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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

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Christina Sanders

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

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

How do you usually go about your day?

Do you wake up in the morning, get ready for work, and then spend the whole day looking forward to being at home and unwinding?

We often hear about work life balance – having a good balance between work and personal time. Whilst this may sound like a smart idea, it can also imply that we should dedicate at least half of our time to work–and sacrifice time for our “personal life”.

To me, that seems…off balance. Because, the truth is, it’s nearly impossible to split your time equally between the two. And, you may end up stressing out if you’re not able to meet that expectation of balance.

Instead, why not think of having work life harmony instead?

With this mindset, you can actually integrate work into your life in a way that feels more complete. This way, you don’t need to view work and having personal time as separate.

So, how do you achieve work life harmony?

Work Life Harmony Explained

The difference between work life balance and work life harmony is pretty simple.With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work. But, this is the worst way to go about things! How can you truly be at peace in life if you dread 8 hours of your day?

Work life harmony on the other hand, allows your work to be a part of your life. This means that you can choose to be happy both at home, and at work! Work no longer needs to be seen as the ‘bad’ or un-fun activity.

Having work life harmony also ensures you’re truly present in whatever place you find yourself.

Just take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon for example.

He uses a non traditional approach to work by making time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules surprisingly few meetings, and still puts aside a few minutes every day to wash his own dishes.

He believes that all his staff should stop trying to achieve a ‘balance’ in their work and personal lives as that implies a trade off. Instead, he envisions a more holistic relationship between the two.

As the world’s richest man, he must be doing something right!

Rethink Time Management

Now, when we think of striking a balance, we usually associate it with time, don’t we? How much time are we spending at work versus how much time are we spending in our personal lives?Are we taking enough time to be with our loved ones, to do meaningful activities with others or even for ourselves, or are we just dedicating all our time to work?

This is the so-called-balance that many struggle with.

With work life harmony, we learn to rethink time management. By re-assessing how you manage your time, you’ll have a lot more of it. It’s incredible how much time can get wasted over the period of a day–especially when you’re not accurately tracking it.

Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls when it comes to prioritizing. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefit; when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is otherwise known as Priority Chaos.

In order to overcome this and be in better control of your time, identify the tasks that need the most focus to get accomplished. If it’s a big task, then it’s good to break it down into smaller bite-sized actions that will provide you with a clearer short term benefit.

When setting up tasks, give yourself a time limit. The brain has a bias towards short term benefits, and your attention span is limited, so if your tasks are going to take ages to complete, you’ll end up losing focus… and wasting time.

Once you have all your tasks written down, it’s time to prioritize them. Since you have a time limit, your focus should be on the top priority tasks. By doing this, you will already be able to get more done in less time at work!

Have Passion for What You Do

Managing your time is important in achieving that work life harmony. But, perhaps of greater importance, is loving what you do in life.One of the most effective ways to achieve a work life harmony is to really enjoy, or find a purpose, in what you do for a living. Even though everyone isn’t always lucky enough to find a position that pays them for pursuing their passion, you can strive to find meaning in what you are already doing, or pursue something new entirely!

For example, say you work at an office that sells paper. While many people wouldn’t consider this a world changing pursuit, I beg to differ. Think of all the individuals in the world that rely on paper. From creative types to quantum physics experts, your role at your workplace brings incredible value to many many people all over the world. You will have, without a doubt, helped bring a new idea into existence. Several new ideas to be precise.

So have a think about what you’re doing now. Is it something that allows you to embrace your passion?

Or perhaps you might not even know what it is that you love or enjoy doing. Why not explore and reflect on what gives you joy and contentment? Is there an area or industry that you could see yourself exploring to experience that fulfillment?

Can you find a deeper purpose in what you’re already doing?

When you’re able to find meaning in your work, you’re that much closer to achieving work life harmony.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Obstacles and Limitations

Creating work life harmony is also about understanding yourself–which includes your limitations and past obstacles–as this allows you to become more resilient.

If you never had to experience struggles, challenges or setbacks, then you would never be forced to adapt and mature. So in theory, having to face obstacles in life is actually quite necessary.

Most of us think of setbacks and obstacles as negative. Though, if you’re able to maintain an optimistic attitude, you’ll almost always have a higher chance of success of overcoming those obstacles to reach your eventual goal.

Your attitude towards setbacks will define the outcome of whether you rise from the challenge or remain stuck in it. So, in order to achieve work life harmony, it’s important to have a resilient attitude as challenges will always come your way–especially when you strive to integrate work into your life, and not a separate or dominant part of life.

Delegate When You Need To

Of course, when you want to increase productivity and minimize the time or effort spent, a great way to do so is to delegate!

If you spend a lot of time doing tasks on your own that could be delegated to others (whether at work or at home) you’re losing a lot of precious free time that could otherwise be spent elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we all have a limited amount of time. So we should all be striving to create a harmonious work and living situation where we can find meaning in all that we do.

While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones or tasks needed to get there may be meaningful. That’s because we have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Not every task is going to be enjoyable or easy to complete. That’s where delegation comes in.

Delegation simply allows you to leverage time from an external source, thus giving you opportunities to increase your own quality of time. Keep in mind that delegation should be done with deliberate attention, otherwise you may end up over relying on others.

If you find that you’re running into the problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Embrace the Circle and Become Happier and More Productive

Living in harmony is about feeling good about the ways in which you spend your time, despite how busy you may be.Your switch from work mode to a more personal mode should be effortless. It’s about integrating your personal life and the things you love into your busy work life!

It all begins with the shift in perspective. Understanding what your passions are, and learning to be resilient, before taking a different approach to the way you manage your time and everyday tasks.

These are steps that you can start taking to move away from balance to harmony. 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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