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Life’s Lessons

14 March 2012 Leave a comment

Siri-ous Affection

8 February 2012 2 comments

Disclaimer: This post is not an advertisement or endorsement for Apple products. This post is about productivity. Wait for it!

 
I am not traditionally an i-Fan. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Apple. It means that I’ve never been the type of person that follows the fad or the in-crowd. I was always just me–not always popular, or even noticed. Just me. Which means that sometimes I shied away from the “popular” stuff.

Then, 18 months ago I acquired my iPad. It has made me phenomenally productive. Every bit (pun intended) of information I need is right at my finger tips. And so the conversion to the Apple revolution began. I’ve carried Franklin Planners, Palm Pilots, smart phones; nothing compares to my iPad.

Until now! I have owned an iPhone 4S for six days. It is my iPad on a smaller scale. My iPad is affectionately called Padi. I considered naming my iPhone Son of Padi, but it sounded far too macabre. I opted for the more Scandinavian Padison.

My point? …. Oh, yes. I love Siri! Siri on my iPhone has taken productivity to a new level. I no longer have to fumble with tiny feedback-less keys. I simply hit the microphone button, speak naturally, and hit the done button. Texting, reminders, appointments, voice-activated calls, emails, notes….you name it. I can do all this in at least half the time it previously took me to do it by hand–literally. My voice and Siri are a great team.

No training required. Out of the box, Siri is at my beck and call. And she seems to have a personality at times. I wonder if there is a real person in there. My techno-background says, “No,” but it doesn’t stop me from wondering.

Get yours now. Not sold in all stores. Battery included.

Out of curiosity, how has your i-device and/or Siri made you more productive?

Are you insane?!?

30 January 2012 7 comments

What is the definition of insanity? Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I only have two brief things to say about that.

First
Repeating Excellence does not fall into this definition. We want to be doing the same thing over and over again, but we don’t expect different results. We expect to be excellent over and over again. We’re repeating the same thing expecting the same results. If we are not achieving excellence, then we should be doing something different expecting the same results–excellence.

Confused? Read on. I’ll explain.

Second
I have heard these same comments time and time again. “I’m going to lose weight,” but there is no diet or exercise. “I’m going to write a book,” but there is never any writing. “I’m going to get rich,” but spending habits don’t change. Results do not magically materialize from thin air. We have to DO something, usually by extending ourselves outside our comfort zone.

If you’re going to do something over and over, Repeat Excellence.

What rut are you stuck in? Post it for us in the comments and we’ll work through it together.

Evernote

4 January 2012 Leave a comment

I discovered this gem about 13 months ago and it has been the anchor of my sanity ever since. (Well, please don’t let me misdirect the credit. My wife and family play a huge role in anchoring my sanity, too.) I was looking for something to manage a task list on my Android phone and stumbled upon Evernote.

At first blush I was not impressed. I was looking for a task list and I found a note taking app. The interface seemed simplistic and it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I almost dismissed it. But something urged me to take a closer look. I installed it on my phone and the desktop app to my laptop. Though I was not actively seeking a replacement for Microsoft OneNote, I was intrigued by the cross-platform synchronization capabilities. I was (and still am) a huge fan of OneNote. OneNote lets me organize my notes how I want and the content types are virtually unlimited. Evernote had limitations on content types and it only permitted tags and folders for organization. Still, the prospect of having all of my notes at my fingertips wherever I was won me over. That was something OneNote could not do for me.

I spent a day and a half migrating my notes from OneNote to Evernote. It wasn’t difficult for me to quickly create pertinent folders and tags for my content.

The folders were a little cumbersome for me. I found myself viewing all the notes by date and quickly abandoned my folder idea. I currently use only the tags to organize my notes. In a spirit of full disclosure, I do use two notebooks: one for the novel I’m working on and a second for the rest of my notes.

The second thing a quickly discovered — which was almost a deal breaker — was the fact that my notes were not stored locally on my devices. I had to have an active internet connection to view my notes. I could create content offline, but I could not view my notes offline. The feature cost me $45 per year. Dishing out the cash also bought me the ability to search my PDF files and upload more content each month, up to 1 GB. However, most months I don’t even hit 100 MB. Paying the money proved to be prophetic because in March of last year I bought an iPad with WiFi only. I find myself in too many situations where there is no internet connection. In the car, at the store, on a plane, etc. The ability to have access to my notes anytime and anywhere is worth the $45 per year.

In the early months, Evernote did not support check boxes. But that has been rectified in recent releases. Up until last month, I used Evernote for my task lists as well as my notes. I created a tag for task lists and had about 4 different lists for each sphere of my life: Home, Work, Church, and Other. I listed the tasks for each area in a note, prefacing each one with a “O” before it was complete and with an “X” after. Each morning, when I reviewed my lists, I’d purge the X’d entries.

Another thing that Evernote has done recently is provide a clipping app for web browsers. Notice the Evernote icon in my Firefox browser to the right. Clicking the icon prompts me to clip the entire page or just an article. It allows me to set a title for the new note and assign tags. This handy do-dad has been great for saving articles I want to read at a future date or pictures I want to save.

Evernote will also record audio. On more than one occasion I have hit the audio record button in a meeting. I can continue to take notes while Evernote records the audio. This would also be a great tool for a student in a classroom recording lectures.

I have a first generation iPad so I don’t have an integrated camera. But with my Android phone, I can open Evernote and capture an image with the camera directly to Evernote, again with the option to set a title and assign tags.

There is also the ability to share notebooks with other Evernote users. A colleague and I toyed with it for a few days, but admittedly, I don’t use share notebooks. There is also the ability to email notes to your Evernote. I use this quite a bit. If there is an email related to a project I’m working on, I will forward the message to my Evernote account. Attachments and all get stored into Evernote. I can specify the tags and title of the new note in the subject line of the email.

I use Evernote for everything. Keeping track of project, electronic user guides of products I’ve purchased, content I need to read or review, minutes of meetings I attend. I even record the audio of my children’s orchestra and piano recitals.

Do you use Evernote? What for and how? If you don’t, what do you use to keep yourself organized?

Categories: Organizing

Task Lists

2 January 2012 Leave a comment

I saw an unexpected article in The Wall Street Journal, Conquering the To-Do List. There was a large reference to it on the front page on December 28, 2011.

I am a big fan of the to-do list. They don’t run my life, but when the pressure is on to produce or perform within a time frame, they keep me on track.

There are almost as many forms of to-do list and task lists as there are lists. I prefer media that syncs across my devices. Microsoft Outlook is my primary email client. I use the task list in Outlook to keep track of all the things I have to do. I create categories for different spheres of my life: personal, family, work, and church. The categories allow me to quickly view the tasks I have to do when I’m in each of those settings.

But I’m not always at my computer. I demand applications that sync with Outlook. There are an enormous number that will sync the email and calendar, but the list is significantly narrowed when it comes to tasks. Gratefully, Apple included the Reminders app in the new iOS upgrade. Reminders synchronizes my Outlook tasks on my iPad. Until Reminders came along I used Evernote to keep my tasks. (Evernote is amazing! I’ll devote my next entry to Evernote.) I do not have an Android app on my phone yet. I used Touchdown for a while, but it is a memory hog and seemed to slow down everything about my phone. For example, with Touchdown installed, when my phone would ring, it would take several seconds after it started ringing before the “answer” screen would appear. It caused me to miss many calls. So, for now, I am coping without a task app on my phone. I have my iPad with me most of the time anyway, so it isn’t that big of deal.

I also carry a couple of 3×5 index card in my pocket. I have found it is a lot faster to jot down a quick reminder on the card. Then I’ll transfer to my master list (Outlook or Reminders) when it is more convenient.

I had a boss once that was a slave to the Post-It notes. His office was literally wall-papered with them–all over his monitor, desk, over-head bins. I personally don’t care for the Post-It note plan. They are not portable, for one. And if I stick them to my iPad (you know, so I have them with me elsewhere) I can’t see my screen. :)

As I mentioned before, I have also used Evernote. I love Evernote, as you’ll read in a couple days. One of the greatest things about it is an app for every device I own: Desktop, iPad, Android, and web. No matter where I am I have access to Evernote and my task lists. However, Evernote does a horrendous job at tasks. And all the platforms do not have the same features. They each lag a little behind the desktop version. Early on there were no check boxes on the iPad and Android. So I resorted to using “O” and “X” to mark tasks. The method worked by it was cumbersome to mark a task complete on the iPad and Android because you had to edit the note, wait for the keyboard to appear, backspace over the O and replace with an X. Too many taps and keystrokes for efficiency. Thank goodness for Reminders on the iPad.

I have tried the tactile paper and pencil (pen) method for tracking my to-dos. In the early days, you know before dirt was invented, I used a Franklin planner religiously.  RELIGIOUSLY! Then I bought a Palm Pilot and ditched my Franklin. (That was a bitter sweet day … *tear.) I know there are still people out there that live for the satisfaction that comes from manually checking the Complete box. I’m not making fun of the paper people. I used to be one. I merely point it out as one method. There are advantages. You never have to worry about he battery in your paper going dead.

I’ve tried several different programs over the years. Some are long gone. Rather than me try to iterate all the come-and-gone apps I’ve used, tt may be more productive for all of us if you share what method or program(s) you use to track your tasks.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Categories: Organizing