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How to take meeting notes that really work

Jeff Taekman, M.D. | April 17, 2013
We all have to go to meetings. Some of us have to take notes on those meetings. Here's one workflow for making sure those notes are as useful as possible.

As a doctor, educator, and administrator, I attend a lot of meetings. That means taking lots of meeting notes and, after those meetings are over, making sure that all of the action items we've decided on get done. Over the years, I've tried many different ways to do so.

For ages, I regularly hauled my MacBook Pro along with me, and relied on a variety of apps to capture notes and to-dos. Next, I transitioned to taking handwritten notes with the Livescribe Echo smartpen; that pen translated my scrawl into computer-readable graphics. But--true to the physician stereotype--I have awful handwriting, and my notes were illegible. To make matters worse, that workflow offered me no good way to hand over my action items to OmniFocus, my task manager of choice.

Finally I hit upon an effective workflow: Using an iPad coupled with a Zagg Folio keyboard, I take notes that are immediately available on all my other devices in a format I can search quickly, and to-do items get into OmniFocus almost seamlessly. Here's how it works.

Taking notes

For starters, I have two note-taking apps on the iPad (and iPhone): Drafts and Notesy.

Drafts for iPad and iPhone is my main note-taking app on both my iOS devices because of its flexibility and its ability to work with TextExpander. I can launch Drafts and start entering information almost immediately. Only after I've done so do I need to think about where that information should go; the app has dozens of built-in conduits for sending text to other apps and services.

Notesy is just one of the apps to which Drafts can send text, and I use it for one reason: It syncs via Dropbox. That means any text in it is available on all my Dropbox-connected devices.

The last app I rely on is TextExpander. I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. TextExpander understands short keyboard sequences (snippets) that expand to fill in words, lines, or even pages of text. I have one such snippet that serves as a template for all my meeting notes:

MeetX -- Untitled -- %Y-%m-%d at %H:%M # ATTENDEES: JMT # BACKGROUND / REFERENCE: # NOTES: # ACTION ITEMS FOR ME: # ACTION ITEMS FOR OTHERS:

The first part of the first line marks the note as a meeting; I use MeetX instead of something like meeting because I know that if I search for MeetX I'll see only notes with that heading instead of every document containing the text string meeting. The snippet automatically fills in the current date and time (%Y-%m-%d at %H:%M).

 

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