Have you got a few minutes to spare?

Jonathan Tan | October 12, 2017

Image, clock with a few minutes to 6 o'clock.

Clock. Image by Mike / CC0

Let’s set the scene. You’re working away at your desk on a Monday afternoon, with a to-do list that doesn’t seem to end. In comes your boss and asks you to take minutes for a meeting the next morning. The original minute writer had to pull out, so they need an urgent replacement. Because you’re fantastic at your job, you’re the first (and only) choice.

It’s a very common story when it comes to minute writing — rarely do you get any training before the meeting, and instead the agenda gets thrust into your face. Armed with a pen and paper, you step into the unknown and get bombarded with information. But somehow you wing it, and the next thing you know it’s yet another permanent gig to add to your schedule.

Practice makes perfect, but where’s the practice?

Your life gets thrown into turmoil when you have to organise someone else’s life. I recently presented a ‘Minutes Masterclass’ seminar up in Auckland for The Office & PA Show held by Conferenz. The event was amazing and aimed to empower office managers, personal assistants, and executive assistants with tips and tricks for success. As an executive assistant, I was amongst my people!

One of the first questions I asked everyone as soon as I got up on stage was, ‘Who has any formal training in minute writing?’ With just under 100 people at the presentation, I saw just two people raise their hands. And the number of people who had been writing minutes for over 5 years? More than half.

Image, three businesswomen in a meeting.

No formal training, but 5 years of practice at writing minutes! Image by Tim Gouw / CC0

You’re not alone as an everything assistant

It’s hard to completely relate to others in the office because you’re in such a unique and demanding role — no two days are the same. Instead of the executive assistant, you become the everything assistant.

But with such a dynamic and demanding job, what kind of support do we as everything assistants get? Our jobs are so flexible (my contract says ‘and other tasks where needed’), so there’s always something on our plate. We just don’t have much time to organise our own lives — instead, we look after everyone else. This means that our own professional development grinds to a halt.

Writing minutes is the perfect example of an under-appreciated task. The job of recording everything in a meeting is no easy feat, and often goes unnoticed. People don’t realise the amount of work involved — before, during, and after a meeting.

Remember that time is everything when it comes to organising your day-to-day life. Just make sure you give minutes the time they deserve.

5 simple steps to writing successful minutes

So what can you do to make your life easier? A 40-minute seminar wasn’t long enough to arm my fellow everything assistants with everything, but it was enough to highlight the key points. To be an awesome minute writer, you need to:

  1. understand what the purpose of minute writing is
  2. identify what makes minute writing difficult
  3. look at the agenda and familiarise yourself with it
  4. introduce yourself to the chair, and work with them during the meeting
  5. keep your language simple and edit your minutes into plain English.

The most important thing to do is to take a step back. Take a second look at what you have to do, and figure out ways to make things easier on yourself. While you might not believe you have a few minutes to spare, preparation can save you time in the long run.

Learn more about minute writing by registering for our Minute Writing workshop

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.