Productivity Tip: My Best Way to Take Notes

Growing up, my dad was a big note taker. From the calendar in the barn with upcoming farm appointments to 3M pads in the house with reminders for the day to a journal of rain and crop results, he believed in the power of the pen.

I too capture thoughts and memorialize meetings with a pen and paper. But, there’s a twist. I use something not available in dad’s day called Livescribe. Livescribe uses a smartpen and a tablet, that looks like a “normal” pen and tablet. But, there’s an upside.

Everything is OCR’d, so handwritten notes are searchable. More importantly, the OCR’d notes are instantly synced through the cloud to Evernote. Evernote is where I keep all my thoughts, important emails, pictures, or really anything I may want to reference in the future.

I have no financial interest or upside in Livescribe.

Time for Life Planning

In The 100, I dedicate a section to life planning. Similar to using this time of year to plan next year’s business goals, this is a good time to plan next year’s personal goals.

Goals transform vision into reality. Practical goals are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. While many of us make long-term goals; specific short-term goals drive us to achieve our long-term goals.

Writing goals down is essential.  A study by Dominican University professor Gail Matthews found writing down goals, making an action plan, and communicating to others results in being twice as likely to accomplish the goal.

Here are some goal setting tips:

  • Write down your goals.  Then, wait a few weeks to test your conviction.
  • Break your long-term goals into short-term goals backed up by a plan
  • Look at your goals every day
  • Include dates. A goal without a deadline is just a dream.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz are a couple of great books on goals.

Here’s a goal setting template.

It’s That Time of Year; Time to Plan for Next Year

Every fall, we gather at an annual offsite meeting to set goals, no more than three per year, for the upcoming year. We also include time for socializing with each other (though, this year, it’s all remote meetings and a virtual happy hour).

Not only does it give us a clear focus for the next 12 months, but it also reminds us of why we are choosing to build a business together.

Here are the guidelines we follow:

  • Limit goals to no more than three, with one identified as the top goal.
  • Make goals measurable so you know when your goals have been met.
  • Assign ultimate responsibility for each goal to someone with the proper authority.
  • Have frequent updates to “shine a light” on progress toward each goal.
  • Create a theme that ties everyone in the company to the top goal for the year.
  • Hold quarterly meetings to review what’s been done and what’s next.

Here’s the low-down how we run our Strategic Planning two-day offsite.

A Communication Cheat Sheet to Help Leadership Understand One Another

At Intertech, we improve communication in the leadership team through personality cheat sheets, which are personality profiles that remind us who hates long-winded descriptions and who struggles to make a decision that involves something unpleasant. This is to keep us from driving each other crazy in those little annoying everyday ways that creep up when people work closely together for a long time. The cheat sheets are the result of a personality inventory similar to a Myers–Briggs test. I highly recommend it for any group of partners or managers who work closely together.

Also, we are intentional about building strong, trusting relationships among the leadership team. Pre-COVID, a weekly lunch at a local restaurant took us away from the daily press of business and helped us reconnect on a more fundamental level.

Here’s ours (names changed to protect the innocent) of a communication cheat sheet.

Reviews Don’t Work, Here’s a Tool for Performance Management

Professionals expect clarity in performance appraisals and promotions. Make sure the expectations are set clearly from the very first day and give frequent feedback along the way. We’ve adopted the Dale Carnegie Key Result Areas (KRAs) approach to talent management. We use the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of my job? This answer should be extremely simple, such as “selling our services.”
  • What do I need to do to make it happen? For someone in sales, the answer might be “call 100 potential clients every day.”
  • What tools do I need to be successful? For a salesperson, training in phone skills or negotiation techniques might be in order.
  • How do I know when results have been achieved?

Here’s a template to help you implement KRAs for performance management.