Urgent vs. Important work

Urgent vs. Important work

We have been having this recurring discussion at work lately about the difference between Urgent work vs. Important work.  Understand how this fits in your decision making process is key in my view to being productive, yet understanding the proper interruption cycle when things are not going as planned.  I thought I’d share the matrix that is going around just because I find it valuable.

When you are getting ready to think about a piece of work, or more importantly engage with others.. where does the work fall in this matrix?  And is it the same for them as it is you?

 

Unknown

Detailed Routine Using Evernote for Tasks and Tracking

Detailed Routine Using Evernote for Tasks and Tracking

This post covers an update of how I am using Evernote as my task manager, and in my daily routine. I had covered some of this in my Using Evernote for Tasks post, but I have refined it since then, so I wanted to update.

 

What was important to me for a task manager?

There were quite a few things I have realized over the years that are important for me when it comes to tracking tasks.  What I realize, is I consider “tasks” to be anything from quick ToDo items, to projects that I break down into smaller tasks, or even workspaces for tasks.  I tend to do most of these things in Evernote.

I intentionally break down shopping lists and recurring home chores in a different process. That is covered later.

The key items for my Evernote tasks has come down to the following:

  • Set DUE DATE reminders on tasks
  • Timestamp updates to tasks to show progress, recent events, etc
  • Quite often, the task needs a workspace
  • An easy way to create a Daily journal of the work I am doing
  • An easy to create weekly journal based on the M-F week
  • Linking parts of tasks to Evernote Notes (Evernote is my workspace)
  • Cross Device visibility
  • Tagging by project – I find that folders get too restrictive, I will explain later
  • Sorting recently edited by tasks/notes:
    • Today
    • Since Yesterday (for reviews)
    • This Week

 

Previous Attempts of Task Related Software

I’ve tried many things in the past.  Some worked better than others for a period of time.  Below is a summary of the key things that have/have not worked for some period of time.

Omnifocus (http://www.omnifocus.com)

Omnifocus is always top of discussion when it comes to power users.  I often think of myself as a power user because of the time I have been in tech, I’ve been a developer and I often try a lot of software.  Here is what I learned.  Omnifocus just didn’t work for my workflow.

 

Who knows, maybe I’ve not spent enough time with Omnifocus.  I think Omnifocus is beautiful ugly but well designed.  I think they have done a great job of providing GTD context options as part of the tool.  They really have put a lot into the thinking behind how you use Omnifocus.  I just felt, at the end of the day, it was not as easy for me to use simply.  I couldn’t link my Evernote notes as easily here and it just felt like a hassle.

 A2763351-35FC-40DC-A1AE-96EE3903EDE3

 

Wunderlist (http://www.wunderlist.com)

This was my favorite of the standard “To Do” type applications.  I felt there was a great balance of features, simplicity and looks.  One of my favorite features of Wunderlist is the shared lists.  I still use this today for my shopping lists.  My wife and I share lists together that we can jointly add to.  They include

  • Grocery
  • Lowes (for hardware needs)
  • Target
  • Costco

 

This product is quick and easy to use, syncs great across devices.. but again, cross linking to my notes in my workspace was a challenge.

 687CFF6F-20B8-46F5-BEAE-988C1A214737

 

Trello (http://www.trello.com)

Trello is really amazing.  It is a digital KanBan board. It provides you flexible lanes of work that are called lists.  These lists can contain cards.   The cards contain all the details of the items you are working on.   This was my most recent favorite tool to use.  Again it comes back to the integration (or lack of) with Evernote.  I am just too tied to Evernote for my workspace.

 F1E6DEBD-6653-4ADA-9FAB-CAED0DFB5610

OTHERS

  • Asana
  • Things
  • ToDoist
  • Toodledo
  • Remember The Milk

Current Evernote Folder Structure

I am in a perpetual state of tweaking my folder structure to provide the optimum balance of “Ease of use” vs. “Comprehensive Structure”.  Why I care about the latter, I don’t know.  I should really focus on the ease of use part.

Some of the folders have a . (period) in front of them.  This is only to force a sort order on them.  You can also prefix with numbers, but I am fine with the order I have here and didn’t need more control.

Here is my current structure

  • ..Inbox
  • ..Journal
  • ..Tasks
    • .Due Today
    • .This Week
    • .Upcoming
    • .Waiting For
    • .Archive
  • .WORK
    • .Customer History
    • General
    • Team
    • Meetings
    • Reference
    • Routine Meetings
  • Personal
    • Career
    • Home
    • Ideas
    • Networking
    • Tasks – Personal
    • Tasks – Upcoming

 

..Inbox

This is where everything comes in to for Evernote.  It is my default notebook.  It doesn’t matter what capture tool I use, things will drop here for processing later. This can also become my “working folder”.  The reason being, I know it will get processed every morning at the longest.

..Journal

This is where I track everything happening by day.  Below when I describe a typical day, you will see how things will end up here.

..Tasks

I have a process each morning, and each week where I look at the work I am doing, and place the tasks in the appropriate buckets.  UPCOMING is where all of my tasks go when I am waiting to schedule them.  When I need to move them to get worked on, they go into the THIS WEEK bucket.  Each morning I try to place the items I want to get accomplished in the DUE TODAY folder.   This is where I spend my focus to ensure I complete work.

Each task I create gets a due date, or gets moved to an upcoming folder so I don’t lose track of it.  I love having tasks in Evernote so I can make the note a “work area” for the task.  Some tasks have almost no body to the note, some tasks get tons of data in them, attachments, journaled entries of progress, etc.  (almost mini projects).  It just depends.

Daily Workflow/Weekly Workflow

When I get in the office in the morning, I have come to really appreciate a structured morning.  I almost never allow myself to get into work and be thrown right in to the thick of things.  If that happens, my day goes to hell in my head.  Sure, fires may not be happening, but I don’t know that.  I really like to stick to my routine.

Details of morning

Here is my morning ritual for work, in rough order.

Every morning at 7AM, my IFTTT Recipe Runs.  This gives me my starting note for the day.  This is the start of my basic checklist.  When I get to the office, the newest note in my Evernote Inbox is this.

919F8EE3-51C1-42E2-81A7-5D3289FBFBCE

The first thing I do is highlight all of the items in the list and hit COMMAND-SHIFT T.  This converts those items to checkboxes. Then I go to the title of the note and hit COMMAND-SHIFT-D, which makes my title a full date format I like.  Also note that my IFTTT recipe auto tagged this note as JOURNAL when it was created.  (saves me a step later).  Now, my note looks like this.

4030ED2E-3CEE-4067-989F-F43DB61CF35C

 

Next I start going through my Checklist.  The first thing is reviewing my Calendar.  This way, if there are any morning meetings I must run to, or prep for, I have that knowledge.

From here, I go to my ..tasks list and see what reminders I have to take care of.  If you click the parent in the stack, you can see all tasks with due dates.  This lets me move any due today into my Due Today folder.  This becomes my area of focus for today.

CA2B7C42-8C88-4266-BAF4-00F8447879EE

DDBD2D90-F710-4BA4-B965-4CF25517E2C8

 

Now a simple little trick I do is this.  I highlight all of the items I have moved to Due Today, then select CREATE TABLE OF CONTENTS.  This generates a list of notes and links them automatically.   I copy/paste that over to my dated journal note I mentioned earlier (for today), and paste them below the checkbox items.   I then do a quick highlight of them, turn off the bullet number, and turn on checkboxes.  Now, I have my start of my list for today that I care about.  I work from this Today’s List and keep it in my inbox.  It also makes it easy to get to the notes as I get to the task.  They are linked.  This is how I make each task my “workspace” in Evernote.

 FDF3B424-EE7A-4050-87EF-62CCFEE5026D

I also go back to yesterday’s list to make sure I didn’t miss anything. If I did, I move it to Today’s list and prioritize.

 

Throughout the day

Now that I have my list of things I need to focus on, I can start going through my tasks. As I complete them, I check them off in my Today’s List, as well as the Evernote Reminder checklist.  When a task is completed, the Evernote Note associated with that task gets moved to the ARCHIVE.  This way I keep a running record of all items completed, and then my Note Links stay intact and don’t break either.

I create a bulleted list below the tasks of the day.  This gives me a way to lightly journal the day as it progresses.   When I do little things I want to remember, talk to people, field a call or go to a meeting, these all get added to my bullet list for the day.  If I have to go to a meeting, I will create the meeting note based on my Meeting Template.   When the meeting is complete, I ensure it is tagged with MEETING, I copy the note link to paste in my daily journal and I move the note to the MEETING archive folder.  (also extract any action items out of it)

End of day

At the end of the day I want to capture all of the work I did and make sure it goes into the Daily Journal entry.  This is pretty easy in Evernote.

  • I search for all notes edited today (using a saved search option)
  • Once I get that list, I select all and click CREATE TABLE OF CONTENTS note
  • I select all from that new TOC note
  • I go back to my daily journal and paste it at the bottom of my note below the bullet items for the day (separated by a horizontal rule).  This way I can see all notes that I touched that day.

A typical end of day note will look like this.

C40673BB-A76C-40A0-8531-5D66FB55C2A2

End of week

At the end of the week I do my weekly review.  Everyone has their own version of what that entails, and I will say I refine mine on a regular basis.  the key things I like to make sure I do are the following:

  • Clean off desk of any remaining work papers
  • Scan any documents I need to save into Evernote
  • Prep any notes for next weeks upcoming meetings as needed
  • Write my weekly update
      • Overview of the week
      • Progress on goals this week (with links to notes)
      • Upcoming in the next week
      • Links to any key documents, sites, etc

 

Next..

This covers my daily routine for Evernote.  In an upcoming post, I will cover more of how I use Evernote for Meetings, Sharing and how I integrate other tools with my habits.

How I am using Evernote for Presentations now

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

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.