William Vaughn

VP of Emacs: Meeting Notes

VP of Emacs is a blog series about using Emacs as an essential tool in my job as the VP of Software Engineering at Carbon Lighthouse. I’m a software engineer trying to cut it in a job that has required me to be more organized, communicative, strategic, and personal than ever. Emacs helps me get more done and keep it all connected. It has become the application I use every day to unify note-taking, emails, task management, writing, programming, and more.

Watch the YouTube video that accompanies this blog.

Meeting notes with Org-roam dailies

I don’t often take exhaustive meeting notes. Many meetings, especially in the post-pandemic world, have shared online notes taken in something like Google Docs anyway. What I find useful in my personal notes is to capture who the meeting attendees were, any links to resources relevant to the meeting, a summary of some main talking points, and any action required items. The people I have meetings with will have their own page in my Org-roam system. Many of the projects, milestones, and subjects that my meetings are about also have their own roam notes page. The linking and back-linking features give me a way to connect my meeting notes with the people I talked to and the subjects we talked about. Taking these meeting notes in Org-roam dailies files further connects those things to when the discussion occurred.

Org-roam dailies are a daily journaling feature in Org-roam. They’re normal .org note files in a dailies/ directory, they have names like 2022-03-11.org. When I’m on an Org-roam page for a person, the majority of backlinks are to daily notes files. The backlinks become a record of when I talked to this person, and about what.

My Emacs configuration has the following keyboard shortcuts for navigating between Org-roam daily files quickly.

key coord function
SPC n r d t org-roam-dailies-goto-today
SPC n r d y org-roam-dailies-goto-yesterday
SPC n r d m org-roam-dailies-goto-tomorrow
SPC n r d d org-roam-dailies-goto-date

Most often I’m using SPC n r d t as a quick means to snap back to the notes I have for the current day. In the morning, it is usually helpful to also flip to what happened yesterday with SPC n r d y. When the day is winding down, SPC n r d m helps me write things down that apply to my schedule tomorrow. In order to see what happened on a particular date, I will use SPC n r d d. It pops up a calendar buffer that can be used to navigate to any date you’re interested in.

Quick capture to daily notes

key coord function
SPC n r d T org-roam-dailies-capture-today
SPC n r d Y org-roam-dailies-capture-yesterday
SPC n r d M org-roam-dailies-capture-tomorrow
SPC n r d D org-roam-dailies-capture-date

These commands will make a new entry in the target daily file but will not navigate to the buffer when complete. They are a good way to capture a note without leaving your current location. I use SPC n r d D to capture entries for a future date. If I have a presentation in a week, and I already have my speaking notes prepared, I’ll copy my speaking notes and use SPC n r d D / org-roam-dailies-capture-date to make an entry for the presentation on that day.

Meeting capture templates

Reiterating from above, what I find useful in my personal notes is to capture who the meeting attendees were, any links relevant to the meeting, a summary of some main talking points, and any action required to-do items. I find it helpful to use an org capture template for meeting notes to keep them consistent and easy to scan.


* %?
** Links
** Attendees
** Notes
** Summary
** ARs [0/1]
*** TODO

To use it, the template needs to be added to the org-capture-templates list.

(use-package! org
  (setq org-capture-templates
        '(("n" "Meeting note" entry
           (file buffer-name)
           (file "capture_templates/meeting.org")))))

My typical flow:

  1. Jump to today’s daily file with SPC n r d t

  2. Do SPC X n to capture an entry for the new meeting.

    Select a capture template
    [n]    Meeting note
    [q]    Abort
  3. Write in the name and purpose of the meeting

  4. Start doing Org-roam links for attendees and relevant topics

    ​* My important meeting
    ** Links
    ​   - https://some-link-to-whatever.com
    ​   - https://docs.google.com/some-gdoc-for-meeting
    ** Attendees
    ​   - Paul
    ** Notes
    ** Summary
    ** ARs [0/1]
    *** TODO
  5. Capture it into the dailies file with C-c C-c

Review and grooming

My days are full of meetings and I have to bounce from one to the next. There is no time to reflect on notes, clean them up for future use, or make sure I take action on the results. When I have 5 m, or at the end of a day, I review my daily notes to underline important parts, add connective links, and create action items in my to-do tracking inbox. When I adhere to this practice I find that a lot fewer things slip through the cracks and I get better use out of my notes later.

More in this series

VP of Emacs series

Thanks for reading, be well.