Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

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mancich
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Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by mancich » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:11 am

Hello all,

This may seem like a strange topic, but I struggle with the best method to use for note-taking and managing my task list as I go through my day at the office, in various meetings, one-on-one's, conference calls, etc. Sometimes I am at my own desk, sometimes in a conference room, sometimes in my manager's office. The trusty paper notebook is cheap and easy, but as it grows, is not searchable for past notes/entries, and is not great for managing tasks or projects that can spread across several days or weeks. I could use OneNote or Evernote with my iPad, and it will sync back to my laptop, but it is just not as fast as writing things down. Alternatively, I could carry my laptop with me from meeting to meeting and type notes into OneNote, Outlook, etc, but it's a pain to hook back up the peripherals when I get back to my desk.

My goal here is to be able to efficiently capture all needed information for future reference, as well as manage my ongoing task list, and stay on top of what my team is working on as well. I like Outlook for it's Task list capabilities, but I'm not always in front of my laptop, as mentioned. I don't want to overthink this too much (although I think I am already).

I am sure this efficient group will have some good ideas. Thank you.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by gtd98765 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:11 am

I was a diplomat for 30+ years so notetaking was a key job responsibility, even in senior management. I tried everything, but always came back to a steno pad, plus a lot of experience remembering things based on summarized notes. In conferences with a lot of people where I could use an ipad with a keyboard that was easier and faster. But in small meetings with just a few people you can't really bring along a keyboard. If using a steno pad was two awkward, I would usually have a few 3x5 cards in my coat pocket to write topics on, either during the meeting or immediately after.

To make a permanent record of a meeting based on either the steno pad or the 3x5 card I had to sit down at the computer after the meeting and reconstruct it from notes.

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mancich
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by mancich » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:14 am

Thank you

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JoeRetire
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by JoeRetire » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:20 am

Keep paper notes during the day. At the end of each day, transfer them into your favorite electronic form.

I used to use an MS-Word doc.
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by gclancer » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:20 am

If you keep a relatively well organized Outlook calendar then a note pad with chronological notes can work well. Once the pad is filled file it away until it’s safe to be thrown out. If you have a situation where you’re trying to remember what Tom or Sally said at some meeting you would just need to figure out (from your calendar) when the meeting was and you would be able to find the notes. Really important things should probably be transcribed into an Outlook task/OneNote for legibility/searchability from the notebook (ideally before going home for the day). That’s about the best one can do in my opinion.

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mancich
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by mancich » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:31 am

Thanks all.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by jabberwockOG » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:35 am

I used pen and paper along with a similarly old fashioned thin black 3 ring binder. I created a custom forms to use in the binder - for listing tasks and specifications/requirements for completion. Also kept regular lined paper for taking notes for that day. Each morning I would either mark tasks complete or transfer tasks from previous day to a new sheet.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by prudent » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:41 am

For notes: nothing is as fast as a pen on paper, and I'm a very fast typist. Pen/paper allows sketching a diagram, circling/underlining key points, drawing arrows, etc. I devise abbreviations for key words/concepts, put asterisks next to action items. My notes are sloppy and others can't generally read my writing, but I capture what's needed. After a meeting I would type a summary on the PC for later review. Action items got added to the calendar and/or task list. If meetings are for a project that has a long duration, I usually volunteer* to take the meeting minutes and distribute them to other attendees. The only time I bring a laptop to a meeting is if I'm sitting in on a presentation. I consider the time needed to type up my notes to be an essential part of a meeting (not duplicating effort). If I need a sketch as part of the meeting notes, I'll just take a photo of what I sketched in the meeting and insert it into the meeting minutes. Not fancy but effective. I've gone through dozens of 8.5x11 yellow pads over the years.

Sometimes if I have a series of meetings where I just need to capture key points for reference (I have no action items) and there won't be meeting minutes, instead of transcribing into a separate document I'll edit the meeting in Outlook after the fact and put my notes there.

For task management: I organize the task list in Outlook, and block out time each day to work on that list.

* I volunteer to take meeting minutes because I got tired of others being selective in what they put in the minutes ("accidentally" forgetting to note an action item they were assigned, or not accurately representing what was said to make themselves look better).

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by shmidds » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:03 am

I tried One Note and other note taking apps but they didn't work. I use a yellow legal pad for the day's to do and 3 x 5 index cards for any ideas or action items that come up throughout the day. Its very satisfying to line out a completed task.
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:06 am

I used a compact "paper" Franklin Day Timer" for decades. It's a "system", refillable binder, projects out to years ahead in detail. That and yellow legal pads, or the smaller "steno pads". Worked excellent. Faster than anything digital to this day. But, I am old school.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by TexasPE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:12 am

Franklin Planners has a pocket-size notebook with removable pages. Pages have areas for prioritized to-do lists, notes, etc. Info can be transferred to your choice of databases at the end of the day. Worked for me when I was in management YMMV.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by runner540 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:32 am

Bullet journal method https://bulletjournal.com/
and the book "Getting Things Done"

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by stan1 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:39 am

What is a realistic need? In my case I carry a steno pad with me to meetings. I only write down factual information that I need. I do not attempt to take minutes of the meeting. I don't sort and file emails by subject either. If I want to find an email I almost always know who would have sent it so I just search by name. At my desk on days when I have a lot of things to do I pull out an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper and make a list of short term actions to do. On many days where I have a logical flow of next steps I do not do that.

I do still like David Allen's Getting Things Done as a structure. The idea of taking a next step projects is foundational. I don't use his methods or tools regularly but moving a project forward by completing a next step is ingrained in my work habits. Sometimes a next step only takes a few minutes or even seconds to complete. I use the principal that if I'm not thinking about something it defaults into a parking lot. This all works for me.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by onourway » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:24 am

My iPad Pro is on my desk next to my computer with my notes app open all day. It goes with me with meetings and everywhere else. Mostly I use the pencil to create an ongoing task list, brainstorming, sketching ideas, and so on. Every bit as fast as pencil and paper, and a lot more flexible.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by bloom2708 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:51 am

OneNote for meetings.

For important To Do items I still use square stickie post it notes. Short note, smack it right down in front of me. Toss when done.
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mancich
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by mancich » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:14 am

Great feedback, thanks everyone. I'm leaning toward using a simple ruled journal type notebook (like a hardcover Moleskine) for note-taking, and then where specific follow-up is needed by me/my team, mark it as such on the notes, then type into Outlook tasks. May not be perfect, but like I said, I don't want to overthink it.
Thanks again.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by Afty » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:23 am

I do carry my laptop everywhere and use it both to take notes and to manage my task list. All documents are in Google Docs, which is what my company uses instead of MS Office. It has two features that make it especially well suited for note taking: 1) You can give permission for all meeting attendees to edit a Google Doc. This is a great way both to solicit agenda items and to distribute note taking responsibilities. 2) You can create action items for people by mentioning their username in a comment. The AI is sent to them as an email, so they see it when they get back to their desk.

I’m an obsessive note taker, and I find it incredibly useful. It allows me to juggle many more tasks than I would be able to handle otherwise. It serves as a “CYA” when someone commits to something in a meeting and then “forgets” later — you can give a clear date and time when they committed to the thing. Pulling action items out via comments makes sure people aren’t just talking and are actually doing stuff, and also helps you follow up as you can quickly review the open action items on a doc.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by mancich » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:03 pm

Afty wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:23 am
I do carry my laptop everywhere and use it both to take notes and to manage my task list. All documents are in Google Docs, which is what my company uses instead of MS Office. It has two features that make it especially well suited for note taking: 1) You can give permission for all meeting attendees to edit a Google Doc. This is a great way both to solicit agenda items and to distribute note taking responsibilities. 2) You can create action items for people by mentioning their username in a comment. The AI is sent to them as an email, so they see it when they get back to their desk.

I’m an obsessive note taker, and I find it incredibly useful. It allows me to juggle many more tasks than I would be able to handle otherwise. It serves as a “CYA” when someone commits to something in a meeting and then “forgets” later — you can give a clear date and time when they committed to the thing. Pulling action items out via comments makes sure people aren’t just talking and are actually doing stuff, and also helps you follow up as you can quickly review the open action items on a doc.
You sound even more compulsive than I am :D

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by gtd98765 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:44 am

An article relevant to the OP's Q:

https://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/47452539 ... ptops-away
In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how note-taking by hand or by computer affects learning.

"When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by 8foot7 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:02 am

I take notes all the time. In a one on one conversation. When giving a job interview. During a large meeting. During all hands. I probably throw away 90-95% of all of my notes, but as the previous poster said, the act of actually distributing your cognition from brain to paper has benefits in understanding and retention.

I date/time and label all notes. Action items that I identify during the meeting at the time of writing I make a crude square check box for in the margin. Other things remain simply notes and unlabelled. I don't mind taking notes for anyone in the meeting and try to pay attention to assignments to and promises from other people as well. Even if other people are taking notes, I take them as well. After the meeting/event, I tear off the notes, staple them together, and pop them in my inbox for later review. If others request them, I'll scan them and send via e-mail after the meeting. (Yes, I'm a man, director level, and I actually enjoy taking notes for the group. There's a certain group, mostly on Twitter, that believe note-taking is a menial task. I think it's critical to functioning at an executive level regardless of your gender. If you're at a meeting and not taking notes, I make an immediate judgment that you are operating suboptimally.)

Later that day or the next day, or in rarer cases during my weekly review, I'll take another look at the notes, pop any action items into my task list, make sure no other things stood out upon a second later reading (if so, those go on the task list too), make the call whether I should retain the notes for some value in a sequence of future meetings, and if not, I shred them. For 1:1s with my employees, I retain the notes for about a year. This way I can look back when preparing performance reviews at key themes we talked about over the year, promises I've made about professional developments, goals the employee may or may not have completed, vacation notes, family or health issues that would be important for context over time, and the like.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by Afty » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:57 am

mancich wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:03 pm
Afty wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:23 am
I do carry my laptop everywhere and use it both to take notes and to manage my task list. All documents are in Google Docs, which is what my company uses instead of MS Office. It has two features that make it especially well suited for note taking: 1) You can give permission for all meeting attendees to edit a Google Doc. This is a great way both to solicit agenda items and to distribute note taking responsibilities. 2) You can create action items for people by mentioning their username in a comment. The AI is sent to them as an email, so they see it when they get back to their desk.

I’m an obsessive note taker, and I find it incredibly useful. It allows me to juggle many more tasks than I would be able to handle otherwise. It serves as a “CYA” when someone commits to something in a meeting and then “forgets” later — you can give a clear date and time when they committed to the thing. Pulling action items out via comments makes sure people aren’t just talking and are actually doing stuff, and also helps you follow up as you can quickly review the open action items on a doc.
You sound even more compulsive than I am :D
I wouldn't dispute that. :)

I have to admit, I didn't use to be as compulsive about note taking until a certain coworker joined my team. She was truly amazing in the number of tasks she could juggle at the same time while making progress on all of them, and that made her among the most impressive people I've ever worked with. As I worked closely with her, I observed her note taking system and how effective it was, and I started doing the same thing myself. I really think that a lot of my effectiveness at work comes down to my note taking and task management systems, and not any special ability or aptitude for the actual work.

I also agree with the previous poster that being the note taker in a meeting is far from a menial task. On the contrary, it can be an opportunity to take the leadership role in that room.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by Wings5 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:05 pm

I use Evernote on my iPad with an Apple Pencil. Not 100% as fast as paper and pen, but neater and lasts basically forever.

In terms of long term vs short term tasks, I use a "parking lot" on one page that keeps track of all my to do items. They are separate from the longer term ideas and visions I'm writing down as I go through my day.

Evernote makes it easy to cut and move items vs rewriting them. I work primarily in airline operations, so I take probably 10-12 pages of notes each day at work.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by JBeck » Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:05 pm

Not sure if you are familiar with LEAN or process improvement techniques but I've used a Kanban to track tasks and projects

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by LilyFleur » Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:14 pm

Right after the meeting, use little colored sticky note flags to hang off the edge of your notebook pointing to important topics. Write a few key words on the flag. I find color to be a great memory aid and organizer. Nowadays, I take notes by hand, then photograph them so I have them with me in my phone. And, in the age of big-screen monitors, I have been transcribing sticky notes into Excel with colorful "fills" and then I open the Excel doc, size it down, and leave it open on my monitor while I work.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by iamlucky13 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:36 pm

I'm sure I don't have the best method. I clicked on the thread to look for ideas. But the method I use so far is:

Bulleted lists in Word to organize important information, tasks and due dates, status, recent accomplishments, etc.

I track daily tasks at a high level on one list, adding to the top daily. For the sake of managing the volume, I rollover recent notes to new list each month and continue on.

I track detailed project notes on project specific lists. There is some overlap with my daily list.

If I don't have a formal project schedule, I sometimes add milestones to my Outlook calendar to help me keep track of what is due when. Otherwise, when I am in project-specific meetings, I review notes for upcoming critical due dates that need to be added to my daily task list. As a result, my daily list sometimes has entries in the future that I continue to add to as a deadline gets closer and my plan to complete the work gets more detailed.

I tried keeping a seperate list specifically of just tasks. My wife does this, but for me it turned very quickly into a list of tasks that are late or had to be handed off to other people. It became too stressful and depressing to open it.

This probably seems obsessive to some people, or like unnecessary volume of information, but I've found that the act of taking notes helps me remember the details better, regardless of whether I actually refer to them in the future.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by minerlax4 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:51 pm

For a while, I was using a Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard paired with my smartphone to take notes in Onenote during meetings. I've reverted back to lugging my laptop around so I can access files on the server if need be during meetings, but it worked pretty well while I was doing it.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by jrhampt » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:25 am

I take notes on everything and store them in a single Word document that is ongoing from my first day of employment and always open on my desktop. When something needs to be done, I open an appointment in Outlook and block off time for it. Sometimes these are recurring appointments. I am also a programmer so I make copious notes/comments within my programs, and I have a desktop filing system with a naming convention that uses a brief project description followed by date.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by Lazareth » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:33 am

Use my iPhone's default "Reminders" app and "Calendar" app. I rely on them completely. Easily set up custom reminder folders (Groceries, To-do, Travel, Home Depot, Take-out, etc) and I can set one-time or repeating calendar alarms for priority to-do items and future events and appointments.
Now my phone nags me more than anyone else (but I can silence the phone).
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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by FireSekr » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:00 pm

Not the OP here, but thank you everyone for your replies thus far. This is something I always struggle with and it seems nobody really has a perfect system so I should stop beating myself up over it.

Another trend I'm seeing is that most posters have a preference for pen and paper. I have tried taking notes on my computer, using the Apple Pencil and iPad, and pen and paper methods, and I always revert to pen and paper as well. For whatever reason, I always feel confined in one way or another by the technology, but with paper and pen, I have the most flexibility. If there are takeaways, I just put them in the reminders app on my computer after the meeting.

Using the iPad and Apple Pencil wasn't bad either. Laptop was my least favorite method. Besides feeling restricted about what I can do with it, I tended to try to type everything vs what was important. Even worse, I find having a screen in front of you takes the focus away from the meeting itself and the people around you. Besides all the distractions on the computer, its just a physical barrier in front of your face. I feel more connected and present when I leave the laptop on my desk and just bring myself and a notepad to meetings

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by InvestingGeek » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:31 pm

I second the bullet journal method. After using it for a while, I'm sold on the idea that the mind is a great idea / thought factory but not so much a good warehouse. Having a hard drive for your mind in the form of a bullet journal has been a life saver when juggling family, kids, house, work, side businesses, parents and relationships, vacations. Planning, recording, note taking, goal tracking - it does it all for me and beautifully. Mind is clear as water since I started the practice. Highly recommend.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by InvestingGeek » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:40 pm

mancich wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:11 am
I could carry my laptop with me from meeting to meeting and type notes into OneNote, Outlook, etc, but it's a pain to hook back up the peripherals when I get back to my desk.
Like I said, I use the bullet journal method, but if the laptop peripherals are your only issue, then just get a good docking station. You just need to insert the laptop back into it when at your desk and the peripherals will all be automatically connected.

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Re: Best method for handling work task list and note taking?

Post by phxjcc » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:50 am

Franklin Planner user here.

Highly recommended.

Still use it.

The best quote that I still remember to this day is "no more random pieces of paper", this from ~ 1986.

Yes, the kids will think you are a dinosaur--but italso (surprisingly) creates a feeling of gravitas with others in the room that you are so well organized and are taking notes, have a calendar immediately at hand faster than they can bring up their electronic calendar, and can immediately determine whether you are booked on the 24th at 2 p.m. for the follow up meeting.

For contact management, 20 years ago I used ACT! which was very good in that you could type in your notes...like when you spoke with Bob Smith on 9July about him shipping you quantity 79 sub-assembly qwfsheje1234567 on 17August per your contract and it is now 24Aug and you want your parts or they are in breech.

Cheers.
Last edited by phxjcc on Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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