How to take smart meeting notes

Some of the most successful businesspeople, such as Bill Gates, are known for taking detailed, effective meeting notes.

Gina Trapani, a technology writer and software developer, recently shared three different note-taking systems in Fast Company:

1. Divide your page into quadrants. “There are only four types of information you’re going to get at any meeting,” Trapani says. First, facts you want to remember or new things you’ve learned. Second, questions. Third, tasks assigned to you. Fourth, tasks assigned to other people.

Write down notes from the meeting in the appropriate quadrant. Categorize them this way, says Trapani, and they’ll be a lot easier to scan later on.

2. Graphically label notes using four symbols. In this system, you write your notes as usual, and then put symbols in the left margin to organize them into the four categories. For example, you might use asterisks for facts, question marks for questions, checkboxes for to-dos, and arrows for tasks for others.

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3. Make a mind map. Turn your page horizontally. Write the main meeting topic in the center of the page. Then write the subtopics around the main topic. Use one word to encapsulate each subtopic. As you think through the process, you’ll focus better on the conversation itself and recall it more clearly later.