow-up same-day, even if your meeting ends at 9 PM. Your future self will thank you.

6. Store notes in an organized place.

Sure, taking meeting notes in various Google Drives is fine, but things get lost and old meeting notes can be hard to locate. Instead, use a tool that allows you to store your meeting notes in one central location. Utilizing a tool like Hive Notes or OneNote will help centralize information, decreasing time spent looking for or gathering old notes.

7. Consider using a note-taking tool.

Make your life easier — figure out a tool to use for note-taking. We’ve come a long way from those early days where “digital note-taking” meant opening up a Microsoft Word document and furiously typing as much content as possible. With so many tech developments and collaboration tools, there is now a variety of note-taking software to help you capture information and organize your thoughts, while also staying engaged and walking away with clear next steps.

What's your no. 1 piece of work note-taking advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.