How to make decisions with large groups

One of the things I have learned in my career as a product manager is that you are in positions to make decisions every day. Quite often, these decision are hard, and impact a lot of people. In a simplified world, there are two ways to go about doing this. You can do this by pushing, or you can do this by pulling.

What do I mean by pushing?

Some people manage to push their decisions to others. Many of these people are very smart. Many of these people have the respect of the organization. Quite often, these people are right. Like I said, they are smart.

Often these people are the fast thinkers, the experts in their field. If you think about it, these people are the ones that are the “go to” people for an organization. If there is a question that comes up, people are often quick to point this person out. “Run this by Bob, he will know.” See, Bob is smart.

What do I mean by pulling?

Others in the organization are seen as influencers, consensus getters, trusted counterparts to do what is seen as right for the organization. No, this isn’t the opposite of the people who push decisions as we discussed, it’s just that the organization sees these people in a different light.

People in this realm are ones who seek out opinions, try to see all sides to a decision, help collect and collate the data to help everyone understand what the answer could be, and pull everyone along to what the answer is.

When the organization has hard conversations and choices to make, these people are often brought in as a balance to the pushers in an organization.

When is a pusher the right way to drive an answer?

There are times and places for both types of decision makers/getters in an organization. Quite often in your career (and in your life), you will be asked to fill one of these roles. When do you need to use the proper technique, and why?

It could be a standard Thursday night, your family is happy the weekend is coming, and nobody wants to cook dinner. Someone needs to take control and make a choice.

What is the impact of that choice? Well, we need to eat tonight. The decision will impact my family, likely only my family, and will be a short-term consequence for the call that is made. Now, I am an expert in my family. I know what they like. I know what they don’t like. I know the budget we have. I know around what time we’d like to eat. These are all factors in my ability to be the pusher in this situation. Considering this type of decision has happened often, it increases my chance of success here.

With a reasonable expected outcome, I can take all of the factors that make me the expert here, and I can decide to make the call. I will pick a place that everyone will enjoy, it fits our budget, is available now (because we are all hungry), and I know it’s close. Decision is made, and communicated. In all likelihood, the outcome here is going to be ok. If it’s not, at least we know the consequences are relatively short term.

When is a puller the better call?

Let’s take a different scenario. My family is getting ready to buy a new house . We have lived in the same house for a few years, but we are ready to move. The consequence of this decision is not short term. We plan on living in this place for a long time. RED FLAG #1. This decision will impact a group of people over a very long period of time . I should recognize this.

Now, I know everyone wants a place to eat, sleep, play and relax. These are facts. I can be the expert, right? Hmm, let’s pause there. Do I really know the factors that each person is thinking of for each of these checklist items?

We don’t go through this decision on a regular basis like we did the dinner choice. I’ve never actually sat and talked with family about what they like in the current house, and what they’d like to change in the new house. RED FLAG #2. This conversation is infrequent enough that likely nobody is the actual expert here. I should recognize this. We all have inputs, but varied by person/role.

So, what is the right way to pull people along?

We want to ensure that we satisfy the needs of the collective whole. In business terms, who are the stakeholders? Well, in this case, for me, it would be my wife, mother in law, and me. (We don’t have kids, and I am not letting my dog try and talk me in to a swimming pool).

In order to make sure that we satisfy the key items, we have to approach this differently. What do we know?

  1. We are buying a house
  2. We want to eat, sleep, play and relax in this new home
  3. What other factors do we need to consider in making this choice.

This is where some guardrails on a decision come in to play. Often we will call these the principles of the decision. What this really means is, what are the rules by which we will make our decision, so we can collectively arrive at a reasonable set of narrowed choices, that match these principles, and hopefully satisfy our collective needs.

In order to do this for our house, we could brainstorm on things like:

  1. Style of house
  2. Color of house
  3. Location
  4. Price
  5. Number of Rooms
  6. Amenities
  7. Wood Shop

It’s easy to weed out a couple of items that may not matter to the list of core principles here. First: Color. Color is something that can be changed later. It is not a long-standing impact for us collectively. This is a short term impact, and it’s not high. Second: Wood Shop. I am really the only person who cares deeply about this. Since this does not impact everyone as a long-standing core principle, we can weight this lower.

Now, if we arrive at a set of criteria like this:

  1. Style: Craftsman or Log Cabin
  2. Color: Ignored
  3. Location: within 15 miles of our current house, but not east of I-5
  4. Price: $300k-$2.5M (whatever, it’s my story here)
  5. Number of Rooms: Minimum of 4
  6. Amenities: Nice to have items include workout space, long driveway, lots of trees
  7. Wood Shop: Nice to have, not core

OK.. so now that we have our principles by which we want to make our decision, this is how we can pull everyone along as the person driving towards this decision. Think of them again, as guardrails that help us stay in our lane. If we can get consensus around these principles, it is likely that we have a good chance to arrive at the same (or similar) decision in the end.

If we find an amazing house that matches all of our criteria, but it happens to be east of I-5, this house violates principle #3 of our decision criteria. In theory, everyone agrees that this house is not a viable option. No complaints. We all agreed up front that east of I-5 is out.

OK, so what happens if someone says “Nope, this IS the house. We are getting this one!” . Well, you have to re-visit the principles to ensure you all still agree. Why does this person think principle #3 doesn’t matter any more? Why are they willing to violate this rule and be east of I-5? If you discuss this together, and can all agree that “No houses east of I-5” is a rule that can be violated, you can adjust your principles. You have collectively agreed that the framework by which you make your decision has now changed. If you don’t agree to that, you must all come to the conclusion that this house is off the list.

How do I close the decision by pulling everyone along

As the person responsible for driving closure to this decision, it is key that you are able to pull everyone along. If you end up in an argument about the house that violated a principle, you are now arguing on emotion or flawed logic. This won’t work long-term. You must ensure that you have clarity on the rules by which you make decisions is agreed, and then you work towards your decision within those guardrails. Once you collectively get to a decision, it is one that everyone can agree upon based on the rules.

What happens if you get close, but are stuck on one factor?

It is not uncommon to get through some basic principles and still end up with two differing answers. The easiest way to solve this is to find the variance in the two options, and then decide on what the principle is that can help you make this decision. The principle is usually aligned towards a joint goal between all parties. By narrowing the rules by which you make the decision, you can guide the answer based on the new principle.

Know when to use the right method

It is up to you to determine how you make decision. You must recognize that sometimes people do want to be pushed. You know the answer, you can make the call. Sometimes it is ok to push a decision.

You must equally know when it is important to pull people along. Often, this decision process takes a lot longer. It often has longer-term impacts and will affect more people. This is were pulling helps. Guide people with principles by which you make the decision, and then collectively you will likely arrive at the same answer. Then, it’s a joint decision. Building out that framework is key. If the framework is wrong, the answer is wrong.

Hopefully this helps in some thinking on how to make decisions in your family, or your organization.

Why I am sticking with Evernote for now

I don’t use Evernote for everything like I had in the past. It really used to be my “everything bucket”. That has gone away over time, but there are some things the way I manage my daily workflow that really help me out. Let me explain.

I try to keep goals and a journal

Keeping a daily journal; I am not good at this. Actually, I am really horrible about doing this anywhere near perfect. I DO have a strong goal to get better at this. it helps me understand where my time is spent, and also gives me something to look back on over the week to see what I have done.

You can see in the image that I try to lay out a week by week journal in a single note for a single month. In the journal I create a couple of sections:

  • Week of.. to track which week I am looking at
  • Goals for the week help me track what I need to make sure I finish by the end of the week
  • Daily logs of work to keep track of my time and thoughts

It becomes very useful to go back and look at where you have spent time. You can see in the image that many of my bullets are links to other Evernote notes. The way I generate this is one of two ways.

  • Right click and copy a note link for a one-off bullet
  • Towards the end of a day, I use my saved search for UPDATED TODAY to grab the notes I have edited today. Then, highlight all of them, right click and copy note links.
  • Paste these in to my Journal

This workflow in Evernote is one of the key items that keeps me here.

Inbox Use

I use the Evernote inbox to capture everything as a starting place. It is my default notebook for every note coming in to evernote. IFTTT to Emails all show up here when I send things over. If I am jumping in to a meeting to take notes, I go here, create a new note and start typing away. I always file things later, but I pretty much know that anything here needs attention to complete.

In an effort to keep things clean, I use a WIP tag for anything that is a WORK IN PROGRESS. then, I can file away as needed to one of my very few folders. If I need to bring back all things I believe I am currently working on, I use the saved Work In Progress search. It will bring up all notes with the WIP tag.

My Shortcuts are my lifeline

This is really the key for me, what other note apps lack. The ability to create shortcuts for easy access. It is how I manage my workflow.

You can see that I have few, but powerful shortcuts. I will describe them for you to help understand my daily use, and why Evernote is sticky for me right now.


This is where everything starts. The .. at the beginning is just to sort it to the top in my folder view below.

December 2016

This is my “current month” journal. As described above, this is how I quickly add items to my journal. I add items to the top of my journal list so everything appears in reverse chronological order .

Sonos Archive

This is where I store all of my work related notes. Simple. Nothing is sorted beyond this one folder for work. (I also have personal archives). I search and sort with tags as I find them way more powerful.

Work In Progress

As I mentioned above, this is a saved search to find all items tagged with WIP. It helps me keep track of open items.

To Complete – Week

This is a saved search that looks for all notes with open checkboxes edited in the past week. If I am taking notes and I need to add a task quickly, rather than creating it in my Task Manager (currently 2do), I just use the Evernote checkbox.

Later, once I am processing meeting notes, I move tasks to my actual task manager and check them off in Evernote.

Having a quick way to find things for the week has been very helpful.

To Complete – Month

This is the same concept as above, but often I use this just to make sure I have not missed any processing from as far back as month. It’s not common, but it does happen.


So, as you can see, my workflow itself is what keeps me in Evernote. Sure, I could go learn how to adapt to Notes, Bear or other apps, but I have just found that I am very used to working in Evernote this way. I have been an Evernote user since the beginning, and it’s a hard habit to break fully.

Publishing with Ulysses

Publishing with Ulysses

OK.. the new version of Ulysses is out now and it includes the ability to publish straight from the app to WordPress. The great thing is.. not only is it hosted sites, but if you self-host, you can also publish.

I’ve recently started moving my writing to the iPad. The challenge is, and was going to be.. how to publish from the iPad. I know Fredrico Viticci and others have managed to put together some workflows.. but this is nice. It’s just built in.

Anyway, for now.. let’s see if we can get some more stuff published. I am just trying to figure out the sheets vs. grouping for publishing.. but here we go. Hopefully a better and easier workflow.


Tried and Failed…  Apple Notes vs. Evernote

Tried and Failed… Apple Notes vs. Evernote

I was trying to see if I could switch from Evernote to Notes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Evernote, but with all the hubbub lately around Evernote, I thought it was safe to explore options outside of my walled garden of Evernote.

I figured by trying Apple Notes, I would see if a built in App would work for me.   Here is what I found.

Things I liked in Notes

  • Drawings – this was great.  Evernote does not have this option the way Notes does
  • Safari Integration – I like the share sheet.. to be clear, Evernote has a great web clipper, so no real win here
  • Speed of launching.  Notes was fast.   (I also had far less notes in it)
  • Title, Header and Paragraph formatting.  The ability to hit CTRL T for a title, CTRL H for a header.. so awesome.

Things I missed from Evernote

  • The ability to copy a link to a note and use it somewhere.  I do this all the time within Evernote, Omnifocus, etc FIXED:  See Here
  • Tables.  Yes, Evernote tables suck.. but its better than no tables
  • Sharing of notes.   Getting a public URL is just so nice
  • Search limited to a folder – no way to do this in notes NOTE: Learning more search modifiers is helping me.  
  • Searching for edited files within the past week that had checkboxes.  It’s a great tool to help me track un-done items from meeting notes.  Notes has no way to track check boxes
  • IFTTT integration.  I have a recipe that takes my meetings that are coming up and creates a new note for meeting notes.  Saves a little time, but it’s nice.

Anyway.. for now.. back to Evernote.   I will deal with the speed issues and lack of formatting types for now.

Fantastic Podcast Concept – Serial

Fantastic Podcast Concept – Serial

If you are in to Podcasts, I urge you to check out Serial. This is a weekly podcast put out by NPR.  It covers details of a convicted murderer, who by all counts, it doesn’t seem should be behind bars.  I am still going through the podcast, almost fully caught up now.  I can’t wait for the next one!

The Serial Podcast Website has maps, evidence, etc from the case.  It is a great bit of supplement to what you normally get in a podcast.  This also feels more like a “show” than a podcast.  I liken it to what it must have been like listening to radio shows “back in the day”.



Each episode is roughly 30-60 minutes long.  These are great for my commute.  I am hooked.  It is a different experience for sure.  Go check them out.  Also, it appears they are going to do a Season 2 of Serial.  Content TBD.  I am looking forward to that.

Subscription Services Carry Over to Magazines

Subscription Services Carry Over to Magazines

I am very fond of subscription services.  Largely because I think managing physical things in a digital world is a waste of time, and far less convenient.  Why should I keep a DVD, or CD around to watch or listen when I can get access on all of my devices online?  (or offline)  Magazines is a next logical step for me.

I do find I still enjoy the editorial skills found in a good magazine periodical.  Not all blogs are created equal.  Some are good, but some leave a bit to be desired for content.  This is why I am trying out Next Issue.

Next_Issue___Unlimited_Access_to_140__Magazine_Subscriptions_Free_Trial 2


Next issue give me access to a bunch of magazines I would tend to buy on the shelf periodically.   Not only do I get every issue now, I get a lot of magazines for one low price.  I am paying for the higher tier service at $15 a month to get everything.  They do have a cheaper tier if you want.

I find if valuable to pop in and read a few magazines for the month.  Quite often I would pay $5 for one of these in a store.   Why not get all of them for one price.  I look at this the same way I do music.  I have been a long time Rhapsody subscriber (8 years).  I have not, nor will I, buy media the same way again .

Check out more at Next Issue

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 (

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.



Wunderlist (

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.



Trello (

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.



  • 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



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.




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.


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.


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



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.

Why Evernote tasks works for me

Why Evernote tasks works for me

Current Software I use

I am a Mac guy. Having been a former Windows user, switching to Mac was as much about the aesthetic design of apps as it was the UX. I tend to lean on apps that work, but look great too.
  • Evernote
  • Google Docs
  • Omnigraffle
  • Day One Journal
  • Skitch
  • Rhapsody (of course)
  • Mailbox
  • Humin (iPhone replacement phone app)
  • Hipstamatic
  • Snapseed
Let me guess, this sounds a lot like you? I know, right? Many of us tend to land on the same software. So, why is it so hard to find a productivity process that feels comfortable and works for everyone? I find so many people posting how they use X or Y, which makes total sense to me. (until I try it). It then feels cumbersome and odd. This could largely be due to lack of building a habit on my part, but who knows.

Productivity Junky

I’ve used a LOT of software to manage tasks in the past. I am sure we are similiar in that many of our tasks come through email. I have always tried to strike that balance between email as a task management solution, and keeping the inbox empty.
SIDE NOTE: Full inboxes drive me bat-shit crazy. How can you feel on top of things with 10,000 messages in your in box, then search for things? You are a better person than I am.
  • I have tried basic Outlook tasks. didn’t seem too bad, but I left Outlook behind years ago.
  • I used to love RememberTheMilk. Over time I realized that it was too cumbersome for my workflow. It did work well, but it faded away for me as simpler solutions came into play
  • Google tasks in GMail was just too simple. While the email integration is great, it lacked other features. I need to track notes and I prefer to attach things to my tasks.
  • Things was my go-to for quite a while. At the end of the day, a lack of good notes and attachments pulled me away from this.
  • Wunderlist caught my attention with their updates the past year. I did like using this one for a while.
  • Evernote Reminders was my dream for many years. Even with that, it’s taken me a while to get a workflow I enjoy.

Recent Tasks Switch

I was most recently using ToDoist. I think this is one of the better looking to-do apps I have seen. I jumped right in, starting building things out and paid the money to be a premier subscriber. (mental note: don’t forget to cancel that)
ToDoist Sample List TOC
You can see by the items on the left how I was starting to structure this. I was only a week or so into it before I pulled the rip cord. Likely not enough time to build a great habit, but enough to learn something.
I had project lists, items I wanted to track for meetings, things for the house. Heck, I even was getting into putting reminders about keeping in touch with people. This is something I am inherently bad at, so a reminder never hurts. At the end of the day, I put a lot of time trying to keep up with this, but ended up punting on it.

What Didn’t Work

The big thing that didn’t work for me was two key functional workflows I use. I will describe them here:

Lack of open and flexible notes on tasks

When I start a task, I want to keep track of some important items. Too often in the past I would create a task that when viewed 3 days later, I was confused and sure someone else put that task on my list. I had never even heard of the item in question and felt like a Twilight Zone episode.
Now when I create tasks, I try to list the due date, stakeholders and a small summary of success for the task. It takes a few extra minutes for bigger items, but it’s worth feeling like things are “covered”.

Lack of attachments on tasks

This is simple. When I get an email to review something, I’d rather the item be directly in the task and not in some other system I have to go get.

Easy way to summarize my work for a day/week

One of the things I like is a way to summarize and scan what I have been working on. Completed task lists are OK for this, but lack many of the details. (as you see above how I track notes on tasks)

Why I switched back to Evernote

This is why Evernote works for me:

Notes on Tasks

I come back with follow up items in the tasks I am working on and date stamp my ‘progress’. Who I talked to, what I am waiting for, etc. See the example below. (from Evernote)
You can see how over time, the task (sometimes a larger task) can have sub-items or lots of follow up.

Attachments on Tasks

This is easy. Evernote lets me drag attachments, forward from emails, etc. I know these are available for me on all devices and if I have to share them with people associated with the task, it’s easy to generate a link to the task for people to view from the web.

Easy way to Summarize

This is one of my favorite “Evernote Hacks”. When you are done working for the day, go to your NOTES view in Evernote. Ensure you are in the LIST VIEW, and sort by UPDATED.
Now, the cool part here. Select all notes edited during this day. You will see a screen that looks something like this:
Now, click the CREATE TABLE OF CONTENTS NOTE button. This will create a single note with a table of contents for all notes edited that day. Title that note with today’s date. (I happen to tag mine JOURNAL as well)
You can then file this away in a journal folder and easily come back to any day, see the tasks or notes you had worked on and quickly access them. Easily my favorite use for Evernote and tasks.


Evernote works for me, for now; and how I work today. It isn’t for everyone. I am sure I will wait until the next cool new task managers come out to take them for a spin. At the end of the day, Evernote is working for me. I use it daily for notes and tasks. It is always open for me. This is why I am back on Evernote; For good.. until I am distracted again by a new app.
Working on my productivity habits for 2014

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

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.