Effective note taking may seem like such a basic skill that it’s too elementary to include in a corporate training program or so fundamental that you’d assume all employees would have already learned it at some point. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.
By teaching employees a few simple concepts and practices, you can capitalize on the many crucial benefits of effective note taking.
Benefits of Effective Note Taking
First, let’s consider the benefits of effectively taking notes. The most obvious is information retention. Employers often get frustrated and are surprised when their staff forget or incorrectly recall key action items, deadlines, or other information.
It’s as though it went in one ear and out the other or somehow became mangled somewhere in between. Effectively taking notes helps eliminate this challenge.
Additionally, good notes document the impressions of information at a given point in time. Opinions, feelings, and information change over time, so it can be easy to look back at a meeting from 2 weeks ago and perceive things very differently. Documenting initial perceptions during the meeting is critical for maintaining the integrity of meeting activities, decisions, and outcomes.
There are some important basics of note taking all employees should understand. Even those not required to take formal notes can benefit from following these practices for their own personal note taking.
- Document key decisions—Documenting important decisions is critical for good note taking. This might include a course of action directed by a manager or a pricing decision for a sales opportunity. It’s simply a waste of time to have to revisit information to reach the same conclusions.
- Outline next steps—Whether it’s making a call to a customer, compiling a report, or giving internal training, documenting the next items to complete as part of a project keeps things moving forward and avoids indecision when staff are unsure what to do next.
- Identify and assign action items—Whether the notes are for personal use or for distribution to the rest of the team, documenting action items is one of the most essential elements of note taking. Action items should include a clear description of the task, as well as to whom it’s assigned and when it’s due.
Taking notes is about more than just jotting down what people say or the highlights of a report. Note taking positively impacts productivity and results by ensuring important decisions are documented and action items are assigned and tracked and that everyone has the same perception of what occurred in a meeting.