Taking Notes for Work: Why and How

September 30, 20212:25 pm769 views
Taking Notes for Work: Why and How
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Be it for work, personal or academic purposes, taking notes is often a trade-off between production and comprehension. There are people who jot down everything in a fear of missing out on important stuff. However, as they often find themselves more indulgent in note-taking rather than what is being carried out in the meeting, these people lack in what is called meaningful learning. At the same time, people who only listen without taking notes will be more likely to either forget most of the meeting’s materials or simply lose track of the objective of the meeting.

The solution to this seemingly impossible trade-off is simple: balance the amount of time you listen to the speaker with the time you spend writing notes. All you have to do is wait for the speaker to finish all their points or materials before writing anything down. By doing so, you let yourself get immersed in absorbing the new information without worrying that you would forget anything after. Now comes a question, in any working situation, how to note-take in an environment where several people could participate at the same time?

Taking notes in a collaborative environment

Note-taking for work can be objectively more difficult and tricky compared to personal or academic notes because first, it needs to be clear enough to be understood not just by you but also by others who did and did not attend the meeting. Second, there are times when note-taking requires a collaborative effort which is another challenge to overcome.

Jeff Su, Google’s product marketing manager, recently shared some tips for to do note-taking in a collaborative working environment. Su believes that taking notes for professionals should always be action-oriented. The goal should be summarizing main takeaways and also listing the specific action items for each individual because that is what drives the project forward.

He specifically categorized his note-taking methods into two types of meetings. 

Read Also: 5 Tips to Stay Engaged in Online Meetings

Taking notes for one team meeting

First of all, he recommends using spreadsheets instead of word documents because taking notes in a team setting should allow multiple contributors to participate. He emphasizes that everyone who will be presenting in a scheduled meeting should always prepare five things beforehand: 1) Their agenda for the meeting, 2) Time estimation for delivering the presentation, 3) Link to related resources, 4) Key takeaways, and 5) Action items.


Template for one team meeting spreadsheets. Source: Jeff Su

Key takeaways and action items are written beforehand to make sure the meeting stays in the course and help the assigned note-taker to write only when there are new ideas or topics that are being brought up during the meeting.

Taking notes for a cross-functional team meeting

Note-taking for multiple team meetings is going to be slightly different. Su still advises to keep the note in spreadsheets, yet the focus of taking notes in this environment should be creating synergy among all teams involved. It is always best to let each team learn what other teams are currently working on and how they are progressing each week, that is why it is important to have all of that information on the same tab.


Template for multiple teams meeting spreadsheets. Source: Jeff Su

Creating an effective workflow is key to streamlined business processes. More than being time-efficient and target-oriented, having collaborative notes could also increase your communication skills and manifest a great relationship with your colleagues. Ready to implement these templates for your weekly team meetings? Go to Jeff Su’s website to make a copy of his templates that have been made free by clicking here.

Another article on the productive series: Mind Mapping Skill: The Best Self-Investment for Work