Ten Quick Evernote Tips

I use Evernote to keep track of nearly everything – it’s my digital filing cabinet.  Here are ten quick tips on how you can use this powerful tool better.

  1.  Get your unique Evernote email address and just forward stuff you want to save.
  2. Use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste stuff into evernote from any application.  Three seconds gets text or pictures from anywhere into Evernote.
  3. Take pictures of stuff your kids make at school and save them a folder labeled personal.
  4. Don’t worry about tagging everything or over-organizing folders.  The search feature is powerful.
  5. Create a folder lableed !Inbox and set it as your default.  All new stuff will go there and you can sort it once a week.
  6. The more stuff you put into Evernote, the more powerful it becomes.
  7. You can save receipts, statement and financial stuff in a folder called taxes.  When you’re ready to work, all your stuff is there.
  8. Getting a scanner like this takes Evernote to the next level.
  9. This eBook is the absolute best way to learn how to use Evernote.  It’s the unofficial guide and 100% worth it.
  10. Create a few folders for the big categories.  Things like Personal, Sermon Illustrations, Blog Posts, Kids, and Taxes.

Click the image below to learn more about Evernote Essentials and how you can use Evernote to organize everything.

Evernote Essentials

Three Things You Need in Your Office

I work from my home office a good bit, mostly to write and record content for church leaders in The Rocket Company family.  I did a video tour in case you’re interested in that kind of thing.

But no matter how you customize your work space, here are three things I believe every office needs.

  1.  A wall calendar.  I love looking at the year at a glance and tracking progress, so my NueYear calendar gets prime wall treatment.  I use my computer and phone to track and share calendars, but looking at the year on the wall is still the way I visualize the big picture.  Here’s the calendar I hang on my wall.
  2. A scanner.  I use a Doxie scanner to scan everything – from bills and statements I need to keep to hand-written notes to things my kids make in school.  Everything I scan goes directly into Evernote, where it’s searchable.  This works great for organizing my tax documents throughout the year.  Learn more about using a scanner to get things into Evernote in this excellent ebook from Brett Kelly.
  3. Blank thank you notes.  I’m a big believer in the old-school thank you note, so I keep a stack of them right on my desk.  I’ve got personal ones with my name and company ones with The Rocket Company logo.  If you work at a church, get some of these and send a personal note every time someone gives money for the first time.

These are three things that get space in my office.  What do you use all of the time in yours?

Four Keys to Getting Things Done

I don’t claim to be an expert on organization, but I have learned a few things in the last 39 years about getting stuff done.  Here are four keys.

1. Get it out of your head and on paper.

Years ago, I read a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. That book launched something of a movement in the productivity world, but it was quite a simple concept that revolutionized the way I got stuff done. David Allen taught me how to get something out of my head and on a sheet of paper (or a digital version), putting it into a flow and sequence of activity.

There’s something powerful about writing it down and getting to it later. It keeps me from thinking about something when I’m supposed to be working on something else. It keeps me from thinking about something when I need to rest.

This isn’t complicated, but it’s incredibly powerful. I used to use a Day-Timer, but today I use an app. Others keep track of stuff on post it notes or sheets of paper. No matter how you do it, write stuff down and get it out of your head.

2. Take time off.

It might sound counter productive to say taking time off is a key to getting things done, but it really is. Doctors, psychologists and Moses all say so.

Time off is good for the mind, body and soul. We were not made for endless amounts of never-ending work. We need time to rest. Like sharpening an axe, taking time off will give you more energy and more brain power to get things done during the week.

I’ve seen this first hand. When I go non-stop, my productivity decreases. I’m busy; I’m doing things. But I’m not getting things done. I’m active, but I’m not effective. But when I’m properly rested, it helps me get properly focused.

If you’re a person of faith (and I am), honoring the sabbath is on the same top ten list as don’t kill people. Resting and practicing the sabbath is literally commanded by God. If you want to be more effective six days a week, take that seventh day and rest.

3. Make appointments with yourself.

I started doing this a few weeks ago, so this pointer is relatively new to my work flow. But it’s worked really well so far so it’s worth mentioning.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 10.40.48 AM

Instead of making a list of a bunch of stuff i need to do, I block time off on my calendar to work on key projects. I treat these like appointments that I cannot break. They are appointments with myself – pre-determined time to work on projects. If have a big writing deadline, I block off two hours, and treat them like time in a meeting. With a block of time, I know I can’t schedule meetings (and so does my team).

4. Only use a few tools, but use them well.

Don’t be tempted to try out the task app that syncs with your microwave – pick a solid system and use it.  The tools you will use daily are better than new tools, no matter what new features you use.  Make it a part of your work flow. You’ve got to get all zen and become one with your system.

Despite all the options out there, I only use a few tools on a regular basis. They are:

  • A moleskin notebook. It’s old school, but I carry it with me nearly every place I go. I take notes from talks I hear, dream on paper, and jot down things.
  • I use a software tool called Evernote to store notes of all kind. Anything I want to keep goes in here – blog posts, meeting notes, feedback, and more. Evernote syncs with my phone, and it’s super easy to get stuff into Evernote. Here’s a blog post I did on how I use it.
  • I use a task program called THINGS. Anything that requires action gets put into this tool. I keep an inbox there of running stuff I need to do, and assign dates to everything. Evernote stores notes and ideas…Things keeps track of tasks. Those are three primary tools I use to get things done.

Five New Ways I’m Using Evernote

Evernote is one of my favorite tools. I clip and save notes from any device and they are accessible on all of my devices.  Evernote is powerful and Evernote is free. You can download it here.  And I highly recommend this unofficial users guide from Brett Kelly. 

Here are five new ways I’m using Evernote.

1. Sermon Illustrations

Whenever I see something or read something, I put into a notebook called sermon illustrations.  If I scribble the sermon illustration down in my notebook, I snap a picture and send it to Evernote.  I add tags so I can search for illustrations on grace, parenting, books of the Bible, etc.  The search feature in Evernote is POWERFUL.

2. Saved Questions, Feedback and Complaints

Whenever someone emails our company a question, I do my best to answer it. But I also sent it to an Evernote folder so we can have a record of what’s being asked. It’s so easy to do this, because Evernote gives me a unique email address. All I have to do is BCC that address with my reply and I have it.

3. Blog Ideas and Blog Posts

I have a folder inside Evernote with blog post ideas. Whenever I think of something deserving a blog post, I just create a new item.  This folder currently has 207 items in it. Whether I’m on my computer or my phone, I can put an idea in here so quickly. Sometimes, I send myself an audio note (the Evernote app does this) with a blog idea.

And after I write the post, I just move it to a Blog Post folder. All of my completed posts are archived and searchable there. I’ve got 343 completed blog posts and it keeps growing.

4. Personal documents

One of the best decisions we made was to purchase a little Doxie scanner for the home. We can everything and send it directly to Evernote. Important home papers, bills and receipts, and even drawings my kids make at school. We scan it all and send it to a personal folder inside Evernote. Since my wife and I share that folder, we’ve got all our home documents in an easily searchable folder.

5. Save Everything

I have a folder called “Notes” that has more than 1,000 items in it. These are blog posts, web clippings, articles, pictures and all kinds of other information. Anytime I see something I want to save, I send it to Evernote. I created a default folder called !Inbox and everything goes there…once a week I process all the notes, tag them and send them to the NOTES folder. It takes me just a few minutes.

Whether it’s a keyboard shortcut or a unique email address, it’s easy to get things into Evernote. And the tool is FREE (I do pay $5 a month for the premium version). Get this EXCELLENT eBook – the unofficial users guide – and start using Evernote right away.


Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 4)

Evernote.  Things.  And Dropbox.  Three tools I use to stay organized and synced.

And like most people, I use email and a calendar program on a daily basis.  These round out my main tech tools.

Email isn’t really advanced technology, and there are many programs you can use. But here are a few things I’ve learned about working with email.

  1. I try to empty my inbox every day. You shouldn’t have a bunch of email awaiting response in your Inbox. Sit down and clean that thing out and empty it every day. I NEVER keep tasks in my email Inbox…if something arrives that I need to do, I create a task in Things and assign it a deadline. Michael Hyatt’s post on this subject is excellent.
  2. I have four or five different email addresses but all of them come to my Mac Mail inbox. I rarely use the Gmail interface or access my email on another computer. The SMTP servers keep my mail folders on my computer indention to the mail folders on my iPhone.
  3. I get Twitter DM alerts in my email Inbox, but not mentions or other social media notifications.

As far as my calendar, I use the simple iCal program that came with my MacBook Air. It does everything I need to do. Here are a few things I do:

  1. I have several calendars, but I see them all in one place. I have a personal calendar and several work calendars. I share all of these calendars with my wife and she shares her calendar with me and iCloud keeps everything in sync.
  2. I put birthdays on my calendar with a 4 day notification if I want to send that person a hand-written birthday card.

Evernote.  Things.  Dropbox.  Email.  And a calendar.  Those are the five workflow tools that keep things simple and organized for me.

Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 3)

No technology or organizational tool is perfect, and no tool on it’s own will make much of a difference.  But when you learn to leverage tools properly, and stick with them over time, they can really help you stay organized and get stuff done.  So far, I’ve talked to you about Evernote and Things.

The third tool I use to stay organized is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a simple file-sharing service that I use to backup and sync all of my documents and files. Instead of keeping files in the default documents folder, I put everything in the Dropbox folder, which is automatically synced with the cloud. Dropbox keeps all of my documents and files organized.

Here’s how I use Dropbox.

  1. I pay for an extra 50 Gigs of storage so I literally have every file saved and synced on Dropbox.
  2. If I need to share a file, I simply stick it in the public folder, right click on it, get a public link and send that link to the appropriate person.  File sharing is super easy with Dropbox.
  3. I can access all of my files on my IOS devices or any other computer.
  4. Dropbox works like a backup as well. I still back up my entire computer using Time Machine and a portable hard drive that’s kept in a fireproof safe.  But knowing my important files are synced is nice.
  5. Dropbox is so much nicer than Google Docs because it lets me keep my folders organized the way I want to organize them, and I’m not limited by file type or formatting issues.

Are you a Dropbox user?

Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 1)

There are a ton of tools that will help you track stuff, accomplish stuff, and organize stuff. But for most of us, tools mean nothing.

Tools have the potential to be helpful helpful, but it’s how you use them that really makes the difference. Said another way, the existence of tools doesn’t build anything. So with that as a backdrop, here are three of my primary technology tools that help me stay organized and get things done.

First up…Evernote.

Use Evernote to capture and save anything

I use Evernote to capture notes and ideas, and the free service keeps all of my notes in sync. Evernote lets you capture anything, access it anywhere, and find things fast. Evernote is my digital filing cabinet – I don’t use it for tasks but to save anything I find interesting. Here’s how I set it up and use it on a daily basis.

  1. I use Evernote on my computer and it syncs with all of my IOS devices. I can access and add info from anywhere.
  2. I have about 10 “notebooks” in Evernote – these are like folders. I have a folder for blog ideas and blog posts, a folder for work stuff, and a folder for Will You Give Me a Dollar. I have a folder for personal stuff as well.
  3. I created a notebook called !Inbox. (The ! keeps it at the top of the list.) Every new note goes into this notebook by default.
  4. Once a week, I go through everything I clipped into my Evernote Inbox, assign it a few tags and move it to the proper folder.
  5. I use keyboard shortcuts to get things into Evernote. If I read a blog post I want to save, I simply highlight the text and hit CMD-C to copy it. Then I hit CTRL-CMD-V to open up a new note and automatically paste the text.
  6. I pay $5 a month for the upgraded service, which allows me to save PDF and Word files in Evernote.
  7. When you set up Evernote, you can create a custom email address. Simply forward anything to this email address and it will appear in your Evernote inbox.
  8. I purchased a Doxie scanner and it scans documents (bills, invoices, and important papers) directly into Evernote. I even scan pictures and school assignments from my kids (before throwing them away….shhhh!)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This resource from Brett Kelly is an absolute must read for Evernote users or if you’re thinking about making this part of your system.

How I Use Evernote to Keep Track of Nearly Everything

One of my favorite organizational tools is a free program called Evernote.  It’s simple,  powerful and free. Here’s why I use it on a daily basis.

  • When I see an good blog post, read an article I want to save, or come across anything I want to save, it goes into Evernote.
  • All of my notes are synced across my iPhone, iPad, an app on my computer and a website accessible from anywhere.
  • The search feature is powerful – it searches inside PDFs and recognizes handwriting.  I can find stuff fast from any device.
  • When I’ve got a dry erase board full of meeting notes, I simply snap a picture with my phone and email it directly to Evernote.
  • You can tag things and put them in notebooks (like folders).  I have notebooks for blog ideas, blog posts, meeting notes, personal files and sermon stories.
  • I use a document scanner to scan bills, statements and artwork from my kids and save it all in that home folder.
  • I actually pay $5 a month for the premium version which allows me to store PDFs, Word document and other files.
  • I use a keyboard shortcut on the web to paste stuff into Evernote all the time.
  • I created an Evernote email address, so I can forward articles, emails, pictures or anything into Evernote from my email program.  Super easy.
  • Once a week, I go through everything I clipped to add tags and put in the proper folders.  It’s a great time to review what I clipped.

Brett Kelly has written an unofficial guide to Evernote and it’s fantastic.  I highly recommend that you download this eBook and go through it.  It’s well-worth your time and it will help you make the most of Evernote.

Ten Things You Can Do To Get Organized NOW

You started off with a dream, passion and vision, but the idea has quickly become mundane amid the pressures of the everyday.  You struggle to find time to do the things that you ought to do.  You know you should step back and work ON it, but it’s tough to get ahead.

A big reason why you feel the way you do is because you’re not as organized as you should be.  Here’s ten things you can do to take a GIANT leap forward.

  1. Create a health report spreadsheet with all the important metrics and start updating it once a week.  You’ve got to stop making decisions based on how things feel and start looking at real numbers.
  2. Write a “new email” sequence to send to every new email address you obtain.  Opt for a three-part sequence rather than one giant email.  Welcome new people to your tribe and educate them in the process.
  3. Create an annual calendar.  I wrote about this here. And it’s one of the workshops I can lead for your team. Hands down, this will be one of the most effective uses of a day.
  4. Write 140-character or less job descriptions for everyone on your team.  People need to know their bottom line reason for being on the team.
  5. Read this book.
  6. Read these posts from Michael Hyatt and start using Evernote.
  7. Schedule six month performance reviews with everyone on your team.  Schedule them right now, and let every employee know the date and time of their meeting.  An extensive performance review is a part of Docs and Forms.
  8. Email your staff or key leaders every Monday and share two or three things that you’re thinking about as the leader.  Make this a recurring task on your calendar.
  9. Schedule a two day staff retreat.  Tell everyone on your team that it’s required.  Maybe a workshop could be a part of it.
  10. Bring in someone from the outside to evaluate what you’re doing.  You’re stuck in the middle of it, and that causes you to lose some perspective.  I’d love to help if I can.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s a weekly rundown of stuff I starred in Google reader, clipped into Evernote or favorited on Twitter.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s a quick list of some stuff I starred or clipped into EverNote this week.

  • A while ago, I started drinking Diet coke, and studies continue to show that it’s bad for you and actually lead to weight gain.
  • Wired reports that they are certain that the universe is not a hologram. I wasn’t aware there was a big discussion on this, but it’s nice to know we can put it to rest and move on to more important things like is the moon really made of cheese.
  • I love Craig’s idea of the imaginary deadline. I still try to finish my most important tasks early in the week.  It’s the time management principle applied to stewardship.
  • CopyBlogger has a great post on selling like Steve Jobs.
  • Mint shows you what happens to your credit score when you pay off a credit card or pay off that delinquent account. You might be surprised.
  • I loved this story from my friend Carlos about buying a round of drinks for soldiers just home from Afghanistan.  It’s worth reading.
  • It is impossible to convey all of the pertinent information to all of the people all of the time.
    – Jeff Henderson in this post.
  • People aren’t offended when you ask them to give financially, just be sure you are offering them something worth supporting. – Jeff Henderson from the same post.
  • When it’s all about the weekend, you get a great crowd. When it’s all about the week, you get a great church. - Larry Osborne
  • 8 Blog Tips from Tim Ferris is a great post.
  • If you’re disorganized, I think it’s possible to fake your way to organization.  I’m ruminating on a post around this idea.
  • The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.— Michael Dlouhy


On Time Management

I’m writing down some thoughts on leadership…not because I am an expert, but because I’m trying to learn and get better.  Here’s some things I’ve learned or am trying to put into play about time management.

  • If I don’t manage my time, then someone else will manage it for me.
  • Put first things first.  I realize that I need to do my most important tasks of the week on Monday, and my most important tasks of the day in the morning.
  • Taking a few minutes at the beginning of the day to organize your day is helpful.  I try and decide each day what one or two tasks that I MUST get done.  I hate those days when I go home and my wife asks me “what did you do today?” and I don’t really have anything.  10 minutes at the start of the day keeps that from happening.
  • It’s not the number of hours I put in, but what I put into those hours.
  • Effective time management is valuing myself.
  • Can’t remember who said this, but I’m trying to learn and live it.  It’s quality of time at work and the quantity of time at home that matters.
  • Plan to blow some things off.  I can’t do it all, so it’s better if I just plan NOT to do something and be honest about it.  It’s impossible to overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.  (Read that again.)
  • If I’ve got two really important things to do, and only time to do one, let a co-worker or someone else break the tie.
  • Write stuff down.  There are lots of tools for this (Google, Remember the Milk, post-its, and my personal favorite…Evernote.