Keeping your own attention in meetings with notes
Sometimes it's hard to maintain focus on a video call or at an in-person meeting. There's a hack for that.
I remember the era of “no laptop” meetings. You’d ask everyone to close their computers so that we could all focus on the discussion at end with our full attention.
That era is over.
Every video call obviously requires you (and everyone else) be staring at a computer screen. And if you’re an in-person attendee, you’ll have your laptop in front of you and your iPhone buzzing away. And even if you’re somehow able to avoid the allure of your ever-growing inbox, your Mastodon notifications, your news alerts, your texts, your DMs, the warning that it’s time to BeReal… you still know those alerts are piling up. You know you have another big meeting to prep for. Or maybe there’s just other work weighing on your mind.
My advice? Take notes. Take notes even if you don’t need the notes. Take notes even if you’ll never look at them again. But take great notes.
I could — and maybe one day will! — write a whole essay on how best to take notes. I sometimes get into full transcription mode (because I’m a fast typist), and use bold type for anything I want to follow-up on or ask about, because I can hit Command-B fast without missing a word. You might prefer taking notes by hand, or using a less-verbose outlined approach.
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I support whatever note taking method suits you — so long as it’s legit. If you’re playing at taking notes, you’re not going to help yourself focus. I’m a doodler, and every time I try to take handwritten notes I end up with goofy faces in the margins — visual reminders that I stopped paying strict attention.
So if you’re not going full transcription mode (and I don’t blame you!), just make sure you’re taking notes that are good enough that you could talk a non-attendee through everything that was covered in the meeting they missed. Again, if you won’t have to do so — the act of paying good enough attention to take copious notes will help you stay focused on the meeting itself. And as an added bonus, you might sound even more cogent and thoughtful when you chime in on the meeting discussion, since you have all those lovely notes to refer back to!
Honestly, I would love an essay on how you feel to best take notes. I always try taking notes in meetings, but get caught up in what I think I’ll need later, or whether I’ll end up looking at them, that I will sometimes start a meeting ready to take notes, but then not take them. Also, side question, do you use a specific app for Notes, or just whatever is a available?
I followed that advice throughout my entire career! Taking notes throughout a meeting had two excellent effects: it kept me awake, and it let me talk intelligently when I made comments during the meeting. BTW, today's graphic with the fountain pen was perfect! I love fountain pens--even more than I love traffic lights.