All new Remember the Milk

Last week my favorite task manager seen a really big update. New smartphone and tablet versions have been released for the Android platform.

This is very welcomed update as although I grew accustomed to the previews look of the app on my phone the tablet version was really non-existent.

The update is a complete re-design of android clients and after couple days I really like it. It added a vertical bar to the left side of the screen which gives very quick and easy access to lists, tags, due dates. The lists of with tasks now slide from the right showing all relevant elements. 

Viewing and editing of  task notes has been improved which makes it easier to take the advantage of this rarely used feature.

By default task show up with out check mark and once you press edit in the top right corner you can check off more than one task. I haven’t decided whether it’s good or bad as on one hand it’s forces you to select one task and focus on it but on the other hand you need extra taps to manipulate it.

Overall I really, really like this new version and big thumbs up for creating tablet version too. I’m yet to do it but I can already see that doing weekly reviews on a tablet will be very pleasant and effective experience.

You can check the details of this update on the Remember the Milk blog site.

The updated version is now available on Google Play store too.

Last but not least Google+ has a great number of commentators chipping in with their opinions on this update. It’s well worth checking it out and what users have to say.

Share Your feedback

I’ve been running this blog for a while and I would like to hear from you what do you think about the site.

More importantly I would like to hear from you, about the topics areas that I should cover. I absolutely enjoy reading about productivity, tools and techniques so learning about these things and sharing my observations is a real pleasure for me.

Let me save you the time and do the work for you. Let me know what you want to know and I will dive deep and share the best things I can find. 

Thanks for taking the time.

What’s next?

Generally it isn’t a problem to find something to do, there are hundreds of different things that grab our attention. The problem is with deciding what’ is the right next thing.

Chris Guillebeau, writer, traveler and man behind the Art of Non conformity and World Domination Summit has as great post on this very topic. To him knowing “what’s the rightnext” is like having a superpower. Unfortunately there is no magic potion or pill which you could take to gain this superpower, instead you can try few things that may help:

– write things down
– work from a list
– know your distractions
– pay attention to your feelings

Superpowers, Part II

The art of note-taking

The advent of digital tools allows us to capture more and more information usin not only text but images and audio. The the skill is not just in the act of capturing. That is important but what’s more important is what do you do with those notes, how you organise them, review and most importantly how do they help you with your work.

In the last couple of weeks I came across two excellent pieces of content that touched on this very topic. If you want to elevate you note-taking skills or seek for some tips I can recommend that you follow the two links below:

How to Become a Masterful Note-Taker: 8 Lessons From Research

#047: The Lost Art of Note-Taking [Podcast][michaelhyatt.com]

Contexts.Granularity vs usefulness.

Contexts are great way to break down work into different chunks based on specific criteria. Rather than keep looking at a long list of things todo you split them based on location, type of work, tool, mood, time estimate etc. Anything that can assist you in breaking down your work and organising it into more meaningful chunks can be used as context.

The key benefit of using contexts is in grouping similar tasks together which allows you to take the advantage of the location you’re in, tools you have and the energy available. Also working in contexts reduces the waste normally related with continuous switching between different tasks.

When setting up contexts there is a great sense clarity and purpose. Thing are nicely stacked in piles but the true test comes when you’re doing the work. Can you successfully maintain system in such great detail. Do it make sense to have a context @printer or @shed or @shopXYZ if you don’t really print and visit shop XYZ once a year usually with specific purpose?

You can go very deep with contexts, breaking things down into very small categories. Although this may seem like excellent idea it may be a way of hiding tasks out of the view. This way the granularity can hinder the work you need to do.

So how can you maintain the usefulness of contexts and not get bogged down in the minute detail of managing too many of them?

  • match them to your work – this is key, context should be aligned with your work, think of the places, and tools specific to your line of work and design context around them.
  • keep them at bay – don’t allow to grow them beyond being manageable. Can you manage 6-7 contexts, can you manage 15? Avoid keeping context with 2-3 items in them as you will lose sight of them quickly.
  • have easy access to them – make sure you can access all of you contexts. Regardless of the system you use to keep your list handy so that you can take the advantage of the different places and tools and the are available. Do lose the time simply because you don’t have the right list.
  • review regularly – do a regular assessment of contexts you use, see if they have the right tasks, do they still match to your line of work, are the locations right, are tool still relevant.

Doing these small tasks and asking these simple questions will help you maintain a nicely tailored suite of context that keep you covered at work and home.

How many contexts do you have, do you manage them in any way? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Speeding up your digital notetaking

Digital tools for storing information like Evernte,Onenote, Sprigpad or many manay more are great for collecting the information. Everything gets stored in one place and can be easily searched and accessed. But with a move to a digital realm the biggest inhibitor or obstacle for using it efficiently is a keyboard. If you think faster than your type any digital tool no matter how smart will frustrate you and you might be better of with pen and paper.

To me there three ways in which you can improve the situation.

  1. type faster
  2. use keyboard shortcuts
  3. use text expansion software.

I recently came across an excellent post which made superb example of point no 3. It outlined how can you improve note taking by combining Evenote and TextExpander. In short, you can use TextExpander (or PhraseExpress) to turn any form of note-taking that you do on regular basis into a template which you can reuse time and again. When attending a meeting all you need to do to start taking notes is open a new note in Evernote and type the TextExpander key configuration to bring up the template.

I’ve been using text expansion on Windows (PhraseExpress) for few months now and it’s absolutely fantastic way to save time, automate inputs and leverage templates regardless of the application you’re in.

You can read further on this topic over at jamierubin.net: 
Going Paperless: Evernote + TextExpander = Productivity

Study Hacks – tackling big projects and creating work

I’ve been subscribing to Study Hacks blog for couple months now and over the last few weeks I’ve noticed an interesting trend there. Basically Cal Newport has been focusing on very interesting aspect of creating work, making progress on big projects and tackling huge assignments. What’s different on this blog is that it does not focus on tips and simple techniques. Post are more centered on pondering about the different approaches to work, looking at interesting research and conversations with people all that seem to go against conventional wisdom or so it would appear.

I won’t go into summarizing all of those posts but I would really encourage you to have a look at them and spend some time thinking about the lessons that Cal shares.

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » How to Write Six Important Papers a Year without Breaking a Sweat: The Deep Immersion Approach to Deep Work

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » You Need to Master the Rules Before You Can Reinvent Them 

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » The Single Number that Best Predicts Professor Tenure: A Case Study in Quantitative Career Planning

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » “Write Every Day” is Bad Advice: Hacking the Psychology of Big Projects

Support your productivity

Productive isn’t just a simple adjective describing a person.
To me productive means delivering results from a set of behaviors and use of the right tools.
There is no silver bullet here. You can’t simply pick up one or two tips from a popular blog and expect that they will change your life. Sure they can give you a necessary boost of energy but they will quickly wear off.

What you need is to develop right behaviors that support your productivity. What are they?:

  • capture ideas
  • keep a single task list
  • avoid distractions
  • focus on one thing
  • avoid multitasking
  • ask what’s the outcome and what’s the next action
  • plan
  • banish procrastination

There are many more practices and small routines what will improve your productivity. For the moment start with the above and see where they fall short. Only seek more solutions when you need them.

Then are the tools. The better they fit you and your job the more you will achieve. Starting with pen and paper is the simplest route you can take. There are other options available too for your laptop, tablet or smartphone. It’s easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles but keep it to the point. If your main job is to do email, then find best program for it and learn all its tricks. Repeat that for any other application that you need.

The last thing is to continuously strive to improve. Big jumps are effective but in a race between tortoise and hare it was a slow but consistently moving tortoise who won it. Keep your pace and move along, the stronger foundation you will build the bigger and better effects you will see.