Not long ago I picked up a great productivity tip that’s helped me enormously in my day-to-day work life: Keeping copious notes for every meeting you attend is a waste of time. It’s laborious and distracting. The best thing to do is, after a meeting is over, think of just one or two important things that you want to recall later and write them down. That’s it.
This advice absolved me of the pressure I previously felt to write down everything. Without that distraction, I’ve been able to generally stay more focused and absorb more of what’s said in meetings. And with fewer notes, the act of searching them later becomes much easier too.
To be honest this advice didn’t become truly useful for me until I combined it with a bit of automation. Before that, I always intended to write down the highlights of each meeting but never really had a good place to do it. That problem was solved when I discovered this very handy IFTTT applet, which scans my calendar and, fifteen minutes before each meeting, automatically creates a fresh note in Evernote with the date, time, subject and attendees of that event. The applet effectively creates a journal for me with the baseline information in place already; all I need to do is write down what I remember. The applet is written to work with Google Calendar but you can also easily adapt it for Exchange. Get it at ifttt.com.
I use this every day and it’s been invaluable but given my way, what I would really want is to be able to see all my notes in calendar form. Having notes in list form, as Evernote presents them, is somewhat useful for searching. But the visual chronology of meetings is for me incredibly useful for recalling meetings. There’s no good reason to effectively mirror my calendar inside of Evernote, especially when Evernote can’t mimic the chronological organization of the original calendar.
Actually the ideal form would be to add my own notes to each event within my calendar app. Calendar events can accommodate notes, of course, but you can only edit them if you’re the meeting organizer, and of course the notes are visible to all of your invitees. Basically all I need is another text field where I can capture private notes for my own reference. It begs the question why notes apps and calendar apps aren’t just the same thing, or at least the question of why someone hasn’t created a product that merges them together.