Not necessarily the most sought after or desirable responsibility for meetings, but I find note taking to be crucial for keeping an organization or group on task. I find that I not only take notes for elders meetings, but I take notes daily on one-on-one and phone conversations. I make it a practice after phone calls of significance (decisions at work or church) to email the details of the conversation and the decision made to the individual for confirmation. At my current employment, getting the details wrong on a decision with a customer can cost us significant financial loss. In ministry, getting the details wrong may not cost financially, but it could result in a loss of confidence, momentum, and clarity as one seeks to glorify God in all things. Here are five pointers to better note taking.
Use What Works For You
Some will try to claim that there is only one medium to note taking, either it must be on a computer or it must be on some sort of journal. This is merely a matter of preference. I have gone back and forth and have concluded that it really is only a matter of what I want to take notes with at the time. Some times I am in a paper mood, other times I prefer the Notability app and stylus on my iPad, other times I use my laptop; it varies from time to time. What is important is that you find what works for you and stick with it. Personally, I gravitate towards using Notability or a laptop. I find both save me time during the revise and clarify stage below.
Keep It Simple
Avoid the mistake of trying to get everything down verbatim. It is very difficult and most likely you will miss what others are saying because you are trying to get down what was previously said. I find noting down what an individual said by using keywords with a very short explanation will help jog my memory while I revise and clarify. You will find that since you are using your own words and not trying to write everything down verbatim that you will remember more of the conversation than you would think.
Revise and Clarify
If you are designated to be keep notes, then your job is not done once the meeting is over. While the keywords and short sentences will help you, it may not help those who are depending on your notes to remember what was discussed at the meeting. Take your notes and fill out the details. I highly suggest doing this as soon as possible after the meeting while it is all fresh in your mind. This is why I prefer Notability or a laptop, I can use the keywords as sections and begin typing. Try to get as much detail as you can remember. This will help months later when the meeting needs to referred back to.
Highlight Decisions and Actions
It's a small detail but makes reading over meeting notes much easier. While you revise and clarify, change the font color, bold, underline, put in italics, or any combination of these to differentiate decisions made and follow up actions to be taken. By highlighting the decisions made you are giving the recipients an opportunity to correct any mistakes you may have made. Maybe you misunderstood the decision, in this way someone can respond quickly and the notes can be adjusted to show what was really decided. By highlighting action items for individuals it keeps them to the forefront and holds people accountable for tasks assigned. I prefer to list for each individual the tasks assigned so that they can easily see what needs to be done by either the next meeting or by a certain date.
File and Send
The final step is just as important as the first. I like to take the notes from a meeting, assign it a file name as a pdf, usually along the lines of churchname_eldermeeting_date and if needed I will put another underscore with a revision number ( _REV2). I will file that away in a secure folder for future reference. Once it is filed, I will then attach and email out to the group. It is important to send out if you can that same evening, or at the latest, by noon the next day. This gives an opporunity for others to help clarify while the meeting is still fresh and the most amount of time to follow up on assigned tasks.