Tag Archives: writing

Evernote for blog organization and composition

Why I like Evernote

I have been using Evernote for close to two years and regret that I haven’t written a blog post about it sooner. At its most basic, Evernote lets you type notes into their application and access and edit them on any Internet connected device. This simple premise can be expanded to the level of complexity you desire using their organization system of Notebooks (essentially folders) and tags. You can also add images, audio and attach documents.

Reasons to like Evernote

Simple:

  • No save button. Everything is saved automatically, and if you make a mistake, then you can restore a previous version.
  • Add a new note, compose and edit on any Internet connected device.
  • Small foot print. I have never had a device crash using Evernote. It is simple and doesn’t take many resources.

Powerful:

  • Transfers your thoughts to text
  • No pressure
  • Build thoughts up over time
  • Access information anywhere
  • It is heavy on creation vs consumption
  • Ability to search
  • Flexible
  • Integrates with other relevant online services

Add a new note, compose and edit on any device.

I use three primary devices to access the Internet: my desktop, notebook and Android phone. I can start writing in Evernote in the living room, continue working on the same note in the office, and then even add a couple thoughts on my phone while waiting to get my hair cut. Not having to thinking about synching my notes at any time, is a huge benefit. The best tools tend to be reliable, not take too much thought and provide value; Evernote fits all of those.

It is heavy on creation vs consumption.

While you can certainly save other people’s writing to Evernote, I find the majority of my use falls under creation. Whether it is documenting my own thoughts or composing for a web site or blog, I generally find myself creating without distraction in Evernote.

Capture your thoughts and then review them.

One great thing about journaling is being able to look back and see what you were thinking in the past. I did a personal journal from 1999-2003, and I still enjoy reading what I was thinking at that time. I don’t have an official journal anymore, but I do consistently write my thoughts in Evernote. Being able to accurately see what you were thinking about a topic at any given time is a big advantage. My mind often tends to think that however I am thinking now was always the case. A review of my notes, quickly shows that isn’t always the case.

No pressure

When I write in Evernote I am generally writing just for me. At times I am specifically writing with an audience in mind, but the ideas that I put in Evernote are mainly for me, and this takes away a number of writing barriers. Have you ever set down at a blank screen wanting to write up a blog post or organize your thoughts on some idea, and were then overwhelmed with all the steps it would take to get the point of actually publishing? Hopefully for you, you can just start writing and everything flows really well. That isn’t the case for me. The pressure of a blank page can be difficult, but with Evernote I don’t feel any pressure. My history has taught me that I should write down whatever I am thinking at the time, and even if I don’t use this piece of writing right away, I have something to use in the future.

Organization for the disorganized

I am pretty messy. I don’t have a place for everything. My use of Evernote is often the same. I take random notes and don’t always add tags or put them in a certain notebook. Evernote helps me still get value from this disorganized style by having a good search function. When I am ready to put my thoughts together or act on a key piece of information, I can search for keywords on the topic and find my thoughts.

My other routine is taking an hour every month to go through my existing notes and organize them. I start with the most recent notes in my general folder and then drag and drop them in appropriate notebooks or add tags. I currently am adding about 80 notes a month to Evernote, and I can easily organize those in under an hour.

Another way Evernote has helped with my composition process is doing a small amount of editing each time I look at a note. I will read through what I wrote before and look for things to add to already written ideas, but also edit for readability on anything I have already written. This makes the process of article or idea creation systematized and routine.

You have to start somewhere.

Most complex ideas don’t get implemented in one day. I don’t generally wake up one morning and decide today is the day and knock out a whole project. If nothing else, Evernote is a great way to slowly transfer some of your ideas from your mind into text. It can start as a one line idea, that then becomes a paragraph and then maybe an executable plan or blog post; Evernote really makes it easy to get your thoughts down, organize them and then build on them.

Easy to start

Evernote doesn’t ask much of you. You can download their software for almost any device or just access it in a browser.

I know a number of people are now using Evernote. If you use it, I would love to hear your process and/or any tips you would like to share. In the next couple weeks I am going to write about some use cases, and it would be great to include yours.

 

FitBit

How you can exercise, write and communicate more by making it a game.

The word “gamification” is popping up all over the Internet and business world.  The idea is that if you can make a process into a game with rewards and detailed stats, you can make that process more compelling.  If it is more compelling you will keep coming back to it, and then it becomes a habit.

Unsurprisingly, actual games do gamifying best; game makers have years of experience consuming and creating games.  But gamification can apply to a number of different areas.  Social check-in services use the idea of points and badges to keep people using their applications.  SalesForce.com has actually implement game like elements in their software to keep workers focused on getting “next steps” done.  Many web sites employ a progress meter to encourage new users to complete a number of steps so they will explore and gets the most out of a product.

Some would say that if you have to turn something into a game, then it likely isn’t worth doing on its own.  While there might be some truth to that, gamification can actually be used to get people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t, and those actions can provide real value to themselves and others.

Turning activity and fitness into a game.

FitBit sitting on its charger stand.One area I have explored gamification for my own life is weight loss and exercise.  Experts for years have recommended writing down what you eat, how much you exercise and how much you weigh.  If you are more advanced, they also recommend body fat measurement.  Not surprising if you track these things on a regular basis, they become a great part of your consciousness, and you also see the improvements based on your actions.

It isn’t easy to find time to chart all of these things, so it is great that technology is allowing us to find easier ways to accomplish this.  In terms of activity and sleep, FitBit is a small pager like device that you simply clip to your clothing.  It uses a Wii-like sensor to track your movement throughout the day and even at night.  Your daytime activity is tracked like a pedometer.  So you can see how active you are and how much you moved on any given day.  At night, the FitBit tracks how you sleep, how much you move and can provide suggestions based on the data it accumulates.

Even better, you don’t have to plug the FitBit into your computer every day.  As part of the package you get a wireless receiver that plugs into your computer and whenever the FitBit is in range, it transfers the data.  You do have to charge the FitBit every three to four days, but this is a huge improvement over plugging a device in daily.

We know Foursquare has game elements. How about Twitter?

Example @ mentions (i.e. rewards) from my LLSocial Twitter account.Another area that gamification has been helpful is in social media.  Something doesn’t even have to be designed as a game to create the characteristics of one.

When I first got started using Twitter (my favorite form of social media), I kept using it early on because I kept getting followers.  Some of those followers were undoubtedly bots or completely random, but some of them were real people in my community.  I didn’t know if they were actually reading what I was saying, but this was a tiny bit of positive feedback (a reward if you will) that kept me posting thoughts and links I found interesting.

As I continued to use Twitter, I got additional feedback in the form of @ mentions and retweets.  That meant that at least a few people were actually reading what I was saying and found it useful or interesting enough to take action on.

Twitter isn’t a game per say, but it mimicks a game because it slowly provided rewards based on positive actions.  The rewards built up over time as I read what people I followed posted, engaged them on their content and appreciated when they did the same.

I think Twitter is valuable enough that I would have kept using it without all these little rewards, but I am not 100% on that.  Those who know me well, will tell you that my inquisitive nature makes it so I can jump from idea to idea without following through.  I am happy to say that everything in my life doesn’t have to be a game, and that I have enough discipline to work on projects that aren’t fun.  But having some type of loop that provides positive feedback, is useful for me. This is especially true when accomplishing more difficult and multi-step tasks like weight loss, writing and even exploring unfamiliar situations and applications.

Want to write more? Gamify it.

A look at just some of the stats 750 Words provides.In addition to FitBit one additional “product” I would like to share is a website that gamifies writing.  It is called 750 Words.  The basis of this free “game” is that you are asked to write 750 words a day.  Their interface is simple and easy to use.  You get badges for consistently meeting your goals, and like many good games, it provides tons of stats so you can see your progress in great details.

I know I can write without turning it into a game.  But how powerful is it to turn something so important into a daily habit with small rewards thrown in.

If you have written in the past, write now or just want to write more consistently, I recommend checking out 750 Words.  And yes, this blog post was origionally created using 750 Words.

Gamification is a buzz word for good reasons.

Maybe Fitbit and 750 Words aren’t the right fit for you, but if you want to tackle a difficult task or a part of your life where you have had occasional or minimal success in the past, considering typing in to Google what you want to accomplish along with “gamification”.  Games aren’t just kids play if they actually help accomplish your goals.

Do you have examples where a game like system helped you accomplish a goal?  Do you think gamification is meaningful or just another fad?  I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.