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Slowly falling in love with Evernote – ideas for using it effectively in real life

27 October 2015 Leave a comment

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Via a brilliant app called Blinkist, I’ve just read ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen – a key business title outlining ‘proven principles’ for good personal organisation, on approaching professional and personal tasks and getting control and focus.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

‘GTD’ by David Allen

One of the main concepts of the book is that in order to devote ourselves fully to our tasks, our minds need space. That’s why we should bundle all important information in a reliable productivity system outside our own heads.

Such ‘collection’ buckets’ as he calls them, include calendars, lists, notebooks and other storage – the key idea being these should be easily accessible anywhere you go and should be used frequently to de-clutter your mind and to organise your time more productively and focus on key tasks.

Fortunately all the ideas he describes I pretty much already do. I’ve always used my calendar to book future time out and section-off set periods to focus on key tasks. That way I ensure the most important tasks get the most attention etc. Outlook Tasks are also wonderful to use and invaluable to remember things, highlight key emails and more.

However none of these have been quite as useful as Evernote, and the purpose of this post is to explain why!

Evernote

A key tool which I have fallen into heavily using over the last year is the wonderful and amazing Evernote, which I’ve been slowly falling in love with as it’s really that good!

Evernote logo with Remember Everything tagline

It’s a tool which over the years I’d always heard great reviews about but never properly tried until recently. So I started trialling the free version in early 2015 and moved over to the premium version later that summer.

It’s really helped organise both my work life and personal life. There’s loads of great features which together add loads of value. I use it every day now for a variety of things.

You can read the Evernote website for a full list of all the features. I just wanted to go through and outline a few real life uses and how I use them to help organise my own time and work.

Access synced notes, on any device

Add the App to your iPad, add it to your Android phone plus also to both your work and home PC browsers. All points of access are fully synced, meaning you can access the exact same content anywhere – simply by refreshing.

Synced content makes Evernote really useful for:

  • Making notes during a meeting on an iPad, then editing and completing them on your PC browser. I always go to my PC to finish notes as the interface is far easier and quicker in which to format notes and make them look good. Hint: if you’re taking notes on a tablet or smartphone, download and use a swipe keyboard such as Swiftkey, Swype of Fleksy. They’re brilliant keyboards and will save you loads of time when typing on such a portable device.
  • Adding content from your PC so that you can access it quickly and easily on a mobile device. I find this works well when going to a meeting. Beforehand I forward the email or text from a calendar appointment to Evernote. I can then switch to my iPad to use the same note as an agenda during the meeting and flesh out / make notes within that same note during that meeting. After which I switch back to my PC browser to edit the note.
  • During Astronomy groups, I can quickly call up key resources about constellations and planets. These are far easier to collate materials via your web browser. By using the Evernote Web-clipper I can save images of constellations and websites directly into Evernote. All fit under an ‘Astronomy’ category in my Evernote profile, so the use of tags i.e. ‘Orion’, ‘Cygnus’, Capricornus’ , ‘Neptune’ etc makes it far easier to quickly access related materials saved into Evernote about that constellation or planet. Incidentally, another app which works really well for this is Flipboard, which presents your curated collections of websites in a much more pleasingly graphical way – see my Astronomy and the night sky Flipboard – http://flip.it/N2pvd – for an example of what you can do in Flipboard.

Sharing content

For any note you create, you can share the note and via a link you send via email to your recipient, you can set whether that person can just view the note, or even be a contributor and edit that note.

Sharing notes in this way makes Evernote very good for:

  • Taking notes during a meeting with a client or work colleague, then forwarding your notes to them afterwards so that they can see notes and actions (for them and ones for you). The ability to insert tick-boxes into notes helps for such actions to stand out. You can also then ‘tick them off’ when these actions have been completed.
  • I also find sharing notes easily lets you set out key resources for the other person to be aware of. This includes sharing websites by inserting hyperlinks into notes, or even adding attachments such as PDFs so that they can access a document.
  • I also find that the ability to go into and update the shared note works really well too. So for example, if I’ve already shared the note with someone, and then afterwards remembered that there’s something else I needed to add, then that’s fine. I just go into the same shared note and update it. The next time they access it, they see the updated content.
  • If they have edit rights, they can update notes, add new content, ‘tick off’ any actions they were assigned to them and more!
  • You can communicate and discuss with those that you have shared notes with using the work chat function within Evernote. So for example, comment on notes you’ve shared, provide advice and talk to them within Evernote instead of switching to your email.

To do lists

A big part of Evernote is the ability to create and easily manage lists, such as to-do lists.

Evernote tick-able actions

I use Evernote to capture ideas for blog posts and then tick them off when done.

The ability to create lists of tick-able items works really well – see the image to the right to see what this looks like in practice.

Ticking off items within these lists also induces that wonderful sense of satisfaction in getting thing done!

When viewing them using the PC web browser, such reminders also rise to the top and are visible above all other notes. You can tick off whole notes, edit them, plus add reminders so that alerts pop-up at relevant times.

Plus of course you can update them on any device or share them and collaborate with others to complete lists.

I find that if I’m on holiday I make a list of what I want to additionally achieve in my life when I get back – like look into a qualification, go swimming more, try certain sports or clubs etc. You can then keep this list and tick them off as you achieve them.

Capture ideas whenever and wherever

The ability to create or update notes whenever and wherever, also helps to capture those ideas or moments of inspiration that pop into your mind whenever they hit you.

Evernote widget options on a Samsung

Evernote widget options on a Samsung Galaxy 5

For example, if you’re reading a book, or walking to the car, or out on a bike ride, you can stop and via a widget on your smart phone, you can easily:

  • type quick notes
  • set reminders
  • create hand-written notes ie. using the screen as a pad of paper
  • record and capture spoken notes (this is really quick) OR even record speech and convert into text!
  • capture photos
  • scan documents – though I have to say, from what I’ve seen it’s not as effective as using Microsoft’s Office Lens, so I rely on that.
  • scan business cards – this is handy as it links with your contacts on your phone and converts a business card into a contact

When back at your PC or on your tablet, you can then decide what to do with these ideas and take action.

Capture everything else

.
Evernote Web Clipper

As well as easily capturing the above via the widget on your phone, you can add the Evernote Web Clipper extension to Chrome or to Firefox which enables you to clip whole pages or articles from the web and save them in Evernote. The best way to do this is to clip them as a ‘Simplified Article’, which strips out the webpage’s surrounding menu, adverts, widgets etc and saves it an easy to read article.

Evernote Web Clipper extension to Chrome

Evernote Web Clipper extension for Chrome

This works really well for saving interesting articles and content for later reading. It is very similar to using Pocket (another really fab web service and app to know about) – however Pocket is far better at saving condensed versions of web pages for reading offline on any device. The build in audio function within Pocket for reading content to you is very good too.

After using the Web Clipper to clip webpages, you can then annotate them:

  • If you’ve clipped the webpage as a screenshot, you can add text, shapes, arrows, and stamps, or use the highlighter to draw attention to particular text. This is great for explaining to someone how to perform an action, or to explain something further on a web page – like in this example where I’ve provided tips on how to use Lynda.com to another colleague. This was so easy to create.
  • If you’ve clipped it as a simplified article you can edit the webpage text, perhaps rephrase it or add your own further content and notes to the webpage. This is really useful if you’re learning something new, or if the web page is particularly content/text heavy, or needs amending. One thing that does work really well is then to share the Evernote notebook that you’ve clipped these articles to, such as in these examples – eLearning articles or HE Sector articles.

.
Email your Evernote account

As already mentioned, the ability to email directly to Evernote so that it creates a note is brilliantly useful too.

Use this to save key emails, including attachments and more.

Search and find anything you need easily

For anything added to Evernote, you can categorise it by adding it to a Notebook – for example ‘work’, ‘personal’, ‘interesting to read’, ‘Reminders’, ‘Holidays’ etc. This lets you add structure to all your notes.

Additionally you can also add tags to any note. Use tags like keywords so that you can draw and create links between notes that share the same topic but which sit in different notebooks.

Notebooks and tags can be easily used to find content. Alternatively simply use the inbuilt search function to quickly call up notes.

I’ve also noticed, you can share notebooks with people (e.g. eLearning articlesHE Sector articles), but not tags.

General filing

You’ll quickly find that Evernote will fill up with all sorts of useful information. In order to help you manage this mass of information (and it will quickly start to feel unwieldy), try these tips:

  • tag all notes with at least 2-3 tags – as well as making information generally easier to find, you’re also creating links between information. This can be really useful down the line as it helps you to notice and therefore make use of other related content, which you may not have thought to find and use.
  • merge notes – sadly you can only do this with the Evernote desktop app, which is a shame, as the ability to combine notes together can really help to organise an de-clutter. I would recommend you download and use the Windows Desktop app where you can as it’s really very good – it has more administrative functions and the general user experience is better.
  • periodically revisit your categories and tags – delete unused tags, convert categories to tags and vice versa, restructure content to make it fit better, rename categories and tags.
  • delete or merge notes – get rid of anything out of date, or merge notes together (this is find really useful for merging notes taken during project meetings after the project has finished).

he kind of stuff you can save in Evernote

To give you an idea, here’s the kind of stuff I save in Evernote, all which is easily accessible:

  • Key websites – either bookmarks them, or save them as a ‘simplified article’ which you can then add your own notes and make alterations.
  • Meeting minutes – take notes during a meeting, add tick lists etc, then improve them on your work PC afterwards, share them if you need to. Use them to remember what you need to do and chase actions.
  • Important emails – usually I merge these, makes notes in them, add attachments and more.
  • P60s, Insurance docs etc – all that kind of legal stuff which is usually filed away in some forgotten place. Read their security policy – evernote.com/security – if you have any queries or concerns about saving secure information in Evernote. Disclaimer: it’s really up to you though if you want to use Evernote to save confidential info. If you’re concerned, don’t save any personal information in there.
  • Instruction manuals or guides – as well as saving PDF guides, snap any physical manuals (which usually have the same instructions in several different languages so are always far bigger than you actually need), then you can throw the paper manual away, rather than it sitting in a drawer being hidden and forgotten about.
  • Any CPD content – you’re probably using web page content for any learning and development you’re undertaking, so clip it to Evernote, make notes within it, link it to other content and more. All will help make your learning stick.
  • Brand documents and strategy – that way you have strategy, operational plans, competencies, behaviours, values, marketing docs, brand guidelines etc all easily to hand.
  • Reminders – set reminders on key notes. Or create ideas in Evernote first, then use a simpler, more focused task management app such as the brilliant Wunderlist or Trello and add links to Evernote notes in there. This is good for home projects too.
  • Key files – I have loads of training materials and project documents backed up in Evernote, should I ever need to retrieve them quickly. Either that or simply links to Google Drive documents or OneDrive documents or folders. As they’re tagged, I can easily retrieve links and access contently quickly without fuss.
  • Menus for restaurants and takeaways – That way you can discard the paper version.
  • Family stuff – Kids homework tips, or generally just photos of fun stuff they’ve created, or their achievements. Great for saving all the lovely materials from life.
  • Presents and gifts – Groupon vouchers or presents I must use by a certain date etc.
  • Highlighted content from Blinkist – this is automatically saved in Evernote and helps me to remember and recall key information learnt in books.
  • Misc. lists, lists, lists – Lists of books to read, videos to watch, Spotify music to download, apps to try, piano or guitar songs to learn, a wishlist for your dream car garage etc etc – the possibilities are endless…

Fancy giving Evernote a try?

Have I missed anything?

If you use Evernote, what do you find most useful? Please say below!

Categories: Technology

My Ethendras blog 2012 review – a cool little annual report from the WordPress crew

3 January 2013 Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Reading binary code

30 September 2012 4 comments
Binary

Binary (Photo credit: noegranado)

Wait! Before you turn away thinking “uh, binary? No thanks this is NOT for me”, give me five minutes to explain just how easy it is to read.

After all, you never know, you may one day meet the man/woman of your dreams (albeit a very geeky one) at a party and want to impress him/her with your knowledge and intelligence…(admittedly very far fetched but just humour me here).

So here goes..let’s start.

The binary system is the number system recognised by computers. A computer understands only two values, 1 and 0 (they’re not particularly intelligent).

If computers could talk and you asked it ‘what are you thinking?’, it would probably say ‘Oh, nothing’ (because it deals with so many zeros..geddit?).

Computers read binary code to define system elements such as memory locations, monitor colours etc. Everything and anything.

  • The first thing to realise is that binary is solely made up of just ones and zeros.
  • The second is that you always read binary from right to left – not the standard left to right (much like Arabic..feeling cultured already eh?).

Calculate binary by using the below scale. For simplification, this table only has the first 8 numbers. You’ll notice that each value or position is double the preceding value (i.e. the value to the right).

Table of first 8 binary values

To formulate a decimal number you just add together all positions marked with a “1” and ignore the positions marked with a “0”.

For example, if you wanted to represent the decimal number 2 in binary, you would write the following:

10.

In this example, the “0” in the first binary position tells you to skip the first value (which represents the decimal number 1). You then move to the second value which represents the decimal number 2. The “1” says to count that number. Remember we’ve read the 10 from right to left.

“There are only 10 people in the world; those that understand binary and those that don’t”

So following the above, to represent the number 5 in binary, you would enter the following:

101.

In this example you count the 1st binary position (..decimal value 1), skip the 2nd (..2) and count the 3rd (..4). So 1 + 4 = 5. Easy right!?

The number 43 is represented by 101011. i.e. 1+2+8+32 = 43.

The decimal value 43 in binary

Taking a much bigger number – the binary representation of the decimal number 100,000 would be:

The decimal value 100,000 in binary

This takes a whopping 17 binary values to add together. 11000011010100000.

Check it yourself – add all the values represented by a 1, and you get 100,000.

And it really is that easy. All you need is the scale and a bit of time to plot out each ‘one’ and then add all the values together. In this way computers can deal with very big numbers easily and quickly (rather than having to count out 100,000 x 1’s for the value 100,000 for instance).

Next up is Hexadecimal code (which I’m just in the process of writing a post on), and how to convert between binary, hexadecimal and decimal systems (‘ooh, can’t wait’ I hear you say).

25 Bestselling Premium WordPress Themes in 2012

23 May 2012 3 comments

25 Bestselling Premium WordPress Themes in 2012 I love a good WordPress theme, and it’s even easier to appreciate good ones when they’re listed in an easy to read post such as the below.

These are the 25 best-selling WordPress themes of 2012 so far. All provide some great tips and inspiration as what your own site could look like.

If you want any help setting up your own website or blog, please contact me via my web design site.

Categories: Technology Tags:

Funky websites and technology as endorsed by me

13 October 2011 2 comments

There are a number of websites which I use regularly, all of which are that bit extra special and that I think others should know about. I’ve listed 12 such favourites below.

I’m hoping that you may not have heard of some of these, so please check out my count-down to the number one special site that I think everyone should know about and try to use. You never know you may find something new and think ‘Wow, I wish I knew about that before’.

12. Wikipedia

You may think it odd to start with Wikipedia but it is possibly the most useful website to regularly use; not only as an encyclopedic reference tool to gain more knowledge on practically anything, but also as a frequently updated news resource. It is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project with 18 million articles (over 3.6 million in English) that have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site, something that can inevitably lead to errors and vandalism. I also have to cite that I have extensively used it’s hallowed words to help explain the websites below!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

11. Hoaxslayer

Have you ever wondered whether the email that has been forwarded to you about say for instance..’New York Starbucks charging 9/11 rescue workers for water’ is true? Or whether it’s a load of old cobblers (incidentally the Starbucks one is a load of bollocks). Websites such as Hoaxslayer are “dedicated to debunking email hoaxes, thwarting Internet scammers, combating spam, and educating web users about email and Internet security issues. Hoax-Slayer allows Internet users to check the veracity of common email hoaxes and aims to counteract criminal activity by publishing information about common types of Internet scams. Hoax-Slayer also includes anti-spam tips, computer and email security information, articles about true email forwards, and much more. New articles are added to the Hoax-Slayer website every week.” Useful eh? Some of the articles are fascinating to read. You need not ever read a junk email ever again and wonder whether it’s true or not.

http://www.hoax-slayer.com/

10. W3Schools

I’m leaning more to a technical web-technologies slant here. But if you’ve ever wanted to learn and understand about the languages and technologies that power the world wide web then look no further than W3Schools. A web developer’s portal, W3Schools is free of charge with tutorials and references relating to web development subjects, including HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and SQL. There’s also sand-boxed interactive areas that let you mess around with coding and see the outcome.

http://www.w3schools.com/

9. GoDaddy

Go Daddy is an Internet domain registrar and Web hosting company that also sells e-business related software and services. In 2010, it reached more than 45 million domain names under management. Go Daddy is currently the largest ICANN-accredited registrar in the world, and is four times the size of its closest competitor. Basically if you want to write your own website (through WordPress for example) then you can host it easily and cheaply through GoDaddy. They’ve got a really useful friendly helpline and make things really easy to get you and your website up and online.

http://www.godaddy.com/

8. WordPress

The above leads us neatly onto WordPress. Do you want a blog or a website easily and quickly? Then look no further than WordPress; an open-source blog tool and publishing platform used by over 13% of the 1,000,000 biggest websites. WordPress has a web template system using a template processor. Users can re-arrange widgets without editing PHP or HTML code; they can also install and switch between themes. It’s a doddle to use and there’s loads of tips and advice out there to get the most out of the platform.

http://wordpress.com/ (for a free blog) or http://wordpress.org/ (to create your own site, to then host through a web-hosting company like GoDaddy for example).

7. Dropbox

Dropbox is a free web-based file hosting service that uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the Internet using file synchronization. You can upload and then access from any other computer with an internet connection your photos, docs, and videos – all hidden and secure. You need never lose your files from a dodgy hard-drive or removal storage device anymore.

http://www.dropbox.com/

6. SourceForge

SourceForge is a web-based applications and software directory. It acts as a centralized location for software developers to control and manage open source software development. Hosting more than 230,000 projects, SourceForge offers free access to hosting and tools for developers of free / open source software. You can use the site to access and download a multitude of key applications and software – the list of useful tools on there is mind boggling. If you want a free version of NotePad ++ , or a password manager such as KeePass Password Safe, then this is where you get it from.

http://sourceforge.net/

5. Picnik Photo Editor or Sketchpad

Now owned by Google, Picnik is a free online photo editing service. It can import photos natively from Facebook, Myspace, Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, Yahoo Image search and also offers options to upload from a computer or to upload from a website. Many of Picnik’s basic photo editing tools are free to use with additional photo editing features offered via Picnik Premium for a monthly, 6-month, or annual subscription cost. The website is mega-useful as you don’t have to rely on expensive non-web-based imaging software anymore to alter and edit your images.

http://www.picnik.com/

4.Wavepad Sound Editor

Want to chop and change audio files to create your own music? Or even just convert between different audio file types? Then try the brilliant Wavepad Editor. It’s so easy to use. You can easily create your own ring tones or message alerts by cropping bits out of songs. The full version is given for 14 days but even after that the free version has lots of useful functions still.

http://www.nch.com.au/wavepad/index.html

3. BitTorrent

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing program (it’s a protocol too just like http or html) used for distributing large amounts of data between peers on the internet. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounted for roughly 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009. You can use it to download Movies, TV Shows, Music, Software and more.

http://www.bittorrent.com/ then search for ‘torrents’ using something such as http://www.picktorrent.com/

2. Spotify

Ahh, where do I start with Spotify? Perhaps that the app on my GS2 is so easy to use? Perhaps that I get access to all the music I could ever want? (I’m sure I’ll be 60+ before I manage to listen to the stuff that I’ve downloaded). Whatever, it’s just that my life has changed lots since subscribing to Spotify. It’s just so easy to use and I’ve listened to so much stuff that I would never have accessed so easily before. It does cost mind – the free access gets you certain privileges, but nothing like the £5-a-month or £10-a-month subscriptions (the latter which lets you download as much as you want then access it when you’re off-line). In short, try it. If you don’t like it then you’re not looking for new music on it hard enough.

Go to http://www.spotify.com/ for more details and to download it.

1. Netvibes

“[The] first personalized dashboard publishing platform for the Web. Digital life managment, Widget distribution services and brand observation rooms”

Perhaps not the sexiest or most straightforward way of billing itself, but my top pick for useful websites. In simple terms it’s a website where you can create and organise your own personalised ‘dashboard’ with tabs containing web content pulled through from other websites (using webfeeds or RSS feeds). It can easily display bite size information from all your email accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Digg, Blogs, news, sport pages, magazine articles etc – you name it, all in one place. You create an account and can log in from any computer as there’s nothing to download. There’s loads of similar websites that do this but Netvibes for me is the most simple and effective one. Everyone should try it!

http://www.netvibes.com

Lattice ‘Roman’ Multiplication

29 March 2011 Leave a comment

I learnt the below when I was 10 or 11 years old and still use it today. It’s possibly the easiest way ever of multiplying large numbers and is dead easy to learn.

My teacher always said the Romans used it, but from reading more about it I’m not so sure!

The below is a direct copy from http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52468.html and it explains it perfectly.

The Lattice Form of Multiplication dates back to the 1200s or before in Europe.  It gets its name from the fact that to do the multiplication you fill in a grid which resembles a lattice.

Let me see if I can explain it with an example. Let’s multiply 469 x 37.

First write the 469 across the top, and the 37 down the right side of a 3×2 rectangle.  (It’s 3×2 because the factors have three and two digits respectively.)

Now fill in the lattice by multiplying the two digits found at the head of the column and to the right of the row. When the partial product is two digits, the first (10’s) digit goes above the diagonal and the second (1’s) digit goes on the lower right of the diagonal. If the partial product is only one digit, a zero is placed in the triangle above the diagonal in the square.

At this point, we have the multiplication done. Now we add along the diagonals beginning in the lower right to get the final product. Any “carries” when adding are illustrated outside the rectangle.

Multiplication really takes three steps: multiply, carry, add. The method we typically use does the multiply and carry steps together. The lattice method does all three steps separately, so it’s really easier!

See http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ for other stuff for kids.

Another good example of this method is at http://www.calculatorsoup.com/calculators/math/latticemultiplication.php

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