Evernote – a simple intro

An intro to Evernote isn’t easy. That is solely because Evernote can be used in so many different ways.

To write, to collect, to find, to present – one can use it as an archive, a note taker, a task force, a sharing tool, a diary, a monitoring tool….all you ever need in one place.

What do I use it for?

With their webclipper and their their function to email things into Evernote plus sending tweets to your Evernote account, I use it as a “read it later” app, archiving interesting articles for review at a later stage. Or to just archive things I find interesting and might remember to look at later in the day/month/life.

That is a very handy tool, and if you read the article and don’t want to keep it, just delete it. Else archive it in one of the relevant notebooks of yours.

 

Todo lists: these are easily made within Evernote. Tick them off, categorise them by topic or subject and share with your team. There are a variety of ways how to use it for todo lists and project management. It is not only very easy to do but it syncs across devices (premium account of course) – that means  you can update it on the flight on your ipad or on the go on your mobile, checking it later in the hotel from your laptop. Maximum functionality.

 

Storing important documents: I save a copy of my passport, council tax bill, and other documents I need on the go. It is an ideal archive, accessible on- and offline (premium only) so you have all you ever need at your fingertips any time. If that is on a plane or at work or at home with some work documents, things are always handy.

 

Exercise routine, weight gain – whilst there are a lot of apps doing these things for you, I keep a journal of my weight and exercise activities in Evernote. Under my shortcuts I find those info that I need almost daily. A quick overview about my health and activity and scribbles I took on the road.

 

Scribbles: Evernote’s Penultimate app for iPad including their stylus lets you take notes like on paper. Drawings, white board sessions on the go, and drawings from your kids. All backed up into Evernote as a handy and easy to review file. This is the most amazing feature for me as I like to draw and scribble things. A whiteboard on the go really!

 

Similar is Skitch which allows you to edit and mark PDFs. Reviewing PDFs, drawing on expense receipts etc, you can do a lot of different things and, you store it all in Evernote. Cross devices I shall mention, subject to the premium membership.

 

And if you are like me, you can also use audio notes or have your mantras and personal development notes in there. You can read things out to yourself too 😉 or just take audio notes for later. A dictaphone in your pocket.

 

As a follow up from this rather short intro post – as I really find it difficult to outline all the features – I will share a few videos next week for the purpose of you looking at them and finding your perfect way of using Evernote.

Please comment on what you find most useful!

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Science of Productivity (2)

Triggered by last week’s video, I thought I share my thoughts of what has been addressed in it:

  • Willpower is not enough (it is exhaustible)

Whilst a lot of people that are productive are known for having a lot of willpower, the video suggests that it is an exhaustible source. Of course, if you continuously rely on willpower, one day there is no left, particularly if you fail. A healthy motivation to loose weight, get a job done or do a job right, being motivated out of different reasons, help support willpower. A combination of motivators and goals are the right thing that gets you started and then gets you going and finish the task at hand.

  • Get Started: so you want to finish it

The Zeigarnik effect is  “a tendency to experience automatic, intrusive thoughts about a goal that one has pursued but the pursuit of which has been interrupted. … That is, if you start working toward a goal and fail to get there, thoughts about the goal will keep popping into your mind while you are doing other things, as if to remind you to get back on track to finish reaching that goal.” (source) – this is interesting. If you put your mind to reaching your goal and visualise the outcome, and particularly if you associate a reward or positive feeling with it, once you are getting started, you want to finish your task.

  • Time management: 90 minutes, 15 minutes break | habit, discipline and routine

This has been and will be discussed again. The best way to work and make best use of your time is to work in 90 minutes stints, then take a break. If you have habits that support that, like going for walks with your dog when working from home, or you have a routine that helps you getting up early in the morning. The idea is really to focus harder and more intense for 90 minutes and then take a break before tackling the next task. Meditation or a power nap in between helps too. The energy project, Tony Schwartz, has written a lot about it.

  • Deadline fosters discipline

If you have a deadline, you will always find it easier to finish a task. This is again very simple. If you set a goal without a deadline you might postpone reaching that goal “forever”. But if you have a deadline you will finish it. Writing a blog post every week for instance gives you a deadline.

  • Accountability chart – if you measure you can improve

Now this is another obvious one: anything you measure you can improve. Measure your progress on a project or measure your weight over time. If you do, you will try to change the numbers to more positive outcome (reduce weight or move along in the project). That paired with the above deadline gets things done.

  • Stop Multitasking

You can only ever focus on one thing at a time. So stop doing things at the same time. There is no way you can focus driving whilst texting or reading a blog post whilst being on the phone. Why do you think you can write two emails at the same time or focus on an essay and Facebook at the same time.

  • Make a list at night for the next day

Preparations is key: if that is for the next day, week or month. Or some people look at what they want to achieve each quarter. Break it down to individual tasks and what you want to achieve the next day. Prepare a todo list. Again add deadlines.

  • Break down tasks into easy to do tasks

When preparing this todo list make sure they are easy todo tasks and not too complex. The starting process gets easier and the reward is bigger as you do feel like you accomplish more. Yet don’t make the tasks so small and the rewards that big that you don’t get anything done 🙂

 

That summarises the video. A nice little way of summarising some key components of productivity. I hope you enjoyed that.

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Science of Productivity

This is a great summary of all productivity principles – a great overview with the help of Sparring Mind. I am happy to quote my sources here, this is about collecting and aggregating the best sources, not competing with them.

Enjoy!

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Prioritise – Prioritize

Prioritisation is key to any job, any hobby and life in general. It start with the question of how to prioritise, which if you google it, gets you a lot of different results and answers. For me prioritisation starts with something more fundamental: passion.

What are you really passionate about? That is where your priority lies. I love productivity and personal development. I enjoy helping others and make a difference in other people’s life. That is what I am really passionate about and that is where my priority lies. Yet, looking at work, how can I incorporate this passion to my daily life?

Now that’s simple really: find a job that meets your passion. I did. I am passionate also about sales which incorporates helping others and improving other people’s life. Hence I am more interested in a win/win outcome as I don’t sell to make a quick buck but because I enjoy the relationship with people and the difference I can make.

We also want to look at the more day to day prioritisation. What about your task list, and how do you get on top of your todo? That is the million dollar question, as I am a big fan of “not one size fits all”. We discussed trusted systems which for some people is about the TASK list, for others the reminder in their calendar or their CRM. It varies.

For my daily todos I use two todo lists. The one I use towards mid day is the hand written one in my notebook. I look at my emails and look at which tasks still need doing and write them down. This way I can tick them off and write notes on it and make sure it gets done. This is usually in addition to my “uber todo list” if you like. It also helps me to see where I am still waiting for answers from internal or external for projects on external or internal, bridging the gap between the in-house team and the customer.

My “uber todo list” is 2do (2do app) which I started using after Apple’s todo list stopped syncronising properly and having difficulties. This little app which I haven’t bought for the desktop version but for my mobile/tablet is split in categories of

– Reminders (general reminders)
– Home Tasks (todo at home)
– Work Tasks (work related todos)
– PD (personal development)
– Clubs (organisations I work with like Rotary)
– tidWOWs (tasks related to this blog)

Those categories fit most of my tasks but of course you can create your own. Within those categories or individual days I can priorities tasks. I have simple ones in there like “doing your daily exercise” which have a medium priority and family related ones which have a high priority. I use this list to empty my brain (brain drain) and write down what all I need to do in general, then categorising it into the workflow of each area before reviewing it on a daily basis.

So that is my daily todo list. For my long term todo list, things I want to do in the future like Paragliding maybe, I would have a separate list in Evernote. In my daily todo list which I keep on me, on the phone, all the time and it is open most of the day, I just look at short term todos. This could be writing this or other blog posts, or looking at an article I saw and saved in my trusted system.

Depending on your overall goal you need to prioritise your tasks and you should remember one key thing: just because one task looks the same as another, this doesn’t mean it takes the same time! Every task might take a different amount of time to do, so don’t schedule three tasks a day, schedule them also based on amount and effort you need to put into them.

Importance vs. urgency. Important tasks should be done first. If something is urgent, so maybe meeting a deadline or doing an errand you can only do whilst the shops are open, ask yourself if it needs to be done today or can wait until tomorrow, as you might have a more important task that you need to do, like finishing a client piece or something like that.

In different articles, often there is talk about four quadrants (reference: I took this list from Alchemy for Managers):


 

Quadrant 1 – important and urgent

These are tasks that are essential to the functioning of the organisation and must be done urgently to avoid a potential crisis. These top priority tasks must be actioned ahead of all the rest. For example, you are working at your desk and the fire bell starts ringing. It is not a scheduled fire drill; there is a real possibility that the building is on fire. This is important and urgent; whatever else you were doing, you must now interrupt it and evacuate the building.

Quadrant 2 – important but not urgent
These are the tasks which are defined in your job objectives and which you are employed to carry out. Often, these tasks are projects of medium- to long-term duration and therefore lack urgency. However, you should be assigning regular chunks of time to these activities in order to fulfil your job role and your annual appraisal will reflect how well you have done this.

Quadrant 3 – urgent but not important

These tasks threaten to cause a negative impact or disruption if they are not actioned quickly. However, they may well be outside the scope of your job objectives and the extent to which they contribute to the functioning of the organisation may be questionable. Sometimes, the degree of urgency may have been defined by someone else, whose judgement may be inaccurate, or at least, different from yours.

Quadrant 4 – not important and not urgent

Tasks in this quadrant are not an essential part of your job objectives, neither will there be any noticeable impact to the business if they are not done at all. For example, reading trade journals and newsletters is a useful thing to do if you have time. However, if a pile of these has accumulated, all still waiting to be read, and some of them are now several months old, they could probably be discarded without causing any impact whatsoever.


 

Whilst I agree more or less, but also disagree as for instance for some jobs it is very important to read newsletters and industry news, it gives you some great examples of a priority list you can have with four quadrants.

GTD suggests that you also have other lists like based on location and online/offline access. So there are many ways to skin a cat yet the main thing for you must be that it works for you. Nothing else is more important than that. If you don’t travel and have a list “to read at the airport” then this could be the best system but it wouldn’t work for you. Again, urgency and importance have to be prioritised over location.

 

In summary, as we are having quite a long post this week, we want to prioritise based on importance and urgency, tasks that are important and make a difference to the outcome of your job when being done now. Following on from there are the important ones, then the urgent ones. This is a tricky one to differentiate as urgent doesn’t mean important. If a client thinks he needs some info today but you cannot get them to her today, then this is urgent but you might have more important things to do.

I sincerely hope this helps you prioritise your tasks. Makes you more efficient and a better organiser 😉

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Inbox Zero

This becomes one of my favourite topics. Emails and how to handle them. Just the other day I read about ‘the 7 golden rules’ or the ’10 most valuable tips’ on how to make emails work or how to manage them.

Emails, and we can all agree, are probably not the most efficient way of communicating. However, we are stuck with them and in a world where we can pick up emails anywhere anytime, clients expect us to get back to them immediately. That is where an email thread easily becomes a conversation similar to WhatsApp or other messenger apps. Those are actually a lot more efficient if introduced for inter-corporate communication: if everyone uses it and sticks to certain rules.

But where is that obsession with inbox zero coming from? At time of writing I have 31 emails in my inbox. That is a quite tidy inbox. I use the inbox still a bit like a todo list. Every task I have in Salesforce (or any other CRM system for this matter) is fine, and I can get rid of the email in my inbox, as the trusted system (you remember!) is the database. If I know I have “call Mr. Adams” in my CRM, I don’t need to keep his email saying “Please call me” in my inbox as a reminder. So file it in “Archive” or “Adams” or “Company”. However, if I don’t have this in my CRM, I need a reminder. I can use TASKs with a reminder, or put it in my CALENDAR or I can just keep it in my inbox, flag it for todo “tomorrow” and ignore the email until the reminder pops up. That is my personal trusted system. Anything I need to get done and it is not in my trusted CRM system, stays in the inbox.

I could beat myself up and create different folders like I have one called “@ACTION”. That folder gets emails I need to follow up on. And, if you are not in sales but in Marketing or Project Management, you want to create

– @Action this week
– @Action next week
– @Action this month
– @Action March
etc.

Why @? Because it is the first folder you get if you use a symbol sorting them alphabetically 😉 Likewise my archive folder is called “Z ARCHIVE” to keep it at the bottom of all folders. Easy peasy. However, if you have different action items, like in project management, marketing, PR or management – creating several @Action folder works well. The important thing to remember is that you need to look at those folders too. Not just create them and file the emails but revisit the content too.

The important thing is, and that is no matter which system you use, that it works for you. I and others can only give you advice on what works for us, what has been proven to work and of course help you to set up your own system. We can consult and tell you what definitely doesn’t work 🙁

Another valuable tip: if you are writing lots of emails, you get a lot of emails back. So limit yourself in your email length and amount of emails. Limit yourself in time you spend in your inbox rather than being productive outside your inbox. Again, this is easier said for some professions than for others.

Another great tip: if you are tired or aren’t in the mood to deal with emails, don’t check them. This could be Friday night at 8 pm or weekends. I try to never check emails at the weekend, but maybe late on Sunday to prepare my week. Once your brain start processing those emails….you are on it.

For those that cannot stay away: stop having those reminders popping up saying “You got mail” or your phone vibrating for every email. That distracts and you start looking at your emails. Continue working on what you are working and don’t stop for every email. They are a distraction and by dealing with them in bulk, you are much more efficient working through them. One of the main things I learned dealing with emails: only check them 2-3 times a day, deal with them, then go back to work. Don’t make emails your main work dashboard if that makes sense.

Chris over at this productivity blog describes 10 killer ways to deal with emails.

To sum it up: find your own system. I am happy to consult and show you how to set it up depending on your profession and your art. I don’t think it is unhealthy to not reach inbox zero every day, but I also agree a follow up should only be on one trusted system, and if you really wanted you can reach inbox zero everyday. But why beat yourself up to have something for the sake of having it, if it works with 10-30 emails in your inbox.

Having said that, if you have 1000+ emails in your inbox and you think that searching for them is dealing with them and marking them as read means you acted on them – forget it, you are probably very unproductive and forgot to answer to some important emails already.

Let’s talk about it – which system works for you?

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