Tagged Evernote

Checking it twice

I travel a lot. A. Lot.

Mostly for business, mostly short trips to UK cities and occasionally further afield. Personal trips too, mostly within Europe, but at least once a year something to either North America or (like last year and later this year) Asia – in the form of Japan.

And in all this travelling – which I dearly love (most of the time) – there is just one tip that I can safely pass on to anyone out there:

Make a list.

Readers of this blog will know I‘m an avid user of Evernote  (This blog is now ‘hosted’ in Evernote and published via Postach.io ) and one of the best use cases for this epic app is the checklist. I’ve now crafted a pretty good travel / packing checklist which is use and re-use when packing. It has saved my bacon more than once and is front of mind this morning as I prep for a trip to Spain.

Using Evernote, you can put together a checklist in just seconds. You can then have it sync across all your devices and share it with others. No, you don’t have to use Evernote, but I find I’m less likely to lose this list than if it was on  scrap of paper. And I alway have Evernote with me in some form – on my phone or tablet. Far less likely to have a random scrap of paper which I can add items to when inspiration strikes.

My checklist is not your checklist.

I’m not going to share my list in full. Details of this checklist would probably completely ruin whatever shred of credibility I have left. Let’s just say it’s tech-heavy. More electronic devices and cables than I’m comfortable taking about openly.

But some things are always on there, regardless of my destination: epilepsy meds, passport and a charger (and international adaptor) for my phone. With just these things, I could survive losing everything else. American Express travel insurance has kicked in several times over the years, meaning I can buy ‘essentials’ when luggage goes missing (thank you, American Airlines).

But that’s the disaster catered for. For run of the mill trips, I break it down into the following prompts:

  • What will I need at the airport?

  • What will I need on the flight?

  • What will I need at the destination?

  • What do I need for entertainment?

Anything out of the ordinary gets added to my standard checklist, which includes toiletries, clothes, running gear and so on. Working through this list means I rarely leave anything behind and feel a lot more secure locking my front door behind me. And far less bored/frustrated on a long flight. And a lot more organised when I arrive at my destination.

Yes, I rarely go anywhere where buying replacement items would be impossible. But that’s a chore. And it can get pretty expensive very quickly. As recent trips to Sweden and Switzerland have highlighted…

It’s a way of life

Not Evernote (although I could argue for that), but thinking in terms of checklists. It’s a mindset, really. If you’re interested, I can recommend ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ as a powerful insight into the way checklists can make the world safer and more efficient. Relying on checklists for frequent activities means you’re not wasting brainpower ‘remembering to remember’ but can focus on more important things.

If I hadn’t worked through my checklist this morning, I would have forgotten to pack the new phone case I got to take my Samsung Note 3 running (yes, it looks hilarious strapped to my arm but I don’t care) and a textbook I need to read for an upcoming coaching course I’m attending.

Checklists aren’t lazy, old-fashioned or boring. When you find yourself in another country without an adaptor for your phone or important medications (note the order I wrote that…says a lot about my priorities!) then you’ll wish you’d had a checklist.

To get your started, here’s a link to a useful post on Evernote’s blog all about checklists.

Happy travels!

Doing with Todoist

As I mentioned before  one of my biggest worries about leaving iOS behind was the absence of an Android version of OmniFocus. Having used the app for years, I really came to rely on it for all aspects of my life. Complex, multi-month work projects, shopping lists and everything in between.

One month in to life in the world of Android – rocking a Samsung Note 3 and a Nexus 7 – and I can honestly say I shouldn’t have given the jump a second thought. I don’t miss OmniFocus a bit and have found an excellent replacement in the form of ToDoist.

Another GTD bore?

Before talking about the app in more detail, maybe it would be useful to expand on my obsession with ‘to-do’ apps.

I’m not a naturally organised or conscientious person. Really. Left to my own devices, my life would collapse around me in the pile of unpaid bills, gone off food and lost jobs, while I’d bumble along hoping things would work themselves out and an upcoming week would magically contain two extra days for me to ‘catch up’…

Reading ‘Getting Things Done’ a few years ago was quite an eye-opener. In the true sense of the word, it was life-changing, in that I changed a lot about my life – including organising myself better, to take off some of the pressure.

I’m not evangelic about the GTD methodology as I know it doesn’t work for everyone or their personal circumstances. But I still try to stick to some of its principles. Including getting ’stuff’ out of my head and into a trusted system. There’s little point in using my brainpower (what little there is) remembering to remember things and wondering what I’ve forgotten.

This is where OmniFocus was fantastic. An app present on all the platforms, it was where I could jot down things I needed to do just to get them off my mind. This represents the very tip of its functionality – you can organise your actions into projects, assigning deadlines, locations, contexts and so on.

You can, essentially make it as complex as is helpful for you.

On the tube, I’d have a thought about something I’d need to do later that day. A quick note in OmniFocus on my iPhone and it was off my mind. Which is a lot easier than spending the remainder of the day with a little voice whispering inside your head, trying to remind me of that semi-important to-do.

Basically, I wove OmniFocus into both my work and personal areas of life and used it to good effect with several other apps, including the Mac Mail app and Evernote.

The thought of daily life without OmniFocus was the kind of thing to leave me in a cold sweat. That’s why I didn’t upgrade the app on my iPhone when OmniFocus 2 was made available – based on the fear that a bug would somehow wipe my OmniFocus database clear and leave me with an horrific blank slate.

Interestingly, when I started to use ToDoist, I was left with that same bank slate, as I couldn’t think of an easy way to import all my OmniFocus data. This wasn’t in any way horrific, it was actually a great relief.

I didn’t type in all my OmniFocus actions and projects – instead, I reviewed them and only added anything to ToDoist that was absolutely important and likely to ever happen.

This reduced the number of projects on my list by half. I’d obviously been over-egging the OmniFocus pudding.

A little bit about my set-up

Firstly, I set up my projects in ToDoist based on four spheres of my life: family, personal, wellbeing, work and professional. (Obviously, these make sense to me and may not work for everyone).

“Family” includes things like birthdays, family events and so on. “Personal” includes shopping, personal finance, travel, household stuff and my social life. “Wellbeing” includes anything health-related or fitness-focused.

“Work” contains the projects I’m paid to complete (simples), while “Professional” is more about CPD, training and various psychology conferences I attend and professional societies I’m a member of.

ToDoist enables you to colour-code projects, which excited me more than it really should. Honestly, when you’ve got lots on, a quick glance at the small coloured dots associated with these areas of life can be very helpful in cutting through the ‘noise’.

Under each of these role-level projects, I set up multiple sub-projects. And some more under them. But conscious of my OmniFocus set-up,  I really tried to avoid over-complicating things and to just keep it nice and simple.

ToDoist allows you to do two more very GTD-centric things with your actions: assign them a priority and ‘tag’ them with a context. There are four built-in levels of priority (again, each colour-coded) and I’ve set up a series of contexts that I’ve grown comfortable using, like: @Home, @Office, @Online, @Errands and so on. Again, in the move to this new system, I drastically reduced the number I had been using in OmniFocus.

All of this means that you can search your projects and actions looking at things in terms of their place in your life (role-based projects), relative importance or urgency or the context in which they need to be completed. This really is GTD made flesh.

The ToDoist advantage

In the month I’ve been using this system (it’s more than an app, really), I’ve noted the following things I really like about it.

  • The interface is clear, uncluttered and easy to navigate. Regardless of which device I’m using or wether I’m accessing it online, the interface is consistent and very very easy to use. The contrast with OmniFocus here is striking. ToDoist has far fewer icons, buttons and obvious bells and whistles. Much, much easier on the eye.
  • Colour-coding is surprisingly helpful and something I’ve come to rely on. I never attempted this with OmiFocus (and I’m not sure it’s even possible?)
  • You can set up private email addresses to mail yourself actions, which helps with attaining the legendary “Inbox Zero”, but you can do this on a project-specific level. This means as emails come in, you can amply forward them to one of your ToDoist email addresses and they get turned into actions with a given project. Needless to say, my “Inbox” email address was added to my contacts app within seconds.
  • The fact that you can access it via the web is fantastic. OmniFocus meant reliance on one of my iDevices to access my data. ToDoist means I can get to my projects via any web browser on any computer. Much more flexible and a very useful ‘Plan B’ if I was somehow separated from my phone or tablet.

One thing I definitely miss from OmniFocus is the built in “Review” feature, where it guides you through each live project to allow you to update it and keep on top of things. According to GTD lore, this should be conducted (in-depth) on a weekly basis, to allow you to scan your environment and add more actions to your “trusted system”.

There isn’t an automatic way of doing this and no handy “Reviewed” button in ToDoist. But I’ve carried on regardless just doing it manually. It works, it’s just not as satisfying as the OmniFocus method.

The personal perspective

I hope nobody thinks this represents some kind of attack on OmniFocus. It’s an excellent tool and one that saved my bacon more times than I can remember. But in my move to Android, I’ve noticed that I was over-complicating its set-up, something OmniFocus’s flexibility makes all too easy.

The fault was mine, not the app’s.

I think if you’re going to use a GTD-type app to organise yourself, you have to enjoy using it. I definitely enjoyed using OmniFocus and would still recommend it to people in the iOS universe who had a solid grasp of GTD principles.

But to be frank, I enjoy using ToDoist more because it’s snappy, pleasing to the eye and (at least in comparison to OmniFocus) quite minimalist.

The acid test? In a month of using this new system, I’ve yet to drop any important balls. It’s doing what it was designed to do: freeing up my headspace for more important things.

If you’d like to learn more about the app and what it can do, check out ToDoist.com and their videos on YouTube, like this one:

Evernote on your wrist?

Pebble’s announcement of an Evernote app for their smart watch has piqued my interest.

I think Pebble is the standout winner (so far) in the battle of the smart watches, due to a combination of usability and battery life. Cost is obviously a factor too.

Now they’ve opened an app store and one of the biggest names to announce an integration is Evernote  As readers of this blog will know, I basically live in Evernote and the ability to have lists and notes appear on my watch would be really, really useful.

This might just push me over the edge into buying a Pebble.

Except for the pervasive iWatch rumours and my all-encompassing need to buy everything Apple launches. However, Pebble is available for $150 (about £90, with free shipping). I can’t see Apple launching an iWatch for anything less than twice that price.

What would make a smart watch attractive to you?

For me, it would need:

  • A reasonable form factor, looking more like a watch than a small PDA strapped to my arm

  • Battery life that lasts several days at a time before a recharge

  • Integration with my iPhone

  • A selection of apps that play nice with the services I use everyday

Pebble can tick all of these boxes.


Trying out Postach.io

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting more regularly with Postach.io – a fantastic service that let’s you host a blog based on the Evernote app. Simply write your post in evernote, tag it “Published” and it appears on your blog.

Simple as.

It definitely lacks all the bells and whistles of WordPress and most other blog platforms, but in a sense that makes writing easier. I can’t express just how easy it is just throw thoughts down into a note in Evernote and get them onto your Postachio blog.

Meanwhile, I can use Disqus for comments and Google Analytics to track visits to the blog. The latter is interesting – and a lot more powerful than what’s built into WordPress.

Postach.io is a work in progress – functionality is being added all the time. Apparently they’ll be adding a way to import posts from WordPress. If it’s simple and works, I may just do that.

So, for the moment, come and follow me over at MacPsych.Postach.io.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll join me :-)

Pretty much painless

Breaking news from Geektown: I’ve just set up my new MacBook Air from scratch in about 20 mins.

That doesn’t sound impressive, but bear in mind I didn’t transfer any data over from my old MacBook Air or a backup on an external drive. This was achieved through a combination of the magic of iCloud and using various excellent cloud-based apps.

iCloud took care of setting up my calendars, email accounts and a load of various settings and passwords. All of this was done by simply typing in my login and password when the computer started up.

I then installed Evernote, where I have a note reminding me of the various apps I install on each Mac. After rebuilding several of my computers of the last couple of years, I got bored with trying to remember what to install and made a list for future reference.

That’s pretty much a great reason for installing Evernote in the first place! (Can you tell I’m an Evernote fan?)

OmniFocus pulled in all my projects and tasks automatically and Spotify synced my playlists in about 5 seconds.

Finally, it was Dropbox, which is presently downloading all of my work and personal files in the background as I write this.

I have to say, it was nearly painless. There was a bit of fiddling around with linking DayOne to Dropbox, but I think that might have been a result of Dropbox syncing about a gazillion files at the same time.

As it’s a new model MacBook Air, iWork has come pre-installed. I haven’t used these in a few years so it will be interesting to see how they square up to MS Office. Unfortunately, I need to use Office for work – otherwise I wouldn’t have it anywhere near my laptop.

The new Macbook Air is super fast – I maxed out the RAM to 8GB when ordering – and you can really feel the difference.

Yes…setting up a laptop while watching “8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown” is pretty much my ideal Friday night these days.

Oh how the mighty have fallen…

Incidentally, the nice chaps over at Asian Efficiency have put together an invaluable guide to reformatting your beloved Mac. Well worth a read!

Postach.io joins the App Centre

932326b07b28d2bce64e168404c95d96The really very excellent Postach.io has joined the Evernote App Centre.

What’s Postach.io, I hear you say?

If you use Evernote, it’s an idiot-proof method for turning notes into a perfectly serviceable blog. It’s definitely idiot-proof as I’ve managed it – took about one minute to get it up and running. I really have a soft spot for Postach.io as it leverages a technology I use several times every day (Evernote) and means you don’t have to ever worry about your posts going AWOL when your blog host goes belly-up.

Even if (fingers crossed) Postach.io was vaporised tomorrow, all your blog posts would still be sitting in your Evernote account.


Yes, it’s missing lots of the bells and whistles of more advanced blogging platforms like WordPress and (shudder) Blogger, but I think that’s an advantage – it’s all about getting words down on the page and publishing.

Another advantage: Evernote works so well with IFTTT, you could set up all kinds of crazy auto-posting from other services like Twitter and Facebook. You could send all your tweets, Instagram photos and Tumblr posts to a single, easy to maintain blog.

I can’t wait to see how it develops over time – you can already import posts from Tumblr and I hear there’s a WordPress importer on the way. You can add Disqus for comments and use Google Analytics to keep track of hits. All in all, it’s a great alternative to the most established blogging services out there.

Who knows – they might be able to tempt me to blog there full time.

Check out the Postach.io Feed for examples of what others are publishing using this great app right now…


Prepping for Japan…

2023216-mount_fujiSo in just a few short days, this little hobbit will be making his first visit to the amaze-balls Japan.

Tokyo, to be precise.

I’ve wanted to visit since I was about ten years old, so the opportunity to get over there this year couldn’t be ignored. When we bought an apartment earlier this year, a trip to Asia wasn’t part of the plan!

But several hundred thousand air miles and some nifty planning on the part of @FrankDJS later, we’re booked on a quite luxurious first class BA flight to Tokyo.

It’s been so long in the making, I can’t quite believe it’s next week.

With just a week in the city, it’s hard to short-list all the things we want to see and do. A trip to an Onsen is somewhere near the top of the list, as is a stroll around Akihabara to marvel at cosplay and gadgets. We’ll also take a day to experience Mount Fuji. Via bullet train, obviously.

neon-lightsSprinkle liberally with a mix of great food, shrines, fighting robots, maid cafes, karaoke and more bullet trains and I’m grinning like an idiot.

In turns of prep, it’s been a case of mapping out all the places we’d like to visit, absorbing as many recommendations as possible and throwing a smattering of Japanese language into the mix.

The itinerary has been reviewed and now sits as quite a detailed mini-wiki in Evernote for offline browsing. Maps and public transport guides have been installed onto iPads and iPhones.

This is me we’re talking about, right?

(And back-ups of each will be available in my Filofax, just in case! I’ve read that Tokyo doesn’t exactly overflow with free wifi, so I’m relying on my paper-based planner to get us from A to B without resorting to £1,000 per megabyte international roaming charges from Vodafone. )

But most importantly, my “sense of adventure” switch has been flicked to “max”. I’m keen to enjoy somewhere that is so different to home that every experience will be something new and interesting.

Blogging from there may be infrequent, but I’m determined to share as much as possible – possibly via Instagram or my Tumblr.

See you on the other side!