Pen and Sticky Notes

agile, blog

Are you familiar with the concept of GTD? GTD is abbreviation of Getting Things Done. A famous book about GTD is the book “Getting Things Done” of David Allen. If you search the internet for GTD you will find a lot of information and tools you can use to realize GTD. Software that I use to realize GTD is Evernote and Remember The Milk.

One of the things David Allen describes in his book is always ask yourself “What’s the next action?”. I believe you should apply this concept also to meetings. Always identify a next action when you leave a meeting. If  you have a meeting that lasts one, two or even three hours and you leave the meeting without any actions, you should feel uncomfortable…

Whenever I’m the chairman or facilitator of a meeting, I try to identify next action. In the worst case scenario a next action could be plan a meeting to identify the next action. I also try to delegate actions to other people, also one of the concept of GTD.

The following scenario happened to me already several times: We had a meeting, identified several actions and we assigned the actions to the attendees. We left the meeting and nothing happened…. Where did it go wrong? 

Not everyone has a GTD system implemented and I notice some people don’t write down their actions. They left the meeting and most of the time they met someone or dived back into their complex software/test problem.

My solution is to help those people to set up a simple GTD system. As chairman or facilitator I take a pen and sticky notes with me. For every action we identify and assign to someone, I write down a stick note and hand the sticky note over to the person. He walks back to his desk with the note, it doesn’t matter how many conversation he has on the way to his desk or how complex his current assignment is, he has a sticky note to remember him of the action. 

This gives doesn’t guarantee 100% success. However, it will help you in making sure actions are done.

Do you have any other ideas to make sure actions are done?

Update 18 September 2017:

I only use Evernote nowadays. They have introduced reminders. The reminders made it for me possible to drop Remember the Milk. If you want to read more about digital note taking also check this page:


7 thoughts on "Pen and Sticky Notes"

  • Ben Linders says:

    Simple but strong idea, thanks for sharing this!

    I've worked with several agile teams, that took the actions they agreed to do back to their Scrum board. These actions were visible at every stand-up, and the scrum master would check if action were followed up. Some teams even worked in a Kanban way, assuring that they were always working on some (2 or 3) improvements. When they finished one, they decided which one to do next.

    For some more background on this and other ideas for continuous improvement, see Getting Business Value out of Agile Retrospetives.

  • Ralph says:

    @Ben, making data visual is indeed very powerful. Good to hear you have the same experience.

  • Diana Larsen says:

    When I lead a retrospective, I ask a team member to write the next step on a task card to carry into the planning meeting for the next iteration. That way it gets onto the task board and serves as a reminder for everyone.

  • Busy Signals says:

    I tend to use Outlook tasks with my team at work, for much the same purpose as you–whatever system they have, they now have a cue to remind them–but Outlook adds one advantage over sticky notes, that being that we both have the reminder and the system will tie the two together (I know if the other person “accepted” the task, and I get a reminder when they are finished, etc.)

    But the key is to give them something. Obviously you can hold them accountable, but it's easier to give people a reminder (and a fighting chance) up front, rather than spending a lot of time on accountability follow-up on the back end. So a sticky is better than nothing.

  • Ralph says:

    @BusySignals indeed Outlook has the option to have a signal. However, disadvantage of Outlook is that the data is not really visible. It's just another record in a database.

    You could write two cards, one card for the team member and one card (A copy) for the whiteboard where you keep track of all cards and progress. When you write a date on the card, you are able to track how long a card is in the cue.

  • sorna says:

    Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

    Project Management Training

  • sorna says:

    Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

    Agile Software Development

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