Meeting WorkFlows: Efficiently Capturing Meeting Notes

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.