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Keeping Organized Meeting Minutes

As Published In Smead Organomics
Keeping Organized Meeting Minutes

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It stands to reason that taking organized minutes maximizes the effectiveness of your meeting. (After all — what would be the point of debating and deliberating and deciding, if no one could remember exactly what was discussed?) So how do you keep track of all the information that’s given out? It’s actually not as hard as it seems — if you have the right system.

The Basics

Of course, it’s best to start with the simplest elements — recording basic information about a gathering means including the date, name of the organization, and purpose of the meeting (annual review, budget planning session, nomination of new members, whatever) in your minutes. And dont forget to list the names of those people attending — just send around a sign-in sheet to save time.

Taking Efficient Notes

The most important rule for taking organized notes is to be selective — you don’t need to write down every word that’s said! As a new topic is introduced, start a new header on your page — otherwise, you may become confused later as one discussion merges into another. Write down only salient points. (These include motions, votes, actions taken — as well as suggestions that may be acted upon later, important facts worth noting, and dissenting views.) It’s also wise to make a note of who offered each idea.

Avoid Shorthand Woes

Unless you’re a trained stenographer, shorthand can be a mixed blessing. Most people’s shorthand consists of strange abbreviations that make sense at the time of the meeting — but which are indecipherable when reviewing the minutes later. Unless it’s a standard diminutive that anyone would recognize (re:, &, incl., etc.), save yourself a headache and just write it out!

The Electronic Option

Sometimes, taking notes during a meeting is distracting — it keeps you from fully engaging in the discussion or absorbing the information that’s been shared. An easy solution to this problem is to use a small audio recorder to tape the proceedings, then transcribe the important points later.

Organizing Other Meeting Materials

Meeting-goers know that you tend to collect a lot of paper in addition to the minutes — memos, rosters, information about special events, budgets, reports. The easiest way to organize these is in an expanding accordion file. This allows you to set up a section for each category of paper — or for each organization. And a file with a lid and handle is portable, so you can take it with you to and from meetings.

Creating A Chronology

If you attend meetings regularly or serve as a secretary, you’ll probably accumulate a profusion of meeting minutes. Organize these in chronological order — either electronically, in a binder, or using a press-board folder with prongs. Simply hole-punch the latest set of notes (or write directly onto hole-punched paper) and place these on top of the older meeting minutes. Voila — an ongoing chronological reference.

Meetings are a fact of life in business, school, and your community activities — but with a few quick steps, you too can take organized minutes.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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