Agendas ease the headache of remembering

Ever sat down for a conversation with someone and suddenly you can't remember what you wanted to discuss? Not a lot of fun, not to mention potentially stressful.

Equally frustrating is when you walk away from a meeting and get the nagging feeling that you forgot to discuss something important.

So next time, rather than enduring this kind of unnecessary headache, do yourself a favor: write down your topics ahead of time. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel and at how much more efficient meetings are when you can march down a list of topics, confident that everything needing discussion is on that list.

So here's some pointers I've found about creating and maintaining these kinds of agendas.

Keep a running agenda list for people you regularly interact with

These people are probably coworkers, family, and close friends. You communicate with them all the time and there's usually plenty of things needing discussing.

First of all, organize your agenda list according to the person's name so that all the items you need to discuss with that person are grouped together. Then when you see one of these people, you can glance at your list and see all the outstanding items. In that moment you can make the decision about what's important to talk about now and what should be deferred for later.

What's critical - and here's the key benefit - is that you didn't have to remember what to talk about in that moment (and you didn't have to stress about forgetting something). You just had to decide in the moment about what items to act on now and what to defer. That's productive and relieves a lot of stress.

Creating your list

I'll show how I do this in eProductivity since I that's what I personally use. Plus, eProductivity makes this really easy. But the principles can be applied to other digital and paper productivity systems.

First, I'm constantly capturing agenda items whenever the thought strikes me. By capture I mean I write the item down on a sticky note, or make a memo on my phone, or even just capture straight into eProductivity. The point is, whenever I think of something I need to discuss, I capture it somewhere as fast as possible. That way, I'm not later on having to rack my brain trying to remember.

Once I've captured items, I need to process them into my eProductivity system. To do that, I use the "Agenda" context inside of eProductivity. It comes turned-on by default out of the box and I definitely recommend keeping it on.

When creating the items, I follow a few simple rules:
I always put the name of the person (who I want to discuss with) first. For example: "John - Discuss XYZ article".
I use a consistent naming scheme. For instance, because I discuss with my boss all the time, I just use his first name e.g. "Eric - blah blah blah". For other people that I talk to more infrequently, I'll generally use both their first and last name.
I always use a "name - subject" syntax. I'll explain below why this is important.

The critical thing here is consistency because eProductivity will sort your list of Agenda items according to the name you used. If you use a consistent scheme, all items for the same person will be grouped together, making for easy list scanning.

Now for #3 above, let me explain a little bit. I use Categorized mode for my Agenda list, and if you use eProductivity, I recommend that you do the same. This mode, when you use the syntax I described, will break out your Agenda list by each person's name, making it easy to see the items you have for each person.

So here's an example of my list:

My agenda list in eProductivity

With this list in hand, I can march through my needed discussion points and mark them complete as I go. I then tend to then more time for fun and creative communication!

Now, it's taken me time to adopt the behavior of writing down items and putting them on an Agenda list.  In days of yore when I was used to keeping these details in my head, writing them down felt odd.

But the more I do it, the more natural the habit becomes. Even better, I feel increasingly relaxed and engaged during meetings.

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