The Two Power Ingredients to Propel Your Progress

How Consistency Plus Focus Can Move the Needle Far and Fast

Think for a moment about an area of your life that feels like it is moving in the right direction. Now think of an area of your life that you are not seeing the progress you were hopping for. What is the difference between those two areas? What is missing from the area that is stagnant? I bet you’ll come to the same conclusion I have.

photo courtesy of publicdomainarchives.com

photo courtesy of publicdomainarchives.com


The end of June through the middle of July is one of my favorite times of the year. For me, it begins a series of milestones and anniversaries that are wonderful to reflect on. The end of June marks the half-way point through the year – a good opportunity to reflect on and recommit to goals. My wife and I celebrate our birthdays at the end of June, my work anniversary falls on July 1st, and the best of all – our wedding anniversary is July 15th.

During our recent anniversary dinner, Christina and I reflected on the “crazy” events of the past 14 years. At first glance, many of these things just seemed like events or opportunities that just “fell in our laps.” In many cases we weren’t even pursing a specific outcome, but God’s hand and timing was certainly evident in all of them. And as we talked about each meaningful moment, two things stood out – two ingredients that made all the difference.

The Key Ingredient: Consistency

Have you ever left out a key ingredient to a recipe? There are some ingredients that you can reduce or replace and still come out with a good result. However, try forgetting the yeast in your bread. Flat. Or try skipping the salt in your soup. Bland.

The first and most important of the two ingredients we saw is consistency.

Consistency in certain areas of life happens almost automatically. You wake up each day… eventually? You keep responsibilities like staying home with the kids or heading to the office each day. And I bet you, like me, eat fairly consistently!

Now, let’s make things a little more complicated by saying you’ll wake up at a specific time each morning. Or you’ll exercise a little bit each day. Or you’ll watch your calorie intake. You take on these challenges because they relate to some goal you have made for yourself.

What happens when you actually do those things on a daily basis? The needle starts to move, and you make progress toward your goals. Yes, sometimes it is slow progress. But if you keep on keeping on, you will reach your goal. If you stopped now and tried to coast on what you’ve already done, you will stop your progress.

Let’s take a look at the word consistency for just a moment. The first part of the word is consist. What does consist mean? To be made of something, to be comprised of – the ingredients, the building blocks, the raw material. Progress, success, achievement – whatever you want to call it – is made up of the little raw materials you add each and every day. Your goal to lose 20 lbs consists of eating the right foods, amount of foods, and exercising each day. Your goal of writing a book consists of writing words each and every day. Your goal of having a good relationship with your spouse consists of you showing up each day – sacrificing, loving, communicating, serving.

Do you see why consistency is the KEY ingredient to your progress towards a goal?

The Spice: Focus

The second of the two ingredients is focus. Focus is like a spice. You can sometimes leave it out of a recipe and still have an enjoyable meal. But if you add just the right amount of spice, you get a five-star dish. Oh, but add too much and you can make it unbearable!

If you want to make quick, tangible progress on something, you will want to add some focus along with your consistency. The more focus you add, the more successful you’ll become, but you need to count the cost. Focus needs to be handled with care and balance.
NOTE: Focus here refers to a longer-term, exclusive focus rather than the mental focus that we can employ while working on a specific day-to-day task.

In 2008, I decided to focus on becoming debt free. In 10 months, my family paid off over $25,000 in debt which took quite a bit of focus. Working a second job, eating beans and rice, putting every spare penny towards debt, etc. At the end of it, the time came to quit my second job.

Warning: Too Spicy!

As some of you may be able to relate, I actually wrestled with the decision for a moment. It was bringing in money for the family and could help us get our savings. But my wife let me know – clearly and unequivocally – that we had given enough focus and that anymore would be detrimental – a step backwards in the overall scheme of things.

If the conditions are right, focus will be the ingredient to add to create huge momentum and gain major progress on a goal. Because our time, energy, and attention is limited, that means life will be out of balance for a little while. However, if you approach it correctly then focus plus consistency will serve you well.
Before you commit to focus, go through these four steps:

  1. Establish the value of achieving the goal
  2. Communicate the desire to focus
  3. Count the cost of focusing (to the exclusion of other things)
  4. Set a deadline to stop focusing

Out of the two ingredients here, consistency is the one you should commit to first. Lack of consistency will keep you from your goals. Consistency will move you in the right direction and it will help build the character and habits that you need to succeed in other areas.

Question: What is one area of life where you have seen the benefits of consistency? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Evernote for Beginners: The Search Is On

Five Evernote Searches to Enhance Your Workflow

Have you tried searching a physical stack or folder for a specific note recently? If so, it’s probably fresh in your mind that it takes quite a bit of digging, scanning, and rescanning sometimes only to end in frustration. Imagine the advantages of turning piles of physical paper into digital notes where Evernote’s excellent search feature does all the hunting for you.

photo courtesy of stocksnap.io

photo courtesy of stocksnap.io

It’s the information age, and the information is out there. It’s just a matter of finding it. I always thought that searching for files on a PC or for articles on the Internet was straightforward, but after helping a few people with searches, I realized it is not as easy and intuitive as it seems at first. For items in your personal control, it is a good idea to have a framework to search within. No matter how good your search ability, there still may be some things that escape you if you don’t have a framework for putting things in context.

Get to know your tools

Beyond having a good framework, knowing all the functions of your search tools is going to aid you the most.

Here are five search tips that will enhance your searching, find you what you need, and save you time and frustration.

Note: This is in not a comprehensive or authoritative post on searching in Evernote.
The search in Evernote works slightly differently depending on your environment (Web, Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android) so it is almost impossible to be all-inclusive when discussing features. I will try to accurately note in which environment the search capability is available.

  1. The Basic Search
    Available in all environments.
    Example: beach vacation
    This is the easiest, most familiar form of searching. Type something in the search box, get the results. Evernote’s search by default is set up to return “both/and” results. In other words, if you type the two words “beach vacation” you will only get results that have both beach and vacation in the body
  2. The Any Search
    Available in all environments.
    Example: any: twitter fun [note a space in between the colon and the first word]
    Your first introduction to search synatx, using “any:” at the beginning of your search, will change it from a “both/and” search to an “either/or” search. A note only has to have one of the words to show up in the results.
  3. The Tag or Notebook Search
    Available in all environments.
    Example: tag:artwork [note no space in between the colon and the first word]
    This search will return the results in the specific tag or notebook you search for. If your tag or notebook as multiple words, enclose the whole name in quotations (e.g. “kid artwork”). If you want to find all notes except those in a specific notebook or tag, include a minus sign (“-“) before the word tag (e.g. -tag:artwork).
  4. The Combination Search
    Available in all environments.
    Example: tag:goals tag:2015
    This search will return notes tagged with both goals and 2015. This comes in handy when you want a list of notes narrowed down to specific tags and notebooks. If you had 20 notes tagged with goals, but only 10 of them were for the current year, adding the second tag in the search would narrow it down.
  5. The Saved Search
    Available in Windows and Mac.
    You can save any search for future use and even add it to your shortcuts for quick reference.
    This is very simple in the Windows environment. (1) After typing your search in the search box, (2) just click the button “Save search…” This will bring up a window in which you can (3) specify the title of your search and (4) click OK.
    To do this on Evernote for Mac, (1) type in your search terms. After the results are loaded, (2) go to the menu Edit > Find > Save Search. (3) Type in the title for your search and (4) click OK.
    To add this to your shortcuts, simply click in the Search box, and in the drop-down menu, left click your search and drag it over to the shortcuts area.

More Evernote advanced search syntax.

Here’s a short demo on performing a combined tag search, saving it, and adding it to shortcuts.

Question: What other Evernote searches do you find useful? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Productivity Tip #6: Batch Process

PT06-Batch Process

Batch process your tasks to use your time efficiently.

Instead of working through your tasks in relation to a project (step 1, step 2, step 3, etc.), sometimes it is easier to work through them in context of the resource you are using. If you take the time to log in to your email to send a reply, look over your list to see if there are any other emails you need to send. The same goes with phone calls, errand runs, and meals for the week. When you batch process, you don’t have to prepare the environment each new time you want to do something which can save a bunch of time!

Don’t Drop the Ball: Health

Five Ways to Maintain Health in a Busy Season

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. – James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas

photo courtesy of unsplash.com

photo courtesy of unsplash.com

We tend not to realize the value of something until it is out of our reach. This is especially true when it comes to our health. I’ve heard this time and time again recently. I honestly never thought I would be telling the same story.

But here I am with my arm in a sling, being a “voluntary invalid” as my wife put it (she takes such good care of me), for a few days to let my arm heal. The injury happened back in winter while shoveling during the snow, but I believe it was a direct result of neglecting exercise for almost two years.

I had always been an active kid, and by the time I was 16 I was a bit obsessed with fitness. Just five years ago I completed p90x. But something happened to my mindset shortly after. I let the busyness of life (and did it ever become busy!) tell me that I didn’t have time to exercise anymore. That it wasn’t necessary. That I would be all right without it.

To be alive, you have to remain alive

Without knowing you personally, I can almost guarantee you’ve had, or seen a loved one go through, a similar experience. When life gets busy, why is it that our health is one of the first things we let go of? I certainly don’t advocate making an idol of your health, but to live a purposeful, effective life you have to be… alive! I personally want to be around to see and enjoy my grandchildren. I want you to be around too! When life gets busy, some things will certainly need to be put on hold. But health should not be one of those things. Do not let the glass ball of health fall to the ground and shatter.

The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of time, money, and effort to maintain health.

Here are a five ideas to make the most of your health even during an extremely busy season.

  1. Stand more.
    Standing has benefits of it it’s own. But it also puts you in better position to get and keep moving. I’ve set up standing desks in various working locations, and I have found I am much more likely to move and be productive instead of getting sidetracked and sucked into time-wasting activities. Michael Hyatt gives some compelling reasons to stand more, as well as some ideas to do so.
  2. Come prepared.
    Having something healthy on hand in those moments of temptation goes a long way. In the afternoon of a stressful day, I know that I will probably go looking for some sugary goodie that will momentarily relieve stress. But if I have a healthy alternative already available, I will go for that instead. Veggies and fruits are an obvious choice. Eggs, chocolate, and spicy almonds work as well.
  3. Just walk.
    Exercise does not have to mean crushing it for an hour at an expensive gym. Mark’s Sisson discusses the benefit of low-level aerobic exercise.  And according to livestrong.com, even though 15 minutes of walking may not be enough to maintain weight loss, it is still beneficial.
  4. Use your built-in gym
    You carry a gym with you wherever you go. Didn’t know? Bodyweight workouts are some of the most convenient and most effective workouts you can do. The best thing is they’re free! For ideas, beyond the pushup, consider trying some exercises like burpees, jump lunges, and planks.
  5. Set boundaries.
    No matter how busy you are, you have to say “no more” at some point. Do not treat the rubber ball of work like a glass ball by forgoing sleep. Before you sit down to work – especially for you late night workers trying to finish up a term-paper before the sun rises and you have to drive to work (been there, done that) – determine a “do not cross” line. Your work will benfit more from a good night’s rest more than it will from a late night cram. Just take a look at this comparison of Team Tired vs. Team Sleep.

I know you’re willing to sacrifice a lot, even your health, for something you care for. But please think twice before sacrificing your health. Just like the airplane attendant would tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first, please take care of yourself so you can take care of the ones you love. Don’t worry about winning any medals, at least not if the season is not right. Just commit to maintaining your health and keeping the ball in the air.

Question: What is ONE thing you do or are going to start to maintain your health? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Evernote for Beginners: Pack Your Trunk

Five Questions to Answer When Creating Purposeful Notebooks and Tags

The other day a friend and I were recalling how much the search features of programs have improved over the years (yes, a bit of a geek moment). A decade ago, it seemed necessary and even faster to have layers upon layers of folders for organizing if you wanted to find a file again. These days, you can almost forget about filing. If you can just remember a word or two in the name or the body of the file, you can search and find it no matter where it is stored – usually in a matter of seconds.

photo courtesy of jeshoots.com

photo courtesy of jeshoots.com

So why bother organizing files or notes at all?

Despite the superior search features, there is still a need and desire to have some level of organization. Adding the organization that I outline below will actually enhance your search capabilities within Evernote.

Rule of Trunk

In a previous post we looked at the benefits of using tags, specifically in place of using many notebooks.

An Evernote rule of thumb (or trunk if you will) is “Notebooks are for separation. Tags are for association.” In other words, when you put a note in a notebook, that is where it lives. Notebooks should help you answer one question really – “Who does (or who doesn’t) need access to this file?”

If only you need access to it, you can put it in the Personal (or Cabinet) notebook. If you and a member of your family need access to it, put it in the Family notebook. And so on. Beyond the major notebooks (Cabinet, Family, Work, Business, School) for separating notes into work groups, be careful what other notebooks you add.

Who Am I?

When you add a tag to a note, you give it identity and context.
Use tags to answer the questions what, when, where, who, and why.

NOTE: You do not need to answer all of these questions for every note. Your organizational system is there to serve you, not the other way around. Remember our rule of thumb for organizing – “Be kind to your future self.” If your future self won’t need the information, don’t bother taking the time and mental energy to organize it.

  1. The WHAT Context:
    To what is this note related? Some examples are: household, templates, artwork, ebooks, schoolwork, goals, etc.
    The WHAT tag primarily answer the question “Is it (a) ____?” I also use my WHAT tags for specific projects.
  2. The WHEN Context:
    To what time does this note apply? Some examples are: 2015, future, daily, weekly, etc.
    In some instances, it is useful to know either (1) what time period a note is related to (e.g. future) or (2) how often it should be addressed (e.g. weekly).
  3. The WHERE Context:
    To which location is this note related? Some examples are: home, beach, church, grocery_store, etc.
    I have personally found that my current use of Evernote does not require any WHERE tags. But if yours does, the WHERE context is helpful to identify (1) where you were when you acquired the note or (2) where you will most likely use the note.
  4. The WHO Context:
    To whom is this note related? Some examples are: authors, children, teachers, team_members.
    This tag can be used in several ways. It can (1) identify the author of the content (such as a blog post or quote), it can (2) identify who it pertains to (such as medial records), or it can (3) identify who you need to follow up with regarding the content.
  5. The WHY Context:
    What do I need to do with this note? Some examples are: followup, read_later, discuss, develop, review, etc.
    The WHY tag is typically an action that helps you identify what you should do with the note, if anything. This is a temporary tag for your note. Once you’ve completed the action, you can remove the WHY context.

Now to quickly explain the process to create and organize these tags.

FIRST: Create your main categories prefacing them with a special character (I just use a period “.” in front of mine).
If you use them all, you should have the five categories:

  • .what
  • .when
  • .where
  • .who
  • .why

Side-note: This is where the feature differences in the web and mobile interfaces vs. the installed programs begins to stand out. Nesting tags, which I mention below is not possible on the web or mobile apps. Also, if you are using the Evernote Web interface, you need to create the tags by adding them to a note, but ultimately you will not tag any notes with these five category tags. They are just buckets for organizing your actual tags.

SECOND: Now that you have the main categories, pick a note, and try to answer some of the questions. Once you have your answers, add the tags to your note. I recommend using all lowercase, and keeping it to a single word, (or two words joined by a hyphen or underscore).

THIRD: Return to your tags section. You’ll notice the new tags are listed alphabetically after your category tags. Just drag and drop them over the appropriate category and they will then be nested underneath that category. This keeps things visually organized. You should now also remove the category tags from your original note.

FOURTH: Now continue this process of asking the questions each time you need to file a note. It’s OK if you don’t have any answers to the questions. And it’s OK if you have more than one answer to each question. You can use multiple tags from each category if they will be useful to you. This also prevents you from having to make the decision of “What tag or notebook does it belong to?” That is a limiting question that occasionally can stop you in your tracks.

In the next Evernote post, we will take a look at the power of the search feature, including creating saved searches that combine multiple tags.

Question: Did you know that an African elephant’s trunk has two ‘fingers’ at the tip? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Case for Making Your Bed

Responsibility Plus Consistency Equals Productivity

GUEST POST: Today’s post is by a guest author – my wife, Christina Scott! A homeschooling mother to 9 children, she wanted to give some insight into productivity from someone that has not found productivity easy or ‘natural.’ Christina writes for TheScottfam.com (in between schooling, nursing, cooking, exercising, doctoring, etc.)

I grew up being the typical “baby of the family.” I seemed to get away with a lot of things simply because I was persistent with begging or I just did what I wanted no matter what the consequences. I shirked my obligations more often than not and was extremely self-centered. Responsibility was not even a part of my vocabulary. Then, BAM! I became a mom at 17 years old!

2015-06-15 06.45.38-1

It was a shock to my system to say the least.

There was no way of running away from growing up and becoming an adult now. I’ve struggled for most of the last 14 years trying to figure out how to become a responsible, productive adult and I’ve always felt like quite a failure at it. All of my attempts at getting organized have been short lived. I would describe myself as a “flop.”

A cosmic joke

All of this is extremely funny in a “cosmic joke” kind of way because I married perhaps the most naturally organized person on the planet. And God has given us 9 kids! A recipe for conflict, wouldn’t you say? Well God has done what only God can do, and it’s all worked out ok so far, but I don’t want to continue living my disorganized way – a victim to any circumstance thrown my way. I want to work through the challenges we’re given rather than just survive them. So this is my journey. It begins small and simple, but “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” (Luke 16:10a ESV)

Waste of time

Making my bed is always something I’ve struggled with. I never did it as a kid despite my mom’s urging. I only reluctantly started doing it as an adult because my husband appreciated it, but it was usually 5 minutes before he got home (or right before bed!) and almost never in the morning. Then the “FlyLady” entered my life. I tried on many occasions to follow a good “Morning Routine”, but I never stuck with it long enough for it to become a genuine habit. I’m now a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 9 children with a lot to get done in a day. Honestly, taking time to make the bed seems like a waste of time to me.

Little things make a big difference

But here is the thing. Little things matter. I recently read about the Domino Effect: not that one action triggers another action, but that one domino can knock over another domino approximately 1.5 times it’s size!. Doing small things leads to much bigger things. If I can really “get” these small daily habits down, maybe, just maybe I will get around to doing some of the bigger things I’ve got goals for.

It’s not about the bed

I think I’ve found the missing ingredient. The bed making habit has never stuck because I didn’t have a compelling enough reason to make it stick. The WHY. It will compel me to move forward even when I don’t feel like it. The WHY is what I’m really after. It’s not about the bed. It’s about building upon small sustainable habits that change who I am and moves me closer to what I hope to accomplish. I have to become faithful in “very little” before I can be faithful in “much”.

Question: What little thing do you need to begin being faithful with? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Evernote for Beginners: Your Organizational Framework

Four Principles for Building Your Organizational System

Imagine for a moment that you are building a home. What would you use for the foundation? Would you take the time to design the layout of the house? Would you hire professionals to do the technical work? In this post we’re going to apply the concept, not to a physical house, but our organizational framework.

courtesy photo of http://nos.twnsnd.co/

courtesy photo of http://nos.twnsnd.co/

When I was in junior high school, I would visit a friend who lived next to a new home development site. We would explore the houses which at that point were just skeletons of what they would become. The houses were huge, and I remember trying to picture the complete structure as we climbed the different levels. I also thought it would be cool to have a skeleton house like this to climb around. But for all practical purposes, it would be useless. No shelter, no privacy, no storage, and no decoration. The strong structure provided a framework for what would one day fill it.

A Framework that Holds Weight

For our purposes, let’s think of Evernote as the foundation of our organizational house. Remember that you need to be able to trust the tool you use! It has to hold weight.

Our organizational system is like the frame of our house. Without the frame you can’t put up walls and hang nice pictures.

You will want to make sure you understand the basic building blocks of Evernote before you continue.

Here are four principles you should keep in mind as you design your organizational system:

  1. Keep it SIMPLE
    The key to a good organizational framework is simplicity. Don’t think of organization as folders within folders within folders or bins inside boxes inside cabinets. If that is how you have to organize, it might mean you have too much stuff to organize. Simplicity reassures that you (and a spouse, child, or teammate) will be able to use the system. If you become intimidated by the system, guess what! You’ll give up and your inbox or dining table will become the default place for storage. The fewer decisions you have to make and questions you have to answer the better.
  2. Make it PURPOSEFUL
    Recall the foundational structures of Evernote are the notes, folders, and tags. Folders are generally where I see people go wrong in their organizational framework. Instead of being purposeful, they let the content dictate the structure. I recommend using only enough folders as you need to share different notes with different people and groups. You don’t need a folder for every piece of information. I use (1) an Inbox – for storing incoming notes that I will need to organize, (2) a folder for personal, unshared notes, (3) a small stack of folders for work to share with different teams, (4) a folder for notes to share with my wife, and (5), a folder to share my business related notes. That’s it! Those are purposeful folders.
  3. Make it YOURS
    You should only have a few folders, and I think anyone can use a similar, simple structure like I described above. However, an organizational framework must also be personal. We all lead very different lives. And this is where you can get creative, but still purposeful. Notebooks are for segregation, whereas tags are for grouping. A note can exist in one notebook, but it can have multiple tags. Perhaps the only experience you have with tags is from social media. Add a “#” sign in front of a string of words and voila – laughs, likes, and shares galore. The idea behind those tags is actually so people can easily find similar content. You know – like when you just want to know what everyone saying about #justinbieber? Evernote tags have the same purpose except you don’t need to use the “#” sign. Evernote tags are personal categories that help you find related content. The tags are yours to customize. Just don’t get overboard and #putahashtaginfrontofanysillyphraseandexpecittohelpwithorganization. No bonus points for creativity here.
  4. Keep on KEEPING ON
    If you have a simple, purposeful, and personal organizational framework, using it should be a pleasant experience, or at least bearable. You do need to use it though. You have to give it some attention to make sure it doesn’t grow unruly.

Consistently follow the framework you have set up and you will end up with a well furnished and decorated organizational house.

Question: What’s the goofiest #hashtag that you’ve ever used? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Productivity Tip #5: Review Regularly

PT05-Review Regularly

To maintain a productive lifestyle, set aside time to review regularly.

A regular review of your tasks, projects, goals, and life is a proactive approach to staying in line with your vision. It’s like taking preventative medicine.
Reviews can come in all shapes in sizes – as frequently as daily or as infrequently as weekly. But they do happen consistently. Commit to reviewing now!

Manage Your Time By Managing Your Self

How to Accomplish Your Goals One Day at a Time

Have you ever tried to herd cats? I’ve heard it’s futile. The closest I have come is probably trying to get nine children out the door at the same time. Does this sound at all familiar? Just when you think you are ready, one child goes missing. Or more likely just one shoe. By the time the shoe is found and you’re ready to walk out the door, someone has to use the bathroom while another is having a meltdown because they can’t take all ten stuffed animals in the van. If it weren’t for being able to communicate very clear direction and expectations, we would have better luck with the cats. The funny thing is time is just as difficult to manage.

photo courtesy of lifeofpix.com

photo courtesy of lifeofpix.com

Time Management? No.

Do you recall that we discussed that time – lack of time – is not the issue? And because time is not the issue, time-management is not the answer. Time-Management sounds like a good thing, a noble cause. But have you ever tried to stop a minute from passing? Sure, do something you find boring and the minute will last for an hour. But you have zero control over that time.

Self-Management? Yes.

What do you have control over? Not a whole lot if we answer honestly. Although I recommend schedules and routines, I do know that you can’t force time to do a task. Only you can do the task. The one thing we can control is ourselves. Michael Hyatt, in his eBook “Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week” does well to point out that self-management is the more effective way of accomplishing our desired outcome.

Feet on the Ground

So far we have taken a top-down look starting at vision and goals. We now get to ground level. This is where the action is happening… hopefully. Goals break down into tasks. Tasks require action and, once completed, move you one step closer to a goal.

One Day at a Time

Your goals cannot be accomplished in a single day. They require a daily commitment to consistency.

Let’s take a look at three things that are effective at helping us manage ourselves to use our time in the most purposeful way.

KNOW YOUR VISION AND GOALS.

If you haven’t read the posts on vision and goals, you’ll want to check those out. The reason you need a vision and goals is so you have something to provide direction and something to achieve. When you place those feet onto the floor each morning what or who is going to determine what you do that day? If you don’t have a vision and goals, everybody else is going to determine what you do. If you don’t have a vision and goals, every circumstance is going to determine how you feel and react. If you don’t have a vision and goals, you will be crawling back into that bed at the end of the day wondering where all the time went or wishing you had never left.

USE A TASK-MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.

This does not have to be a complex system. In fact loose-leaf paper and a pen will work just fine. What does matter is that you use it. You need to write down the tasks that come to mind. Otherwise, as David Allen explains in Getting Things Done, those tasks go on constant loop in your brain creating a constant sense that you’re not done or you’ve forgotten something. This topic deserves a post of its own, which it shall get, but just know for now that you need to write things down so you can get a clear mind and clear picture of what you need to do.

REVIEW AND EVALUATE.

You’ve heard it before – “The only thing that is constant is change.” People change, desires change, cultures change, priorities change, jobs change. And on and on. And because of that, our goals may change from time to time. That is why a regular review is necessary to evaluate whether your tasks still line up with goals and your goals still line up with your vision. Review the things you have tracked In your task-management system. Remove things that were just desires with no alignment to any goal, and prioritize those tasks that are necessary to progress toward your goals.

If you adopt these three things into your life, you will find visible progress. And visible progress creates motivation and momentum to keep going.

Question: What is your current task-management system comprised of and are you satisfied with it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Evernote for Beginners: Tag, You’re It

Six Reasons to Use Tags for Organization

So far, in our Beginner’s Guide to Evernote, we’ve learned about two important elements – the note and the notebook. But now it’s time to learn a key feature in getting all those notes organized with less headache. Do you want to find out what it is? I think I heard a “yes” so keep reading!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/

Paralyzed by choice

Before Evernote, I would dread organizing files. Just a little. And that’s saying something, because I like to organize. The reason for this dread was those files that could be placed into more than one notebook. Does it go in finance, or in auto, or in taxes. Yes! So I would sit there for a moment too long, paralyzed by the decision.

Enter the Tag

I’m sure you’ve experienced that decision paralysis too. It applies to more than just organizing. The more choices we have to make, the less likely we are going to make it! Evernote’s tagging system solved this organization problem for me and added other benefits. With Evernote’s tagging system, it went from “either/or” to “both/and.”

You may recall, I stated last week that I only use a handful of notebooks. I do, however, use many tags. And I recommend you do the same if you want to reduce organization frustration.

Here are six reasons tags are a superior to notebooks for nitty-gritty organization:

  1. One note, multiple tags.
    This really is THE reason. You can apply multiple tags to one note. A note can exist in one notebook, but it can have several tags. This gives notes different contexts. For example, you may have Personal, Work, Family, and Business notebooks, but need to have access to tax information from all of them. Using a tag called “taxes” will pull up everything with that label, regardless of which notebook it is in.
  2. Virtually no limit.
    Tags have a greater limit than notebook. 100,000 tags compare to 250 notebooks to be exact. Although if you come anywhere close to that, we’ll need to talk.
  3. Add, remove, and rename.
    There’s no need to relocate files. You can return to a note to add or remove a tag at any point without losing the previous organizational structure.
  4. Categorize your tags.
    If you do end up with many tags, you can add some organization to them by grouping them into categories. This doesn’t have an effect on the organization of the notes. Only the tags.
  5. Search by tags.
    You can search by several tags together to narrow your results down to specific information. For example, continuing with the tax example above, let’s say you have tax items from various states. As long as you tagged the notes by the different states, you can combine the tags “tax” + “VA” to get all your Virginia tax information.
  6. Shortcut your tags.
    Just like notes and notebooks, tags can be added to your shortcuts. And as an expert feature that we’ll explain, you can add the tag combination (as explained above) to your shortcuts as well.

Watch here for a short demonstration on creating and applying it to several notes across different notebooks.

Now that you know how to use a tag and that they have their advantages over notebooks, next week we will take a look at some ideas for building a tagging system.

Question: Have you ever been hit by decision paralysis? You can leave a comment by clicking here.