Tips and Tricks for Staying on Top of Meeting Agendas

Attending meetings is a necessary evil of my job. Thankfully, most of my colleagues see the value of having a running agenda stored somewhere in the cloud. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few best practices of my own that have helped save me time and keep me on top of my game.

1. Use Alfred to quickly launch agendas in the cloud

Agendas are great. Having to remember what every person decided to name the agenda just to find it isn’t. I can never quite remember if they decided to use “Catch Up”, “Running Agenda”, or “Meeting Notes”. I’ve solved the problem by making an Alfred workflow that opens the URL for the agenda by typing “agenda” followed by a descriptive keyword for the meeting that makes sense to me (e.g. agenda managers). The amount of time this saves me is honestly a bit mind-blowing.

2. Use Apple Notes or another notes app to store your own notes for the agenda

My colleages and I tend to use meeting agendas as shared notes and edit them throughout the meeting as things come up. However, I’ve started keeping my own running agenda for each meeting in Apple Notes. It’s nice to be able to look back over my own notes in one place rather than a myriad of Byword files. I’ve named all these something similar (e.g. Agenda Notes: Meeting Name) to avoid another complicated naming scenario as described in the last tip.

3. Add any action or follow up items to Omnifocus ASAP

As soon as I get back to my office, I make sure to review the agenda and my own notes making sure to capture any action items into Omnifocus for further action. This ensures nothing slips through the cracks before the next meeting.

4. Keep an agenda project in Omnifocus

Any time I think of something I need to discuss with someone that’s not immediately pressing, I add it to Omnifocus as a reminder to mention it the next time I see them. I name each item in the same format, “Person’sName: Action”, assign it to the @People context, and add it to my Agendas project (if it’s a work colleague). If I know the next date I plan to meet with that person, I’ll set a defer date as well.

When it comes time to meet with someone, I have one of two options for reviewing items to discuss with him or her: (1) view the @People context which has items involving both work and personal contacts or (2) view the Agendas project which only has work colleagues. Since every item includes the person’s name, I can search by name to narrow down the list to a specific person if need be. If an item up for discussion seems like it will warrant a lengthy discussion, I make sure to add it to the agenda before the meeting as well.

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An Updated Look at Digital Planning

Today, I thought I’d share an update about how my planning system has evolved. To my surprise it’s working out great, and yes, I’m still all digital. I’ve made some tweaks and changes here and there, but the main set up of my system has stayed fairly consistent.

  1. Calendar – Google Calendar
  2. Task List – Omnifocus
  3. Daily Habits – Habit List
  4. Information – Evernote, Box, Google Drive

My calendar set up hasn’t really changed much since my last post. I’m still using my many Google calendars, but I’ve gotten rid of some and added some new ones. As of now this is my list:

  • Personal
  • Finance
  • School
  • Work
  • Home (a calendar shared with my mom so that I know when she will be home)
  • Student Employee Schedule

The next part of my system is my task list. I wrote a few posts about how I used Things. For now, Things is no longer part of my system, and I’ve moved over to Omnifocus. I’ve had to sacrifice Things’ pretty UI, but Omnifocus has made up for it with features like due dates with TIMES and perspectives. I’ll save the full Omnifocus write up for another day, but for now, let’s just say, perspectives are life changing.

I keep my habits separate from Omnifocus. There are some things like going to work, working out when I wake up, or flossing where seeing the chain of consecutive days I’ve done the task serves as major motivation {Thank you Jerry Seinfeld}. For tasks like these, I’m using Habit List which seems to offer the best mix of customization and looks that I’ve seen.

All my information (files, reference materials, etc.) are stored in 1 of 3 places. Evernote is my place for general notes (e.g. reading notes, project ideas, random recipes, and other miscellaneous information I want to refer back to.) My university Box account holds all of my school and work files. Google Drive holds the rest of my files that aren’t work or school related. All of these sync to my computer and mobile devices so everything is with me at all times.

Bonus (Journaling and Health/Fitness Tracking):

I’ve been trying to do better at recording things that happen in my life. For those I use a few apps.

Momento serves as my “journal”. It pulls my various social media feeds in automatically, and I try to log 3 things I’m grateful for each night before bed here as well. I’ve found that it’s a nice way to wrap up the night in a positive way, and scrolling back through the days to see the little things that made me happy is also pretty cool.

I track my health using a combination of apps. With the Fitbit Force being recalled, I’ve switched to the Jawbone Up 24 as my primary fitness band. The UP app is pretty awesome, and it records my steps, sleep, and a plethora of other things. I still use my Fitbit Aria scale so I do still use Fitbit, but the scale syncs to MyFitnessPal which syncs with the Up band. I also use MyFitnessPal which seems to offer more options for logging workouts and food. Together these apps work great together. Just this past week, I had been waking up in the middle of the night, and without these apps, I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed that I was waking up at exactly the same time each night presumably due to something happening in my room at that time.

So I hope you’ve found this little overview of how I stay semi-organized. Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to hear more about anything.

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