Taking notes

There are different kinds of note-takers. Some people record everything: every word. They might or might not share them. Others will write down important points or action items. I tend to note down my own action items and let others fend for themselves. Others take no notes.

Let's say a waiter comes to your table to take orders. If they take no notes, you're happy, because they're confident. But you're also uncomfortable. Unless this is a very classy place, you know there's a mistake in there. Lemonades will be forgotten; steaks will be overcooked. Waiters should be taking action items.

Let's say you're in a 1:1 at work with your direct manager. They're looking at you, but they're typing every word you say. Everything. It's not that they're not listening - they must be listening to every word. But they're distracted - they're not hearing you. And the chances of a Slack ping popping up when they're typing is 100%. They'll just answer it and "what were you saying can you just repeat that?" Infuriating. Managers should be present in the moment, taking important points, preferably to paper so that you can see them.

Both of these recommendations involve paper, but they don't need to. A waiter taking orders on a tablet can work fine. A manager taking notes in a shared doc works really well, especially if you're remote.

When I was a manager, I tried a mix of these methods. I couldn't keep up the conversation transcribing. My touch-typing just isn't good enough, and the conversation misses the context of the day anyway, so they don't even make good long term records.

I often took no notes. I enjoyed this - I could give my reports my full attention. However, our 1:1s became very repetitive, neither of us made progress. While I liked the idea of compiling a record of meetings at the end of the day, it simply never happened - I never found the time.

Sharing a single doc of basic bullet points seems to work. Each meeting, make a new section at the top with the date. Review your previous notes at the start of each new meeting. Make new bullets. This provides a useful shared track record, and gives to opportunity to build forward.

Actually, this would work pretty well for restaurants too.