This blog post was sponsored by Adobe Document Cloud.
Meetings can be the bane of our existence! A great many of them are poorly run and useless… but even the useful ones have problems.
Note taking! I take copious notes in meetings. After all, in good meetings, there’s a lot of good stuff that needs to be captured: decisions, their rationale, vendor information, and action items.
Electronics don’t do it. They’re distracting and take you away from the people dynamics—which are often the part that ultimately make or break you. You want your attention on people during a meeting; you need to spot those telltale flinches that signal potential blackmail material. It’s hard to watch the people when you’re trying to discreetly play Civilization 5 at the same time.
Paper lets you keep your attention mainly on people. And I like paper, but it can get disorganized and is hard to find stuff. My solution? A hybrid system that uses both: electronics for reference, paper notes for recording.
Create folders for each project
Give each project its own folder on a cloud service, like Adobe Document Cloud. All documents and resources related to that project goes in that folder. Make that a habit, and you just don’t have to think about it. Everything related to Project X goes in folder X.
When you need to find the secret plans related to Project X, you instantly know your go-to folder: folder X. It’s simple, and very effective if you use it rigorously.
Put background material into the folder
When there are background documents needed for a project or decision, they go in the project folder. While I may take large hardcopy documents to the meeting itself, for anything that’s only a few pages, I quickly scan it using my smartphone with a scanning app like Adobe Scan, then the PDF file goes into the project folder as background material.
Since Adobe Scan has optical character recognition of the scanned documents, it makes the PDF text searchable. When you need to find reference information quickly, rather than flipping through a stack of papers, you can simply do a quick search within the PDF.
I generally put background materials in a subfolder called REFERENCE so they don’t clutter up the main project folder.
Take notes on paper
Remember how you’re going to take notes on paper, so you can be on the lookout for the subtle interpersonal dynamics that reveal the true nature of the power hierarchy? Do it. Take the notes on paper.
When the group makes a decision, note it, and write a big exclamation point next to it. When there are action items, write them in the lower right part of the paper, with a little checkbox next to each one. Now, with a glance, you’ll be able to review your notes and find both the decisions and the action items. Consider using blank, unlined paper if you can write neatly.
Summarize and Scan, Scan, Scan
At the end of the meeting, if you have several pages of notes, you may want to copy all the decisions and action items onto a single page at the end, for quick reference.
Then … scan your notes and save as a PDF using your scanning app. You’ll end up with a single PDF that has an easy-to-use summary page, with all the details saved for the future. You can also use Adobe Acrobat to combine your PDF’s, update notes, and easily share with others on your team.
Name your files for easy retrieval.
Upload the PDF to the project folder, with a filename that starts with the word MEETING and the date in yymmdd format. For example, MEETING 180316 Marketing department.
When you sort the project folder by filename, all meeting notes will be together since they all start with MEETING. They will then be grouped in order by date.
Using a combination of electronic and paper workflow lets you keep your attention where it needs to be at any given time. You use paper when your attention needs to be on the people, and use scanning, project folders, and more to make it neat, easy, and fast to access information when you need it.