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.

Bear Notes App and Nested Tags

The 1.1.1 update to Bear Writer finally fixed the syncing issue I was having on Sierra.  I am not sure where fault lies with this one, but it seems a bug in Sierra and or the way Bear was using iCloud was causing issues.  This was the one thing from holding me back from really trying this out full force.  Guess what.. I am diving in.

Here is my first concern I am coming across; tagging is leaving some room for improvements.

If I want to nest tags for organization, it makes it a lot cleaner looking to view, and search for tags.

The issue I am having is speed of entry.  If I want to tag a note, I have to type #apps/bear to tag a note for bear.   Not horrible, but when i start to think of adding multiple tags by grouping, it becomes tedious.  If I am tagging things under work, it becomes a series of typing the following

#work/projectName #work/PersonICareAbout #work/keyTag

I end up typing way more than I’d have hoped.  If I mis-type any one of those, I create new tags on the fly.  There is no tag completion, no quick selection.

I’d love to hear others thoughts on how you are using tags.  I am inclined today to have a massive list of tags all at the same level for speed.  It’s a pain, but doable.  The fact I can search by #tag is also helping me here.



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.

Trying out the new note taking app called Bear

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately trying to figure out my long-term plan with Evernote, or something else.  A couple of things that really bug me about Evernote are:

  • Lack of markdown support
  • The editor is just goofy as hell for layout/formatting
  • tagging seems tedious..but perception I guess

So, I was excited to try out Bear when I heard about it.   It’s a new application that looks to bring a lot of key features of Evernote, but fixing some things that really bug me in Evernote.


There are a couple of things I’d like to see in Bear that are not currently there.

  • There is no tag completion.  This leaves it open for me to accidentally mis-type a tag and create a new one
  • There is no bulk-tag management.  I want to be able to select a group of notes and apply a tag.  No luck yet, maybe soon

I am going to play with this for a bit and see how I like it.  If you want to check it out, jump over to for the details.

Use Emoji to help make searching in Workflowy easier

I just had this thought tonight.. I’ve been using #task or #meeting in my notes in Workflowy to track meetings or tasks.  Why not make them an emoji, it will look better, and you can still search on it?

I tend to keep my weekly/daily journal of all meeting notes, things I was working on and random stuff that pops up during the day.  Now, if I just click a month, or week.. and search for the emoji I want to find, it filters down nicely.   See the clip below


For my text expander snippets, I’ve got a few I am using.

The first is when I am creating a meeting.  Once I sit down in the meeting I type .mm to ask to fill in the meeting minutes.  It prompts me for a meeting name, and then fills this in. (with proper tabs for layout)

📅 test meeting name – Tuesday, 25 Oct 2016
Action Items

Then, as I need to add in action items, I can use the — shortcut to put in a ✅ in front of each action item.

Later, as I clear off action items, I can just delete the Emoji, and still see what action items I had captured, but not completed.

Finally.. I can search using .meeting as a shortcut in the search bar to get my 📅 emoji to show up.  This helps me filter on all meetings.   I can also search on ✅ to find all tasks in a bucket.  (usually by week or day)


Shifting gears again on note taking..

Shifting gears again on note taking..

Not sure why I am forever trying to optimize my workflow.  My evenings and weekend “fun” is messing with things, including my own setup.   So.. I am moving my day to day note taking back to Workflowy.

Why you ask?

I decide a couple things.   First, I am not sure if it’s boredom with Evernote’s lack of formatting and updates to fix it.. or if I don’t enjoy the process of Evernote anymore.   Workflow does something so easy for me.. it gets me to notes very quickly.  Both creating new notes and looking up old ones just works for me.   I am an outliner by nature, all of my notes are either outline or mind maps.   Why deal with Evernote’s goofy formatting when Workflow just works for me.  (at least for now)

Do we think it will stick?

Sure… for now . I love having my daily journal along with notes and project details all in one areas.  I break things down from an inbox, work and personal nodes.. but that is it.  Sub bullets from those top level items.

Apple Notes Slowness on Startup – FIXED!

Apple Notes Slowness on Startup – FIXED!

I was trying to explore switching from Evernote to Apple Notes for a period of time.  At some point during this experiment, Apple Notes started acting like a punk.. basically every time I tried to open Notes, the sync to iCloud would freeze up the app for anywhere from 15-60 seconds.  It was unusable.   It was also driving me crazy.

I finally broke down and did something I NEVER do, I called Apple Support.   After a bit of back and forth on the phone, the tech suggested I delete my iCloud Account from the phone and then add it again.   While this seemed extreme, I was a bit desperate.   So I did.   Once I was able to restore my iCloud account, to my happy surprise, Notes was responsive again..  for about 15 minutes.    Then it all went south again.   UGH!  Oh, and did I mention that when you delete your iCloud account, you have to re-add all of your Apple Pay options?  (phone and watch).  What a pain!

After some poking and digging on the interwebz, I came across Adiel_G.  He had found a way to fix his issue.  He gave me clear instructions that I wanted to share here. Why am I sharing?  Well, it seems to fully work!  I no longer have this lag or slow-ness at launch.

Summary:  We want to remove the Notes database from iCloud completely, but leave iCloud intact.  


Before you start, you will want to backup your notes.  You can export 1 by 1 to something like Evernote through a Share Sheet, or use something like Note2Text to export the text out of the notes.  (it loses attachments, but might be worth it for you.  I was for me)

Step 1:  Go to your iCloud Account on your iPhone/iPad and choose Storage


Step 2:  Click the Manage Storage option, this will bring you here:


Step 3:  Click the Notes under Documents and Data.  (If it isn’t showing, click more)


Step 4:  Click the Edit in the upper right, then click Delete All.  This will remove your Notes DB completely.


Sure, I lost some formatting and attachments in the process, but I had also backed up key items to Evernote first.   The key point here is, it fixed me.  I am happy for this.  I wanted to post this in hopes that others find it when searching for the same issue.  What a pain.


IDEA: Auto-create tasks from Apple Notes

IDEA: Auto-create tasks from Apple Notes

I am playing around with the Apple Notes app still to see if I could replace Evernote.  One of the items I love about Evernote is my ability to see recent notes with checkboxes created in them.  There is no way to do this with Apple Notes.  It got me thinking, why are Tasks in Reminders different from Tasks in Notes?

Imagine you are taking meeting notes, and during the meeting you create some tasks that have to be completed.



After the meeting, you currently go back and extract those tasks out manually.  What if the the reminders application had a special note(s) that pulled out tasks for you?   Then, you could use Reminders for your tasks, or automate IFTTT rules into a task editor of choice.


A task is a task in my view. Why wouldn’t I want them in the same place?  It seems like any software creating a “task” could use a common platform and integrate these across the board.   Could someone get to that please?

Life Hack: Linking to a specific Apple Note

Life Hack: Linking to a specific Apple Note

BIG UPDATE HERE:   I figured out a better way to link up notes in Apple Notes.  For this new version, I am using a text expander snippet to generate this for me.  Here is the workflow.

If I am writing a note that I want to reference later, I need to have an easy way to get back to this.  Sometimes I use it for writing a task and linking to a note for details, sometimes it is a note that wants to reference another note.  In Evernote, I would just use the note link option.   For Apple Notes now, here is what I do.

I created a TextExpander Snippet using Javascript with the following code:

 var chars = "0123456789ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXTZabcdefghiklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
 var string_length = 10;
 var randomstring = '#SearchKey: ';
 for (var i=0; i<string_length; i++) {
 var rnum = Math.floor(Math.random() * chars.length);
 randomstring += chars.substring(rnum,rnum+1);

I assigned this to a shortcut, that when I type it, I get something like this:  #SearchKey: CwFPFCR7xm

NOTE: The great part, I get a new code each time I run the snippet.

This is now my new link back to this note.  Now, in any other note I want to reference this note (or in a task manager), I just put this search key in the place I need the reference.  Super easy to get back to my note. As an added bonus, I now also see all reference from other notes when I search.

Referenced Notes


This works great ! I am still playing around more with notes.  I really do want to like this enough to ditch Evernote.  This is just one more nail in the coffin for replacing Evernote for me.

Below is my original post.. but this new technique is much better.


I have recently spent time trying to use Apple Notes instead of Evernote.   One feature I was missing was the ability to link to a specific note like I did in Evernote.   I used this in my task lists all the time.    Since you are not able to get a specific note link from Apple Notes, here is my quick hack.

Step 1:  Create your note

Step 2: Use 1Password (or similar password manager) to create a unique complex password

Step 3:  put the password at the end of the note as a #tag.. so you see something like #jerd-Ax-ceuk (or whatever your password manager generated)

Step 4:  Put the same #tag in your task manager.

Step 5:  When you need to find that note, just search in Apple Notes for the unique tag.. Viola!

Hope that helps someone.  It was a quick fix for me.

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.