Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace The Good and the Bad of Motivating Your Team with Stretch Goals How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation 17 Note-Taking Tips That Will Transform How You Retain Info

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work 2 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 3 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 4 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? 5 Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

Advertising

But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

Advertising

The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

Advertising

I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

Advertising

More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

Read Next