Better Meeting Notes

We’ve all had the experience of sitting through a long meeting (or MANY long meetings) and retaining absolutely nothing from the meeting. Even worse, when you really needed some information from the meeting, you probably looked at your notes and either found something cryptic, or nothing at all. Following this, you probably tried to save face by trying to figure the information out without asking anyone (so as not to look foolish). After a while, you sheepishly ask your boss or another coworker a question that should have been answered in the meeting. Sound familiar? Not only does it make you look bad, but it can waste a ton of time, cause mistakes, and interrupt your coworkers.

Most of us who’ve been in a development career for a while have realized that we’re terrible at taking notes. This is due to a variety of reasons, from unclear discussions during meetings, boredom and daydreaming, or simply failing to take actionable, useful notes. And even if you’ve tried to fix your notetaking several times, you probably still don’t do as well as you would like. While you don’t NEED to take perfect notes for work (and we would argue that you probably shouldn’t WANT to take perfect notes – there are better things to do with your time).

There is lots of internet advice about how to take better meeting notes. We feel like we’ve read them all, and you probably feel like you have as well. While a lot of the advice is useful to some degree, it also tends to be far more tactical than what you actually need. Instead, if you want to fix the way that you take notes, you need to become more strategic. Most of the problem with taking good notes aren’t due to a lack of appropriate technique, but rather to a lack of appropriate mindset. To fix the way you take notes, return to first principles and remember why you are taking notes.

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