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

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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?

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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.
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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.

evernote-essentials

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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.

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