My writing is a lot about getting more effective at the things I need to do on a day to day basis. I try to only have a couple of items I focus on over time and approach them simply. I've written about three of the four areas that have been my main focus. I started with note taking which I've improved at sufficiently for my needs. Most have been about filing and finding files. I've tackled email which I've worked to at best a stalemate.
The fourth area I have focused on and a very important element of my productivity needs are effective meetings. I've been a manager for more than 10 years. Meetings are the primary reason I set about to take better notes. Fundamentally, the ability to run effective meetings is a way that teams, and team leaders, can deliver their programs.
Effective meetings have many important elements that need to be in place but there are thing that you can control either as a meeting leader or participant. You can control your preparation and understanding of the objectives of the meeting or your particular topic for the meeting.
My focus on personal preparation is pragmatic and based in training from my early days with the same fortune 50 company that I am with still. In preparation for meetings with my direct supervisor and importantly for my one-on-one meetings with my section manager, I was taught to come to those meetings with a focused set of topics with a brief statement of purpose. So early in my career, I was typing, usually, 3-5 bullet points and the relationship to my project or task objectives. The meeting purpose was usually to inform of progress, ask for any needed help, and get input on my work. This training has served me well as an individual contributor and been something I have coached many others as a manager.
Principally, larger meetings are much the same in that you have a specific purpose and agenda items that should be directed at achieving the project objectives. To over simplify the point, the meeting is only as good as the agenda item topics and their relationship to what needs to be done. If you do no more than take the time to type out or write down what you want to discuss as the meeting in concise statements and think about how that relates to both your personal and team objectives, you will have vastly improved the discussion at the meeting and meeting outcome. Pair that up with effective note-taking and your productivity will improve tremendously. This is in your control whether you simply participate and should be routine if you run the meetings.
I participate and run a large number of meetings. So much so that its often difficult to come out of one meeting and switch gears to the next. I need to be able to prepare for these meetings and importantly remember all the items that relate to that meetings objective. As my hobby is programming, naturally I wrote a program to help with this. I've been using various iterations of the program to help me prepare for meeting. Outside work, I have been polishing this program for release into the Mac App store since I attended an awesome conference, Release Notes, in Oct 2015. Since you've read this far, I would say you have demonstrated interest in the topic of meetings. If you are working on a Mac and interested a personal productivity app for meeting preparation, head over to agendaminder.com and sign up for the mailing list for information about Agenda Minder.