Dealing with Meeting Notes

Following on my last article about Why Meeting Notes Makes Sense I came across this article by David Allen. The founder of GTD (Getting Things Done) I love his approach to increasing efficiency and productivity in my life and have attended one of his workshops. He has written several books (which I have read) and has a multi million dollar business from his thoughts and practices!

This is a a great and educational read…Enjoy!

A common bad habit I have come across with managers and executives in recent years is the accumulation of unprocessed meeting notes. It is heartbreaking to see so much effort go into the creation of meetings and the capturing of what goes on, and the stress created and value lost from irresponsible management of the results. At least 80 percent of the professionals I work with have pockets of unprocessed meeting notes nested away in spiral notebooks, folders, drawers and piles of papers.

Processing your Meeting Notes
Process meeting notes by determining what actions are required, and transmitting and storing useful information.

 What needs to happen now, based on the meeting? And who’s doing it? Make sure you decide if you have any projects and actionable items. If so, decide the next actions on them, and track those in your reminder system. Are there any deliverables other people committed to that you care about? If so, track those on your Waiting For reminder list.

 Does anyone else need an update or debrief from you? If so, pass that information on appropriately.

Is there any information that was shared that doesn’t have action tied to it, but possibly needs to be retrieved in the future? If so, put it in your reference system – into support or information files organized by project, theme or topic. Update client histories and project status reports.

Systematically review and process your notes
(1) Throw your meeting notes into your in-basket as soon as you can or,

(2) Use a check-off system for marking when your notes have been sufficiently reviewed for actions and information to store.

If you like to write notes on pads of lined paper (like I do), then option one above is the best. Just tear the notes off as soon as you’re finished with the meeting, and toss them into your in-basket until you can go through them for actions and information to store as reference/support. An advantage over diary-like note-taking is that the original pages of notes themselves can be tossed ASAP, or they can be stored as raw support material in project or topic folders, if that might be useful or comforting as backup later.

If you use a spiral or loose-leaf notebook for chronological journal-writing (as many execs do), then option two works, but you must be in the habit of reviewing those notes regularly, and have some way to code that the notes have been processed – either by crossing out the paragraphs, or putting checkmarks in the margins, drawing lines across the page between meetings, thoughts or captured items. It needs to be visually clear what’s been processed and what hasn’t. The advantage to this method is that you could keep the processed notes at hand to retrace things if required, and if you’re carrying a notebook for other reasons anyway, then it’s one less piece of hardware to carry along. If you work with a loose-leaf planner, I recommend that you take notes into a notes tabbed section, and at least once a week clean out all the previous pages to start fresh.

Reprinted with permission from the David Allen Company. © The David Allen Company 2002. All rights reserved.

David Allen is an author, lecturer, and founder and President of the David Allen Company, a management consulting, coaching and training company.

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