Posts Tagged

note taking

How To Create Better Action Item List From Meetings

action item list

An action item list is an important tool for task management. Without an action items list, you could very easily overlook important tasks that need to be accomplished or go about your day quite inefficiently.

Using an action item list, however, doesn’t automatically make task accomplishment easier. It’s not uncommon to find teams that end their workday with pending actionable tasks on their to-do lists.

If you or your team are struggling with task deadlines, we will show you how to overcome this problem by creating better action items lists. We will also introduce you to a tool called Aira, that eliminates the hustle of minute taking and plans your action items for you.

Before we go into that, let’s first define “action item”.

What Is an Action Item?

During meetings, team members come up with tasks. A couple of steps need to be taken for that task or project to move smoothly. Those steps are called action items. Each action item has a person assigned to it, and that person is responsible for completing it.

The completion of each action item moves the project closer to a specified deadline (you could envision this as a finish line). To accomplish all project tasks, you must complete every action item properly and on time. For this to happen, you must set action items to properly. This means:

  • Every team member knows exactly what they are required to do
  • Each member can easily monitor and track project progress
  • Keeping deadlines realistic hence easy to meet
  • As a result, productivity will be high as tasks will be more seamlessly completed

It’s not enough to have the intention to complete a task Even merely stating that things need to get done doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get done. With an action item list, you create a map that will guide you towards your success by following simple steps.

What should an Action Item List look like?

At this point, you are probably wondering what a good action item list looks like. To answer that question, let’s consider an example of what your action items shouldn’t look like:

Example: Sample action item list

  • Vendor shortlist
  • Purchase models
  • Sales meeting

So, what’s wrong with this list?

For starters, it is vague. It’s difficult to know what those details mean. In fact, it looks just like any other list.

Great action items should be

  • Actionable
  • Clear: Complete and well-stated to remove vagueness
  • Easy to understand and manage

Here’s how to create an action item list that has these qualities.

The 7 rules that will help you create better Action Items from meetings

Rule 1: Tasks aren’t action items

tasks are not action items

A list like the one in the example above is made up of tasks. Each of these tasks is accomplished by taking a series of steps.

To make tasks actionable, you need to figure out the what, who and when of each task:

E.g Vendor search:

  • What steps exactly, need to be taken?
  • Who will take those steps?
  • When?  

Rule 2: Use verbs

Verbs are action words. “Vendor shortlist” on its own doesn’t say much. However, when stated as “prepare a vendor shortlist”, that gives a clearer picture of what needs to be done.

Using verbs not only defines what needs to be done, but also makes you mentally ready to take action.

Verbs also make it easier to recall details of tasks, which is important when handling projects that contain multiple or complex tasks.

Rule 3: Make them SMART

Teams that work with all the information they need are more likely to complete their tasks than teams that don’t. When you make your action items SMART, it means that you have included as much information as possible to make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound.

An added advantage of using this approach is that it helps with future recall. Action items usually make sense in context, therefore going to greater lengths to provide SMART details helps with better recall in the future.

Rule 4: Reduce the focus of action items to the most minimum unit

An action item should be minimal in focus. That is, it should focus only on one thing. If you can break down your action item into smaller steps, then it is too complex and broad in focus.

Ensure that action items are broken down into their smallest tasks. For example, “prepare a vendor shortlist” can be broken down into many steps and is therefore a very complex action item. Minimizing it so that its steps become action items will make it more manageable.

Rule 5: Watch out for dependencies

Some actions are dependent on other actions. For instance, if Julie from marketing doesn’t compile a list of known vendors, June from sales cannot set appointments with those vendors. Dependencies are best managed when everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do and by when they should do it.

  • Point out dependencies where they exist to makes team members more conscious about holding back other colleagues from completing their actions.
  • Prioritize tasks with dependencies to allow other members to accomplish their tasks.  

Rule 6: Turn your process into a template

Your first attempt at creating a better action item list is going to feel a bit cumbersome. It might even consume a lot of your time. However, being meticulous with details the first time around will give you a template to work with in future.

This process can become even easier when you use Aira to automate minute taking for your meetings. Aira creates action items from your meeting discussions, thereby reducing the amount of work you need to do.

As Aira integrates with CRM and other platforms, you can easily import the action items into that software to set up and track your project workflows.  

Conclusion

Action items guide teams on what they need to do and helps them achieve those obligations by a certain deadline. If your team members still have unaccomplished items on their schedule by the end of their workday, watch out for these problems:

  • Is the focus of the action items too broad?
  • Can teams easily find action items assigned to them or do they have to comb through long lists?  
  • Are your team members overwhelmed by too many tasks?

Then, follow the process outlined above to create better action item lists.

10 Note Taking Mistakes You Really Need To Stop At Work

note taking

Bill Gates and Richard Branson are avid note takers. These self-made billionaires are often surprised that most business leaders do not take notes. Richard Branson has, for instance, noted that 99% of business executives hardly jolt down critical business insights.

The English business investor and magnate credit his ten-figure fortune to random moments scribbled on notebooks.

Bill Gates is a computer genius but he at times turns to trusty paper and pen for his notes. Truth be told; note taking is an important business process, but it is difficult. 

You can however make your note writing process much more manageable. First, have fantastic meeting notes transcription software by your side.

Artificial intelligence-powered meeting assistants like Aira will record all of your business conversations for future reference. Second, avoid these note taking mistakes below.


1. Using the wrong minute taking method

In school, you had to write your notes down, because as the lecturer said, that the content could feature in your exams. At work, you will not face such threats. Most bosses do not ask their employees to jot down notes.

For this reason, the transition from the school environment to the workplace makes the art of note taking dormant. Most office workers never get to learn the difference between office and history class note taking. 

As an illustration, students jot down notes verbatim for retention and revision purposes. At work, come up with a manageable style of taking business notes. You can use lists, mind maps, or short phrases with breadcrumbs in them.

Note specific important factors like resources, tools, figures, or names. Use transcription tools like Aira to record long discussions and use your hands to jolt down what matters the most.

Aira
Aira – Your Personal AI Meeting Assistant

2. Not knowing when to take business notes

While poor note taking is not a reason to face the sack, skipping notes can adversely affect your career. Constantly emailing colleagues and bosses for clarification on issues discussed in a meeting could hurt your work relationships and productivity.

Fortunately, you do not have to take notes in every work function. The most critical occasions are during one on one, client, or mentors meetings and during, big business conversations.

3. Not understanding why you are part of the conversation

Whenever you are in a business conversation or meeting that calls for note taking, you need to be clear of its objectives.

You also need to understand what your contribution is to the meeting and what value you are deriving from the meetup. Such clarity will lean your note taking towards development and learning topics.

4. Writing without listening

Taking business notes is a show of respect for the person taking. Writing notes shows them that what they are saying is crucial. Unfortunately, the balancing act between listening and writing can impede note taking.

You cannot write good notes if you do not understand the total concept and context of an issue. Listen, reflect, filter your thoughts, and jolt down key items.

5. Failing to specify your topics

Billionaire Richard Branson says that not all ideas count, but they are all noteworthy. Nevertheless, in a bid to capture inspiration, you could forget to cluster your notes. Such write-ups can be very difficult to comprehend later. Ensure that your note-taking process has a splendid structure.

6. Worrying about style and grammar

When writing personal notes, avoid fixating on style, grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Such worries will only distract you from the conversation. Keep writing and develop a personal note taking system as you practice.

Image Source: pexels.com

7. Not writing concise points

As mentioned, lists, mind maps, and short phrases make the best business notes. Here you can jolt down single words or sentences. Use numbered lists and bullets for flow and organization. If necessary, connect ideas using lines to lessen the need for explanatory sentences.

8. Not underlining the most important points

If you are taking tons of notes, you need a highlighting system that zeroes in the most critical points. Underline, circle, highlight, or use indentation to add emphasis and structure to your notes.

9. Panicking when you miss a point

Remember, note taking shows the speaker you are attentive to their words. It also shows that you care about your job. If you miss a part of the discussion, stay calm. Ask the presenter to reiterate the point. Besides, you can ask your colleagues after the event and add on to your notes.

10. Failing to organize your notes for later use

Most note takers have organization challenges. They might take fantastic notes but will store them so poorly that they cannot use them later when they need them. One important benefit of note taking is its ability to cement the ideas heard. Revisit your notes for this benefit to seep in. Invest in a good notebook. If you are writing on random sheets, keep them all in one location for easy future review.


Conclusion

Note taking creates not only better work relationships and increase productivity, but it shows respect in meetings. Notes will make you smarter, giving you new ideas, connections, and innovations.

Taking notes is a subtle yet potent pathway to success in the workplace. Eliminate the note taking mistakes above and enjoy the benefits of workplace note taking.