1 way to use a tablet and Evernote to save time at work

July 13, 2011 Leave a comment


In this time of “doing more with less” many of us have to do our real jobs as well as many administrative functions not the least of which is documenting meetings. I don’t know about all of you, but I attend a lot of meetings. And, prior to my iPad I tended to take pretty good notes; I guess this grew out of being somewhat anal in college. In fact I have stacks of notebooks dating back to when I first started my current job. The problem with these notebooks is that I rarely if ever refer to them mostly because I have essentially lost track of the information I captured in them. Fortunately for my employer my wife organized a consortium of friends and family to pitch in for my iPad 1 as a 40th birthday present last year. As a result, I have now become the unofficial stenographer for many meetings I attend.

How am I am able to keep up with all that happens in a meeting while not creating too much back-end editing work in my office? How am I able to justify staring at my iPad in the middle of a meeting? Essentially, I attempt to create value for everyone else in the meeting while also organizing my own thoughts and tasks. The information below comes from my the response on a recent post on LinkedIn.

I have turned into being the unofficial note taker these days as I always have my iPad with me at meetings. I type all of my notes for a meeting directly into Evernote with my own action items identified with ACTION ITEM and other attendee action items with WAITING with the team member’s name. It generally takes me about 2-5 minutes to clean up the notes for distribution via email at end of the meeting before I get up from the table. Because I am typing in Evernote the notes are instantly filed where I want them. At the end of the day I check all of my notes and add my own action items into my task manager (TaskTaskHD, more on this app on a later post), although I sometimes add my own action items directly into TaskTask as I go to save time. Lastly during my Weekly Review I search my Evernote database for the two key words noted above to validate that I have not forgotten anything and to validate that I am keeping track of all of the tasks I am waiting for from others.

If you like this method you can of course customize your own key words depending on your needs.

What do you all think? Would taking and sharing notes in real-time help you in your day-to-day meetings? Let me know…


How the iPad will change your life!

July 12, 2011 2 comments

I want to write about how much a tablet can truly transform someone’s personal workflow. Yes, tools like GTD and other methods are important because simply throwing technology at an inefficient process can not solve the original workflow problem. However, I truly believe that any professional can transform their personal productivity with a little (or a lot) organizational re-design and a tablet (and maybe a smartphone of course).

Check out this post by Seth Godin…it truly puts what I want to do and write about in perspective; I want to be that geek wielding an iPad. At the end of the day I just hate to see a co-worker going through the trouble of carrying an iPad while also juggling pens, legal pads, loose-leaf binders, sticky notes and file folders when all they really need is the tablet (and a smartphone).

Stay tuned for some specific posts and ideas on where the tablet can help your workflow. Or rather, stay tuned to read about how I have utilized my iPad in my own processes; you get to decide if my processes make sense for you. And, I may add some other posts along the way to keep things interesting, maybe some further thoughts on productivity workflows, work/life balance, etc.

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Has anyone out there transformed your workflow with a tablet? Let me know what you think.

@agenda, 1-3 simple ways to keep your conversations on track

July 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Do you fully leverage every precious moment with your boss…even those hallway conversations? Do you always remember to discuss every necessary topic with a co-worker during a meeting?  If you answered yes to these two questions then skip this entry; my advice is far too basic for you. However, if you are like me you probably forget stuff from time to time…so, read on!

Yes, you are probably are guessing that this is yet another post on GTD, to an extend you would be right, but these early posts are really leading up to the more fun stuff, the true topic of this blog…the tablet and how to use it to manage productivity. You see, I am simply focusing on the aspects of GTD that have consistently worked for me over the years, the practices that have stuck. And no, I am not a GTD coach and I certainly am not a strick adherent to its principles. In fact this response to a message board topic was a nice reminder of all those aspects of GTD that I could improve (and be more consistent at).  So, on with a few simple ways to never forget another topic of conversation.

Lets start with this White Paper on GTD Times. In the second half of the document Meghan Wilker brings up a neat use of the boring agenda:

Agendas at Work

Throughout the day, issues come up that I need to ask my boss about. Instead of bugging her about each one (in person or over email/instant messenger), I collect those items onto an agenda and — at least once a day — check in with her, run through my list, and move on. What’s important is that I don’t forget to talk to her about things because they’re all collected on an agenda. If our time gets cut short and I can’t get to something, it stays on the agenda until we have time to talk about it.

Creating a separate, running agenda list for each of my important contacts (boss, direct reports, peers, etc.) at work has been one of the GTD tools that have stuck. And to be honest, keeping a running list of items of discussion is probably not totally GTD; it just makes sense.

I feel that the trick to her advice is to have a ubiquitous capture method that does not have to be “processed” to be effective; your method has to be instantaneous. By this I mean that when you have a thought to discuss a topic with someone, immediately capture this thought so that it is not forgotten first and not waiting to be processed second. Finding this trusted method is truly the key to any productivity system.

My next several posts will deal specifically with the capture methods that have worked best for me.  In the meantime, start your agendas!

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3 simple suggestions to be true to your GTD contexts

July 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Being a new blogger I am always looking for ideas on posts. I recently read a great post by Jeff Bulas. In this post Jeff quotes from yet another blog by  John Chow (can you say recursion!). Well, I followed their suggestion and posted my response. Below is a summary of my thoughts on focusing on the most important tasks.

The first thing to do is take a look at your lists before you leave for work (or before you start work if you work from home) and pick at least 1-3 things you have to get done today and then focus on those. If you just don’t have the energy to do these high priority items take a look at the other items on your lists and pick something that you can actually get done. That way you will have something accomplished and maybe more energy to focus on the important items.

The second thing to do is when you are sitting at your desk (or at home, in the car, etc.) wasting time on low value activities (email, surfing, etc.) stop yourself and refer back to your lists depending on your current context. There should be something there that can get checked off. You should be working on stuff you have deemed important enough to be given an entry on your list.

Finally, check out this post from a Simplicityisbliss blogger Sven Fechner. Sven does a great job updating the concept of the GTD context for our new connected age! I will be spending a lot of time in the coming weeks evaluating my own concepts based on his post.

Hope this helps!

1 timeless way to never forget an email with Outlook

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Have you ever written an email looking for something from a co-worker or friend only to forget about following up on the request? I would love to think all of our friends and co-workers respond immediately when asked something, but the reality is we are all busy and sometimes things just slip through the cracks… especially for those people out there not keeping their inbox at zero.

One simple way to keep track of the emails you send is to send a copy to your self by inserting your email in the bcc field. This works great if you remember to add your email every time. There are also numerous tools out there that automate these steps. However, a simpler method is to utilize Outlook’s Rules and Alerts functionality. Check out this old LifeHacker entry by  way back in 2008. Yes, the post is a bit dated but the workflow is not!


One simple way to get your inbox to zero with the Blackberry

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I have a serious case of iPhone envy. Everywhere you turn another professional (or stay at home mom/dad, grandmom/dad, preteen, etc.) is swiping away on their fancy handheld. You see, I am stuck with my Blackberry for at least another year until my contract runs out. I would have acquired an iPhone sooner except for the fact that my place of work is a hospital and they require a fairly high level of security (remember when RIM was banned from the middle-east? http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20012478-83.html). So, in the meantime I will focus on creating my perfect productivity system with my trusty Blackberry (and my stunning iPad)

One of the first things I tackled when I first became interested in productivity was my inbox. At the time several years ago I was juggling young kids, athletic pursuits and my professional life. I needed a way to get more done at work so that I had time for all of the other stuff I needed to do. Since my chosen process was GTD I chose to focus on the getting it to zero The idea of cleaning out the inbox on a daily basis is an excellent one, but the practice is significantly more difficult in practice if you need to process your messages in front of a work computer.

One way I have been been able to more efficiently organize my inbox has been through a simple Blackberry keyboard shortcut using the “i” key. Blackberry has been very creative in the use of keyboard shortcuts having grown up as a keyboard only device from the beginning (and now trying to play catch up with it’s various devices). The problem is that it is sometimes difficult to discover all of these cool little shortcuts these days since so much of the focus is now on the touchscreen. So, if you are stuck with a Blackberry (or simply love its simplicity and reliability) and do not know about one of these shortcuts, read on.

The Blackberry allows it’s users to quickly file an email message into one of your email folders using a keyboard shortcut. All you have to do is hit the “i” key while viewing a message or viewing it from within your email listing. Pressing this key displays your current folders; just select your desired folder and press the track ball. Your done!

Yes, this is very basic little lesson, but it is one that will allow you to more efficiently utilize those little dead times in the day (not while sitting in meetings of course) whether it be waiting in line at the cafe or at the airport! Enjoy!

Paperless, the preamble

July 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I hate paper. I work in a radiology department that sees over 160 outpatients a day along with an additional 200 inpatients and Emergency Patients. My department is part of a very busy 200+ bed hospital led by excellent leadership. All of these patients and beds requires a whole lot of meetings and committees. All of these meetings and committees generate a whole lot of mail, emails, purchase requisitions, and other assorted scraps. And somehow, all of this paper ends up on my desk or clogging my inbox. What to do?

Over the years I have tried many different products and processes to get a handle on all of this paper and emails. The biggest progress I ever made towards simplification was when I jumped into GTD with both feet a few years ago. My journey began with the initial step of purging stuff I did not need and organizing the stuff I did in a logical filing system. I had attained a certain peach in my organization.

Along with this paper nirvana I attained a certain amount of email enlightenment utilizing very simple email folders like @file, @waiting, @someday and @thank you (for patient voice messages waiting to be shared with my staff). Utilizing these contexts/folders I have been able to very quickly process my inbox either at my desk or on my Blackberry (stay tuned for my next post on this topic).

So, in the days before the iPad I really was able to get a handle on the paper and email. The problem really was that the paper was stuck in my office and the email was stuck in Outlook. The other problem I had is all the paper generated from my hand-written notes taken at the various meetings I attend on a too regular basis. These notes are often critical to the work I do and the projects that I work on; I often need to refer back to notes at various times of the day in various contexts; whether I am sitting at my desk, another meeting or at home.

So, over the coming weeks I plan on writing several posts describing my journey from paper and pencil with the Blackberry to simply iPad and Blackberry. I am sure my process will not work for everyone, but I hope that some of my hacks and tweaks may be useful to some of you!

Stay tuned!

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