Tag Archives: productivity

Project Reboot – Two week update and RSS feeds

Newspaper_Feed_add_256x256So two weeks ago I officially kicked off my Project Reboot, a project where I’m looking at the various aspects of my life both on and off line. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but I thought I quick update would be a good idea.

Task Management – This was my first area of focus and I decided to make the switch and use Evernote for all of my task and project tracking. So far the results have been mixed. To be honest it’s still a bit early to tell as it’s a new setup for me and any new system will take time to iron itself out.

Social Media – A little over a week ago I tackled this part of my life and I think the results have been pretty good so far. As I suspected I ended up doing very little with facebook and LinkedIn as I paid a bit more attention to what I was doing on those two networks.

For Google+ I ended up uncircling about half of those that were in my list. The result was interesting, the number of folks that had be circled really didn’t change, in fact it’s gone up a couple of ticks since then. The posts that I’m looking at seem to be a bit more in line with what I would like to read and there seems to be a bit more interaction now.

Twitter was by far my worst network and while it goes against what many ‘social experts’ would tell you to do I nuked my entire list. That’s right I unfollowed everyone. For the most part it happened very quietly, I had a couple of responses and after pointing back to my blog post things continued on as normal. I’ve have about 20% of those following me leave but again I’m seeing a bit more interaction now and my twitter feed is definitely easier to review.

I will say this about twitter – use lists. While I may have unfollowed a lot of folks I have many of them on a list and check out what’s being posted frequently and I’m slowly starting to follow some of them.

This week’s challenge is RSS (really simple syndication). I don’t follow a lot of feeds but I’m looking at almost 1600 unread items – seems a bit out of control. I have been using feedly but as I’m going to be evaluating things a bit I’m going to test out The Old Reader and see how it goes.

Is there an RSS reader that you prefer?

Time for a Social Media Scrub

By Informartica8vo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsIn my initial post about Project Reboot I listed social media as one are that I was going to focus on and I figured I should dig into it sooner rather than later as it is an area that has gotten out of control.

(A word of warning, I’m going to use one set of terms for things here for simplicity. Please feel free to substitute the appropriate term for any given social media platform.)

When starting out I went through periods where I followed everyone, followed no one, unfollowed some, followed others, toyed with lists, alerts – you begin to get the idea I think. My social media engagement is far from optimized and I often find myself questioning the value of it.

Social media is a very interesting beast, there is no right or wrong way to do it – there’s the way you want to use it. Keeping that in mind I’ve decided to create a guidelines that I’m going to use going forward.

1. No more platforms (for now)

It’s easy to get sucked into the latest and greatest, that new shiny object, the killer platform that will the be death of facebook. For the foreseeable future I will not join any new platforms, nor will I evaluate them. I know that this is a rather drastic standpoint to take but if I don’t, I’ll continue to look at and join other networks which I may not be able to maintain going forward – best to cut to the quick and be done with it.

2. Focus on my core four

This is a follow on to item #1. I belong to a number of social media platforms and while I don’t intend to cancel my accounts with them I won’t be focusing on them. I’m not going to be looking to build networks there (at least for now) but will continue to use them in a reduced manner. The focus going forward will be my core four – Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and facebook.

3. Be more selective in who I “follow”

On some networks this is an easy thing to do as I was selective when I started using them, others, not so much. One I hit the reboot switch on this area (more on that in a moment), I’m going to force myself to ask the question, “what value is this person going to add to my life?” If I can’t answer that question in my own head I won’t follow them. That’s not to say the individual won’t go on a ‘watch and see’ type list, or a list centered around one of my areas of focus, I’m just not going to commit to the relationship right now.

4. Engage more

It’s a simple statement, and a bit vague to be honest, so what do I mean by it. I’m going to work on sharing a bit more, as Guy Kawasaki says, “act like NPR.” So expect to see a bit more from me concerning items of interest to me which I hope that you’ll also find interesting. Will there be personal updates sent out? I’m sure there will be, it is a social platform after all.

I’m also going to work on being better at responding to those that choose to reply or comment to what I post regardless of platform. In the past I haven’t been as responsive so I’m going to be working on that.

So, with those guidelines in place it’s time to get things under control. Since I’m focusing on four different platforms each will have it’s own ‘reboot instructions.’

facebook – I’ll start with this one as it’s my smallest network. When I began using facebook I made the commitment I would use it to connect with those I went to school with along with family and friends. So far I’ve been doing a pretty good job at keeping it that way. So for the reboot I’m going to review my list of friends and create a list for each distinct group so I can share things more appropriatly if need be.

LinkedIn – I’ve been on this network longer than any other (joined in 2005) and like my facebook account I’ve always been a bit more critical about who I connect with. The number of connections here is quite a bit larger than facebook but I’m going to take the same approach here – review and trim. I’m not expecting to remove connections but you never know, I’m also going to review my group memberships and the email settings (getting a bit too many from the system lately).

Google+ – This is the last network I joined and unlike the twitter and facebook I had a tendency to circle folks without necessarily looking at what they posted – good to build up what’s in your stream, bad if you’re looking to get value out of it. The nice thing about this network is that I did try to organize circles so sorting through things is a bit easier. So for this network I’m going to be uncircling a number of folks – not because I don’t like you but you might not fit in with what I want to focus on right now or you might not be using the service and you’re in a circle because you are in my regular contact list. I’m also going to look at the communities I’m in to determine if I should stay or go as well as look for ones that fit where I’m going.

Twitter – I saved this one for last because I tend to share the most on this network (at least lately) and it is also my largest network where I’m following about 3700 folks. At one point I was in that mode of “it’s all about the numbers” and worked the system to build a larger following (about 4700 folks right now). As both numbers grew the amount of just plain junk in my twitter stream has grown to where I sometimes can’t see any real content and feel I’m missing out on things. In this one case I’m going to simply wipe the slate. I’m going to unfollow everyone and then slowly determine who to follow. The nice thing about twitter is their list function, you might be in a list and I’m seeing your tweets but I may just not follow you.

One final word about this part of my project – it’s already underway. I know others that have done these types of things and given their followers warnings, not me. I’m going to just dig in, putting out warnings, asking for folks to contact you to stay connected are in my mind just ways of stalling. This post is enough of a stall for me.

So there it is, in not so small of a nutshell, my guidelines and reboot instructions for my social media setup – how do you keep your social media life in check?

Image by Informartica8vo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Evernote for Task Management

evernote_logo_center_4c-lrgOn Friday I mentioned my latest endeavor, Project Reboot, and how I was going to start digging into starting today.

To be honest I started a bit early – one can’t complete a project unless you know what needs to be done to do that I needed a tool to track it all.

Up until now I’ve been using the todo.txt setup that Gina Trapani first mentioned on Lifehacker. The tool has evolved a bit since then and now has both Android and iPhone clients and is being actively developed. It is a great tool and I can say nothing but good things about it.

Unfortunately for me, I started to notice a bit of friction with using the tool. This is nothing against the tool, just the way my workflow has begun to develop and change, and if the tool causes friction you won’t use it so I started to look for a replacement.

Enter Evernote.

I’ve been singing the praises of Evernote for quite a while now and I use it for a number of things but never really looked to it to handle my to do or task list. So when I took a few minutes and looked at it I saw it definitely had the potential.

  • It’s available on my desktop and mobile platforms and I can access it from the web if I’m on a machine that it isn’t installed on.
  • It’s got check boxes to I can easily mark things done.
  • I have the ability to group all the tasks for a project in a single note

Looks like a winner to me.

So I’ve begun to track things in my Evernote system. I have a master note that contains a list of all stand alone tasks and project that need to be completed. For those items that are projects the task item is a note link to the note that contains information about the project (which could include links to other notes) and the list of tasks that needs to be completed.

For those that are followers of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system this does allow for an easy weekly review of outstanding projects. A global search for notes that have unfinished tasks in them give a listing of all the projects and the master task list all on one screen.

I’ve only begun to work with this system but so far it seems to be fitting my style of work and as it’s a tool I already have open most of the day and am familiar with so it makes it that much easier to use.

That’s one small step for Project Reboot, next up my social media networks.

What do you use for task management?

Thanks Google, but I’ll Keep my Evernote

Yesterday Google officially announced what has been swirling around as a rumor for days, their note taking application – Keep (read the announcement).

The service is very similar to Springpad and my personal choice, Evernote. It allows you to input your notes, take pictures, and create lists. Currently you can use it from your Android phone (running 4.0 and above) or from the web – Google Drive integration is coming.

If you had asked me about this service a few months ago you might have gotten me to take more than just a look at – I might have even jumped to it, but not now for a variety of reasons.

The shutdown of Google Notebook

There are still a few of us out there that remember Google Notebook, Google’s original note taking app. We also still remember when they decided to shut it down and everyone went scrambling for a way to save off their notes (this was before takeout). The folks at Evernote, among others, stepped up and offered a solution and in some cases tools to import your notes.

The shutdown of Google Reader

This was just announced (read about it here) and like Google Notebook it hits home for many of us. I’ve been a fairly regular user of either Reader or a service that depends on it for some time and have been now forced to find an alternative (I’ll post about it when I decide). I won’t sit here and “rage against the machine” that Google is for taking away this service as it is their right and they have given us plenty of time to migrate to something else. It does go to show though, that once again we were beholden to the almighty Google.

My decision to diversify

I mentioned a few months back, I’m diversifying my tool set. As many who know me would tell you, if it was a Google product, Scot would be “all in,” but that has changed. While the prospect of having my notes available right there in Google next to other items of mine I cannot bring myself to contradict my earlier decision. Will Google Keep be better than Evernote? There’s no way of knowing at this point but given that Evernote is working to be a 100 year startup, have clients for all the major platforms (Linux the notable exception) and have a profitable business model (yes, I pay for it) it’s hard to argue against them.

So, I know where I stand, how about you? Will you take to the walled Google Keep or use a different tool for your note taking and web gathering? Take a minute and share your thoughts.

Don’t mess with my todo app!

todotxt_logo_2012I’ve never understood the reason why folks have to mess with a tool and try to turn it into something that it’s not. Take the “to do” app for example.

At it’s heart the todo app or list is just a listing of those items that you need to accomplish. Nothing could be simpler or cleaner when it comes to productivity – it goes on the list and you cross if off when it’s done.

So why is it that every time a solid option comes along to manage your todo list there’s a group that wants to “improve it,” by adding what I would consider just a bunch of unneeded bells and whistles to it?

They want to add things like,

  • Due dates
  • Reminders
  • Location awareness (for the mobile versions)

Folks, those items shouldn’t be part of the tool you use to manage your list.

If the item as a due date, put it on your calendar.
If you need a reminder to do it, put it on your calendar.
Location awareness? I don’t need my phone to go off as I drive by the store to remind me to stop. I made a list of things I need to pick up – it’s why I’m there in the first place.

I’ve been that person that had to have every bell and whistle in the tool and after spending more hours than I can count I always come back to the mantra, “keep it simple stupid.”

Keep it simple and the tool will do the work you need it to do.

Do you like all the add-ons or do you like to keep it simple? Why not sound off in the comments.

Image from Todotxt.com