By David Allen
A common bad habit I have come across with managers and executives in recent
years is the accumulation of unprocessed meeting notes. It is heartbreaking
to see so much effort go into the creation of meetings and the capturing of
what goes on, and the stress created and value lost from irresponsible management
of the results. At least 80 percent of the professionals I work with have pockets
of unprocessed meeting notes nested away in spiral notebooks, folders, drawers
and piles of papers.
Processing your Meeting Notes
Process meeting notes by determining what actions are required, and transmitting
and storing useful information.
needs to happen now, based on the meeting? And who’s doing it? Make sure
you decide if you have any projects and actionable items. If so, decide the
next actions on them, and track those in your reminder system. Are there any
deliverables other people committed to that you care about? If so, track those
on your Waiting For reminder list.
anyone else need an update or debrief from you? If so, pass that information
any information that was shared that doesn’t have action tied to it, but
possibly needs to be retrieved in the future? If so, put it in your reference
system – into support or information files organized by project, theme
or topic. Update client histories and project status reports.
Systematically review and process your notes
(1) Throw your meeting notes into your in-basket as soon as you can or,
(2) Use a check-off system for marking when your notes have been sufficiently
reviewed for actions and information to store.
you like to write notes on pads of lined paper (like I do), then option one
above is the best. Just tear the notes off as soon as you’re finished
with the meeting, and toss them into your in-basket until you can go through
them for actions and information to store as reference/support. An advantage
over diary-like note-taking is that the original pages of notes themselves can
be tossed ASAP, or they can be stored as raw support material in project or
topic folders, if that might be useful or comforting as backup later.
If you use a spiral or loose-leaf notebook for chronological journal-writing
(as many execs do), then option two works, but you must be in the habit of reviewing
those notes regularly, and have some way to code that the notes have been processed
– either by crossing out the paragraphs, or putting checkmarks in the
margins, drawing lines across the page between meetings, thoughts or captured
items. It needs to be visually clear what’s been processed and what hasn’t.
The advantage to this method is that you could keep the processed notes at hand
to retrace things if required, and if you’re carrying a notebook for other
reasons anyway, then it’s one less piece of hardware to carry along. If
you work with a loose-leaf planner, I recommend that you take notes into a notes
tabbed section, and at least once a week clean out all the previous pages to
Reprinted with permission from the David Allen Company. © The David Allen
Company 2002. All rights reserved. www.davidco.com
David Allen is an author, lecturer, and founder and President of the David
Allen Company, a management consulting, coaching and training company.