My days can be full of back to back meetings but I still need to get the most out of interactions. To help stay afloat this is what I do daily. To sum it up it’s about reviewing yesterday, getting caught up and then preparing for today.

Context

I use Getting Things Done. Some of what I’ll describe might not make sense without understanding the fundamentals of GTD. I also use a few tools that aren’t ubiquitous, but they could be swapped with other analogs.

It all starts with the OmniFocus Forecast perspective. This perspective is for the action items due on a given day. In the morning it’s populated with some recurring actions with a time due earlier in the day so they show up on top of the list.

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Review @yesterday Bear notes

Make sense of what happened yesterday.

If your days are back to back meetings then this review is absolutely necessary. This gives you a chance to organize and clean up your notes. Get rid of things you don’t need, move ideas around and improve the formatting. If the note is a wall of text I’ll summarize what came out of the meeting or further characterize my disposition. It’s a chance to capture the tone in a way I normally don’t in real time.

There’s also a link in the action item that opens up Bear with all of yesterday’s notes.

bear://x-callback-url/search?term=@yesterday

Here are the type of things I consider for each note from yesterday.

  • Organize the notes
    • Should I delete some of it?
    • Should I move things around or organize my ideas better?
    • Could some things be links to other Bear notes?
    • Could I add formatting to the text or hi lighting so that it’s more useful in the future?
    • Could I make it obvious what the outcome or disposition of the conversation was?
      • Maybe the person stated facts, you captured that but did you note your read of the room?
    • If you have a wall of text, try to add a summary.
    • After reviewing the note was there details that I forgot to write down?
  • Outcomes from the notes, likely new action items in OmniFocus
    • Do I still need to talk to this person about anything?
    • Are there action items for me from this meeting?
    • Are there things I should go read or consider?
    • Am I expecting someone else to do something? If so create a new action in OmniFocus and add a waiting tag.
    • Are there people that are new to me from this meeting that I should reach out to?
    • Are there things I wanted to cover in this meeting that I need to carry over to the next meeting? If so, move it above the date

The time between a meeting and the review of that meeting gives you the chance to have those shower thoughts that can add insight and value to your work. The ability to sleep on it is a big deal. The review is you taking advantage of that.

The repetition doesn’t necessarily just happen once. If you edited the document today means it’ll come up to review tomorrow as well. It goes like this.

  • You write notes for a meeting.
  • Then the following day you re-format or summarize those notes.
  • Then the day after that you read that summary (because you edited the note yesterday it’s in @yesterday’s notes).

Pretty soon this note has been in front of you for a few days. You got it, you’ve reviewed it, the retention is better.

Check on Waiting tasks

Who owes me stuff

OmniFocus has tags, if you’re familiar with GTD these are an implementation of contexts. Contexts are buckets for you to place tasks such that you can retrieve them when they are most relevant. You can also create links from tags, the recurring OmniFocus item has a link in the notes that go directly to the waiting tag (shown above).

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What this means in practice is if I’m waiting on someone to do something that I am concerned about I’ll tag that action item with Waiting. Then each work day I review this list to see if there’s something I need to do to follow up. You don’t necessarily need to take action on everything in the waiting tag, you just need to consider them. Things with Waiting tags are good candidates for the Deferred until field in OmniFocus.

Clear OmniFocus Inbox - 1st Pass

Organize actions I’ve quick-captured

A brief aside on GTD. To make it really work you must be able to quickly capture ideas as they pop into your head. If it’s not easy to capture those ideas you won’t track them. That means you have an inbox that is full of those fleeting inspirations you’ve captured but they now need to be categorized for prioritization and retrieval in the future when it makes the most sense.

In practice this means assigning the task to a project associated with a role that you have towards a larger goal. Most importantly you give the task some tags so that you’ll engage with it in the right context. You could also assign a due date so that you think about it at a particular time.

This action item in OmniFocus has a link (omnifocus:///inbox) which sends you to the Inbox. No more having to move your mouse 3 inches up and to the left to click on the inbox perspective, oh the time you’ll save.

Look at calendar and prepare for todays meetings & 1:1s

Get ready for today.

I first scan the whole week to make sure no conflicts have come up that need to be handled or if there are things in the coming week that I need to prepare for.

For each meeting coming up today consider these things, a lot of times this will involve creating new actions in OmniFocus or adding to notes in Bear.

  • Do I need additional information or prepare for this meeting?
  • Do I know where I need to go for the meeting?
  • Prepare notes
    • Is this a new meeting, person, vendor or partner that I need to create a new Bear note for?
      • If so create the note, if in doubt name it after the meeting
      • If this is a recurring meeting maybe create a tag in OmniFocus if there isn’t one
        • This will let me capture things that I want to bring up or consider for this meeting
    • Open the note for the meeting or person
    • Create a new header at the top with today’s date
    • In the Bear note I have a link to the meeting’s OmniFocus tag, click on it and see if I have anything in OmniFocus that I want to consider for that meeting
    • Move over the things from OmniFocus to the note that I really want to consider in this meeting
      • At this point I’ll usually order things logically or in priority order
  • Review previous notes
    • Are there things from the last meeting that need to be pulled up to this meeting?
    • Should I add to the things I need to talk to them about or follow up on
    • Are there commitments I made previously that I forgot to capture?
    • Am I waiting on something from the person?
    • Did they previously mention something important in their life that I should ask about?

Clear email inboxes

Clear the email inboxes that will distract your focus throughout the day. If this includes personal email do that too.

For all emails, consider these things:

  • Do you need to add to your notes?
  • Do you need to take action?
    • Will it take less than 2 minutes, do it now.
    • Otherwise, add a task in OmniFocus.

I wish I could link to specific emails in OutLook and dump links into OmniFocus. So I just give my action a title of “handle {email subject}”.

Catch up on Slack

Slack is similar to email. Get caught up, see if there are things you need to note, actions you need to take, things you need to consider more in the future. The link below is in the OmniFocus action, it opens Slack.

slack:///

Clear OmniFocus Inbox - 2nd Pass

Just like before, do it again. Since the last time you reviewed the inbox you likely have a few more tasks that need to be categorized.

omnifocus:///inbox

Summary

Normally all these steps don’t happen in order. For example sometimes I get too bored reviewing yesterday and I have to see what Slack is up to for example. I’ve also come to this routine during the Covid pandemic. We’ll see how it survives through a return to in-person work.