Meeting Notes using Text Files and Org-mode
When taking meeting notes it's important you can do it fast and reliably. It's also important that you can take them offline without the need for Internet access as you are often outside of you office.
Using text files is a great way that fulfills the above. You can write them with any text editor you have on your computer or even on your phone of tablet. Saving to text files also does not require Internet access.
A drawback using text files could be that they lack some structure. This is where Org-mode comes in. It allows you to add headers and format the text with for example bold or italic and it allows you to create bullet and ordered lists.
In addition to formating, org-mode also gives you several features such as date and time management, scheduling, prioritization, tagging and a few other bells and whistels.
By using a tool like Emacs or EasyOrg on desktop or Orgzly and Beorg on the phone you can easily take advantage of this additional structure to your text files.
It's the agenda functionality with its capability to sort, search and filter as well as organize based on dates which add a lot of benefits.
How to take notes using org-mode
You can either take down all your meeting notes in one and the same text file all the time for example meetings.org or you can have one file per customer or project, eg. meetings-customerA.org, meetings-projectA.org.
One file per customer/project
In this file you could write down each meetings notes below a header which has the current date in it, for example:
This way you have each meeting structured by date. As a sub heading you could add a name of the topic for this meeting if you like, for example:
** Marketing strategy for 2024
One file for all meetings
In this file for all meetings you assign one header for each customer or project. When you take down your meeting notes you write them under the proper customer/project header and below it you add a sub heading for the current date, eg.:
Below this header you can add another sub-header with the topic of this meeting if you like, for example:
*** Marketing strategy for next year <2023-11-03>
By adding an active timestamp (event) this item will be easy to find using date based search. For example to find all events from one week ago or later you can use:
e.ge.-1w or to find events within a period of 4 months ago to 2 months ago:
Add todo tasks and scheduling
Below your notes you can add tasks related to your meeting notes. They will show up in the agenda as TODOs.
You add a task by add in a sub-header with the todo state word 'TODO'. For example:
** TODO Update the website with the new logo.
You can schedule them for when you should do them by adding the
SCHEDULED: 2023-01-15 line just below the header.
You can also assign deadlines indicating when it has to be done by adding a
DEADLINE: 2023-01-25 on the line just below the header.
These dates will determine where they show up in the agenda and you can also search based on them.
A CREATED_AT date will automatically be added to the task if you have defined that in the Settings. This makes it searchable by creation time.
Tag your meeting notes
To easier find your notes you can assign them a tag or two. For example give them a tag of a geographical region or department or something elso of significance to your field of work.
Sometimes it's also beneficial to assign a tag with the name of who should carry out a certain task. You can in such a case give it a tag name such as
Search and filter your meeting notes
EasyOrg and some other org-mode editors provide powerful search tools. You can search on text, dates, tags, parent header text, priority and many other things. You can combine searches as well, for example search for a text, tag and a date at the same time.
This makes it easy to single out specific data related to your current task at hand.
By organizing your notes this way you get organized and have all data easily accessible and searchable. When you get asked something by a colleague you can easily find what you look for.
When you think about how to move forward with some new strategy or plan, you have all the data necessary to move forward. You avoid blanks and you find more inspiration.
When you write your weekly reports you do no longer have to think hard what you did last week as you already have all the data handy and searchable. It's easy to find things to add to your report and you get inspiration instead of a dreaded feeling when you sit down to write it.