My reasons for using Evernote to track tasks

I know there are a ton of great task management tools out there.  The challenge I have always had with them probably comes down to my own diligence in using them.   I never got in the habit of using one particular program over another.  I love RememberTheMilk for a long time. I used Things for quite a few months.. and recently I had tried Wunderlist.

Problem I was solving
The problem is, these always felt like yet another tool/place to go each day.  I would not develop great habits around checking my lists.  I even tended to start to ignore reminders from them.  (worst possible thing for task management).  What I noticed is that every day I was already using Evernote to do the bulk of the work for my tasks.  Why not just use Evernote Reminders?

The Benefit
The biggest benefit I got from this was not the single tool, although that helped me a ton.  The largest reason I have stuck with this has to do with context.  Now, when I had a task to accomplish, Evernote gave me the space to to the actual work associated with that task right there.   One of my handiest things I use now is pretty simple.  I place a date followed by a horizontal rule in reverse chronological order in my “task” as I work on it.

I don’t try to make a task a “project”.  I really try to keep it a task.  Often this includes following up with people, getting data, etc.  I can capture that all in my note.  Then  I have a history to go back and look at as well.

Structure
I have a notebook stack that contains all of my live projects.  All meeting notes, tasks and research go into the sub-folder for that project.  This means I have a single source of the project data.  This also gives me the ability to look at the project stack and see all outstanding tasks.

Every new task gets a note.  Every new meeting gets a note.  Every day I look at my notes list and I select all notes edited that day and create a Table of Contents notes.  I then tag that journal, title it with today’s date and I have a journal of what I touched that day.   For meetings, I tag the note as MEETING as well as tag each person in the meeting as a tag.  I’ve decided this is easier for me to search for tags of people across everything rather than searching the text.

I also keep a folder called .Daily in my project notebook stack.  The period before the name just helps to sort it at the top.  The items in .Daily are items I should do each day, or review.  (it really includes weekly items as well, but I look in there every day to be reminded of things)

Summary
For me, this has proven to be the solution that works.  I encourage you to find the solution that works for you and don’t assume someone has found the magic bullet.  They only found THEIR magic bullet.  This happens to be mine.

EvernoteTask

How I am using Evernote for Presentations now

OK, when I say now..I mean from now on.   I think this is my new found time saver.   How may times are you taking notes and working in Evernote, just to turn around and format those notes in Keynote or Powerpoint just to show them to somebody else?

I know that sometimes it makes sense in the context of a full on business meeting, but when you are quickly capturing thoughts and need to get info to your team, and responses back.. this is SOOOO much better in my view.  Enough already, how do I do it you ask?

evernote-mac-presentation

I know you have heard that you can do presentation mode in Evernote.  This is not new.  (although recently updated)  I see a couple ways to use this.

One thing I like to keep in mind is to do an outline for a real presentation first.  This gets your mind thinking ahead of time about the story you are telling, the goals, and the supporting data.   If you can’t get this down simply in text first, you will struggle.  I also feel like too many people focus on existing slides they have, how to squeeze them into their story and the deck grows to 70+ slides.  This is never good.  Stop, tell a concise story and do it simply first.

Here is how I think about a presentation:

Presentation Goal: Demonstrate to COMPANY X how they should focus their BLAH to attract additional users of the Mobile Internet.

TIPS:

  • Titles should always read the key point. If you read only Titles, would you get the point of the deck?
  • Titles should always be framed in the affirmative
  • Data is supporting the key point in the Title


SLIDE 1:

Goal: Demonstrate that COMPANY X should look to other carriers to learn where they can get incremental Mobile Internet adoption
Title: Company X is lagging behind in Y that is causing a lack of mobile adoption
Data: A graph that shows % of X,Y,Z and compares

etc…

This is where Evernote shines.  Creating an outline is great for this.  It’s easy and quick, and when you are done you will have your simple presentation. So long as you don’t need to do a formal Keynote deck.. you should be able to get your point across to your organization quickly.

 

Presentation in Evernote using a Single Note

This to me is the quickest and dirtiest way to get some information captured and present it.  You can create your outline and go very quickly.  You don’t need tons of fancy graphics and animations.  You are just trying to sell something internally for buyoff, or get people informed of something.

I usually make my slide title all capital letters, and bold it.  This helps it stand out in presentation mode.  Then I provide any text, data, key bullets and images below, all in a very concise format.  Think about adding more “slides” vs longer ones with more data.

SLIDE TITLE
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed sodales libero sit amet urna aliquam, sagittis pulvinar enim condimentum. Etiam dui justo, tincidunt vel odio a, mattis egestas lectus. Duis sed congue nibh.
 * Key Point: Details of the point
 * Key Point: Details of the point
 * Key Point: Details of the point

Now, I’ve found if you keep this concise, you can use a horizontal rule after each “slide” to cause Evernote to separate them in presentation mode.  I’ve found it not to be perfect every time, but it’s darn close. Now, just add each section with your outline, and data.. Rules in between and you are done.  One note that also acts as a presentation.

If you want to see a sample deck with Horizontal Rules as separators, check out this note.  You can add it to your Evernote and try the presentation.

Multiple Notes to Create a Presentation

The other way to do this is to create a single note for each key point you want to make.  Then, once you are done you can select all the notes and select “create table of contents” as shown here:

Evernote_Premium

This will create a note with a table of contents that links to each separate note.  This makes it easy to reorder your “deck” and select items to present.  Re-title your note and you are ready to go.  This is also a great way to have an agenda slide and track where you are in the presentation.

Evernote_Premium 2

The great thing about this way is you can be a bit more modular and reuse portions of other presentations.  It also makes it easy to include documents, videos, notes from meetings, etc.

I am going to start using this internally from now on at my work.  I see this as a huge time saver when presenting for quick signoff internally.  Focus on the content, not the format.

I would love to hear how others are using this, and to what extent you are having luck.

 

 

 

 

You Too Can Participate in the Fragmentation of Wearables

For those that know me, I may be a bit of a gadget geek.  I think the first step in fixing a problem would be to admit you have one.  The challenge is, I have no intention of fixing my tech-trending life.  I enjoy it.  I think I counted over 10 phones I have had in the past two years.  (much to my wife’s dismay)

Lately I have been focused on wearable computing.  While not participating in all of the gadgets, I am very much interested in this space.   The only wearable I currently have is my Pebble Watch.   I must admit, I enjoy it but it is in it’s infancy.   It doesn’t do everything I’d like and I am not sure it ever will.

Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch

As a product manager by trade, I always think about the process when a product was coming to market.  What problem were they trying to solve?   Wearables are trying to solve user problems that fall into a couple different buckets as I see them.  First you have notifications.  Can this device stop me from pulling out my true personal computer (mobile phone) every time it buzzes or rings?  Second I see some lightweight utility apps.  (think navigation or weather)   Finally, the big bucket I look forward to is a bit more predictive information.  Now, to be fair, predictive information as a category can be hard to quantify.  Are they really notifications just being sent to the wearable?  (Google Now).  Is the mobile device doing more of the computing and the wearable is just a display?  I think both could be true.  The difference in my mind is the sensors that a wearable can bring to provide the context necessary to “surprise and delight” me as a customer.

Here is where things get challenging for someone like me.  What problem do I care about being solved by a given piece of technology?  While I am perfectly fine with glancing at my watch to see a notification about my upcoming meeting, I have learned I am less happy with getting my text messages on my wrist.  Why?  Consider this.  How rude is it to pull out your phone to check a text while in conversation?   (I personally try to never do that).  I assumed I could just glance at my wrist and still stay focused on the conversation at hand.  What happened?  Now I just appear to be bored with you and I am checking the time constantly.   Something I didn’t anticipate.   For me, glancing up at something like Google Glass would be much more appropriate for incoming text notifications.  Subtle yet available if I need them.

I am still trying to figure out in my own head which wearable solves which problems better for me.   As for now, until I am a little more clear, it makes it harder to think through the next problem.. WHICH wearable of which type to purchase.

Smart Watches

The big challenge here is what capabilities and devices will survive the fragmentation challenges of the Smart watch world.

Pebble ($150)
Great notification watch with some simple applications.  Pebble is really focused on building out a world-class SDK that developers can leverage. I still have high hopes here.

Martian Watches ($250-$300)
These watches tout voice control as their big differentiator.  The screens don’t lend themselves to much digital real-estate however they are really nice watches with a little more.

I’m Watch ($350)
Great looking watch with it’s own developer platform as well.  (although I don’t see this getting as much press)

Sony Smartwatch 2 ($200)
The screen and stock capabilities do pretty good here although developer support is not as strong

Samsung Galaxy Gear ($300)
I believe this is one of the more promising platforms, although for whatever reason they have decided to only sell it for a select few Samsung devices.  Bad move in my view. If you want developer support, make it worth their while by being broadly available.

 Glasswear

These devices are a bit more on the geeky side, but I still want one eventually.  I believe I will hold our for at least 1-2 more revisions.  The big challenge as above, how do you attract the right developers to get your platform to move forward.  I think it will be key for these guys to just flat out fund key applications to get done right.  If not, it will be seen as a gap when you are missing key apps.

The two key ones I am watching are:

Google Glass ($1500)
Obviously the big news-getter here.  Lots of cool things happening.  I think we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential here.

Meta-Pro ($3500)
These guys are going ultra high-end.  I am excited to see what they are doing.  It seems they have quite a developer following as well.

Oakley, Oculon and others are trying to get into this space as well. Oddly enough, it seems as though more devices are landing in this space in 2014 than great new watch ideas.   Check out this article for more glasses.

Summary

My challenge is to really decide what capabilities are going to be in the device I think best serves that need for me before I pick a winner.  Getting a Kickstarter Pebble Edition was just an eye opener for me as to where things are going.  Fragmentation for developers will continue to be a problem. If the program owners for these devices can fund key apps, they can mitigate risk and increase positive perception amongst the mass market.

If you are interested, you can check out my Pebble Watch Faces and others posts.

Working on my productivity habits for 2014

I’ve decided that I have been pretty slack in my tracking of goals, tasks and well.. overall efficiency.  Sometimes I feel as if I am spending too much time trying to be productive and less time ACTUALLY being productive.  (if that makes sense).  I have a bit of OCD when it comes to trying to get things done.  (in the true GTD sense).

I decided that this year I am going to focus on improving by going back to what I know has worked in the past.   For me it has been about a simple task list by project with clarity around what I want to get done for the day and week.  What I found worked in the past was using the Emergent Task Planner from David Seah.  This allows me to write down my appointments and tasks for the day, then track them.  For me, writing things down has proven to be a better mental reminder over digital only solutions.  By writing it out each day it forces me to think about it and “makes it real” for me.

I was trying to get by with only using Evernote reminders to track tasks.   I think I found myself worried about tracking things in Evernote and not actually DOING all of the things I was tracking.   Getting back to basics for me with ETP and a task list is more effective.

I bought the smaller sticky pad of ETP to use in my Moleskine notebook.  You can get them on Amazon here.  My goal is to stick to using these and make sure I track to my weekly and quarterly goals with more personal accountability.   I don’t necessarily think I have NOT been doing everything I want for work and personal goals.. but I do think I have had less accountability for them personally.   This is going to be my attempt to fix this.

I am going to try to post more often as well, and this should include updates on how things are going. Stay tuned for more..

 

iMac Hard Drive Madness

I have had an issue recently with my hard drive going effing bezerk.  It would sit there and spin like mad, make all the noise in the world and take up resources like it was a blue whale sucking in ocean water.  It was driving me nuts.  Oh.. and one other thing, my volume adjustments from my keyboard were delayed anywhere from 5-10 seconds for every press.Odd.

 

Every article I read had these pointers to try to see if your hard drive is failing.  While I had doubts that was my issue, I followed them to be sure I passed the sniff test.  Funny thing is, I don’t even worry about hard drives failing anymore.  I keep almost nothing in my local drive that isn’t in the cloud, so if it fails, I am probably 99% safe on all my content.

 

Anyway, I finally tried a couple of things that helped my issue.  First thing to note is the volume delay was a different problem from the hard drive spinning constantly.

 

Hard Drive Fix

To fix the hard drive spinning, it seems like it has come down to the way Spotlight was indexing my content.  Here is the solution I got from the Apple Website

 

 From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences.
 Click Spotlight.
 Click the Privacy tab.
 Drag a folder or an entire volume (your hard drive) to the list.
 If prompted for confirmation, click OK.
 Remove the item or volume you just added to the list by clicking it and then clicking the minus ("-") button.
 Close Spotlight preferences.
 Spotlight will re-index the contents of the folder or volume

Volume Fix

To fix the volume issue, it turns out I had to reset the NVRAM and PRAM.  This was a simple fix but seems to have done the trick.   It turns out, something in the PRAM controls your volume on your system. If it gets out of whack. it can be flakey.

 

Here is the fix for resetting the PRAM
Shut down your Mac.
Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command (⌘), Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
Turn on the computer.
Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys before the gray screen appears.
Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
Release the keys

Hopefully this helps someone else out.

Pebble Watch Faces for the Christmas

I was messing around with a couple Christmas watch faces for my Pebble.  I think things got a little out of hand with creating them.  Initially I wasn’t going to share them out.. but decided to.  I grabbed some images from the web.. and  hadn’t sourced the clip arts.. if you see something of yours and want it down, just holler. I will try to go back and dig up sources.

Here are some sample screenshots:

skitch 2 skitch 3 skitch 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find the full list and download the PBW files right here:

 http://goo.gl/uxU1gr

This URL is mobile friendly and you can directly load the watch faces from there.

If any of these graphics are yours and you want me to take them down, holler.

 

 

Using Pebble for my Starbucks Card

OK, this was not my idea..but in many discussions about people using their Pebble watch for barcodes, I thought I’d try it out.  I gotta say, it works great and you get a lot of geek-cred with the baristas.  (if that means much these days).

 

Here is what I did.

 

Step 1:  Take a screenshot of your Starbucks card on your phone

 

Starbucks Card Screenshot - iOS

Step 2: Crop your bar code and make a graphic to be used on your watchface.  (144×168).

Step 3:  Upload the image to the watch face generator here

Step 4: Follow steps to size and save your watchface.  You can then load it to your device.

Here is an example of how mind turned out.

(slightly modified of course to not show my real card)

Strabucks Card on Pebble

Strabucks Card on Pebble

Torg’s Mini Holiday Gift Guide

The Holiday Season is upon us.  More and more people are looking to gadgets as a good gift.  If I look back just a few years ago, no where near as many of my family and friends were into their Smartphone, now they are a daily staple in our lives.   This love for technology has extended to other parts of our lives as well and this is my list of some great gadgets and gifts for friends.

 

Sonos Play 1 ($199)

If you have have not heard of Sonos before and you love music, be prepared to fall in love.  Sonos is a fantastic multi-room speaker system that lets you stream music to speakers in the house in the most simple and elegant way.  You can stream different music to different zones, and have up to 32 zones in your house.  The Play 1 is their entry speaker that will get you going on the Sonos bug, or be a great fill in for rooms you need to fill with sound.

 

http://www.sonos.com/shop/products/play1-bridge

 

Sonos Play 1

Sonos Play 1

 

 

Anker® Astro 3E 10000mAh External Battery Pack ($39.99)

These little battery packs are great for saving your bacon when you are out and about.   This one is big enough to charge your tablet and phones at the same time.  Great gift for people that have a gadget addiction and burn through their battery.  (Isn’t that all of us?)

 

Battery Pack

Battery Pack

 

 

 

Tiltpod – iPhone Mini Tripod ($30)

I had this for the 4S.. need to get it for my 5.  I loved this little thing.  Always handy on the keychain and works really well.

Check them out here: http://gomite.com/products/tiltpod-stand-iphone-5

Tiltpod

Tiltpod

 

 

 

Round 1.. more to come.