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Published on September 10, 2018

How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

Writing the meeting minutes can seem like a daunting task at first. There is a group of people talking about numerous subjects in a crunched amount of time. Your job is to decide what is most important and record it in such a way that will be clear for everyone to review later.

Meeting minutes are valuable for several reasons. They can be vital for keeping team members accountable. They are used to inform those who were not present at the meeting. They are a history record so that ideas and decisions are not forgotten.

Keeping the minutes for your meetings may be stressful, but they can be invaluable. Your team members will be extremely grateful when you can pull out your meeting minutes in the future to remind them of important tasks and answer forgotten questions.

The following tips will help you to create effective meeting minutes. Even if you’ve had experience taking minutes before, you may find something that will help make you more effective:

1. Know what the meeting will be about beforehand

Whoever is in charge of the meeting should have an agenda prepared for you to review before the meeting begins. You can use this agenda to help prepare your note organization, which you’ll be very grateful for later.

For organizing your notes, it will be useful to create a template of sorts that you can quickly fill out during the meeting.

If you don’t have an agenda, perhaps that task will fall on you. An agenda is very helpful for helping meetings run smoothly and efficiently.

You can spur on your leadership team to create one. Or you can create your own by asking around for what talking points the meeting leaders have.

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2. Set up your meeting minutes template

It will be easier to adjust your digital notes if mistakes or changes are made. If you’re not a strong typer though, it may be best to stick with pen and paper and then rewrite what is most important later.

For clean digital notes, you can try using email newsletter templates you can find online to stay organized. They are visually attractive for sharing (more on that later). Digital notes will also be easier to distribute in general.

Another option for creating a digital outline is by using tables in Google Docs. Pick or create the right template or program to fit the information you will need to write.

3. Organize what you will be writing

Each organization and perhaps team will have different looking templates for their meeting minutes. The important thing is to decide what information is important and create a clear organization surrounding that.

You may want to consult with the meeting members before and after each meeting to see what their preferences for the meeting minutes are.

Here are some important items to put in your meeting minutes:[1]

  • Date and time
  • Attendees
  • Minutes from previous meeting
  • Decisions made, action items
  • Next meeting date and time

Attendees are important to be listed so that they can be held accountable and for record-keeping purposes. You can also list who was unable to attend the meeting and be sure to have someone review your meeting minutes with them later.

For action items, make sure to list specific steps that need to be taken and who is responsible for each portion. Action items should stand out among all the content in their own section or by being placed in bold font. These are likely the most important items of your meeting minutes.

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Again, more or less content may be desired by the team members based on your first few trials. Consult with them to find out what else should be included or what should be removed. They may also prefer a different design layout.

Take feedback with a grain of salt and try to gain a group consensus as much as possible. What one person might prefer, may not be best for the whole group.

4. Take good notes

There are many methods for note-taking, so you will need to find which works best for you.

Remember that you don’t need to write down every word said. Just write down an abridged version of what is important for the members of the meeting to remember later.

If you’re worried about grabbing all the important information, you can even try recording the notes with your phone or computer to review later. Be thorough, but don’t stress yourself out.

You can always ask someone to quickly review anything you may have missed. Your team will be grateful when you ask for clarification because they understand the importance of having those details later.

If you find yourself struggling to stay attentive, your meeting minutes will likely suffer. Make sure you have enough energy by having a snack and drink before. Eliminate distractions like your phone. You might have to sacrifice sitting next to your favorite coworker if you find yourself whispering back and forth too much.

Just remember the importance of your task. You don’t want to be responsible for missing an important decision or action item.

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Some items should have due dates. Action items may need listed steps to accomplish. All action items should have a name attached to who is accomplishing them.

If the meeting leader fails to assign an action item to someone or a due date, they will appreciate you asking. Apple’s Steve Jobs had a “Directly Responsible Individual” (DRI) for each task assigned in a meeting.

Due dates and names ensure that tasks are accomplished. This isn’t a grocery list, it’s a map to the next week.

5. Make it attractive

What good are meeting minutes if no one wants to read them?

You should already have a neat and organized template. Add elements that will make it easier to digest like proper use of bold fonts and italics. Bold fonts can be used for section headings or to highlight very important information.

Don’t use too much bold font though or else it will lose it’s value and become cluttered. Colored fonts can also often look tacky or draw too much attention; so be careful in how you use them.

A colored border might be effective for outlining an important action points section. Experiment and see what works best for making your meeting minutes attractive.

Besides highlighting important information with attractive design, you can take a chance to improve branding within the workplace. By including branding in your meeting minutes you can inspire greater brand consistency among your team members.[2] They will see the effort you are making and how attractive the material is, then want to apply that to their own outputs. Add your organization’s logo and brand colors.

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Above all though, keep the minutes organization digestible.

6. Distribute the minutes

Your meeting minutes should be distributed as soon as possible after the meeting so that the team members can get to work on the action items. This is also crucial for anyone who may have missed the meeting.

It is the easiest to distribute the minutes digitally through email or by providing a Google Doc link that everyone can look at. Many people still prefer a printed copy to keep with them. That way they can take notes on it and physically cross out items as they complete them.

You can either have those available at a common spot in the office or ask who would like a printed copy delivered to them.

Final thoughts

Meeting minutes require a process of dedication and refinement. From time to time, you’ll probably hear a complaint from a coworker about something missing on the meeting minutes.

Don’t take it personally. It’s a difficult task that takes a lot of focus and effort. There may be times when your team doesn’t fully appreciate the meeting minutes. But you never know which day or week that they’ll be really in trouble without them.

Your task of taking the meeting minutes is invaluable because you keep the team accountable. Your record keeping makes them more efficient because let’s be honest, humans are often forgetful. It’s thanks to you that meetings remain meaningful throughout a week.

Best of luck as you define and refine your process. Continue to take feedback to improve your skills and templates. Each group is different and will prefer to have different types of meeting minutes. Find what works best for your team.

With your great efforts, you’re leading your team to better efficiency and accountability.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Christina Sanders

A digital marketer who is experienced in marketing and communications, helping people to lead a successful business.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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