Useful Notes Layouts: Use a Topics / Thoughts Log, for Meetings with Lots of New Information

Think of meetings or appointments where you are receiving the proverbial fire-hose of new information, such as:

  • buying a house or a car
  • job interviews
  • informational meetings
  • meetings where you’re joining a new team, or volunteering for a new organization
  • grant or business proposals
  • feedback on a major project or product

How do those meetings end?

Usually someone closes by saying, “Do you have any questions?” — and you know you will, but can’t think of any in the moment.

Or, you might think later about a point you wanted to make and forgot to bring up.

The Topics / Thoughts Log: Save Everyone from Unnecessary Follow-Up Conversations

Today I’ll show you a notes layout that saves you from realizing the next day, that you forgot to bring something important up.

The Topics / Thoughts log allows you to track the questions that arise in your mind, and any points you want to make, during meetings where a lot of new information is coming at you.

Log the topics that come up in the conversation on the left side of the page; log your thoughts that come up in the moment, on the right side.

At the end of the conversation, when they ask, “Any questions?” you say, “Just a moment, let me look at my notes.”

Review the log of your thoughts to make sure all your questions have been answered, and all your points have been made before the conversation closes.

Example: Preparing to Buy Your First Fire-Breathing Dragon

Let’s say you’re in the market for a fire-breathing dragon; just a little one, to toast some marshmallows, and start up the wood stove on a frosty morning.

But small dragons are hard to find! Most fire-breathing dragons really need to be homed with castles and serious acreage. You want a mini-dragon, and those are in high demand.

The breeders at Waggin’ Dragon Enterprises assure you they have one mini-dragon available. Since you’ve never owned a dragon before, they want to meet with you first.

You’re feeling excited, and a little nervous (what if they don’t think you can care for a dragon, and won’t sell one to you?).

Before you sit down for that important meeting, set up your Topics / Thoughts log.

Start your Thoughts / Topics log with a header including the date, the main topic, and the names of people present for the conversation. Get in the habit of making sure all your meeting notes have context.

For the actual Topics / Thoughts log, below the header, you’ll set up your notebook page with two columns:

  • Topics column on the left
  • Thoughts column on the right

In the left column, you’ll note down what the Waggin’ Dragon people say; you’ll keep a running log of topics as they come up in the conversation.

In the right column, you’ll note down what thoughts pop into your mind as the conversation flows: questions, concerns, things you want to bring up before the meeting ends.

In your quest to acquire a mini-dragon, the Waggin’ Dragon people bring up the following points; which you log into your Topic column:

“Some people think dragon smoke smells pleasant, like incense… Say, have you ever tried smoked toast?… We find, when it comes to something as important for your family as home heating, it’s wise to have backup fire-lighting sources on hand, like matches; it takes a lot of dragon breath to get one of those going.”

On the right side, you write down your thoughts in response to the topics that came up.

“Ooooh, hadn’t thought of that; I’m glad dragon smoke smells relatively pleasant … Smoked toast. Hmmm. What about toasted toast? This is the second time they’ve brought up the topic of smoke, instead of fire… But… I want the dragon to light the fire… wait a minute… “

layout of topics / thoughts notes

“Any questions?” asks the Waggin’ Dragon rep brightly.

So you clear your throat and say, “I just want to clarify something: you’ve brought up the benefits of dragon smoke a few times, but can your mini-dragon reliably breathe fire …?”

And good luck with finding the right dragon!

It’s out there for you, I know it.


Normally I hand-write my meeting notes; which keeps me focused. In the example photo above, however, I typed the notes so you could read them.

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