i want my evernote!
June 6, 2013 8:59 AM   Subscribe

How do you organize your work notes when your company security is really tight? I cannot use Evernote or any web-based tool. I cannot install any programs on my laptop or run anything from a USB drive (I can't even plug in my iphone to charge it). I have Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and LotusNotes (which I HATE). Bonus: this is a new position for me and I'm a bit lost.

I have a new job as a requirements analyst. I seem to be doing ok, but I'd really like to be better organized and my normal ways of doing this are not available to me (Evernote, being able to sync my ipad to some sort of online thing like Dropbox or Evernote, etc.).

I can use a laptop in meetings.

I'd like to have a better record of what was decided when that is easily searchable. If all my notes were in Evernote, I could just search for the phrases or names or whatever and find it. I've read through a lot of the askme's about note taking but they don't seem to apply to the type of meetings I have - the ones I have are people discussing concepts and ideas, rather than next actions. I don't come away from those meetings with a list of "to-do's" or anything like that. It's all very nebulous and abstract. We spend a lot of time talking about the definition of "is", if that helps.

I've been told I'm doing just by fine by managers and my coworkers, but I feel out of water not having my usual tools at hand. And I don't know how to take notes when so much stuff that comes out of meeting will end up being related to 10 different things. A wiki would be the absolutely most ideal thing for this. (We do have a requirements matrix but it's not easily updateable and I can't make personal comments on it that only I can see and it's not really kept up to date anyways. It is an issue but it's not something I can fix. I have to work with it.)

I would just put all the notes about a certain topic together on one word doc, but then I don't have the date/time/who of that meeting and all the other topics that were discussed at that meeting. Or I can have a doc with the meeting notes and bullets for topics but then I have to have a separate doc to cross reference with that one. It just seems overly complicated and I feel I'm thinking about it wrong. I'm not sure if I'm making sense. I can reply to the mods if more clarification is needed.

Thanks for any help!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint

If you have a full install of Office, you could use OneNote to take notes as it records audio of the meeting. You'll be able to go back to the recorded audio, seeing what was being said at the time that any particular edit was made to the note (or making fresh notes that can be linked to any timestamp in the audio). Then leave your machine on while it works in the background, transcribing the recording to searchable text.
posted by Jpfed at 9:12 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Came here to recommend OneNote as well. It has a decently large feature overlap with Evernote, and is part of the MS Office Suite.

But that being said, I don't believe that all licenses for Office include OneNote, so your organization might not have it available. Maybe you could requisition a copy, but if your IT department locks things up as tightly as you say, they probably aren't super flexible.

Versions of OneNote prior to 2007 are also really not so good, from what I've heard (2007 isn't amazing in my experience either), and I'm willing to be your org is probably on Office 2003 or something equally terrible.

Good luck!
posted by sparklemotion at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2013


Unless I misunderstand your question, would using Evernote offline be allowed?
posted by thatone at 9:48 AM on June 6, 2013


It would be a little cumbersome, but can you email notes to your Evernote email address, and then use your phone when you need to search Evernote?
posted by payoto at 9:57 AM on June 6, 2013


Take a look at using TiddlyWiki. I don't use it myself but I know a lot of folks who do. It is a downloadable HTML file that you just open in a browser (file:///c:/tiddlywiki.html or whatever) and it works like an online wiki. It's designed for use as a personal organization tool. It has a very slight learning curve since it doesn't work exactly like online wikis, but it's pretty cool.
posted by mindsound at 10:07 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Does your org maintain an Intranet-based wiki? If it has privacy settings so that you can restrict access to yourself, you can create a wiki that holds your meeting notes and minutes. The benefit is organization, ability to add links and images, and searchable within a subdomain. (or what mindsound said, drat!)
Also, depending on your LNotes installation you may have a wiki application available. Contact your LN admin to find out what internal LN applications are available. This may help you skirt the "no installation" rule. For instance, someone in our org made a GTD application that works with LN and I can install it using File>Applications>Install.
posted by smuna at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013


It would be a little cumbersome, but can you email notes to your Evernote email address, and then use your phone when you need to search Evernote?

In most places that are keen on secure IT environment and restrict your being able to save stuff on data carriers emailing information to yourself and then storing it outside the protected environment would also be against the rules and could even get op fired....so don't do that. Learn to use the tools you have available in a way that allows you to do what you have to do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:48 AM on June 6, 2013


If you have a full install of Office, you could use OneNote to take notes as it records audio of the meeting. You'll be able to go back to the recorded audio, seeing what was being said at the time that any particular edit was made to the note (or making fresh notes that can be linked to any timestamp in the audio). Then leave your machine on while it works in the background, transcribing the recording to searchable text.

This is an excellent suggestion in practical terms, but please be sure that if you decide to go this route that you are not violating any workplace policies about recording devices. If your workplace is sensitive across the board regarding security and confidentiality issues, it would be prudent to seek approval for any recording from the appropriate compliance office.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2013


Not nearly the same as the OneNote solutions, but I use the sticky notes feature on my desktop constantly for little bits of information I need handy. They save automatically and appear on startup.
posted by sweetkid at 11:45 AM on June 6, 2013


Mod note: From the OP:
I cannot digitally record or email things to myself.
We do not use LN applications, just the basic stuff. i looked again just to be sure.

The tiddlywiki seems like a good idea, but I can't download anything like that.

What on earth did people do BEFORE the internet for keeping all this kind of straight? (not sarcasm at all, just frustration) I am really at odds on how to manage all this information in a reasonable fashion without making myself nuts.

The main idea of this question is learning to use the tools I have to do what I want. I have meetings where I come away with information that is either relevant specifically to my part of the project or just good to know in general. It's keeping this inter-related and knowing what meeting it happened in that is leaving me befuddled.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2013


What on earth did people do BEFORE the internet for keeping all this kind of straight?

Uh, paper notes. Everything from basic legal pads to spiral-bound notebooks to fairly complex "executive" notetaking systems that allowed you to move pages around and organize them and stuff.

The Cornell notetaking system is pretty classic and well-regarded, and doesn't require purchasing any proprietary stuff. You can download templates online and run them off on a duplexing printer, and then put them in a 3-ring binder if you want. It allows you to go through your notes later on very quickly looking at the keywords and summary information, so you don't have to reread them completely to pick something critical out.

There are other systems too, if you don't like Cornell.

Anyway, this is basically a solved problem; it's ... surprising that as a civilization we seem to be so well along the way to forgetting more than a century's worth of techniques for working with paper.

I don't know if they are still made, but there even used to be a paper note system that used heavy cardstock pages (maybe half-sheet size) with holes along the edges you could tear out to flag them as belonging to different categories. Then you could perform a query (using a pencil or hook or something) and retrieve cards that matched a particular category. Basically a very low-tech punchcard sort.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The main idea of this question is learning to use the tools I have to do what I want. I have meetings where I come away with information that is either relevant specifically to my part of the project or just good to know in general. It's keeping this inter-related and knowing what meeting it happened in that is leaving me befuddled.

Two thoughts -

Paper notebook - you just write the date of the meeting and the attendees at the top of the page and start a new page for every meeting. Works for me. I use it until it's full, then I put it in the cupboard and start the next one. I generally have enough recollection to have a reasonable idea of when the meeting was and what book I need to refer back to...

Excel - define column headings as such:

Date, Attendee1, attendee 2,..., Key word 1 , Key word 2 , ... , Notes of matters discussed

Just keep adding the notes to the bottom.

By defining dates, attendees, key words, you can manipulate the hell out of this and apply useful filters etc. You can also search for words and cross reference quite easily. The individual columns for attendees and key words appear cumbersome but by setting them up as separate columns you can manipulate the information much more easily.

You can also embed things, create hyperlinks and what not.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might want to learn about how Outlook can work with OneNote to take meeting notes and link in with contacts, etc.
posted by shivohum at 1:45 PM on June 6, 2013


I hate meetings like that. But when I'm in them, I stop trying to keep coherent notes and just go into stenographer mode. Chronological record of what we talked about (paraphrased and abbreviated liberally.) I leave out things if I understand them enough to know I don't care about them.

Later, I try to organize some sort of useful takeaway from the meeting for myself, write a couple of paragraph summary, and then stuff the whole mess in a file. I find that I sometimes pull the file because something someone says reminds me of something that was said in the meeting and a light bulb goes on in my head.

Not often, though. It's mostly an experiential, get it just by being there through osmosis thing, not something you can record in an organized fashion. A lot of signaling of people's opinions happens, but not in a way that you can quote them on it. That's why they like these meetings. Eventually, a consensus or compromise magically appears and we get something done.
posted by ctmf at 6:11 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you asked your IT guys if they will install it for you? It may be that they just don't have the time or capacity to deal with the random stuff (not to mention added security issues) that people will install on a laptop if given the chance. If you have the install disk, they may not have a problem with doing it for you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:19 PM on June 7, 2013


Hi, anonymous! Sorry I'm late to the party, but I do IT support in an environment very similar to yours. Here is what could work for you:

1. First thing, write up a short justification as to why you need this in order to do your job or do it better. Skip the parts about feeling out of sorts because you've always used Evernote. Stick to factual requirements (searchable, collect and tag multiple types of documents in one place) and the business case for it (save time, increase productivity, build knowledge base of current projects).

2. Find a savvy tech user in your department or talk to your IT person if you have one assigned to your area. We have a lot of specialized software that is not installed on computers by default, but if you follow the process to request it then we can install it for you. They may actually have offline Evernote. Usually the request has to be validated by your supervisor and requested by the POC in your department who requests new user accounts.

3. When you find out what the process is, follow it! It may take a while to go through full approval, so don't try to go around the process because you get impatient. We had a guy request Firefox and then figure out how to do an unapproved install because he got tired of waiting for permission... that was a no-no.

In terms of actual things you could ask for:
- Evernote, since that is your preference
- Does your office use SharePoint? I think there is a wiki functionality in there. Bonus: workflows and collaboration with your team.

Do take a second look at TiddlyWiki as suggested by mindsound; don't be scared off by the word "download". If you had made a blank Word template at home and emailed it to yourself for use at work, that would be fine, right? It's just a .doc file that is read by Word, and you won't be sending the info back out of the office. TiddlyWiki is the same way. It's just an empty .html file that is read by your browser. Once you start filling it in, you wouldn't send it back out.

If you want to talk with your IT support about TiddlyWiki, make sure you say that it is a "non-executable" html file.

The TiddlyWiki site is helpful but also a little, "Where is the dang file?" Here it is.
posted by scarnato at 7:40 PM on June 9, 2013


One thing I find most people don't realize is that the ubiquitous MS Word has an outline view (as of 2007 anyway, which my stone-age workplace still uses.) It's pretty handy for taking notes because you can quickly and easily drag whole sections from place to place, indent and de-indent sections, expand and collapse bullets, etc.
posted by ctmf at 10:18 PM on June 9, 2013


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