Evernote Essentials 4

Brett Kelly has just announced the 4th edition of his Evernote Essentials ebook.  

There is a number of updates and enhancements  as well as new formats in which the book is available. One new chapter that I look forward to read is on how Brett uses Evernote. 

I’ve moved a way from Evernote couple months ago but I continue to keep eye on the latest developments there as Evernote becomes more of a platform than simply a note taking application.

 

Better file naming

Naming files seems like an obvious activity and definitely not a rocket science. Yet have you ever tried to find anything you created or saved in 2004?  

Perhaps you still hold most of your records in paper format but as we move to paperless style living the need for good filing system will be bigger and bigger.

You could rely on tools like Evernote to hold all your information but I’m not sure how it would handle 10 years worth of data. I’ve already seen on some of the discussion forums that some heavy users had to consider using secondary accounts or even removing some content from the application as the database became too large and unresponsive.   

For that and many more reasons I decided to stick with the native formats and keeping files in folders albeit in a small number of them.  

To make sure I can find necessary information I’m using a combination of file naming convention, folder location and a program called Everything.  

All the files I create follow this format: [YYYYMMDD] + [category] + [Keywords] .
This allows to me to find files based on date, a high level category or one or more different keyword. 

To give you example if there is receipt for a pair of shoes that need to keep I would name the file in a following way:   

“20130922 receipt brand X running shoes.pdf”

To benefit of this approach is that it’s independent of any application, platform and if I ever move to Linux or Mac OS I will be able to locate my file with out a hassle. 

To avoid clutter and storing unrelated files in the same location I also use a fairly simple folder structure to keep a some form of hard edges. This isn’t critical for my filing system but it simply helps to narrow down the focus. If for some reason I want to browse through my receipts I can do that.

I try to keep the number of folders to minimum and avoid nesting as much as possible.  

Last piece of the setup is application called Everything. It creates an index of all file names that exist on your computer and then allows for searching those files. Everything does not search through the content of the files hence the importance of proper naming.  I have it set up to open when I press Win+S and then I simply type the word I’m after. 

One element that I’m yet to fully flesh out is how to find a good Windows replacement for Mac app called Hazel which automated a lot of filing and naming tasks. There a program called Folder Actions but I’m yet to dive into it. 

This approach has been very much inspired by series of posts published by Seth Brown (aka Dr. Bunsen) Although he uses Mac it wasn’t that difficult to implement the basics.

Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 1

Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 2

Dr. Bunsen / Naming & Searching Files Part 3

 

34 days

I was catching up on some of my favourite podcasts and that included Mikes on Mics episode 83 where the guys are talking about the intersection of self-improvement and productivity.  

One of the things that caught my attention was the idea of testing things over 34 days. Seems like an odd number but as Mikes explain, it makes sense. 

Trying different ways to stay productive, organised is part of a process of finding what works. However what does not make sense is jumping from place to place without a proper experimentation and time to adjust.  

Weekly time scale isn’t effective for that it’s just too short to see what’s good and bad. On the other end making a commitment to use a method or workflow for 34 days makes it inconvenient enough to see through different scenarios. Getting committed to a process for this number of days gives you much more time and opportunities to test it properly.

You can listen to the details at The Line Between Self-Improvement and Productivity 

Productivity tips from Asianefficiency.com and Marc Andreessen

I was reviewing my Pocket queue and I came across few articles that I marked for reading good few weeks ago. I result I discovered couple highly useful post that I would like to share here. 

First off is a blog entry from Asianefficiency.com where Aaron and Thanh walk us through some of the productivity advise from Marc Andreessen an entrepreneur and programmer.

Their post refers to some very solid productivity advice with neat examples of how you can implement it. Well worth reading.

Marc Andreessen on Personal Productivity  

Assessing Priorities with Mike Vardy

As we are getting closer and closed to the end of third quarter of this year it’s always good to review how things are going.  

Mike Vardy went through his own assessment recently and shared his observations and take-away’s.  

I’ve been doing an assessment too and hope this share some of the results over the coming weeks. My focus was on the information and how much and where do I want to keep it. As result I’ve introduced some interesting changes that yielded some surprising results.

Assessing Priorities 

 

My computer rules

Over the last few weeks I’ve been quite busy with evaluating my computer rules. I decided it was about time to define the ways I store information that’s valuable to me and whom do I trust on the web. Sounds serious and I suppose it is after all it’s my data and should take a good care of it so that it’s not lost or corrupted.
What really sparked my interest in this area is the most recent scandal with privacy issues and spying by some governments and in general worry that someone else has control over my information.

It’s very contentious topic and possibly not easy to solve, perhaps even impossible to solve.

Ben Brooks put things into nice perspective for me in a post from couple weeks ago.

As consequence of that I put together a list of couple basic rules that I’ve been implementing to make sure I’m controlling my information as much as possible. This means that certain tasks have become a bit more cumbersome but I’m pretty sure I will be able to navigate around them and find some good solutions. Over time I will try to share them here too.

Use native formats

Keep critical data in formats that been here very long like: txt, html, pdf, jpg. This will ensure that no matter what I can still access my information. These formats are not impacted by applications that gone stale, databases that got corrupted etc. All I need is a program that can read these format.

Export to native format

If using proprietary applications make sure there is easy and clean export into native formats. This not only ensure that I have a good backup of data but I can also move it somewhere else. New programs are coming up everyday so getting stuck isn’t an option anymore.

Proprietary files

If there is a need to use proprietary files make sure it’s for non-critical information and on temporary basis. Certain projects will require some very specific tools that keep data in custom type files. That’s inevitable but the key is that once the project is finished make sure data can be exported into native format.

One exception I’m willing to make is passwords, I need a good password manager and that need to be stored in an encrypted container.

Encrypted backups

Making backup is a first step in ensuring data is safe, the second one is to make sure it’s safe. They contain as much precious and private information as our laptops so making sure they are encrypted and well secured. Perhaps consider having two or three copies stored with family or friends you can trust. Yes, sacrifice convenience for that purpose.

Access to backup

My rule is that I don’t let other application to store my backups in their custom file formats. If I ever lose access the that application (lose registration code etc) I’m stuck but if backup is in the native format I can still access my data. Linux combined with TrueCrypt are easy way to get access to encrypted backups.

Keep an clean image.

Drives do die, systems can’t boot. Having a clean image of hard disk will let easily revert to previous or at least basic configuration and setup. It’s much better to reinstate the image than fully reinstall operating system.
Best to do it as soon as you’ve put a fresh install on your machine as down the road things can get a bit more messy.

Know your software

Make a list of all you primary tools so you know what needs to be installed as priority.

Trusty Providers

Find providers that you can trust whether it’s Google, Apple, Dropbox or your hosting company. Unless you are willing to spend time and energy on building your own stuff you need to trust some one and be happy with it.

Are you really that busy?

There’s quite interesting blog post over at HBR.org about our culture of busyness and how crap and meaningless it really is.  

So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that “I’m busier
than you are” means I’m more important, or that my time is more
valuable, or that I am “winning” at some never-finished rat race to
Inbox Zero.

Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are 

Bullet journal

This has been doing rounds over the productivity circles.  

A well put thogheer explanation on how to use a notebook to stay productive and keep on top of incoming tasks, projects and ideas. I think quite a number of people in the Productivity Group of Google Plus got really interested in this idea and are testing it. 

For starters there’s a nice video explaining the concept. 

More details are on the BulletJournal Page.