In academics, like every other corporate entity, meetings are a necessary evil.

I’ve tried all sorts of solutions for capturing notes and action items from my meetings. For many years, I would haul my MacBook Pro into the room, relying on a slew of software invoked through Launchbar.

Next, I transitioned to the cool LiveScribe Echo. The Achilles Heel of Smart Pen Technology for me, true to the physician stereotype, is that I have awful handwriting. Most of my handwritten notes were illegible. To make matters worse, sending handwritten notes to OmniFocus was a kludge.

Recently, I’ve been carrying my iPad + Zagg Folio to meetings. Although convenient and portable, I have continued to depend on a slew of software to capture my notes and to-dos. None of my methods were standardized; my notes would constantly get lost.

This inefficient workflow was why I was so interested in the 512 Pixel post, The Capture Form. The author developed a standardized PDF form to capture meetings. But that wasn’t what I found interesting. It was the very last line of the article, with a link to a TextExpander version of the form.

I riffed on his work and developed a new workflow for my iPad + Zagg that I’ve been trying out.

My workflow starts with setting up the following TextExpander snippet:

MeetX – Untitled – %Y-%m-%d at %H:%M












The first line automatically names the note as a meeting, appending the current date and time. I use the title “MeetX” to help me with search. I know if I search for MeetX I’ll only see my meeting workflow notes (instead of every document that had Meet or Meetings). All that’s left to do is fill in the title. Since I synchronize TextExpander between my Mac, iPad, and iPhone using DropBox, my snippet is immediately available on my all my devices.

The second part of the set-up involves OmniFocus and their Mail Drop service (note: in order for this to work you have to sync OmniFocus with the Omni Sync Server). If you haven’t done so, log onto the Omni Sync Server, and apply for the Mail Drop Beta (when I applied, I received my invite in a matter of minutes). Once accepted, you set up a unique email address that is your direct link to Sync Server. To learn more, check out the Omni Mail Drop story at MacSparky.

When I want to take meeting notes, on my iPad, with TextExpander running, I launch Drafts. I expand my snippet (in my case by typing “.mtg”), fill in a title, and am ready to go. If I’m preparing for a meeting in advance, I type in my reference material under the appropriate heading, then fill in the remaining fields during the meeting. Most days, I get started with my note taking immediately when I enter the room.

When the meeting is over, within Drafts, I forward my notes to Notesy Simplenote. Since I’ve set up Notesy to synchronize with NValt on my Mac (as I wrote about previously), my meeting notes are immediately available and searchable on all my devices.

If personal to-do items came out of the meeting, I have another step. From within Drafts, I select “forward to email,” type out a subject name, then email the note to my personalized Omni Mail Drop address. When I open OmniFocus, the item is waiting for me as an Action in my Inbox. Even cooler, the complete meeting text is available in the “Notes” field . If there are multiple actions embedded in the original meeting notes, I spend a few minutes processing the set into single unique actions.

An alternative: from within Drafts select “Send to Omnifocus as note” (of course you have OmniFocus installed on your iPad for this to work). Drafts will launch Omnifocus and the notes of your meeting will be placed in the appropriate section of a new action. The only thing left for you to do is type in the name of the action.

This workflow has helped me immensely. I now have an efficient, standardized, searchable, multi-device method for recording and retrieving my meeting notes.

I’m really excited about this workflow–I hope it works for you too. Let me know what you think.

Appended March 2, 2013: Read this entry on why I switched from SimpleNote to Notesy.

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5 Responses to Meeting WorkFlows: Efficiently Capturing Meeting Notes

  1. Ryan says:

    I have setup a very similar workflow however I’ve automated further combining it with another workflow I picked up online. Let me explain…

    IFTT watches my calendar for events with a ‘evernote mtg’ keyword in the notes. 15 minutes before the meeting, IFTT creates a new note in Evernote with similar headings to the one used in your workflow.

    At the same time IFTT uses the same trigger to create a new Omnifocus task (via the Mail Drop service) to remind me to action my notes after the meeting.

    Seems to be working well so far!

  2. Warren Cann says:

    Hi Jeff

    Thanks for this post. I do something similar. I use the Text Expander Snippet in the same way (although I have kept in an Agenda section) and I use a combination of NVALT on the Mac (which is great to use on my Macbook Air in meetings) and Notesy (when I have my iPad – iPhone). These are synced as described by Michael Schechter here I like using NVALT because I can link notes, and even ‘link’ documents, and I can also edit the notes in my favourite Text Editor Byword when I am on my Mac. I keep a single note for each of my regular meetings (e.g. one-onones with my directs) which gives me a continuous running record of our discussions. I’m off to set up Omni Mail drop now – so thanks for that!



  3. Chris Lee says:

    Jeff, Great post! I just wrote a sort of follow-up to your workflow on my blog tabletproductive; I realize you are not an Evernote user, but the automation possibilities with TaskClone may convince you to try Evernote as a conduit. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on my workflow.

    As an aside, I just listened to your MPU episode; excellent job. Having worked in a hospital for 7 years as a clinical director (I am now running a home-health venture) it is always great to hear about another medical tech nerd. I am also curious to know why Duke has not implemented Epic’s iPad app yet as I know Epic on the iPad with Citrix is painful at best.

  4. John A says:

    Would like be to hear how your meeting workflows(s) have evolved since this post. With your use of Evernote, KM, etc what is now most efficient for you. Am a neophyte academic physician leader finding my way in the use of these tools. your blog and mpu guest appearance has been very motivating and helpful.

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