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Work Culture: iPads and MacBooks in Meetings

I found a link to a website recently called Gridwriter which has a bunch of read-worthy articles on it. I like Robert’s writing style and have been having fun digging through his thoughts on various subjects near and dear to my heart (GTD, technology, etc.)

One that struck a chord was about why he refrains from taking notes on an iPad when in meetings. In the article he mentions the snarky comments and sideways glances you get when walking into a meeting with an iPad. I certainly got my fair share of those when I first did it. In fact, I was asked not to bring it after one meeting and people dismissively commented about me “checking my instant messenger” during the whole meeting, when all I was doing was taking notes.

I took the criticism to heart for a while but was bothered that I had to change my workflow, certainly for the worse, for the whims or perceptions of people who don’t view technology with quite the same type of interest or curiosity that I do.

For a while, I did what Robert did – scribbled down notes in a paper notepad and transcribed them to my iPad or Macbook when the meeting was over. This was problematic for me, because my meetings are often back-to-back with subsequent meetings and I rarely have the time or inclination to type eight hours worth of notes into OmniOutliner at the end of the day.

I started thinking up ways to combat the negativity and skewed perceptions of those who didn’t feel like taking a laptop or iPad into a meeting was appropriate or productive.

Sit in a spot where others can easily see your screen.

Make it obvious to those around you that you’re single-tasking and taking good notes on the proceedings. If possible, sit with the biggest critic in clear view of what you’re doing.

Read back from your notes when appropriate.

Often, someone will bring up a point from earlier in the meeting and will have characterized it incorrectly or forgotten exactly what was agreed to. Reading from what you typed can certainly prove the point that you were typing the proceedings rather than checking email.

Don’t multitask, even if it helps.

Someone mentions they need access to a github repository. You quickly tab over to Safari and grant them access. While it looks to you like you were being helpful and efficient, to those who don’t like laptops or devices in meetings, it just looks like you weren’t paying attention. Avoid this situation. Instead, press your OmniFocus hotkey or switch to OmniFocus for iPad and quickly dump the github access request into your Inbox and do it later.

Send meeting minutes out right after the meeting

If you were responsible for producing the meeting minutes, send them out as soon as you can after the meeting. If you’re using a workflow like mine, you can tab over the Marked and produce email-ready meeting minutes in literally seconds.

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While the steps I took eventually worked, admittedly, it didn’t hurt that I am one of the people in the company that drive technology throughout the organization. Trying out new technology, especially stuff that’s relevant to our overall business objectives, is something I need to do and obviously something I enjoy.

A few months of consistent meeting minutes, instant and search-driven recall over details of meetings from weeks before, and a clear understanding of priorities (captured in meetings and put directly into OmniFocus) helped win over the doubters and it seems like the culture around here has slowly changed. Having laptops and iPads in meetings these days is a common occurrence, and I’m a lot happier for it.