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Why and How I Take Handwritten Notes in Every Meeting

“You can make anything by writing” -C.S Lewis

If you have ever sat down in a meeting and watched as one person wrote by hand in a notebook the entire meeting and wondered “what could they possibly be writing?” Well that person is me.

I write everything down. And I do it with old fashioned pen and paper. In 2017 with our focus on and addiction to technology a lot can be lost when we take notes on our computer (especially in meetings). We get distracted. The other members of the meeting, particularly the leader of the meeting, might think you are not paying attention. For my team, HubSpot Academy, we have a no laptop rule for all of our larger team meetings and I love this because it drives the focus to what is being discussed in the room and not what just happened on Slack.

So why do I take notes by hand at all? We share out slides, do follow-up emails, etc. — isn’t that enough? My answer is simple: nope. There is something that happens in meetings, whether in person or virtual, that you can’t replicate in an email and the thoughts and ideas that come to mind during the meeting. For example, when being able to see your teams faces can help you connect an idea with who you will need to collaborate with to create the idea into an action or project.

I have received many nicknames on the different teams I have been a part of for my obsession with writing everything down and then translating it to Google Docs to share with everyone (Google Doc Queen is my official title).

Let’s find out the magic behind taking notes and how it can help you in your next meeting.

Habits of Taking Hand-Written Notes that Drive Success:

  1. Staying Focused
  2. What sparks and connects
  3. Don’t forget to follow-up
  4. Writing allows for flow

Staying Focused

We have all been there in long meetings. Your eyes wander and you realize you have been counting the ceiling tiles instead of listening. When you pull out a pen and paper and are actively writing down notes you are actively using your brain to stay focused. Selecting soundbites and key ideas to remember for after the meeting is over.

What sparks and connects

There is a moment in a lot meetings where people get excited. Whether they show it or not. If you are not the person to jump in and pound the table use the notes you are taking to remember what sparked and connected with you to follow-up with afterwards. Don’t let that spark stay in the room take it into your day to day work and drive that idea forward as best you can.

This morning as I sat taking notes in another HubSpot Academy Team Meeting I wrote down in big block letters, “content is our learning experience”. It sparked with me and I immediately took notes on it to find what I can do with it.

Don’t forget to follow-up

The average adult’s short term memory can hold seven different things in their mind. But only for 20 seconds. Let’s say you are in a two hour meeting, thats a lot of information to remember and follow-up with. Focus your attention on the meeting and write down what you need to dig into later.

Writing allows for flow

If you have ever led a meeting you know how important timing and flow is. As an attendee, your greatest gift to the person leading the meeting is the notes you take because it allows them to get into a flow and follow their time. When we need to ask about a slide, have a question or dig into something during a meeting it can cost us precious minutes of other important information. Disclaimer: there is a time and place for questions in a meeting and you should ask them as you see fit. But the idea is by taking notes on the smaller questions you can use the meeting time to focus on the content at hand.

These small tasks during a meeting can save you time, energy and ultimately drive success forward for not only you but your team. I encourage everyone to be the Google Doc King or Queen for their team because it can be what saves a big idea from falling through the cracks.

I am currently an Inbound Professor on the HubSpot Academy Team and educate and inspire people on email marketing, automation and contacts database management. Looking for advice, resume editing or general discussion around career or life decisions please reach out to me @ csembler@hubspot.com or tweet @CSembler.