A Better Approach To Meeting Notes

I suck at taking meeting notes, at using paper or even technology to capture ideas, tasks and feedback from the array of meetings I attend. In the past, this has been a chronic issue and I have occasionally overlooked something important in the mess I made on whatever notepad or notebook I happened to bring along with me.

I’ve experimented with different techniques over the years, but nothing has ever really worked. I’ve tried some tech tools, but for as much of a tech junky as I am, it has always felt wrong in a face-to-face meeting. That’s why I could hug Shawn Blanc for creating and Stephen Hackett for evolving the “Capture Form”. It’s a simple, one-page form that has changed the way I take meeting notes.

There are two versions of the form and I’ve found that they both have their place. The first has four fields:

  • Reference Information
  • Meeting Notes
  • Action Items for Others
  • Action Items for Me

I use this version whenever I’m either running or heavily participating a meeting. Upfront planning goes into the reference field and notes as well as action items are filled in as the meeting progresses.

For meetings where I’m more a passive participant or where there is no upfront planning required, I use an alternate version of the form that forgoes the “Reference Information” field in lieu of a larger “Meeting Notes” section.

After each meeting, my action items are entered into Omnifocus (or completed if they only take a few minutes), I email or explain tasks to others, scan the form into Evernote for reference and shred the paper. It’s clean, it’s efficient and it has solved my note-taking issues. If you struggle with meeting notes, I really suggest you give this a try.

You can download the Capture Form here as well as the alternate version with an expanded notes section. For the rare occasion when you have no time to print this out before a meeting, Stephen created a TextExpander snippet that makes for a serviceable digital version of the form.1.

  1. Although you might need to tweak the time and date to make it work for you. []
  • John Z.

    Have you ever looked at the Behance paper products? I’ve found their Action Method pads (and online app, but that’s an altogether diff’t proposition) really useful in a similar way: http://www.actionmethod.com/

    They’ll cost more than Shawn’s & Stephen’s PDF, but that probably comes down to personal aesthetics.  Just another option to consider.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Thanks for the suggestion! The app probably isn’t ideal considering my undying love for Omnifocus (yeah, I’m one of those guys…), but the paper is interesting. The only reason I think I’d prefer the Capture Form is the ability to scan and store, but they sure are pretty and focused…

  • http://twitter.com/social_animal Tony Green

    Excellent – love the simple approach, and it works beautifully. The snippet is proving useful too – good work guys :)

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Wish I could take any credit other than usage!

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