Taking notes as a software engineer
I’m on a quest to help myself and my colleagues have better meetings.
In my time as an engineer I’ve noticed a lot of meetings occur without any agenda, notes or action items. Then down the road managers expect all involved to just remember the conclusions from the meeting. Sometimes the conclusions aren’t even remembered correctly, causing a debate as to what work was agreed to be done.
These experiences pushed me to step up to define and write the agenda, notes and action items for all my meetings (or make sure someone is).
I picked up the habit of taking notes and here’s what I’ve learned from it:
Why taking notes is necessary
Take notes to provide a clear summary for what was discussed in the meeting. The team can reference these down the road. If a meeting doesn’t have an agenda to begin with, most likely time will be wasted getting everyone up to speed, and there is no chance atendees can prepare before hand.
If no one else is actively taking notes, step up and lead by example. Ideally all members see the value in having meeting notes, and should be willing to step up.
In time, the team will know what to expect from a meeting, and will prepare and act accordingly.
Lastly, if someone missed the meeting, you have a fully documented set of notes that they can skim and quickly understand the outcome.
**I’d also like to advocate that meeting notes promote transparency in any company.
How do you get better at taking notes?
Put your notes in a public space. This can be on confluence, github pages or whatever medium your team uses to track notes. Ask the team to review and correct the notes if anything was missed or incorrect. Continue to reference the notes as key decisions are made.
Take notes directly on your laptop, if possible directly into the shared notes location from the get go. This will save you time and open up others to contributing during the meeting.
Observe others who are taking notes, and see how their notes differ from your own.
Reasons why engineers aren’t taking notes
When I started diligently taking notes, some members felt bad and said we should alternate, but most often I hear the following excuses:
- I’m not good at taking notes
- I’m not comfortable sharing my notes as they aren’t great
- it takes too much time to take good notes
In response, I say that even bad notes are better than no notes at all. And if there are mistakes in your notes, the team can help by correcting anything they want to claim as incorrect.
Taking notes as a team
The whole point of taking meeting notes (minutes) is to benefit the team. These transparent documents help keep everyone on the same page, especially when discussing difficult/complicated topics.
Get your team involved in taking notes together. By collaborating on notes, you will ensure the information is clear and mutually understood.
Over time regularly taking notes will help ensure your meetings have a clear purpose and create value.
Do what works for you, but I hope I nudged you towards expirementing with taking notes.
Please share your thoughts with me as I’m always looking for ways to improve my work.