Sunday, June 9, 2013

3 Things

Just recently I read two articles about the 1-3-5 rule. In general it is about setting the personal goal to complete one big, 3 medium and 5 small tasks every day. A really great web application to support this goal is "My 1-3-5 list".

Altough I like the concept, I have implemented another list, my "3 Things" (in GoogleDocs, which is perfect for editing it from everywhere). There are three areas (self-development, must, want) with 3 slots each. Every evening I record, what I have accomplished throughout the day. In my opinion it helps to categorize the things you do to keep track, if your life goes the right direction (you could also tag your tasks with wants and musts).

3 Things List - Example

I try to follow these rules:
1. self-development: Try to accomplish 3 but not much more. On the one hand this is about bringing me further but on the other hand it is about focus, so that I do not try to get more things done than necessary.
2. want: I try to do 3 things I want to do every day. If those are more, it is even better.
3. must: Those are the things I have to do (e.g. taxes). Normally I try to minimize this things but I am really proud of everything I can put in here.

During my Weekly Review, I go though this list and I can see my accomplishments of the last week at a glance. This enables me to see if I have set the right focus for the last week.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

KustomNote - A Follow up

Two months ago, I wrote about KustomNote, a great tool for creating templates for Evernote notes. A lot has happened since then, so I decided to write a little follow-up on the developments for this productivity tool.

1. The web app has been redesigned. Especially the note editor with its configuration area for the note fields has a completely new look with a much cleaner design.

New Field Editor

2. An Android app which is a great improvement to the web app you could use until now. In the following there are shown two screenshots: An overview of my current templates and the creation of a new note with a "Test"-template, I just created in the web app and seamlessly synchronized on my Android device.

Andoid app - template overview

 Android app - create new note

3. The iOS app for iPhone and iPad is on its way (currently in the AppStore approval process). I am going to add a short opinion on it, as soon as it arrives.

Update from 2013-05-30:

The iOS app (for iPhone and iPad) is now available and it is as good as the Android app. It is the perfect way to create beautiful notes on the go:

iPhone app - template overview

iPhone app - create new note

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Priority List for Projects

One part of my productivity system is a priority list for my projects that I have in Evernote. In this list all my areas of responsibilties are listed. I update this list regurlarly in my weekly review, with the projects I want/have to accomplish the next week. For every area only one project is allowed. I started this list because there always were projects that I had not finished for weeks which was bothering me.

Below you find an example list with some areas of responsibilities, the projects with links to the regarding project sheet (which will be explained in detail in a later post) and a counter, which I am going to explain below. As you see, I do not always add a project to every area of responsibility.

Projects with priority list (Example)

I know that I could have found these projects in my weekly review and should have reacted accordingly. But there is one simple trick that improves the progress of my project a lot.

If I add a project, I set a counter on 0. When I check the list in my weekly review I increment the counter by 1 when the project is not finished or remove it from the list (e.g. it is finished or I cannot process with the project as I am waiting for someone to fulfill a task for me). When the counter is on 5 (so 5 weeks have passed) and I have not finished the project, I have to think about the reasons. Obviously the "maximum" value for the counter is quite arbitrary and I think you should choose this value by experience.

Maybe the next action I have set for the project is not detailed enough or I do not really want to proceed with the project. The important trick is here that this list always shows me quite plainly when I am not doing enough to finish a project.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Duolingo - a language learning tool

Duolingo is a free language learning service, which I use for refreshing my Spanish. You can also learn German, French, Portuguese and Italian (for English speakers) as well as English (for those who know Spanish, Portuguese or Italian).

In Duolingo you learn a language in small portions (roughly 5 minutes per lessons). There are several skills (like Food, Animals) with a variing amount of those lessons. Every skill is placed in a skill tree and you have to finish certain skills to get to the next, e.g. you have to finish Basics 1 to start Phrases and Basics 2.

Duolingo - Part of the Spanish Skill Tree

It uses gamification elements, which may help learning something. This means you get points for every course you take and level up, if you have enough points. The effectiveness is already proven by a study (though this was funded by Duolingo).

One of the best things: You can do one task perfectly on the go, for example on the bus (with iOS app or web app on Android). The style of the iOS app is very similar to the page and your personal skill tree is shown, after you have signed in with your Duolingo account.

Duolingo iPhone app

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Zendone - 1 year (and a bit) later

The first post I published on this blog was about Zendone. It was my motivation to start this blog, as I thought this tool could help other people to improve their productivity the same way it improved mine. Now, Zendone just finished its Beta phase a month ago and started to offer a premium upgrade, I thought it would be time to review Zendone again and show what has changed since then.

First of all I am still a passionate Zendone user and I have upgraded to Premium. As far as I can see from the comments under the announcement, there are a lot of Zendone fans, who have done the same. Although some users complaint, that there is still no Android app. On the one hand, I think it is right to complaint, as there are a lot of companies, that go iOS first (I use an Android tablet and know that problem). On the other hand, this is a small company with restricted developer (and financial) resources and the Android app is on its way. So in my opinion, plaindrops should take their time to build a high-quality app, that matches the standard of their current versions.

As I wrote in my first article, I was waiting desperately for the iOS app. In the meantime plaindrops published the iPhone app. For me, it meets the requirement to have my tasks on the go, but still the web app is the main place for my project and task processing.

The main concept of the web app stayed the same (though the order of the sections was changed since then): There is a "do" panel for your next actions, a "review & organize" view for the processing of your tasks and projects and a "process inbox" for your incoming reference files and tasks.

I will not go much into detail, about all the new features. There are a lot of information on the Zendone-blog (as in the last Change Log). One of the main aspects that have changed since my first review are the areas of responsibility. The initial status were only two default configurations "home" and "work". Now, you can create your own areas of responsibility and I have aligned those to my Evernote "folders". Nevertheless, for me the "all" view is the most important one, to be able to see all open tasks at once.

The logic of the "do" view was overhauled in July of last year and this has enhanced Zendone remarkably. It does not only show the starred actions (though this feature is still available) but all next actions (the first open task) from every project. So now it makes much more sense to sort the actions of your project in the way you want to work on them.

Zendone still lacks some important functions, like the archiving of old projects (up to now all my closed projects are stored in a folder called "archive") and the creation of subprojects. Zendone has improved the core functions and added some really important features as well. I hope the money that comes from the premium option helps plaindrops to implement some of the requested features.

All in all Zendone is still the right tool for me as it is fast, intuitive and gets the job better done than any app I have used before.

--- Update from 2013-06-09 ---

The Android app for Zendone is in Beta now. If you want to have more information on this check the entry in the Zendone blog. I am already using the Beta version and I am quite pleased. I will add more information when version 1.0 is ready.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Feedly

As I read that Google Reader will be closed in Google's current spring cleaning, I was shocked. I have used Google Reader for several years now to keep track of my favourite websites.

Just a few weeks ago, I discovered Feedly, a very good designed RSS reader. I use the iOS version on the iPhone, the Android version on the HTC Flyer and the web version from the Chrome Web Store. The slogan of the tool is "Re-imagine how people keep in touch with their favorite sites" and this totally nails it. It has a very clear UI and reading news on one of their several apps really pleases me.

On a current blog post, Feedly promises that transition from GoogleReader to their tool will go seamlessly and that Feedly is also "working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API". They even posted some tips for people migrating from GoogleReader to Feedly.

All in all, the Google Reader was not enhanced for a long time and even some of the "social" features were removed in 2011. The end of the GoogleReader will bring some movement in the news reader market. There are some possible competitors out there, but  there are several reasons to go with Feedly.

Update on 2013-03-18:
Feedly has 500.000 new users.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

KustomNote - Note Templates for Evernote

On KustomNote, the Evernote's Silver Devcup winner of 2012, you can create note templates for Evernote. It was made for those people, who constantly create notes using the same structure again and again. It allows you to create templates for those notes with defined fields, tags, folder and other configurations. One great feature of KustomNote is the possibility to share your note templates and to use the public available note templates as well. In this post, I will give an overview of how KustomNote works.

In the main menu of the app you can see the templates you create. By clicking on one of the buttons, you create a new note using this template. We will come to that later. As you can see, I have created some templates for my productivity tasks, like new projects or goals. There is also a button for "New Template".

Note Templates

When creating a new template, you first add some details about the template (e.g. name, description and the icon which is shown in the main menu) and some specifications for the storing in Evernote (folder and tags).

One of the things I like most about KustomNote is, that you can select a Note Theme and a color for your note, so you can create really unique notes from every template.

Note Theme and Color selection

The definition of fields for your Evernote template is the most important part of the template creation. You set a title for every field and choose from several types. This can be very straight-forward types like "One line text" but also so-called SmartFields for Movies or GoogleContacts. You can add some additional details to the fields. The "Use for Tagging" option is one of my favourites, as the automatical tagging saves me a lot of time.

Define fields for the template

By clicking on a template, you are directed on the "new note" screen. The fields we defined for this template can be filled. As you can see, there is a calendar widget for the "Date and Time" field we added.

Create a note from template

This is the result in Evernote. The note was added with the design that we chose.

Result in Evernote

KustomNote is one of the few web services, that make my life much easier. If you have only one note type for which you use always the same structure, I would recommend you to try this service. It is a very intuitive and fun way to create note templates with beautiful results.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The secret weapon - Evernote + GTD

The secret weapon describes a way to setup Evernote in order to implement GTD without any third party apps/services. The description is very detailed containing a summary in text form and several videos about the motivation, setup of Evernote and usage.

For "The secret weapon" an action is stored in form of a note. For open TODOs there is the notebook "Action Pending", finished items are transferred to the notebook "Completed". For reference items the notebook "Cabinet" is used. All TODOs are tagged with the necessary information like the context "@Home". All tags are described on the website and in the video about "Prepping Evernote for TSW". 

"The secret weapon" is not only about the implementation of GTD in Evernote, but also about the general challenges faced when getting things done. The "Weekly Review" describes how to focus on the bigger picture and why there are tasks, which remain undone for a long time.

If you are still searching for a possibilty to use Evernote with GTD, I would totally recommend to try the secret weapon.