Meetings can move at a mile a minute, so it’s essential to record everything that comes up, from action items to valuable brainstorming. A strong note-taking strategy will help you keep track of everything important that happens, and there are note-taking methods that suit every style. Below, you’ll find the best note-taking strategies to make the most of your time and, most importantly, take notes productively and practically.
- The importance of effective note-taking
- 7 of the best note-taking strategies
- How to use Fellow for effective meeting note-taking
- Tips for effective note-taking
The importance of effective note-taking
Good note-taking isn’t just writing down everything that was said. Your goal is to capture the most important information in a way that’s easy to review later. You should also have an easy way to share notes with your team, especially if you’re collaborating on a big project. Effective note-taking saves time after the meeting since your notes are already nice and organized.
Note-taking has benefits beyond giving you a near-transcript of your meeting—it can also help improve your focus. In fact, expert studies have shown that the act of taking notes can actually help you remember what you’re typing. Building good note-taking habits is a great strategy for boosting overall job performance.
Pave the way for meaningful conversations
Don’t just take notes; make them work for you in driving action and fostering clear communication. Try a tool like Fellow!
7 of the best note-taking strategies
If you want to take good notes, here are some of the most effective note-taking techniques that all kinds of teams use.
- Cornell method
- Box method
- Sentence method
- Mapping method
- Outlining method
- Charting method
This method first emerged as a strategy for note-taking for students, but it’s helpful for keeping your notes structured at work too. You’ll divide your notes into three sections, with one column each for “main notes” and “cues,” and a “summary” section at the bottom. The main notes are everything you jot down during your meeting. Afterward, you’ll review everything, add keywords or lingering questions to the cues column, and include a brief synopsis in the bottom summary.
The Cornell method makes your notes easy to quickly skim. When your manager asks you what happened at the last team meeting, you can answer in an instant. Using this method does mean you’ll have to take some extra time after a meeting to identify the key points, though.
If you’re a visual learner, you might want to try the box method of note-taking during meetings. You’ll draw a box in your note-taking app for each subject or subtopic that arises and fill each box in with key ideas. To start, draw the side and top lines of a box and fill in the bottom closing line once a topic has wrapped up. This way, it’s fine if a subject takes more space than you first anticipated.
It can be challenging to get all your notes down quickly with this method. Instead, you might prefer this approach for organizing notes immediately after a meeting.
The sentence note-taking method is fairly straightforward. For every key point raised in your meeting, you’ll type out full-sentence bullet points summarizing the information. This method allows you to capture a greater level of detail, but it’s not always the most visually appealing—more text means more cluttered notes. If you write everything in your own words, though, it’s a good sign that you understand the topics covered in your meeting.
If you’re the type of person who loves to connect the dots, this note-taking approach might be for you. Start your notes with a main idea in the center. As subtopics and details come up in your meeting, type them out and link them to your main idea using lines or arrows. You can add color-coded meeting themes to make your notes even more visually appealing.
This method is great for whiteboard exercises and team brainstorming. It can take up some room in your note-taking app, though, so you may have to use a larger template.
The outlining method is one of the most tried and true note-taking tricks in the book. Underneath any main ideas, you’ll list supporting details in quick keywords and shorthand phrases. The classic approach is to use Roman numerals for the main points and numbers or letters for supporting subpoints. If you prefer simple bullet points, though, nobody said you can’t use them!
Outlining allows you to keep up with the pace of your meeting while keeping everything streamlined. However, it’s not the best method if you need to capture large visuals such as charts. Other than in that highly specific scenario, outlined notes are pretty user-friendly both during and after a meeting. If you have access to your meeting agenda ahead of time, you can also use that to set up your outline.
If you’re collaborating on a project that requires comparing ideas, the charting note-taking method could benefit your team. Your notes will look similar to a spreadsheet. You’ll have a column to the side on your key points as well as row headers with all the areas you want to compare and contrast. For example, you might have a few ideas for fundraising campaigns in the first column and then row headers listing the advantages, disadvantages, and resources needed.
If your meeting is following a more linear structure, this note-taking strategy might be a bit challenging. However, when you need to see ideas side by side, charting is great for decision making.
This method is perfect for the artistically inclined notetaker. You’ll write down key topics and subtopics in any format that works for you and add supporting visual elements along the way. You can include mapping or drawings as they relate to the topic.
If you’re working on projects that use any kind of images, such as marketing materials, this is a great way to capture your initial ideas. It’s not the most structured way to take notes, but the visuals can help break up any unorganized text.
How to use Fellow for effective meeting note-taking
Looking for note-taking features that adapt to your style? Try Fellow! Fellow offers 500+ ready-to-use meeting agenda templates—including this meeting notes template. Using one of Fellow’s meeting agenda templates, you can highlight key decisions and record updates to projects whether you’re in a weekly team meeting or talking to a client. If you need to give a presentation but can’t afford to stop capturing notes, Fellow also offers one of the best tools for AI note-taking. Fellow’s automated recording and searchable transcriptions ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Team leaders everywhere are discovering the many ways Fellow makes their lives easier. Mychelle Mollot, Chief Marketing Officer at Solace, explains how Fellow offers a complete solution for note-taking for productivity:
“Fellow solves three key problems around running meetings. First, creating the agenda. Then, with the ability to take notes, meeting management becomes much simpler. And finally, tracking the action items that come out of every meeting. Having everything in Fellow means we can track it and follow up on it.”
Tips for effective note-taking
Here are some suggestions for taking notes like a pro.
Don’t start from scratch at every meeting—consistently using a note-taking template keeps you organized. Find a template that covers all the categories you need in a meeting and stick to it.
As you get into the routine of using your preferred template, your brain will start to nearly automate the note-taking process. Plus, you can easily duplicate your template for every meeting and carry over pending meeting action items from your last conversation.
2Organize your notes
If you want to keep notes organized and easy to understand, you need structure. It’s important to be able to find the main points and action items at a glance, especially if your team will see your notes. The above note-taking strategies make a big difference, and you can find additional organizing tools in note-taking apps, too.
For example, you can use tags in Fellow for easy note categorization. This feature can be especially helpful for tracking the stages of a project or the status of pending client pitches.
3Summarize your notes
Your notes should include a quick summary of key takeaways and insights along with any pending questions. This is where AI summarizer platforms really come in handy. This technology reviews your typed notes and pulls out the most important points. If you prefer taking long-form notes, using AI tools to condense everything could save you tons of time reviewing your notes after the meeting.
4Use note-taking software
There are several advantages to digital note-taking vs. traditional handwritten notes. For starters, you don’t have to worry about typing up digital notes later when your manager asks for a copy. You also won’t have to struggle to read your own handwriting after you wrote something down in a hurry. Note-taking software introduces additional benefits, making your notes equally easy to read and write.
Fellow’s note-taking software integrates with your calendar so you don’t have to go digging for notes when it’s time for your meeting. With Fellow notes, all meeting action items are clear at the end of each meeting and the whole team sees them. You can also set automatic task reminders in Fellow so you don’t forget to follow up on anything.
“Whatever note-taking system you use, it’s important to remember that notes aren’t essays or transcripts. Make the effort of summarization. Not only will you better remember what matters, but it will be much easier to dig into your notes later, which is the whole purpose of note-taking.”— Sam Hickmann, Forbes
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to effective note-taking methods—it’s just a matter of figuring out which approach helps you best capture the details while creating an easy-to-read summary. Use Fellow to make the most of your favorite note-taking technique, track action items, collaborate with your team, and run better meetings.