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  • Note taking and GTD processing

    OK, I'm a lousy note taker and I need help!

    I take notes, but they don't always capture the key items, or I have too many notes to make any serious sense of them; yet I still take them!

    So what happens? I don't use them...don't read them again. I know things are slipping away that could be done.

    Possibly some of you have note taking techniques you could share?
    And, how you get them into lists and then to actionable items??
    Maybe it's that weekly review I'm missing???!

  • #2
    Writing things down...step one...

    During one of my recent Getting Things Done seminars, I watched one participant add to her “mind sweep” throughout the day. What started as a ten-minute exercise, had graduated into a full day comprehensive inventory of anything that had her attention. She shared with me later that writing those items down allowed a part of her to “relax” about all those things she was not doing right then. She had written down over 100 items and given herself the freedom and permission to "collect without commitment." It was quite an inventory of incompletes and the beginning of many new possibilities!
    I wrote this some time ago. What I have to add here, now, is that a portion of the GTD seminar ( http://www.davidco.com/pdfs/gtd_inhouse.pdf ) is dedicated to Processing. That same day, people go through each one and make a series of fundamental decisions: What's the outcome? What's the action?

    So, as you take notes, I'd recommend either writing them down on the front end with enough detail or going back shortly after each meeting or brainstorming session, and capturing the "tasks/todos/reference" information embedded therein.

    Now-a-days, I probably write "too much" down; but, I don't want to get to the end of a day and remember I missed something. Make sense?

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    • #3
      I'm basically a newbie, but here's what I do ...

      I've only been at this a few weeks, but I've been doing the following:
      I take notes during a meeting, and put them in my inbox (I use a paper planner and 3x5 notecard system -- the front section of my planner is my "inbox" where I make my notes; if I don't have my planner with me, I have my 3x5 cards, which then go into my physical inbox).

      I do a 2-3 times/week "mini review" where I go through my inbox and pull out the Next Actions, Projects, etc. If the notes from my meeting are something that needs to be acted upon in the next week, then I transfer those Next Actions into my Task List -- if there is support material that will be needed, I file it in my Action Support folder. If there is nothing else except for reference material left after I've stripped out the actions, then I file my notes in my reference file in the appropriate file. If the meeting notes generate Next Actions/Projects that are more long term, I often save them for my full weekly review.

      Realistically, I think that it will ultimately be possible to just throw away my notes after I've condensed them down to Next Actions, but for now, I'm filing the notes "just in case".

      Prior to implementing GTD, I was much like you -- took lots of notes and then never looked at them again until it was too late to make a difference on many of the items.

      Good luck!

      Comment


      • #4
        Total waste of time.

        Think about it in this way:

        Making notes and then not processing them is a total waste of time. So make notes and process them or don't make the notes at all. If you really don't process your notes try to do the following experiment: don't make any notes at all. Draw something funny or make a paper plane instead. Not processing your notes is equally effective as making paper planes instead of making notes. Will you feel happy with that?

        TesTeq

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        • #5
          note taking

          A couple of suggestions: Make templates for recurring meetings or a generic template for all meetings. "Who, what, when, where, why, and what next?" kind of questions. Or use the old college system where on the left hand side of the page you take notes during the lecture (generic event)) and the right you make comments when you study (process). Or, if you have access to dictation or the time, make a summary, file it, toss the notes. Another very efficient system if the meetings are simple and frequentl (e.g., weekly), photocopy a blank monthly calendar with good sized spaces for the days and that is sized so it easily fits into a file folder or can be punched to go in a binder. On the calendar square itself on the meeting day, write the briefest possible note that would be useful, such as Joe, Mac, and me;disc. risk management, Joe to find. speaker for June 1" If there is a topic on which you take extensive notes, jot down "see notes on____(topic). Finally, if at all possible, appoint a recording secretary.

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          • #6
            The most helpful factors for me are keeping in mind the purpose for keeping the notes and using tags in my notes to flag possible projects or next actions. Very simply, I pay close attention to what might constitute a new project or next action (even a Someday/Maybe), and I mark it with something like an asterisk or star (or big P, NA or S/M) in the margin so that when I am processing my notes later I can easily pull out items that need to be transferred to my lists. Plus I process notes quickly along with other paper items in my inbox. If you don't process quickly, then you may forget why you even jotted something down and what it means. If I can, I take five minutes after a meeting just to process my notes. When this is not possible, I try to at least process them by the following day.

            Using a template, mindmapping or trying different structures for keeping notes may also help. When you keep in mind the purpose for keeping the notes (e.g., I need to record my next actions or I may need this information for reference later), you can develop a strategy that suits your needs.

            Comment


            • #7
              Clear your inbox at the end of the day, no matter what.

              If you're dead tired at closing time and there's still a couple of papers in your in-tray, go ahead and process them. If you can't for some reason or another, glance at them at least, and decide if you can put it into your tickler file.

              Now if your work moves at a really fast pace, take it up a notch. Several times during the day, check your inbox for something to process and organize. Turn it into a game, time yourself to see how many seconds it takes for you to pick something up, decide what it is, and discover the next action.

              I'm serious about this, sometimes things show up that must be done before the end of the day that will slip off your radar if you're trusting your context-based action lists 100%. I speak from costly experience.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Total waste of time.

                Originally posted by TesTeq
                Making notes and then not processing them is a total waste of time. So make notes and process them or don't make the notes at all. If you really don't process your notes try to do the following experiment: don't make any notes at all. Draw something funny or make a paper plane instead. Not processing your notes is equally effective as making paper planes instead of making notes. Will you feel happy with that?
                TesTeq,
                I dont agree with you, that not processing notes is a total waste of time. Many people remember facts better when they write them down instead of only listening to them.

                But: Reasonable processing is of course much more useful!

                Yours
                Alexander

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