Bad notes can make a good meeting go to waste. However, there’s never a bad day for good notes. Learning how to note-take effectively — which involves using a note-taking template and knowing what to jot down and what to leave out — can help you and your team stay on the same page, know what actions to take after a meeting, and review notes when someone is absent or when an important point slips your mind.
In this article, we’ve got the note-taking strategies you need to know to make the most of every meeting, no matter what type of organization you’re in.
How to note-take effectively: 5 note-taking strategies
Unless you’ve got superhuman memorization skills, you probably don’t remember 100% of the meetings you attend. Good notes can help you boost your retention while also acting as the ultimate fallback plan for the times you do forget. Plus, they can give your team members the key information and action items they need when they aren’t able to attend.
Here are five effective note-taking strategies you can implement to improve your notes:
1. Choose a note-taking method
All effective notes need a little bit of structure. Learning how to note-take effectively starts with choosing the rightnote-taking method for you. Here are four popular options you can choose from:
If you’re having a structured meeting, like aboard meeting or aPTO meeting, using the Cornell method can help you stay organized and focused on main points instead of trying to catch every word. Cornell notes are divided into three key sections:
A cue section, which is a small left column for keywords, main ideas, and questions
A notes section, which is a larger right column that includes more detailed notes for each cue
A summary section, which is a horizontal row at the bottom of your page that summarizes key takeaways andaction items
Many note-takers also include a small, horizontal title section at the top of the page, where you can jot down your meeting date, topic, and location.
If you’ve got a long meeting ahead of you or want to take notes worrying about their length, the outline method can keep your notes flexible and organized. All you need to do is break your notes into bullet points by using a clear hierarchy:
Main topics: The headings, which remain the furthest left on your page
Subtopics:Main topics, which are one indent in, under relevant main topics
Key points: Your primary notes, which are two indents in, under relevant subtopics
For the spreadsheet lovers in the world, the charting method is an ideal note-taking strategy that lets you break down your notes into organized columns and rows. The first column should be dedicated to yourmeeting agenda items. However, the rest is up to you. Feel free to include columns for speakers, descriptions or notes, action items, and more.
Want to escape rigid structures and text-heavy notes? Visual learners and creative strategists often use mind maps to make notes a little less formal, more intuitive to follow, and easier to digest. This note-taking strategy uses arrows and lines to connect relevant main ideas, subtopics, and notes.
Pro tip: Use a digital note-taking tool likeGitMind to build mind maps that aren’t limited by the size of your paper.
2. Plan your notes ahead of time
When you’re typing or writing notes, you don’t have any time to waste. In the time it takes for you to type three letters, you can probably say three words. To save time, you don’t want to get caught up with revising column sizes or figuring out when a new section should begin when you’re already in your meeting.
It’s good note-taking practice to plan your notes in advance. One way you can do so is by using yourteam meeting agenda as an outline. You can write each agenda item as a heading, so all you need to do is add subheadings and notes during your meeting. If possible, leave a larger amount of space for agenda items that you expect to be particularly important or long.
3. Use abbreviations
One of the best note-taking strategies for saving time is using abbreviations and symbols as you’re jotting information down. Since people usually speak a lot faster than you can type, this is key to keeping up with the discussion instead of missing important points.
It can take some time to refine this note-taking skill. Great note-takers memorizecommon shorthand for a large number of words — for example, “b/w” for between and “∵” for “because” — that may not be fully intuitive. Others simply use the system of leaving out vowels.
Many note-takers also make their own shorthand system for industry terms that always come up. However, if you do this, make sure to write down the abbreviations you’ll consistently use. There’s nothing worse than taking great notes, only for them to appear like gibberish when you forget your system or someone else needs to type up your notes.
After your meeting, go back into your notes page to write out the words you abbreviated before sharing the document with the rest of your team.
4. Focus on key points
If you’re writing exactly what your meeting participants say, you’re wasting a lot of time — even if you’re abbreviating every word. There’s no need to write verbatim notes or full sentences. Always focus on the key concepts, decisions, and action items discussed during your meetings, and write them in your own words (as briefly as possible).
If you need verbatim quotes — for example, if you’re publishing a Q&A — or just want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, useautomatic note-taking software. A tool like Anchor AI transcribes your entire meeting for you. You’ll save yourself a lot of effort, get more accurate notes, and never risk a finger cramp again.
5. Highlight keywords
Unless you’ve chosen mind mapping as your note-taking strategy, your notes can easily look like a huge block of text by the time you’re done with them. This can be overwhelming, especially for anyone who’s looking at your notes for the first time.
If you want to take better notes, highlight, bold, or underline keywords throughout your page. When you go back to review your notes, it’ll be a lot easier to skim the page and find the information you’re looking for.
You can always complete this step after your meeting is over. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with this task during the meeting if you’re too busy typing away.
Automate effective notes with Anchor AI
Note-taking should never be a stressful activity. When you implement effective note-taking strategies — like selecting a structured note-taking method, using shorthand, and highlighting keywords — you can make your notes easy to read and put into action. Knowing what to leave out (like verbatim quotes) can also help you save a massive amount of time.
However, even if you memorize abbreviations for every world in the English language, taking manual notes is never the most efficient option. Thanks to automated note-taking software, you don’t need a dedicated note-taker to capture your meeting at all.
Anchor AI can do the work for you, providing a complete, searchable transcription of your video calls that’s complete with time stamps and speakers. It’ll also highlight keywords and action items, so you can easily get the gist of a meeting and understand what needs to be done. Join the beta test group to be one of the first to try Anchor AI.