Get things done, without task management software

We built Input because we wanted there to be a simple, streamlined way to get things done. Something that was the best of both worlds: less heavyweight than task management software, but more powerful than a simple doc. We created Input as an alternative to task management software, word processing docs, and spreadsheets — a hybrid smart doc that would help move projects forward.

The problem with task management software

In the right circumstances, task management software is fine. If you're a project manager, these tools are designed for you — with a massive amount of features and add-ons to fit whatever it is that you might need.

The thing is — most of us aren't project managers. Tools like Asana and Trello have come a long way to simplify to try to suit everyone. The truth is, most of us actually don't need all of the features in project management software, or even most of them. Instead of making work more efficient, these amount of features ends up over-complicating things. Important context about projects and how decisions are made gets hidden under many layers. It's easy to miss an attachment assigned to a task, or an important comment, simply because it takes so many clicks to get there.

This is part of the reason why so many of us resort to using something simpler, like spreadsheets or a document — even though these tools aren't actually designed for projects and team collaboration.

The problem with docs

We've all seen the docs that try to add tasks using bullet points, even though it's unclear if something is completed and who's in charge. We've all also tried to have meaningful conversations and make decisions via the annotations on docs, only to get overwhelmed by the massive amount of markup on a document.

How many times have you striked through a bullet point? Managing projects is a clunky process on a doc. Docs don't give the needed context of how these things are done, where the work is, who did it, and more.

Plenty of people we spoke with would use docs for meeting notes, with bullet points for tasks. Then, they were moving those bullet points into a task management system to track progress. There had to be something better, an actionable, smart doc that was built for to dos and real collaboration.

The happy medium: Input

This is why we've created Input — as an alternative to task management software and word processing docs. Input lets you create actionable, smart docs that let you collaborate with your team and get real work done.  

We designed Input to be a hybrid — something with the simplicity of quickly getting notes together, but with some of the power that other tools do bring, like assigning tasks, including due dates, adding attachments, and better collaboration. Clean and simple, working in Input should feel as natural as if you were typing into a doc, but with a select few powerful features to create the magic of collaboration and let projects seamlessly move forward.

Input is a powerful tool that uses docs to help you actually get things done. With Input, you can turn everything — including meeting notes — into an actionable, assignable task, helping you lead projects from start to finish in a smart doc. Signing up for Input is free.

9 tips for better meetings

The most important resource for any team is always the people on it, and by extension, their time. Meetings can be an important tool, but they're also often overused, frustrating, and unproductive. Especially when working remotely, it's important to be thoughtful about the way that you communicate with your time. Keeping a few key things in mind during your next meetings can help you make sure that everyone's time is used effectively.

1 . Have meetings for the right reasons

Too often, meetings are held even if there isn't a particularly good reason. Before scheduling a new meeting, take a moment to consider if there's a more effective way to communicate. If you need to run through status reports, send an email. If you just want to touch base with someone, try messaging them on Slack.

While some meetings can be avoided, sometimes you just do need to host a meeting to move your project forward. Great reasons for scheduling a meeting include reaching a decision, coordinating work, brainstorming ideas (but keep it structured!), and weekly 1:1s.

2. Schedule your meetings thoughtfully

Even if it is necessary to have a meeting, keep in mind ways that you can schedule it while helping preserve heads-down time. Meetings require context-switching, and distractions like this inevitably interrupt work. Look for opportunities to schedule meetings adjacent to each other to try to preserve blocks of time, or request a different time if needed.

3. Set a meeting up for success

Going into a meeting armed with a few key things will help you make the most of it, and use that time effectively. All meetings should ideally have:

  • an objective
  • an agenda, preferably action-oriented
  • a facilitator/leader
  • outcomes
  • assigned next steps

Be sure to provide any materials or context to be read or reviewed before the meeting starts.

4. Keep meetings small

Meetings should include as few people as are needed to accomplish the meeting’s objective. Attendees should have a role in accomplishing that objective — for example, be decision-makers. Everyone else can be emailed outcomes and next steps after the meeting is over.

5. Keep meetings short

Think critically about how much time you need, and try to be thoughtful of your coworker's schedules. For example, don’t make a meeting an hour when it can be 30 minutes. If you schedule the hour, you’ll likely use the hour — it’s just human nature.

A good tip to accomplish this is to change your default Google Calendar meeting length to 30 minutes instead of 60. Google Calendar also has a feature called "Speedy meetings" that shortens default meeting times to 25 and 50 minutes. By ending a meeting a few minutes early, you allow everyone time to gather their thoughts and capture next steps.

6. Respect each other’s time

Review all of the materials provided before the meeting, so you don't waste time reviewing information during the meeting. All attendees should be on time, and all meeting leaders should start (and end) on time. A good way to start effectively is to recap previous discussions and decisions to provide context.

7. Respect each other

Be mindful of everyone else attending the meeting. Whether you're having an in-person meeting or working remotely, it's important to close your laptop and put your phone in your pocket (not on the table), unless taking notes. Practice active listening to improve your communication and make sure you don't miss any critical information. Avoid talking over one another to respect everyone's time and thoughts.

8. Take notes

Having actionable meeting notes is one of the most powerful outcomes of any meeting. Be sure to identify someone — ideally not the facilitator — to take notes. Share key points, outcomes, next steps with those that couldn’t attend or didn’t need to. Using a tool like Input is a great way to create powerful meeting notes that can act as a living document that everyone can reference and work from.

9. Finish strong

End your meetings the right way. Close with a plan of action, and reiterate next steps to make sure that everything is clear. Now, all you have left is to go forth and conquer!

Input is a powerful tool that uses docs to help you actually get things done. With Input, you can turn everything — including meeting notes — into an actionable, assignable task, helping you lead projects from start to finish in a smart doc. Signing up for Input is free.

How to make your boss work for you

No matter what your role is, you always have a boss. Most of the time what's needed is some time carved out to add structure around priorities and process. Taking the initiative and adding this structure has been coined "managing up", but all it's all about making your life easier and less stressful. Follow these steps and you will improve communication, documentation, and you'll have a healthier working relationship. Most importantly, you'll have your boss working for you—helping you get things done.

Regular check-ins (ideally once a week for 15-30 minutes)

While these check-ins shouldn't cannibalize your actual 1:1 meetings, you should make sure to have time with your boss to align once a week. This should be done in a real-time meeting (synchronously).

Always have a clear agenda and document

Without an agenda, your meeting will be a free-for-all. Try creating a collaborative document in Input with your boss. Make sure to have your meeting broken down into a simple agenda that covers the following:

  • Company priorities: What are the most important problems the company needs to solve?
  • Action items and tasks: This is a list of to-dos. Who is accountable? When does it need to be done?
  • Questions: What are the unknowns, and who can answer this?
  • Decisions: Document all the major decisions made.

Align on process

As you talk about all the things you'll need to do to help your company and team, you'll need to be clear about what you need from your boss to work effectively. Be clear about tasks for your boss and when they're due. If your boss delegates their task to you, make sure that they understand that you own that portion of the decision making. Talk about your expectations and what you need from them to be successful.

Anticipate risks or potential snags

It's always important to look around the corner and think ahead. Make sure to think about potential risks and unknowns that could block you from completing your tasks. Sometimes time can be a blocker as well, so be clear about your estimates—if estimates change, make sure to communicate them earlier. It's better to always notify your team and your boss when there is a potential issue ahead of time (versus let issues drag on). Staying proactive prevents micromanagement and helps you build trust between you and your boss.

Consider using Input to document your agenda, tasks, and open questions with your boss. As your boss checks things off, you will get notified every step of the way, ensuring accountability. If you follow this guideline, your boss will be working for you.

How to create actionable meeting minutes

Meeting minutes, when done well, can help drive a project forward. They can also help communicate the progress and decisions around your project to your stakeholders.

Who takes meeting minutes?

Typically, one person is designated to collect meeting minutes. At the beginning of the meeting, be clear who is documenting the minutes and how everyone will get a copy after the meeting ends.

If your meeting minutes are in Input, multiple people can edit them during the meeting. This can be great on smaller teams where everyone in the meeting wants to participate in the discussion. It's tough to talk and take notes at the same time. Take turns taking notes with Input! We recommend having two people designated as minute takers; when one of them is speaking the other knows to take over.

What should to be included in your minutes?

Minutes should be concise and include important information, such as:

  • Date, time, location and who attended
  • An agenda (this is an outline of the purpose of the meeting and things you need to cover)
  • Decisions that were made
  • Actions and tasks that are open, including the deadline and who was assigned to complete them.

Input allows you to assign tasks from within your document. You'll get notified if a task is assigned to you, or if a task in your minutes is completed by someone else.

Who needs to see the minutes?

We recommend sharing the minutes with everyone that was invited to the meeting. They can also be shared to teams that are affected by the outcomes of your meeting and other stakeholders.

Input makes it easy to invite people to your meeting minutes and you'll be able to see if they've viewed the document once you've shared it with them.

What else needs to happen to make meeting minutes effective?

Follow up is the most important part! Making sure that things move forward is the point of creating meeting minutes. Share the notes, and make sure the next steps are delegated to the right people. Be clear about who is accountable, schedule the next meeting to keep moving things forward.

5 tips to move a project forward

As once said by one of our favorite writers, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "a goal without a plan is just a wish." Whether you're new to leading a team or a seasoned management veteran, moving projects forward always start with the basics. We have 5 tips that will help you guide you to move your team forward and get things.

1. Be clear about goals

Start with what you want to accomplish and what's the purpose of your project. As a reminder, remember to use the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound). Everything should be anchored to a goal—it will keep your team aligned on why you're moving a project forward. Goals ensure that everyone's effort is focused aligned to solve problems together.

2. Create an outline

Whether you use pen and paper, a whiteboard, or an app of your choice, jot it down in an outline form. Freeform writing is one way to get things down, but the most successful method is to create a list all the conditions that need to be true in order to accomplish your goals. Writing things down in a list with bullet points is the fastest way to get started. This will become your project plan.

3. Delegate

Set a meeting with a clear agenda and go over the project outline. Be clear that you need help and discuss who is best suited to move specific parts of the project forward. Make sure that the people involved are clearly accountable with action items.

4. Follow up weekly until the project is done

While it can be challenging to get everyone on a call at the same time, schedule a 15-20 minute meeting to talk to your team about the status of their tasks and identify if there are any blockers. Focus on how to unblock action items. Keeping your follow up meetings tight will show that you respect your team's time.

5. Celebrate victories big and small

Remember to acknowledge people for their efforts and find opportunities to celebrate. This builds a positive feedback loop with your team. We're all human beings, and a little encouragement goes a long way. Plus, encouragement is free.

From collaborating & communicating goals to your team, to delegating tasks, to knowing when to celebrate achievements throughout the life of your project, Input is on your team and here to help!  Sign up for Input to get started.