How are you actually using Agenda?

Hey Jacob, curious to know more about how your are actually using Agenda? I am having a hard time finding it useful myself, but I rely heavily on a combination of Evernote and Bear.

Hey Fuad,

Great Question. I think that tools like this are partially based on your mindset going in. Sorry if this is a bit lengthy, but I put my answer in the details below.

First off, I use Agenda as a combination of two concepts.

  1. Get Things Done Methdology

    ”Your mind is for having Ideas, not holding them” - David Allen

    The idea that we should write ideas down and focus on completing them, rather then not writing them down and focusing on remembering them.

  2. Basic Note Taking

    We all need those meetings notes and details to help us understand what we’re doing.

Until Agenda, there wasn’t really an app that put these together. Leaving me with these three options.

  1. Use a note taking app for everything

    This actually works, but is challenging because you don’t have a central location for items that are due today

  2. Use a todo app for everything

    This also works, but the problem is that when you take notes alongside todo items, these notes are dismissed as soon as the todo is. You’ll lose your notes as you go.

  3. Split the difference

    This is what I ended up doing. Basically, I used Evernote for my notes, and Things for my todos. The problem was I had a s***load of notes that I would often have to scramble to find in the middle of a conference call, and it wasn’t fun.

So a typical use case for me looks something like this.

  1. I take meeting notes, and immediately after, create a todo list and add this to my Agenda.
  2. Later when I have time to work, I navigate over to my Agenda and get started on those todo lists for each area. As soon as I complete a list, I remove it from my Agenda.
  3. I go to another meeting, and let the client know how it went.

That doesn’t sound super powerful, but imagine this scenario. In step 3, when I went to the second meeting to let the client know how it went, the client wasn’t happy.

They claim they sent me an updated logo for their website a month ago, but it still isn’t up. I immediately stop taking notes, jump over to their project, and scroll down to the meeting that happened a month ago. It says

Client was going to send logo, but artist called it back do to small error. We won’t get it this week.

Now I’m able to immediately answer my client with something that happened a month ago, and there is no way I would of just remembered off the top of my head.

When you can do this in meeting after meeting, you become a super power to your clients, and you seem like you always have it together. It is awesome!


@jacobshenning I recognise a lot in your description, the whole idea of Agenda came forth out of very similar situations where I had the same realisation of how powerful such notes were in follow up meetings and being able to instantly go back in time to see what I had discussed with some one last week, last month, half a year ago, etc.

It’s still on my list to write up some of these examples as Talk articles, and for the same reason I’ll also move this discussion there, think they’re a great example to others. Feel free to elaborate.

Interesting. I’ve switched over the years between various tools and approaches including Things, paper note books, NVAlt, Notesuite, DayOne and various combinations of these.

Above folk have mentions two areas that need to be tackled:

  • to dos: recording them and then surfacing them as needed
  • facts: recording what people have said/agreed etc, and finding these, fast, when needed.

My work flow has a third area, that for me is closely related: Thinking! Based on meetings, emails, research etc, coming up with strategies, approaches, training programmes, schedules for workshops, re-framing ideas etc.

This thinking area is constrained by the facts and to dos etc, but is creative rather than mechanically applying particular principles. In practice in the early stages it involves any or all of:

  • lists of brilliant ideas I need to capture before I forget them (to review later and realise they aren’t all brilliant!)
  • list of questions to myself to explore test, etc
  • notes of things to research further
  • notes and ideas inspired by things I’ve read
  • drafts of aims, purpose etc
  • sketches of flows, mind maps, etc
  • links between any of the above
  • to dos
  • dates and deadlines

I’ve found trying to do this on screen is too constraining and slow - time is wasted dealing with the technology, deciding what tool to use, getting frustrated with formating etc.

What I always revert to is a paper notebook for this early thinking stage, and then once I have a clearer idea of where I’m going I move to a text based computer application to develop the idea, and I add any to dos that are still relevant to Things.

When I’m writing on paper I use simple bullet journal style notations to mark to dos, key points etc. I date each page and each page is also numbered so I can refer to the specfic page in Things.

I’m certainly not wanting to do all that paper-based ‘thinking’ in Agenda, I find the actual process of writing on paper, drawing arrows between ideas and so on, is an important part of the process.

But I’m liking Agenda for gathering together;

  • the “facts: recording what people have said/agreed etc, and finding these, fast, when needed”
  • and my notes from that first paper-based thinking activity

I also use Pocket with tags to save relevant webpages as I go. I wouldn’t want to bring that process into Agenda, but when I review the stuff I’ve saved, I would then use that to inform the ideas I develop as notes - so dragging in selected urls and copying quotes etc.

Adding To dos to Agenda makes sense as well, but I’m not ready to abandon Things without an Agenda iOS app, and getting a better understanding of how Agenda can/will filter to dos in a useful way. (Also, Things’s ‘areas’ are very useful to dividing work, home, hobby etc)

Apologies for all this thinking out loud, but it’s helping me understand what I want from Agenda (or the ‘missing app’!).

It’s a place to:

  1. take notes and record tasks, on the fly (in meetings etc)
  2. gather together selected ideas and resources (which were first dumped somewhere else, eg paper notebook, Pocket, etc)
  3. get an overview of all related notes of the above, to allow me to think creatively informed by that material (2)
  4. draft plans, proposals etc that arise from that creative thinking, (3) while also responding to, and addressing the time contraints, client’s objectives etc (1 and 2)

Enough. Back to work.


Thanks for sharing, and indeed the one thing it really grew out of for me was simply an empty TextEdit document that I had always open to scribble some ideas in. At some point I had one TextEdit document open for each main project I had ongoing. It became unwieldy though after a while, the switching between documents and the fact that you start ordering and prioritising things pretty much by copy pasting it from somewhere in the middle of the document to the top again, plus duplication becomes unavoidable due to the lack of structure and growing of the TextEdit document to great lengths.

So I made two changes, 1) switch to Simplenote to have just one place with a sourcelist entry for each project instead of the many TextEdit documents open at the same time, 2) add some structure with the #Next tag and some dates and titles (simply by adding a few newlines). I guess it’s then becomes obvious how the things evolved in what is Agenda today.


A post was split to a new topic: Using Agenda in teaching

A post was split to a new topic: Using Agenda together with Aware IM to document development