Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Challenge of Taking Meeting Notes Digitally

Having an easy system to document the contents of phone calls, one-on-one conferences, and meetings is a crucial asset for any professional. Memories are fuzzy. What is written is permanent and as accurate years later as the day it was penned. I have written about this topic as a result of conversations with those who are interested in my method, spoken about it in this podcast, included it in countless presentations, and addressed it in both of my books.

For years, I have used a paper journal as the one place where these real-time notes are taken. Taking notes is simple. However, the system requires some follow-through so that tasks and meetings identified wind up on the to-do list or calendar. If those notes need to be accessed again, there must be a way to find them easily.

During my live presentations, I see a growing trend in the number of people who want to be able to take notes digitally, particularly on their tablets. The direction I have given them is summed up in a single word: Evernote. To take the conversation a step further, my recommendation is to create a notebook inside Evernote called "Journal." Every phone call, every one-on-one conference, and every meeting will be a new note in the Journal notebook inside Evernote. Evernote date-and-time stamps each note, giving the user a chronological listing of all interactions.

Is digital documentation for you? The main points I ask users to consider are as follows:

I see a growing trend in the number of people who want to be able to take notes digitally, particularly on their tablets.
  1. How easy will it be to enter information in Evernote? Will you have a smartphone or tablet accessible and powered up when you need to take notes? Will text entry approach the ease of handwriting on paper? Will you be able to concentrate on the interaction, or will you have to concentrate too much on the text entry?
  2. How will your entry in a digital device be perceived by others in the meeting? Will they feel you are not fully engaged with them because of your attention to text entry?

After pondering those two points, are you are still interested in digital documentation? If so, you need a procedure to make sure things do not fall through the cracks. First, realize your notes will combine both reference information and to-do items.

In our world of back-to-back meetings and phones which never stop ringing, time to dissect the notes immediately is usually not available. However, part of each day's regiment must include reviewing all notes taken during the day with one question in mind: "What do I need to do about what I wrote?" The answers to that question become entries on the to-do list or appointments on the calendar. Failure to conduct that review means to-dos and future meetings may be identified and recorded in the meeting notes, but never make it any further. Appointments are missed because they were never entered on the calendar. Responsibilities falls through huge cracks because they were recorded in meeting notes, but never entered on the to-do list.

Secondly, when completing a task, the original notes may embed critical information about completing that task. How can you find the correct notes quickly?

This post presents the challenge. If you are reader of The Daily Home, my column in today's edition supplies the answer. For everyone else, Friday's post will show you a service which provides an automated solution.

What is your system for taking notes during meetings and phone calls? How to you find those notes when you need them?
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