Productivity writer Rachel Miller takes notes when she’s with friends - “even during a coffee date,” she says. Mainly she takes notes on recommendations - good TV shows or recipes or in one case, pullover socks. It’s such a habit that her friends have emailed each other asking for Rachel’s “meeting notes.” Here’s how to start your own meeting notes, without feeling like a total dorkus.
Keep it casual
Write brief notes in a small notepad or your phone. Don’t bring a big notebook around, and don’t write every single thing down. You don’t want your friends to feel like they’re speaking on the record. You just want them to feel listened to.
To that end, you might find that too many phone notes are distracting. Even if you’re writing down notes, pulling out your phone too much will feel like you’re texting instead of listening. And notifications and texts might actually distract you while you’re writing a note. If you carry a bag, keep a tiny notepad in it, and a small pen.
If you do use an app, I recommend a to-do app rather than a text app. It takes a little less tapping around to add a new thought. Add it as a lock screen widget to make it extra accessible, to minimise the chance that a different app distracts you.
Remember who said what
Keep your notes brief, but not so brief that you can’t decipher them the next day. It’ll take a bit of practice to find the balance between brevity and coherence, especially if you’ve been drinking. And get in the habit of looking at your notes the next day, before your memory fades and they become even harder to decode. (See “share your notes,” below.)
And write down who said what. That helps you remember to thank or credit them, but more immediately, it helps you recover the idea if you can’t quite decipher what you wrote down, or why.
Jumpstart your own thoughtfulness
Conversation notes are great for recommendations and the occasional “action item” like “Bring umbrella back to Tim’s house on Sunday.” But they’re also good for noting things someone tells you about themselves that you’ll want to remember, like birthdays and anniversaries, or a sick relative you should ask after.
This is where keeping it casual really helps, so you give off a thoughtful vibe and not a “tracking your friends’ menstrual cycles like Abed from Community” vibe.
If you want to play this game on advanced mode, when you take bathroom breaks, instead of checking your phone, write down the notes that you didn’t want to write in front of your friends. Let them be surprised when, a week from now, you ship them the Amazon Basics gadget that you just gushed about.
Share your notes
If you’re hanging out in a group, email everyone your notes afterward - at least the ones that are applicable to everyone. Only use this power for good: no passive-aggressive reminders.
You’ll help everyone out (especially those of us with bad memories), and you’ll help yourself remember the notes instead of leaving them forgotten inside your Notes app.
Sharing your notes is also an elegant way to continue a conversation in an email or group text. It builds some continuity to your friendship without feeling clingy. How many times can I say “keep it casual” in this post?