Sunday, October 21, 2012

Evernote: The unofficial eBook... capturing everything and getting things done

I read this book in December last year to obtain some information how GTD could be implemented in Evernote. As I use a combination of Evernote, Zendone and Google Calendar for my GTD system, I did not follow the book religiously (though Zendone is recommended in the book as alternative way). Nevertheless it helped me to organise my notes better and to rethink some of the concepts I use.

Daniel Gold, the author of the book (his blog) says "Evernote is a life management tool" (Chapter 2) and motivates the use of it. He begins with explaining so-called Master Notes for Travels and Meetings. All the note templates described in the book can be downloaded, so this is a huge plus for buying the book.

In chapter 3 GTD is introduced and the following chapters are following the main steps collect, process, organise, review and do.

In the collect phase, the author concentrates on the concept of "Inbox Zero" and this has helped me very much to keep my mail inbox organised. In general this means to decide for every e-mail, if it needs further processing. If so, use your Evernote E-Mail-adress to forward it to Evernote.

Afterwards, the process phase is about deciding, whether the note in your Evernote inbox is an action or a reference. This is a very important difference, even though this is very often forgotten.

The next phase (Organise) is about the tags the author uses to organise his notes. As a user of Zendone , this is the part which I use the least. Nevertheless it helped me a lot to overthink the way I work with projects, contexts and areas of responsibility.

Afterwards, Daniel Gold discusses the topic of using several notebooks. Although you can do your whole organisation of notes with tags, it makes sense to create different notebooks, if you need offline access to certain notes, sharing of notes and organising reference material. I applied his suggestions and have for example a "Training" notebook (fast offline access), a notebook for me and my girlfriend (sharing) and a notebook called archive (reference material).

Another structure I use in my daily life is the so-called "Master Project Note" in which I store all my current projects. The author recommends a "Master Next Action" and a "Master Client Note", too.

The book ends with some words about the Review phase (Daily and Weekly Review) and the Do part, mainly this is about Saved searches.

The main part of the book is, as you can see in this review, about the organisation of notes and it has helped me a lot with this part of my GTD system. If you need some information on that, I totally recommend this book. It is especially useful for Evernote users, who are searching for an uncomplicated GTD system.

If you want to buy the book, you can either use this link or you click on the banner to open the store by an affiliate link:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top 5 ways for problem-solving

As an office worker who sits in front of a screen all day, I sometimes face tasks, I just cannot solve. And unfortunately it does not help to stare at the monitor. Therefore I have tested the following 5 steps as the best methods to get it done. I would very much recommend to try them in this order.

1. Take a  breath
First of all close your eyes for a few seconds and take 5 deep breaths. The oxygen will help you to think more clearly. Sometimes this is all you need.
2. Go grab a coffee
This did not help? Try to stand up and walk around. I use this time to get a coffee or tea. Most of the time, even when I do not think about the current issue, I have a flash of genius, which helps me to solve the task.
3. Do something else
A good option if you are stuck with a problem, is to do another task. There is always something, that can be done, which is better than staring at your screen. For example, answer some e-mails, just do not think about the issue.
4. Ask someone else
With "ask someone else" I do not mean to request the solution from another person. It happened several times that I have started explaining an issue, just to find out, that the solution is very easy. This is connected to the fact, that you see the problem from another point of view. If you do not want to disturbe anyone, try to explain it to yourself. Ask yourself what information you have and what is missing. It is a good exercise to learn to examine problems from different sides.
5. Sleep over it
A lot of times, I wanted to solve a problem before going home, but just could not wrap my head around it. Next morning it was only a matter of minutes to get the solution. Sometimes a night sleep can do more for your task than hours of working.