Linux journey started

Few days ago I started a journey into world of Linux with installation of Ubuntu.

Switching operating system in a laptop isn’t a regular thing to do unless one has some really good reasons.
While I’ve upgraded to Windows 10 I was never comfortable with their new approach to privacy and data sharing. Linux seems to be the only system that remains an actual desktop system not some sort of cloud connected, big data crunching machine.

Changing environment also forces me to learn new things, understand how this system works, what are the main principles and commands.

I also like the ethos of Linux in general, open source, voluntary contribution, sharing of knowledge, tinkering away. All this seems refreshing in the world dominated by control, restritions and limitations.

The past number of times when I attempted a switch I ended up going back to Windows but this time I took a different approach. I turned this into a project. It may sound over the top but it’s perfect match to my reignited interest in GTD methodology.
Since this is a project, I have set out the main vision for it, defined parameters and set couple milestones to check in how things are going.
So instead random “move to Ubuntu” it’s “establish Ubuntu as primary OS” with a number of specific expectations listed.

Will it work? Will it last?

I don’t know I’ve tried before but always ended up back in the world of Windows

So far it’s been good and everything I needed to do worked fine. In fairness while it may seem very challenging to change operating system and move to completly new environment the change isn’t as dramatic.
The initial installation was quick, everything runs smoothly, I’m learning news things.

Once I reach 30 and 90 day milestones I will know for sure if this is for me and whether I will stick to it.

Kindle centered reading and learning workflow

An excellent reading and learning centered arond Kindle

  1. read a book
  2. highlight sections, sentences as you go
  3. extract highlights to your notetaking app of choice
  4. review highlights, add any additional thoughts and comments
  5. use those in your writing and learning

I picked it up from The Knowledge Project podcast- Shane Parish – Interview with Sanjay Bakshi

Cory Doctorow at Webstock

A really fascinating and bit scary talk about impact of technology and the battle to controll it.
Full video stream of the talk is on Vimeo

Below I’ve listed couple of my own takeaways.

  • area of technology is an arena for biggest power and control struggle in current time
  • with little man power one can assert a lot of control over large numbers of people purely because of use of technology and large scale survailance. East German Stasi had 60k people per inteligence agent now US has 10k per agent and they can spy on 7bn people
  • DRM and lockin turn us from owners of content to mere renters. We no longer have same type of rights over what we bought.
    (personally I wonder if stores should rename their button from “buy” to “rent” to ensure it’s really clear what are your rights. Refering someone to T&C is pointless and serves as way of tricking people)

  • exposing poor constuction and design of products gets more difficult since you are no longer able to look under the hood. If you do you may be breaking laws. Hence inherently DRM and copyright laws tend to promote and defend bad design.

Personally I find that ideas behind open source communities and software are more and more appealing. It’s more chaotic but ultimately it’s clearer.
It may not be easy to move to Linux that quickly and without some effort but it is definately doable (I’m writing this in a laptop running Ubuntu into a plain text file.)

As it’s is the case with many things it’s up to people to vote with their feet and if enough will go for the open and transparent models of technology that what’s going to pervail.

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.

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

Organasing files on your computer

We save and store more information on our computers from simple documents to notes, ebooks, bills etc.It’s no wonder that finding a good way of keeping on top all of this is almost never-ending endeavor.
Some people result some give up and keep everything amassed in one folder and rely on search to find relevant information others resort to constructing intricate structures of nested folder up on folders. None of the above is really sustainable in the long run as sometimes you want to look through your files and are faced with giant list that’s not usable. The solution lies somewhere in the middle where you keep a light folder structure that matches most important areas of you life but also rely on search so you don’t have to browse manually.

If you need some ideas on how to approach organisation of files AsianEfficiency has very good overview on how to do that.

Organizing Your Files, Folders and Documents

Plain text wins

Micheal Schechter from Bettermess.com is one of my favourite bloggers. He writes a lot about productivity and some geeky, tech things.
He recently published two excellent posts about benefits of using plain text files and nvALT (a Mac appliation) as the center of text file based workflow.

So, why it’s worth considering text? Three reasons why it’s worth considering plain text:

  • it’s portable
  • it’s flexible
  • it’s ubiquitous

A Plain Text Primer

Plain Text Primer: nvALT 101

Personally I’m in the process of gradually moving into text based workflow and I hope to share my approach using a Windows PC in next few weeks.

From Inspiration to Emulation

Over the last few months I’ve been examining my writing and note taking workflow in an effort to be more consistent and better blogger. After all I want this site to succeed and be useful to my readers. It somehow happened that I came across a bunch of different bloggers, that have embraced, plain text as the centre of their workflows. People like Michael Schechter, David Sparks, Shawn Blanc, Merlin Mann rely on simple text files to publish the web, capture ideas, write books, run projects etc.
This is not to say to you should dumb your life down and abandon great apps like Evernote or Sprigpad or any task management or map mapping software. These programs have their purpose and strong sides but if you can you should work with as simple tools as possible for as long as there is no negative impact on your work.

Inspired by what I was reading and how well their systems worked, I began to look at different options of adjusting my existing workflow and implementing their ideas and lessons. The tasks wasn’t easy, as they all are Mac users so I needed to find the equivalent applications with similar functionality on Windows platform. Fortunately enough, I was able to find the right software.

The whole setup is based on text files saved in a single Dropbox directory with ResophNotes working as a simple interface allowing me easily create, search and update any file. The speed of this app and simplicity is remarkable. I’m also leveraging Simplenote to deliver the files into my Androind phone. I’m going to leave a more detailed description of my setup for a later post.

Over the recent weeks I’ve been building up my repository of text files, setting up lists, capturing new ideas, transferring some of the reference material. So far, it has been very good. I’m finding that the system works well and I have more trust in it. This means I use it constantly and it’s my first point of call. At this stage there is definitely less clutter and more simplicity with in the whole setup. This really helps to keep the focus and maintain consistency of files names. Although I do come across an odd instance where I need to figure out where a given file goes or how to call it.

I’m really interested in seeing how this system will hold up in the long run. With hundreds of files sitting in one directory will there be any drop in speed or syncing issues? Also will I stick with the file taxonomy or will I end up with massive repository of files that I can’t make any sense of?

Removing friction

Last week’s post was about frictionless and structureless this week I wanted to share few thoughts about reducing the friction when using different tool. Such friction inevitably arises when you want transfer information between two or more services.
I use a fair number of application both webapps and desktop programs. Majority of programs and applications don’t talk to each other which makes leveraging different tools difficult. In most instances you need to resort to good old copy&past which is manual and time consuming and to put it simply is a great hassle. Fortunately there are ways to remove or rather reduce this friction in different aspects of your computer usage. Perhaps some of them will appear very lifehack-y but hey they work and let me save time and streamline different things that I do.

friction on the web – ifttt.com

I have recently moved from Instatpaper to Pocket as my repository of read later items mainly because of better integration with Firefox and Android phone. As consequence of that I’ve lost ability to automatically save interesting articles to Pinboard and to post to Twitter. Fortunately there is a webapp which allows you to connect different online services . It’s truly astonishig product and it’s even more surprising that it remains free -it’s called ifttt.com. There are dozens or more applications you can connect to and generate different actions for form email, sms, weather to Evernote, Dropbox, Instagram to name just a few.

Going back to my initial problem with replicating Instapaper functionality thanks to ifttt.com, I not only  managed to fully replicate it and even enhance it. Every time I mark an article as read it will be saved to Pinboard including the tags which saves me from doing it in Pinboard. As result I have two places which work as an archive of stuff I read. If I don’t want to save the article I simply delete it.

friction on the computer – Belvedere

Another way to improve your experience on computer is to automate file management. A program that will let you do that is called Belvedere. It’s a small application that runs in the background and observes folders and files for changes that match certain criteria like name, date modified ect. Once they are met Belvedere will move, delete, copy etc. How I take advantage of Belvedere?

Managing file is not my favourite thing and if you could see my downloads folder you will see why. I have dozens of pdfs, images, text files, videos all from months ago. They looked interesting once but now I rarely know why are they there. To tame this folder I have a little Belveder rule which deletes files after certain amount of time. I decided there is no point in letting this folder to grow and if I really need something again I can always find it.

Another way I leverage Belveder is to manage my writing. All blog posts I’m working on are in plain text in a Drobox folder. Once the post is done I add a “published[tip]” prefix to the name. When Belveder sees this file it moves it to my Archive folder. No manual filing navigating though folder etc.

One thing I’ve learned about the program is to run Belveder as administrator as this provides best results. At the moment I’m just scratching the surface with the possibilities that this program has to offer.

If you are looking for some more ideas about automating file management I suggest you listed to Mac Power Users podcast episode 79. David and Katie talk about Hazel a Mac’s more advanced alternative to Belveder. Well worth it of 1,5h of your time.

friction with typing – PhraseExpress

The final element of removing friction that I wanted to share in this post is text entry and specifically ways for automating repetitive writing. For that purpose I’m using a program called PhraseExpress which lets you save pieces of text and actions that can be executed after specific key combination or text typed. Here how it works, rather than type full email address or other piece of text I type two, three letters and PharesExpress automatically makes relevant entry.
Personally I use this program to remove friction in two places: First is to automate text entry, this includes predefined responses, inputting time, date, email addresses and certain keywords that I use in Evernote. Second place I use it for is to automate accessing files. I have a number of files that I want to open quickly so I created a few keyboard shortcuts and phrases that launch those files in an instant. One thing I had to be wary of conflicts as different applications and programs have different sets of shortcuts so it’s not that difficult to invoke a function you didn’t want.

Hope this post gave you a good overview on how to automate some of your workflows and remove unnecessary friction and clicking.

I would love to know what I your own ways of removing friction? Please share them in the comments.

Reading Workflow

Staying informed and making the best use of the information available is not an easy task if you consider the wealth of information available online. Over the last couple of months I’ve build a workflow which helps me deal with my reading. There are four elements in my little reading system: Discovery, Consumption, Retention, Action.
The primary tool which let’s my make the most of reading and helps me support this process is Instapaper. It’s fantastic web application that connects all the dots in my system. Although it’s geared toward iOS users (there are great apps for iPhone and iPad) I’m getting a ton of use on my laptop, Android phone and Kindle. If you look for an application to manage your reading I would give it a serious thought.

Discovery

There are two primary ways of discovering new and interesting content. First is Google Reader which let’s me subscribe to RSS feeds of favorite blogs and sites. My second way of finding content is Twitter and with good mix of similar minded people I can always find best content. Google+ is worth mentioning here as well although for me it’s primary discussion forum I suspect that over time it will become a information source.

Once I come across an interesting post or article I clip it into Instapaper or if I’m using my phone I add it to an app called Everpaper.

Consumption

My primary ways for consuming content are my laptop, smartphone and Kindle. Again Instapaper proves to be invaluable tool to make this possible. Ability to access my items on laptop and smartphone is very convenient but what’s more important is that I can send daily digest of 10 most recent articles into my Kindle. Additionally if I have a large number of articles to go through I can generate a file with all of them and then email it to my Kindle. Support for Kindle is one of the primary reasons I’m using Instapaper.

Retention

When I come across a particularly interesting article or blog post which I would like to keep I save it into my Pinboard account. This is my primary bookmarking service which lets me store my favorites online and have them tagged in every way I want. Ability to jot some note about bookmark and generate public RSS for tags makes it very versatile service. The app may not provide most eye candy but it definitely does get job done in quick and effective way. It’s worth to mention that Instapaper allows me to send any article to Pinboard. So each time I favorite an item it gets send to my bookmarking service for future reference. Then on weekly basis I review my recent items and add additional tags and notes if necessary.

Action

The point of increasing your knowledge is to make use out of it. For me there are three primary forms in which I interact with the content I found useful. First one is to share the content on Twitter, Tumbler or Google+. Second way is to use saved articles as inspiration for my own writing. For that I use a combination of WriteMonkey and text files to put down my thoughts and ideas and then publish on this site. A third option is to implements some of the ideas. This can be a tricky thing as it’s easy to collect dozens of ideas and not test any. In order to counter that I try to add only one to two things into my task manager and see how things work. Other ideas end up on my productivity mind map where I collect handy tips and tricks for later experimentation.

Projects and Remember the Milk

Managing Tasks in Remember the Milk is easy. You simply input one, add necessary meta data, like context or due date and you’re done. Item will appear on you list waiting for you to do it.However if you’re a practitioner of GTD methodology you know that projects are very important element of it. In fact per GTD any item that takes more than two actions steps is a project. If you follow this definition then you have a lot of projects to work on.
It would be ideal if you could use Remember the Milk to manage this aspect too. Unfortunately that’s not possible out of the box. But don’t loose your hopes! There are two solutions which can help you maintain integrated project and task system within RTM.

Fixed list

Firstly there are lists, with each representing a single project. This way all your specific projects are separated from other tasks thus making it easy to see the full scope.
I don’t recommend this approach as it’s cumbersome and requires setting up list via settings panel. It also makes the page quite crowded with different tabs. Perhaps it’s not a big thing but I prefer to keep things as clean as possible.

Project tags

The second solution, which is my preferred, is to use tags to indicate whether a task is part of a project or simple next action. The way it works is very easy.  When I’m adding a new project I create a tag which looks as follows “p_name” where “p” indicates project and “name” a short name to indicate what’s it about.

The reason I prefer this approach is that the list view remains minimal and clean, letting me keep the key list in front of me. Also having all projects starting with “p” I can clearly see them and access them via the tag cloud on the right side of the screen.
With tags it’s much easier to create a project, as all I need to do is create a new “p_xxx” tag. Adding new task to your project is easy too, thanks to the auto tagging which adds current list’s tag automatically.

Where tags are provide more flexibility over a fixed list view is a creation of different views via smart lists. This way I can create a list based on very specific set of tags and have all relevant tasks displayed there regardless of project they are assigned to. Very handy when looking at context or areas of responsibility across your system.

Project list

In order to see all of my open projects I have a project list which shows any task with a “@project” tag. This way I have a handy reference point to see whether I’m not overburdening myself.

Here it’s how it works. When I’m due to file taxes for 2011 I will open up a new project and add task called “File taxes 2011” and add two tags @project and p_tax11.
Now this task will appear on my project list as an active item then when adding additional task related to this project I will use p_tax11 to keep things organised.

Large projects

For larger projects you may want to organise your tasks in sequences, unfortunately this requires another little hack as RTM can only sort using priority, name or due date.
My suggestion is to use numbering sequence to make task appear in a certain order. You can use various formats for that purpose from simple 1-10 to more complex 1.1.1, 1.1.2. It all depends how you want to organise your projects.

I hope this gives a good overview of how you can manage project using Remember The Milk. If you have any favorite solutions please share them in the comments.

Remember the Milk – the most powerful features

Remember the Milk has been my task manager of choice for over two years now. Although I have tried couple other task manager in that period I always came back to RTM as my preferred solution. As any application it has a strong points (you can read about some below) and has a weak points too (mainly the offline capabilities).Since it’s always easier to pick hole sin things rather than look for positives I decided to look at some of the best features of Remember the Milk that keep me organised and help me get things done. This post may appear a bit geeky as I go into the details of things like input syntax and smart lists but believe me it’s actually very simple. This is what makes this tool so powerful and effective.
It also goes in line with the notion that knowing the tools you use makes you more effective and lets you focus on what’s important.

Smart add

This is one of the most powerful and useful feature of the application. Very often people point out that applications like RTM provide so many options that deciding on each of them becomes a task in itself. In my view you can use the application the way you prefer if simplicity is your thing then you simply ingore the features but if you look for a more options to slice and dice tasks than RTM lets you do that.

When inputting a new task aside from the description you can set following attributes for each task: due date, list, context, priority, duration, repeat cycle, URL and location. As you can see it’s a lot of additioal information to input. To make it simpler few years ago the guys at RTM inctroduced a set of characters which allow you to select desired feature using keyboard while entering the task. Here is the list of special characters you can use:

[colored_box variation=”pearl”]

^ – date

# – list and context

! – priority

= – duration

@ – location

* – repeat

URL – simply paste it in[/colored_box]

So here, how this works. Lets say you want to “buy a milk” and you want to have it on your personal or errands list and location is your local shop. Obviously you will buy a milk every week so you want that as a continuous reminder.

Normally you would input the task in to the input panel and then assign relevant attributes manually in the panel on the right. However using the syntax your input would look as follows:

[colored_box variation=”pearl”] buy milk #personal @shop *weekly [/colored_box]

That’s it, no fiddling with settings or navigating with mouse, simple input and a task is properly categorised and assigned.

Two points worth noting here. You can use the same principles when entering tasks on your iPhone/iPad or Androind devices. Also existing categories will auto populate as you type which makes entering even easier.

Smart lists

You may be wondering what is the purpose of entering all those additional details tags, priorities, locations etc. The answer is simple with these attributes set you can slice you tasks in any way you want. This is where the smart list comes into play. This feature allows you to simply create a list of tasks based on a very specific criteria or a combination of such. In my view It’s the second most powerful feature of RTM application and I’m using it quite a lot.
Aside from the standard Inbox list I have only two basic lists Personal and Blog to manage all of my tasks. The rest is done through a set of smart list that display relevant tasks. These include following:

  • Project list – a list of personal and blog projects that I currently work on.
  • Next Action list – task due today or those I decided to complete in a given week. I highlight those by assigning a priority 1 to them.
  • @Computer and @Home, a list for two of my basic contexts.
  • @Waiting for – a list of things I’m waiting for from other people.
  • No tag – task which are missing a tag.
  • Smellers – picked it up form this post and essentially it’s a lists of task that were inputted over 6 months ago.

At first setting up a smart list might be a little bit overwhelming but the learning curve is not very steep. Remember the Milk forum has some great examples of those. You can also check out the support page which includes a list of relevant fields.

Auto tagging

Next very useful feature is auto tagging of tasks. In essence when you are looking at a smart list and add a new task, RTM will automatically append a tag related to that list. This comes very handy when outlining project plans. It works very easy, I select the project tag, I use “p_xxx” to indicate project, then I start typing. Each new item will have a tag “p_xxx” assigned by default. Why this is helpful? Simple when I want to review all tasks associated with a specific project I can click on the tag and simply review them all. This helps me make sure that tasks are in their right place and I can access them when needed.

Email import

Last feature that I wanted this share is the email import. Perhaps it doesn’t sound all exciting as almost every online task manager provides this functionality, nonetheless it proves very useful. The reason it so beneficial is that it greatly fits into my project workflow. What I usually do is get a mind map or a Evernote note to outline the structure and elements of the project. Once this is done I would email the list of tasks into RTM. In addition I would include relevant syntax items so the tasks would fall into right categories or lists. Here is an example for buying a car:

[colored_box variation=”pearl”]

buy a new car #Personal #p_car #project
research car models online #Personal #p_car #computer
call bank and check loans #Personal #p_car #calls
book a test drive with the dealer #Personal #p_car #calls @dealer

[/colored_box]

Once sent to your RTM email address (you got one during the sign up, see settings) all these lines will be converted into individual task and tags. All is left is to start reviewing your lists and tick off items.

 

Are you a Remember the Milk user? I would love to know how you use it. Please share in the comments section.

 

Note of disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Remember The Milk nor received any compensation for this post. I’m recommending it to anyone as a powerful tool to get things done and organise their tasks.

Evernote -ing

Evernote is a great tool for storing and managing information, unfortunately the potential of this application is so vast that it’s easy to get overwhelmend with the possibilities for slicing and dicing infromatio. Below are some the discussion topic on Evernote forum that I’ve found very useful.Coincidentally I’ve also completely destroyed my tagging system by removing all tags from note hence discussions on organisation become even more relevant.

A list of tips and strategie for Evernote users

Implementing GTD with Evernote

Tips and strategies for organising notes

Better tag list

Building my Evernote world

Strategies for using Evernote

Notebooks vs Tags

How much metadata do you apply to notes?

My favourite tip is to add date in  the YYYY-MM-DD format along with few keywords (not tags) to the title of the note. This provides better search capabilities and reduced the risk of data loss or hassle caused by removing all your tags like I just did today. Also some of the research suggest that we are quite good at remembering when things have happened so having date embedded makes it even easier to find notes.

I do recommend exploring the Evernote forums especially if you are stuck or looking some clever uses or unusual tips trick.

 

Staying productive with Android

Over the last 18 months I’ve been using an android phone to the greater extent than before. Thanks to all the available applications it became a great partner and assistant in managing my productivity and staying organised.There is a certain amount of applications that I find invaluable.  Let me run down through some of the critical applications.

Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk web app forms a core of my task management, it’s a primary place for storing my next actions, project list, waiting fors etc. The Android app provides a great interface to quickly access, today’s task or specific lists or a tag. The input panel supports RTM’s syntax which make inputting tasks a breeze. Also supported are various widgets and shortcuts which make it easier to quickly glance what due. I use it to see how many tasks are there in the inbox and how many are for today.
A very nice feature is offline support which makes the app fully functional even if you’re are not accessing the network (good for traveling abroad).

Evernote – an app that titles itself as your external brain. Truly remarkable tool for capturing any ideas, notes, links, images etc. I use the application almost daily recording anything and everything that captures my attention either on the phone like tweets or links to interesting designs, patterns, notes etc. I later review those items on my deskop application and categorise them in some way.

Dropbox – cross platform and device syncing nirvana. This is where I store my current drafts and support material for open projects. It’s simple, works unattended and always provides me with the latest version of the document I work on. Recommend that you investigate putting additional encryption software before stotring very sensitive passwords or other info into Dropbox.

Pomodroido – a very versatile timer application that lets me get into zone and focus on an task at hand. There are plenty of different options for setting up duration of pomodoros from 15 to 45min. A nice aspect is climbing the levels which makes you use the application even more.

Dolphin Browser Mini – is my default browser. It’s solid alternative to the default Andorid browser. I’m using the mini version only because I have limited amount of space available so need to keep my apps as slim as possible.

Everpaper – is a solid Instapaper reader app that nicely fits into my reading workflow. It provides support for all basic functions of the service as well as an offline storage to save articles for later. I used to use Read It Later on Androind and Firefox but since Instapaper provides excellent conduit to Kindle I decided to switch.

Gmail – stock Android Gmail client for checking my email accounts. Nothing too fancy but works great and lets me deal with email quickly while on the go.

These are the core productivity applications. There is obviously a bunch more that I’m gradually incorporating into my workflow. Here are some of the other applications that I find very useful:

Google Docs – I’m not a big user of Google Docs but I found it to be a great tool for managing my Editorial calendar. I wouldn’t say it best working.

Keep track – is a progress tracker that I use to monitor couple important statistics. The app is very well designed and easy to use. Best feature are the stats screen and a corresponding graph plotting how I performed.

Keepass – is an Android equivalent of open source password manager with the same name. Best thing you can share you password library with your phone and computer over the Dropbox folder. Excellent for having access to passwords on the go.

Ted – is a small text editor, very handy for creating text files and saving them in Dropbox for further use.

Textspansion – totally new app, which I installed just yesterday. It aims to be the TextExpander for Androind. Although the Android security setting prevent applications from “listening” your key strokes this one provides a handy shortcut through use of search key and then selecting desired phrase. Not most elegant solution but works none the less. Definitely something to look at if you’re into automation.

Hope you find this rundown of apps a useful reference point for your own pursuits. Above list is result of months of trial and error and searching for a better app the serve the need.
Despite the heavy reliance on the smartphone I still use paper as a thinking aid. My favorite combination is using a smartphone with a Moleskine notebook, former allows me to see where I’m at and latter lets me think things through via writing, doodling, sketching.

Please share you’re favorite in the comments I’m always interested in news apps. Do you have any favorite apps?

Evernote for projects

This week I wanted to look at using Evernote for projects. This will be short description of how i use Evernote for my projects. While setting up a project you can go wild and try to use every possible technique to breakdown tasks, time lines, resources etc. Although such approach can be useful and very insightful (see one example) I tend to try keep things as simple as possible and limit the amount of overhead.

When I’m starting a new project I use 5 stages of the GTD planning model as a planning guide. I’ve created a template in PhraseExpress (text expansion tool) so when I’m ready to start I hit right key combination and high  level outline of each step appears in the note. Then I start working on a project one stage at a time.

Once I have my stages clarified and different elements sorted I assign relevant tags. At the moment I’m using Evernote as a project support tool. This means I will list relevant actions and steps I need to take to move the project but I will not track individual actions in Evernote. Since I use Remember the Milk for managing actions all project related actions are moved there. But if you are interested in using Evernote only please read excellent Evernote e-book by Daniel Gold.

There are two primary tags which I assign to a project note. First is a !!Project tag second is a @Current or @Closed tags. This way I can track my open or closed project lists with a saved search  instead of to navigating through myriad of notes.

If a project is particularly large, especially if it includes a lot of notes and other supporting documentation, I would create a notebook for that purpose. This way it’s easy to keep all related information in a single location. Once the project is done  I assign a specific project tag to all notes in that folder, move them to Reference notebook and delete the project notebook. I’m trying to limit the amount of notebooks I maintain and if I ever need to refer to some documentation I can always find it using relevant tag and search box.

Additional two features of Evernote that may come handy for anyone managing project are tables and checkboxes. These two can be quite useful for keeping track of progress of the different stages of a project.

Evernote is not a project management solution so trying to fit a large scale commercial project with hundreds of dependencies may not be the best choice. However for many home and small business user it can be exactly what you need.