Note-Taking Made Easy – A Quick Tutorial for Assistants

Recently I started working more intimately with a young woman that will be assisting a ministry leader I have for some time. In hearing the heart of the leader and observing their interactions, I felt led to share with her a lesson I learned early on in my career as an executive administrative assistant and was reinforced when I began assisting visionary type ministry leaders.
I will share that same lesson with you now. It is remarkably simple and can be applied to any industry. The lesson is on the subject of note taking, dictation and transcription. With the result in mind, it is the responsibility of the note taker to make sure that the message that was originally conveyed by the leader is translated properly. If this is not done, the leader’s directives will not be executed in a timely manner, efficiently or accurately. Speaking bluntly everyone involved time would have been wasted.
There have been plenty of times I have been pulled into an impromptu meeting with one of my managers. Where they have, begun to dump everything that is on their minds and expect for me to execute directives. They may have just gotten off a conference call. Or come back from a meeting with their supervisor or they are just using me as their soundboard to flesh out ideas. Whatever the situation they were looking to me to make things happen for them, and it was my job to do just that.
In most cases, they did not have the time for me to boot up my computer because we were out and about, or they only had a few minutes to instruct me. Either way I had to be ready to capture what they were telling me as accurately as possible. This is why I always have either of the below mentioned tools with me at all times. I have gotten so much in the habit, that even when I am with my spouse I tend to utilize them.
The Tools
Always and I do mean always when you are in the presence of your leader, have either of these two tools readily available:
  1. A notepad and pen
    1. An electronic note taking device is OK too i.e. a tablet or laptop, if it can be booted up quickly.
  2. An audio recording device
    1.  At home, I keep a voice recorder that I can sync with my desktop always at reach.  While I am out, I have either my recorder or my iPhone.
      1. If you video chat, using a service like Google Hangout where you can record your meeting is also useful.
The Process
To be honest, even though I have been told that I have an almost photographic memory when it comes to details; I never solely rely on my memory. I use a combination of note taking and dictation techniques. I also tend to recite to them the directives given to me after I know my supervisor has completed their thought. I am an active listener. After they have confirmed what they would like to be conveyed, we usually move on to the next point they want to cover. By doing this also gives them the opportunity to make any corrections or adjustments to their original mandate.
I now help the majority of my clients virtually. When I am on the phone with any of them, I have gotten into the habit of recording our conversations. When I am able to arrange the meeting ahead of time; I send them an appointment request for a dial-in conference line. I use a service that allows me to record the entire call and provides a downloadable file for archiving.
I also like to provide clients with status reports, and set time aside to review recordings and notes I may have taken. Usually within 24 hours of a meeting, I will review my notes and begin the work of translating them into executables.
This may seem a little extra… However, it saves a lot of heartache in the long run and ensures that nothing is lost in note translation.

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© 2014, Lela Jefferson Fagan. All rights reserved.

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