Strategies for Optimizing the Effectiveness of Your Meeting Notes


If you’ve been involved in academics for any length of time, you’ve already realized that a large chunk of your career is going to be spent sitting in meetings. There are trainings for mandatory knowledge, like OSHA and ethics, trainings for pedagogy, new computer software instruction, meetings for student concerns, and so much more.

Sure, you could be like many of the other participants and bring your grading or find other ways to pass the time. But if you want to move ahead with your career, you should make the best of the information you’re receiving during each meeting. You likely see some people taking notes, and that’s not a bad idea. The problem is that most of those notes will get lost in the myriad of other papers in the classroom, or shoved to the side, never to be seen again. But if you optimize your meeting notes for the most effectiveness, you can use them as you’d tell your students: to get further ahead.

Why Note-Taking Helps

We teach our students to take notes in class from as early on as they can write and listen at the same time. This skill is beneficial in multiple ways, but the main one is that writing down what is said forces you to pay attention to the speaker or author. You’re able to focus better when you’re in a classroom setting or reading a book. This focus and attention then cements the information into your brain more thoroughly, which means you’ve learned the knowledge on a deeper level.

Note-taking also connects your mind and body, ensuring that you stay awake and alert. We know that it’s common in meetings to start to feel drowsy or distracted. This is normal. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve been able to sit down all day and turn our minds off of full-speed. Even if we’re interested in the information presented, our bodies are still ready to rest. Taking notes reminds your brain it’s not time to relax yet.

However, we teach our students to take notes as a method of organizing information and processing what’s important versus what isn’t necessary. As you write, you single out the key ideas, figure out what is essential, and structure your notes in such a way that you connect ideas and details. Ultimately, this turns into a summary of what you read or heard that you can then use later to remind yourself of the information — as long as you took the notes in an organized manner.

Strategies to Organize Your Notes for Maximum Effectiveness

Ready to put those notes together in a way that ensures you can actually use them? Start with these note-taking strategies:

●      Set your notes up before you enter the meeting. Start with a heading that includes the date and time, as well as the general purpose. Write down a few questions that you hope to have answered through this time.

●      While the person is presenting their information, you may want to write everything they say down. Try to avoid this as it’s an easy way to miss key ideas and relevant details. Instead, summarize the main ideas and leave open space. Then, when there are breaks in the discussion, go back and fill in what you remember.

●      Use a strategy that works for you. Some people underline the key ideas. Others prefer to use color-coding with pens and highlighters. You’ve learned multiple strategies for taking notes, and regardless of which one you choose, if you don’t incorporate action behind those words, the strategy doesn’t work. Pick a strategy and stick with it, and use these steps to make it effective.

●      Remain focused on the actionable words. These will tell you what you need to do next and help you to organize your steps.

●      Turn those action words into steps when you get back to your computer. Open your calendar or other task platform and insert actionable to-dos while they’re fresh in your head. Include a small snippet that will jar your memory about what you need to do and why it’s important, then assign a date to it.

Share Your New Knowledge With Your Impactio Community

Did you learn something new and important in your meeting? Share it with your Impactio network. The Impactio community is full of like-minded people who may appreciate the information coming down the pipeline. Reach out and connect with other scholars, and they could have knowledge you needed, too.


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