In this tutorial I want to give you a simple process for getting your meeting notes into actionable items in OmniFocus (or any other task management system).
While we are somewhat allergic to meetings here at Asian Efficiency, occasionally we do have to have them and there will always be actionable takeaways or actionable steps that someone has to do after – that is the point of the meeting after all. So… here is what we do.
1. Do the Meeting First
Now it seems obvious, but you need to hold the meeting first.
And we strongly recommend not putting your meeting notes directly into OmniFocus. Why? Because there are usually explanatory points, branches, diagrams and other things going on that OmniFocus is just not suited to capture. You can use a simple agenda-style document, a simple text document or a mind map – however you want to capture the main points of the meeting, do it your way first.
Now when something during the meeting is raised as an action point, you want to have a shorthand way of indicating it as such. You can use something like:
-  Action Item.
- ACTION: Action Item.
- THANH: Action Item.
If you’re taking notes in a mind map, you can use a separate node for actions, callouts for actions, or you can just highlight actions in a different fill color.
Most of the time, action items can be derived on-the-fly by people in the meeting. A simple protocol of “that needs to be actioned by PERSON” is said out loud and whoever is taking notes/minutes jots it down.
However, there are times when that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, which is when you need to be able to derive actions from the minutes that have been written. Now this is somewhat dependent on industry and company, but here are some examples that will help:
Example 1: Move forward with GPP project.
Say at some point during the meeting, the project lead mentioned that it’s time to move forward on the next step of the “GPP” project. So how do you convert this into an action that works in OmniFocus?
Well, in this case it’s likely a simple single action under the existing “GPP” project. This action could be:
 Go to whiteboard and brainstorm next 5 steps for GPP project.
 Start a mind map and work out sequence of next steps for GPP project.
Example 2: Find video crew to film next production.
This could have been mentioned as an off-the-cuff comment about what is needed for the upcoming production, but you recognize it as a task (or set of tasks) that needs to be done. And you would be right – this is in fact, a sequence of actions that can become a whole new project in and of itself. It would consist of:
-  Think about who might be able to refer a video crew.
-  Contact those people and ask them for referrals.
-  Create a brief to give prospective video crews a better idea of what we are after.
-  Send brief to video crews and ask for demo reels and a quote.
-  Draw up assessment criteria to work out which crew to hire.
-  Perform assessment and prepare crew recommendations to present to production team.
Once this list of actionable items has been derived from the meeting notes, you want to make sure that the notes go out to everyone in the meeting, and that everyone knows their action items.
2. Transfer into OmniFocus (or task management system)
So let’s assume that the meeting notes have been completed, and the action items clearly identified.
You then want to quickly scan through and see the things that you have to do, and put them into OmniFocus in the relevant places – start new projects if you have to, start new action groups if you have to.
If an action is poorly formed – e.g., it just says “report”, be sure to rewrite it so that it makes better sense to you. Remember to start all your actions with a verb, and don’t be afraid to split up a single action into multiple actions within an action group.
Also remember to give your action items contexts, start dates, due dates if applicable, a flag status and a time estimate if you use those.
Where to go next
And… that’s pretty much all there is to using OmniFocus with Meeting Notes.
If you’d like to learn more real-world applications of OmniFocus, check out our OmniFocus training product, OmniFocus Premium Posts.
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