Stop Taking Meeting Notes And Start Writing Action Steps

Possibly because of a tragic final exam experience in college, I’ve become an obsessive note taker. I have a couple of note apps on my iPhone, I have two notebooks in my briefcase, and I carry small index cards and a tiny pen in my pocket everywhere except bed (but I also have a notepad and pencil on my nightstand.) After client meetings, I used to walk away with pages of notes. But a few years ago I realized that in most cases, I never looked at those notes again. After the meetings, they were filed away never to be seen again.

After that realization, I stopped taking notes and started writing action steps based on the meeting. My need wasn’t to record the meeting, my need was to write down what I needed to accomplish as a result of the meeting.  That’s why action steps are so important. Sure – sometimes you want to note what decisions were made, or what a project is about. But a FAR more important task is to know what to do next.

Try it. Instead of taking detailed meeting notes, start thinking about what you need to do after the meeting. Write them down as the meeting happens, so that when the meeting is finished, your “to-do” list is ready to go. I also jot down people I should delegate the action steps to as well. This is why Note apps such as Apple Notes or Evernote are so helpful. Once I’ve finished my list in Apple Notes, I can immediately email the action steps to my team.

And for what it’s worth, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can contribute to meetings when you don’t feel the need to be writing down everything!

Anyone experienced this technique? What have been your results?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thank you for this post, Phil. I have a keyboard on my iPad. I have nearly 10,000 notes in Evernote. Every time I’m in a meeting, I take detailed notes of everything talked about…and then I never look at them again.

    I’m going to try this for the next couple weeks: Action points only (save details needed for those action items). I have a feeling I’m going to save a lot of time, participate more and weed out my Evernote clutter!

  • Mark Morgan

    couldn’t agree more – it’s so true, very essential and really does transform productivity and tangible value taken away from meetings, talks, etc

  • Warren Bird

    This is exactly what I’ve done for years, and with huge increases in my effectiveness, I believe. I carry it one step further by DOING as many of the actions as possible: I email someone based on what was said in a meeting, I tweet something said, I build a quote into an article I’m writing, At the end of the meeting, my “notes” have gone a dozen different directions. THANKS, Phil, for giving words to this approach and for validating it for others.

  • I’ve done this at CHURCH, It has made “listening to” sermons more valuable by actually planning to execute what I’ve learned. Need to start doing this again!

  • Tina Thompson – Run With It

    The best clients for a project manager are those willing to use an online collaboration tool such as Wrike. Discussions become task focused in order to review, update and add to the online tool team members have access to 24 hours a day. Enter each task beginning with an action word such as Design, Call, Research, Book, Confirm (it’s not a task if it’s not an action), and your meetings will focus on the action items generated from great ideas.

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  • Anurag Bose

    You are so very right when you say that notes are filed away and forgotten. When I am able to have enough energy at the end of the day go through the notes to convert into action points. Will try you suggestion next time I’m in a meeting. Thanks a ton!!

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