You’re Probably Taking Meeting Notes Wrong—Here’s a Quick Fix

Taking good meeting notes isn’t complicated. Here are three easy-yet-powerful note-taking strategies you can implement before your next meeting.
Matthew Ritchie
Advice
July 5, 2022
7 minute read

As a former journalist, people expect me to take great notes. 

For over a decade, I chased around celebrities and local politicians, sat in frenzied press conferences, and had revealing one-on-one conversations with people—all in an attempt to get a story (or adequately tell someone else’s).

But here’s a secret: I’m actually terrible at taking notes.

Given my history, I’m often called upon in meetings to take notes.

Usually, they’re indecipherable—a collage of random scribblings, thoughts, and asides—and rarely beneficial to me on the best of days.

That’s why I recently made it my mission to learn the best way to take meeting notes, once and for all.

With Zoom calls making up most of our time at work, it’s essential to learn how to take great meeting notes.

But while researching, I found a lot of outdated and impractical information that didn’t seem relevant to most people, like me, who are trying to capture and organize meeting notes coherently while working remotely.

Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do if you want to take notes you’ll actually use after each meeting.

Three Simple-Yet-Effective Tips for Taking Better Notes in a Meeting

Ditch the Notepad

Meeting notes are essentially glorified reminders that let you keep track of any ideas that were discussed, information you need to retain, thoughts you had, or to-dos that need to be acted upon after the meeting.

But if you use pen and paper, you’re probably doing a disservice to yourself.

That’s because not only does it take longer to write things out by hand, but if your handwriting (like mine) is a total mess, it’ll be harder for other people (and maybe even yourself) to read what you’ve written down, forcing you to transcribe it digitally later on.

The reasoning behind using a traditional pen and paper for taking notes is that writing things out by hand is better for remembering information over the long term. But most of the studies that back this information up are focused on students who need to process and retain information for future tests or understand it at a conceptual level.

In a professional setting, digital notetaking apps allow you to encode, store, and retrieve information—essentially, the same process as memory formation, but without the excess brain power required to remember everything. And frankly, that’s kind of the whole point of taking notes during a meeting: to remind yourself of certain information, so you don’t have to constantly think about it.

If you want to take notes fast, store them, and share them later on without overthinking things, then an app designed for taking notes is the way to go. 

Further Reading: The Ideal Meeting Length is 5 Minutes Shorter Than You Think

Simplify Your Notes, But Don’t Overdo It

One of the most common mistakes people make when taking notes during a meeting is to try and write everything down (for fear of missing out on anything important). 

But it’s impossible to get everything down verbatim (that’s what recording meetings are for).

As an alternative, many people suggest using shorthand: an abbreviated symbolic writing method traditionally used by administrative assistants and court stenographers.

“With shorthand, you can write as fast as 225 WPM once you’ve mastered the system,” writes Monday.com. “The downside is that you’ll have to learn a slightly different writing system that looks like scribbles.”

Sounds terrible.

The University of New South Wales has some great, simple advice: paraphrase information so it makes sense to you, except where it needs to be noted precisely.

Rather than waste your time learning an entirely new language that is only decipherable to you and secretaries from the 1970s, try to simplify your writing by sticking to phrases, not full sentences, and using common abbreviations you can understand.

Related Article: How to Run a Team Meeting Over Zoom, According to Experts

Use a Template to Save Time and Create Structure

If you feel overwhelmed when you begin taking notes at each meeting, it could be because you feel unprepared.

Thankfully, there are a lot of templates and meeting note formats to choose from. The bad news is that many of the most recommended ones—like the Cornell Method, Quadrant System, Presentation System, and Mind-Mapping Method—are overly visual, hard to replicate when taking notes digitally, and downright confusing for most meetings.

Seriously, what’s happening here?

But there’s a tried-and-true classic that still works in modern times: the Outline Method.

The Outline Method is simple, according to Missouri State:

  • Write points in an organized manner based on space indentation
  • Place major points farthest to the left
  • Indent each more specific point farther to the right (level of importance is indicated by distance away from [the] left margin)

That’s it.

Why this works so well is that most meeting agendas are already structured this way, with headings and bullet points used to add context, clarification, and direction for what will be discussed ahead of time.

So, next time you roll up into a meeting, copy and paste the agenda into your notes app and add any additional information or action items below each section. Then, if you need to share it later on, you can update the existing agenda items in your calendar event or copy and paste it as a reply to the original meeting invite. 

If that doesn’t work, make your own with headings, subheadings, and sections for key points, general ideas, follow-up questions, and tasks to do or assign after the meeting.

Struggling to organize your thoughts and moments at work? Join the waitlist for the new Nook app.

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.  
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