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How Note Taking Can Be More Efficient (8 Tips for New Consultants)

If you took good notes in school, don't assume you will do the same in consulting.

As every freshly minted consultant, a huge chunk of your work is taking notes in meetings.

If you’re having trouble doing that, you’re in safe hands now.

Take a deep breath and check out my best tips for concise and coherent notes.

1. Focus on knowing and noting the main information.

  • Meeting purpose and objectives.

  • Main discussion topics and supporting details (statistics, benchmarks, etc.).

  • Important conclusions of the main parts of the discussion.

  • Major decisions reached with approvers.

  • Action plan and steps needed with deadlines.

  • Preferences, and interests. Might sound weird. But in a very serious world, talking about mutual interests and hobbies in between meetings can make a big change, and help establish a genuine bond with your manager or client. Now if the partner is jealous that you have a new bestie. It is not on me.

2. Learn the scope.

  • If you don’t know what everyone’s talking about, you’re in trouble. You won’t be able to take organized notes at all and you’ll end up hearing Deloitte as delight.

  • Get to know the context of the discussion beforehand to stay one step ahead.

  • Also, very important: know where this should be going. What is the ideal outcome of this meeting? Make sure you have it clearly defined.

3. Stay engaged.

  • If you lose yourself in taking notes of every word, you’ll end up writing down the partner’s comment “... the coffee is not so good in this office, let’s get started…plz fx”

  • Offer your perspective during the meeting, your manager actually wants to hear from you.

  • Don’t talk the whole time, just create a good balance between taking notes and making important points through the discussion. Timing is important. So is reading the room.

4. Proofread your notes.

Meetings hardly ever go according to the set agenda, and it won’t be easy to jot down the info mentioned in point 1. So, if your notes look like random fragments here and there, and you should:

  • Allot time that day to go back to the notes while they are still fresh in your mind.

  • Re-read them. If you can't explain every single line, make it make sense.

5. Treat and use your notes well.

  • Don’t write notes for the sake of writing them.

  • Send a comprehensive yet concise summary of the meeting notes to the team. They will love you for it in a week. And would want to marry you in a month.

6. Not all methods are for you.

There are tons of YouTube videos and blog posts on note taking methods. They show you how to make well-structured notes using the Outline, Charting, Mapping, Cornell, and other methods, and while those methods work perfectly for university students, they just might not work for you as a consultant. This is neither good nor bad. Often the best way ahead is by trial and error and sticking to what works for YOU.

7. Always take notes, whether they relate to YOUR work or not.

As a fresh consultant, you are expected to take notes of everything, related to you or not.. Here are a few examples:

  • You’re in the team room gazing at the beautiful sky out of the window. Nothing can go wrong, right? Wrong. A client walks in and starts talking to the Project Manager about a topic that isn’t even related to your work. The client walks out, the PM turns to you, “did you take note of that?”. You:

  • In a team call, a partner talks about certain steps to fix a problem, but they’re not addressing you specifically. Later that day, your manager asks you to put those steps into action. You:

8. Use a paper and pen in meetings, especially client ones.

  • A laptop between you and the client creates some kind of barrier.

  • Hearing the keyboard keys clickety clack might make them feel uncomfortable as though every word they say is being recorded. That’s creepy.

If you’re still reading, consider yourself lucky because I got a surprise for you!

Check this overly simple sample out!!

Note Taking Template
Download DOCX • 29KB


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