Making The Most of Meetings

Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guests posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels. Despite being damn smart and damn handsome, Stephen also has a knack for being damn practical. His Capture Form single handedly changed the way I approach meeting notes, so it’s only fitting that he’s talking about how you can make big things happen when you find yourself sitting in them.

I — like most people in management — have to spend a lot of time in meetings. Whether it be with other manager, my direct reports, vendors, volunteers or the boss, I often find myself across a table from someone, needing to share and receive information.

Before the iPad, this often meant dragging in my MacBook Pro to review documents and plans, and to capture any information or tasks.

I was never super comfortable with using my laptop in meetings. The screen creates a barrier between me and whoever I’m meeting with, and there’s always the temptation to be looking at Twitter or some other non-related items discreetly.

The much more horizontal iPad solved these problems for me. In addition to being less of a wall on the conference room table, the fact that other people can see the screen helps me make sure I keep on task.

(I have never been a fan of those stupid keyboard docks for the iPad, in case you were curious.)

For some time now, I have used Evernote to keep up with various pieces of information I am responsible for having with me. In addition to meeting notes, I keep plans, cut sheets, photos and more in there, all just a few taps away. If someone asks me something about work and I don’t know it off-hand, chances are what I need is in Evernote. It’s my personal wiki for everything work-related.

As strong as Evernote is at serving in this capacity, the app isn’t the best thing I’ve used to take notes on my iPad. Even with the recent update to version 5, Evernote for iOS can be clunky and crashy, and I have found myself cursing under my breath in meetings.

For years, I used numerous Dropbox-based text editors for taking notes. (Notesy and Elements are both nice, as is new-comer Byword.)

But recently, I have been using something even simpler than the iPad in meetings. While I still carry my tablet for reference use, I find myself hand-writing notes more and more. Paper and pen create zero friction in meetings, and I am free to doodle or draw as needed, which is handy since many of my meetings are about construction-related issues at work.

For a long time, I would take notes in meetings and they just wouldn’t go anywhere. I might remember my tasks, but I would never be able to refer back to them, as they weren’t organized very well.

Regardless of how I take meeting notes, my post-meeting work these days is always the same. I copy (or scan) my notes if I need to keep them, and file them away in Evernote with tags and the date in the note title.

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  • Wizecoder

    It seems like using Notability along with a good stylus could create a similar low friction environment, with the added benefit of being able to record audio tracks, and the ability to import and make notes on PDFs of documents (or even the Capture Form).