Take Useful Notes: Meetings and Appointments

I use a paper notebook for meeting notes because I can’t focus on meetings if I use an electronic device. I’m afraid if I don’t focus, I’ll be volunteered for something and mindlessly mumble, “uh-huh, sure…”

What I’m writing here, however, is tool-agnostic.

Record your own notes for meetings and appointments. Don’t just rely on meeting minutes or medical records; record your own thoughts.

Most of the time you won’t need to look them up later, but once in awhile that information is pure gold.

Any time I go to a meeting I record these things:

  • the name of the organization / group / meeting
  • the date
  • who was present that day*

I also write down:

  • ANYTHING I have to do later, or attend later — whatever tasks and time commitments come up for me during the meeting
  • ANYTHING other people promise to do, that my commitments rely on
  • Anything that is helpful for me to know to do my job — e.g. budget issues that might impact things I’m doing
  • Any questions that arise in my mind during the meeting (sometimes they are answered during the meeting, sometimes I want to remember to find something out later)

As soon as the meeting is over, I take ten or fifteen minutes to enter that stuff into my productivity system, whether it’s tasks, upcoming meetings or events, or knowing who I need to follow up with.

Even if you have someone recording official meeting minutes, your own notes help you filter what impacts you directly.

(If you want to turbo-charge this, start your note for the meeting ahead of time and write in any questions or comments you have, so you don’t forget to bring them up.)

I also have a notebook I use for personal appointments, such as with a doctor or an accountant. The information I put in there is pretty similar to what’s above — name, date, who’s there, what was discussed, what I have to do, what others promised to do, what I might want to know later.

If you want to use a paper notebook to record meeting or appointment notes, here is the quadrant system I use to to organize mine to quickly find specific information later.


* I can’t tell the Internet the story of how this saved my bacon, but once, it DID save my bacon that I had my own notes about who attended a meeting that later stirred up some controversy. It’s good to know who was in the room sometimes.

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