Quick notes: get meetings faster and get out of them quicker

This is mostly for when you’re meeting a colleague. It doesn’t work so well if you ring up Steven Spielberg and ask for a meeting when he’s never heard of you.

But when they have heard of you and you can get meeting with them, do it like this. Say immediately, right up front, now when exactly you want it. So rather than get into the “can we meet? when’s good for you cycle”, ask: “Can we meet on Tuesday at 11am to discuss X?”.

The first and most startling thing you’ll see is that it is preposterous how many times people say yes. But even if they don’t, the next most likely thing is that they’ll say no, how about Wednesday? You already a step or three down the line. But above all that, this also tells them that you’re serious, it therefore tells them that this is genuine and purposeful meeting, and it can start to train them to be the same back.

When you get them, make meetings shorter than you think you need and also be very clear about that. When you schedule a meeting, email everybody saying what the start and end time is, plus a list of things that will be covered.

Then cover them, assign each task to somebody (though it’s usually you), and end the meeting. Get out to your next thing and you’ll train people (including you) to cut out the nonsense vocal exercises that are most meetings most of the time.

I recommend 15 minutes and the fewest number of people you can manage. Also, as well as sending everyone that start-and-end-time kind of agenda, email them after the meeting too. This like the news thing: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them it, then tell them what you’ve told them. Those headlines again: short meetings, specific actions, reminders afterwards.

When I run a meeting and also take the minutes, I do send them around as an attachment the next morning but I also append a text task list to the email body. Few people read the minutes to any meeting in any organisation but this way they can see what they’ve promised to do.

Using OmniFocus for meeting agendas

This is entirely stolen from Asian Efficiency: I just read this on there and it’s like they knew what I needed. I now run a particular regular meeting for the Writers’ Guild. More than other meetings, this one seems to have tasks that keep coming up: generally things I have to tell the committee, things they’ve asked me to discuss, that kind of thing. And I’ve struggled a bit because I have an OmniFocus project devoted to the Guild and it’s already pretty long and big and messy. I was thinking of turning that into  folder with some kind of General Writers’ Guild Bits project and a Things for the Meetings kind of project.

But that idea is about as ugly as the names I was giving them. And as I pondered ugliness versus efficiency, I read this:

The easiest way is to set up a single action list called “Agenda” and you dump all discussion items in there. So whenever you have an idea, you can either dump it into your inbox or immediately move it to your “Agenda” single action list.

If you want to elaborate a little, use the notes section of the task where you can freeflow and type all your thoughts about a particular agenda point (on desktop, click on the paperclip icon on the right or press CMD+’ (apostrophe)).

The next time you have a meeting, pull up the “Agenda” list and simply go through each point you have in there and check things off. It’s that simple!

How to Setup and Use OmniFocus as an Agenda for Meetings – Thanh Pham, Asian Efficiency (26 March 2014)

Do read the whole thing, would you? It’s written in a way that’s hard to usefully quote but easy to read: it’s an article based on a discussion that took place in Asian Efficiency’s paid-for premium service. What’s convinced me is the Socratic way it builds up into a picture.