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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

The Trick That Ensures You'll Never Leave Another Meeting Not Knowing What to Do Next

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You’ve just finished a meeting and you’ve been assigned a specific set of tasks as a result. Before you close your laptop and grab a snack, what will you do with your notes? Your thoughts and ideas? Your to-dos?

If you’re like me, you’ll want to take advantage of the buzz, the motivation, and the ideas circling in your brain before you lose them for good.

When I was in college, I went to a workshop on note-taking. Amongst lots of great tips, I learned that adding symbols in my notes could help me organize them and understand what action (or non-action) was needed when I went back to read them.

So, I developed a short key:

  • A triangle indicated that I needed to learn more about a topic.
  • A small dot meant the information was important but required no further action at the moment (in other words, I got it).
  • And a circle meant it required action involving someone else (such as following up with the professor to feel more comfortable with the material).

At some point in my career, when things got really busy and I felt I was being pulled in many different directions (and into many different meetings), I found I had to have a way to keep track of my work to-dos. So, I reached back to my college days and remembered the simple process I used and modified it for what I do now.

The key to making this work for you, of course, only applies if you handwrite your notes. Now, I know you’re probably glued to your computer at all hours of the day, but handwriting your notes is not only great for your memory, but it forces you to be fully attentive in meetings (making it impossible to be distracted by tabs or emails). So, close your computer and start toting a notebook whenever you meet with people.

Then, leave your meetings making sure you understand your next steps.

If you don’t, you can always ask, “Before we finish up, I just want to be clear on who’s doing what…” or “Question: Is this something I should be following up on?” Once you’re sure what the next steps are, mark up your notes accordingly.

Then, once you know what your deliverables are (based on anything marked with a triangle or circle), you can then transfer them over to your to-do list—whether it’s on paper or your computer.

That’s all there is to it! Using this method, you can be sure you’ll come out of every meeting energized, organized, and sure of what you need to do going forward.

And there’s no better feeling than having a truly productive meeting.