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Taking notes / minutes in an Excel spreadsheet


Introduction and side-note

Taking minutes is not the most favorite task of many secretaries so if there is a way to make the minutes and notes taking as easy and quick as possible, then it is worth giving it a try! Taking notes/minutes with the help of an Excel spreadsheet is easy and it is quick to process the overflow of information into short and concisive points. Also for the co-workers it could be a great tool for saving time.

*Note: The options and possibilities mentioned below are also available for MS Office versions after the 2010 version, but you might have to search for them in other menu’s or areas as the layout has changed for the newer Office versions.

The advantages

The advantages of making minutes/notes in an Excel spreadsheet is that the minutes/notes of all meetings are in the same spreadsheet and can therefore be found easily compared to having notes in different documents and having to look through all of these. You can also easily filter in a spreadsheet to find certain actions and agendapoints quickly and knowing in which meetings they were discussed.

The preparation

Before you can start to work in the Excel spreadsheet during a meeting, some preparations are needed.

Preparing yourself

Before the meeting itself you can already insert the agenda points and the documents that are to be discussed within the meeting, so that during the meeting you only have to type in the most important (action)points. After the meeting you would be almost finished with your notes/minutes as you only have to check everything and save the document and send it to the participants.

Your spreadsheet

Before your Excel spreadsheet is ready for use, you have to take a number of steps to give it the correct settings:

  1. Open a new Excel spreadsheet and give the spreadsheet the name (title) of the meeting. This title/name you can type in in the first row of your spreadsheet (A1 or A2).
  2. Save the spreadsheet in an easy to find location and give it a clear and concisive name such as "minutes (name)meeting(year). Save the document regularly while going through the other steps below, in case something goes wrong or needs to be changed.
  3. In the 3rd or 4th row place the names of the columns that you think you will need, such as date, subject, action, decision, status, etc. For some columns you might need more space. Make these columns wider so more text can be put in.
  4. Because the spreadsheet will become big and large it is a good idea to make sure that wherever you scroll, you can still see the column heads (that you have placed in row 3 or 4). You can fix the column heads by clicking the cel below the first column head and then in the menu list click on "Screen/view" and "Block - block titles".
  5. For the wider column heads where more text will be typed in, it would be more efficient to when text would be placed below each other instead of all on the same line (this would make your spreadsheet too long). Select the entire worksheet below the column heads. Then in the menu heading click on "Start", then "Format" and "Format cells" and then on "lining" and "wrap text".
  6. To make the filtering easier, apply a filter to each of the columns. Select the row and the column heading (do this for each of the columns separately). Click in the menu heading on "Information" and then "Filter". Next to the column head you will then see an icon with a triangle shape on which you can click to filter the information in that particular column.

Tips and advice

  • The most important thing is to discuss this new method of taking notes with your boss, he also has to agree with this. That you find this method efficient does not mean that your boss agrees with that. Also in some branches/types of jobs it is important to make elaborate minutes/notes as it is needed to know exactly what has been discussed in each meeting instead of just noting the action points.
  • Before you start to use the spreadsheet, practice first with a set of minutes according to your old method and transform this into the Excel spreadsheet. That way you can get used to using the spreadsheet and you can already insert the information of the previous meetings into your spreadsheet.
  • It is important to type in certain information in the same way (such as date, titles, numbering, etc). This is needed when using your filter at a later point. The filter will recognize needed information in an easier manner when they have the same style and formatting.
  • Do not forget to turn off the filter selection once you have used it. This prevents creating double selections. Also inform the other users of the spreadsheed of this.

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