Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evernote on the iPhone

As I alluded to yesterday, the Evernote iPhone client is really the heart of my note taking system. Remember my two simple requirements? I've got to be able to capture thoughts wherever I am when I have them, and retrieve the notes wherever I am when I need them. Here's how the Evernote/iPhone powerhouse combo finally solves those needs.


First point - my iPhone goes everywhere I go. Pre-iPhone, I had fully loaded pockets most of the time as I would nearly always carry my iPod Mini, my phone (most recently a Samsung Sync) and a small notebook. Now I have all of those things in one device, plus a web browser, GPS and a game system. I promise you, I NEVER leave home without it.

As you can see from the new note screen, there are a variety of note types that can be added right on the iPhone. You can type a text note, upload an existing picture, snap a new picture or record a voice note. Here are a couple of quick examples of ways I've used it recently.
  • My wife and I are in the process of searching for a new media center for our TV. While in the furniture stores, I snap a new picture of any pieces I like, and add text for any further details (price, size, store). Later, I can review all of the notes on the bigger iMac screen at home for detailed comparisons. No separate uploading required, no syncing my phone - the notes are already there.
  • Driving home from work, I get a call asking me to pick up some items for dinner. Can't (er, shouldn't) really type while driving, so I open a new voice note and repeat the list out loud. It's ready for me to play back when I get to the store.
  • Busy design meetings, lots of whiteboarding. Take a picture of the whiteboard after the meeting, and it's there for review as I'm typing up my project plans. As a bonus, if you write neatly (really neatly), the Evernote indexer will parse the text out of your whiteboard picture making it searchable. And yes, it works.


I've touched on this a little already, but the ubiquity of Evernote access options is where it really shines. If you have the desktop client on your machine, you have the full set of features at your fingertips. If not, go to the browser client and you're in business. On the go, use the Windows Mobile or iPhone client and you're all set.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Love Evernote

It's difficult to recall exactly how long I had to search to find a note taking solution that met my needs. Funny thing is, my needs are not that complex - I just need to be able to record a note wherever I am (home, work, golf course, friend's house, bathroom, etc.), and reliably retrieve my notes in all those same places. Easy, right? I thought so too, but every system I tried failed in one area or another.

This is the heart of the requirement. I never know where I will be (or what I will be doing) when I think of an idea. Paper solutions tend to be the best in this area - I used to carry a small notebook and pen that I could either carry or keep in my pocket.
Thick client software applications such as OneNote don't work as well here. Although a laptop is smaller than a desktop, it isn't convenient enough that I will always a) have it with me and b) have it on and ready to capture a note before I lose the thought.
This is a challenge for paper. A notebook is great for being able to capture ideas quickly and easily, but it doesn't last forever. Spilled coffee in the car, or a nice sweaty summer day in my pocket are often enough to bring this solution to it's knees. Reliability of paper notes can be improved somewhat by keying (or scanning) the notes into another system for permanent keeping, indexing, and retrieval, but this requires an extra step or six. It also requires the motivation to do it.

Not only can I not predict where I will be when I have an idea, I also don't know what kind of idea I will have. Software solutions have a slight edge in my mind, as I can easily save documents, web pages, emails, photos or written notes into them. Paper has the ability to naturally record written notes or drawings as quickly as I can think them, but storing and retrieving other items on paper is more of a challenge (and usually involves printing them from another source anyway).

Enter Evernote

Evernote solves all of these issues and so many more. Anywhere I am, there too is Evernote. At work, I have the web interface (and web clipping Firefox add-in) and the desktop client on my PC. At home, there's an OS X version of the desktop client for my Mac. Anywhere else, I have the iPhone client - oh, the iPhone client. I believe I need a separate post just to talk about that.
No matter which client I use to capture my notes, they are synced to the cloud - automatically and instantly. I don't have to worry about my notebook or even (Heaven help me) my iPhone being destroyed and losing all of my ideas and notes - I can still access them from the desktop client or on any computer with a web browser.

The variety of items that can be captured, tagged, searched and retrieved in Evernote is truly astounding. Text? Duh. Pictures? Of Course. Web pages? Voice memos? Scanned documents? Check, check, and check. In fact, for pictures and documents Evernote will even parse out text from the item, making it searchable.

Evernote is such a part of what I do everyday, that I will certainly be mentioning specific uses in future posts. In the mean time, if you don't have it - get it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Zen Habits on Simplification with Kids

Yesterday's post about scheduling real life obviously revealed a bit of frustration at some of the chaos that can tend to envelop life outside of work with the kiddos.  Almost as if in direct response to my plea, today Leo at ZenHabits has posted 25 Ways to Simplify Your Life with Kids.  In typical ZenHabits style, the list contains some great nuggets that I can put to use right away.  In my post I resolved to begin putting all events on the calendar so I can see what's going on.  Here's what Leo has to say on the topic:
2.  One calendar. If you have more than one kid, you might have a lot of activities going on that you need to track, from school events such as Christmas performances and parent-teacher conferences to extracurricular activities such as soccer practice, dance classes, or Spring concerts. Organize your life with a simple calendar (I use Google Calendar) and enter all activities and appointments on this one calendar, from kids' stuff to your own goings on. When they hand you papers from school, or soccer schedules, immediately enter everything onto the calendar. Then a quick glance at the calendar each day will help you plan your day.
There are several other good ideas in the post including early preparation, dedicating time to each child and to your spouse, and performing cooking and cleaning chores as a family.  I'll be putting some of these ideas to use right away!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Scheduling Real Life

When I'm at work, scheduling comes naturally.  I always have a calendar showing the day's appointments right in front of me when I'm at my desk.  I keep my project plans and task schedules up to date so I can always have a finger on my project status.  I'm in the habit of keeping things on time and it just seems to work for me - at work.
Why is it, then, that outside of work is such a different story?  Three kids with sports practices and extra-curricular activites.  My wife who is finishing up her degree in the evenings and working part time.  Kids' homework, dinner, showers, etc.  House cleaning, repairs, yard work.  Sleep (glorious sleep).  I'm well aware that if I would keep the same sort of meticulous schedule at home that I do at work, things would flow much more smoothly.  Why don't I do it?
I think the primary reason is that I have this belief that non-working time should be liesure time.  I know that is not true, but it's deeply rooted in my gut.  It just feels like if I'm doing the same things that I do at work to manage life outside of work - have I ever really left work?  The paradox is that by doing those things at work I keep the fire-fighting to a minimum and keep things mostly under control.  I could have all of that goodness at home as well, if only...
OK.  New resolution - I will take the first step towards getting my home life back under control starting today.  For baby step number one I will schedule all of my home activities on iCal, which I will then publish to Google calendar.  This will at least allow me to keep the framework of the days activities in my mind so I that I can stay focused on what is at hand.  I will do this for two weeks and then begin the as yet unnamed baby step number two.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Christopher M. Young, PMP

Wow, I like the sound of that.  It's official - I passed my exam this morning and am now an officially certified PMP!

It was a tough road getting here, and I'm extremely relieved to have it completed.  Now it's time to go forth and celebrate my milestone accomplishment like a good project manager should!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Exam Tomorrow

Tomorrow's PMP exam is really starting to make me nervous for some reason.  It's difficult to explain because I know the material well, I have solid experience, and I always do well on standardized tests.  I've studied and studied, and there's just something that's nagging at me...

No matter.  Tomorrow is the day!  I'll do a quick review of my flash cards tonight and get plenty of rest.  9 AM tomorrow is the culmination of six months' focused effort.  Sweet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

July 3 = Happy PMP Day!

On Friday, I received my authorization to test letter from PMI!  I've now scheduled my PMP exam for July 3 at 9:00 AM.  I think this timing is perfect, as it will give me a little something extra to celebrate as we head into the long Independence Day holiday weekend.

I'm now very focused on studying for the exam.  My copy of the PMBOK has enough Post-it flags and highlighter marks and dog-eared pages that it is almost unrecognizable.  Dr. Kerzner's book (especially the quality chapter) is the next to receive this treatment. 

PMP or Bust!