OneNote Tip of the Week – Duplicating Days

If you create a task list as a note in OneNote for a given day, you can use the Move or Copy command to copy the list to the same section. Next clear out the completed items, update the date, and add your new tasks for the day you can roll over the incomplete items from the previous day and never lose track of anything. Don’t set a template to do this because you won’t get the benefit of the roll over items. This works on the web, Windows 10, and OneNote 2016.

Being prepared to complete a task

It’s amazing to me how often I run into the situation where I’m all ready to do a thing only to discover I’m missing something I need to do said thing. Taking time to mentally walk through what you’re about to do and make sure you have the resources available for a successful completion is an excellent use of time.

Think about it this way…if you’re going to Aldi for groceries and forget the quarter to get a cart, it just throws off the whole trip. Stopping and reviewing for even as little as one minute can make all the difference.

The Power of Little Tasks

There’s a lot to be said for the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing little tasks, especially on the weekend. These are those tasks that sit around on your list, annoy you every time you think of them, and generally are a mental nuisance.

Set aside a few minutes each day to take care of a couple of little tasks to get yourself back on track if you’re feeling unfocused.

Posted in Analog, Techniques, Tools

Digital note-taking isn’t ready for prime time

There has been a long aspiration in the tech communities to replace paper and pen and go pure digital. “It’s easier to organize.” “It’s faster to access.” “It’s more intuitive.” When it comes down to it tech wants to replace something that has been around for thousands of years and proves time and time again to be a more reliable solution.

Typically you’ll come across posts such as “The top 5 digital note taking devices of 2020” or the like showcasing the latest in handwriting tech and identifying “transformational” new ways to capture your notes and thoughts with a stylus. I’ll admit I’ve been seduced by the talk in the same way going back to the days of Palm Pilots and Windows CE devices only to be let down time and time again.

I’m not saying you may not find the perfect tool for you, but what I am saying is the technology both hardware and software have been found lacking in my book. Whether it’s an uncomfortable stylus (I’m looking at you Samsung) or an exceptional expensive device (hey, Sony) the chance for digital handwriting to replace traditional pen and paper still has a huge way to go.

Now some may say I’m not being fair about this. “People have terrible handwriting,” or “There are so many styles to account for” that it’s too much to ask for perfection. You’re probably right, but that doesn’t change the fact that traditional pen and paper can handle those situations at a fraction of a fraction of the cost.

If you’re looking to move to digital note-taking and don’t want to be tied to a keyboard, just remember what you’re asking to happen. If you’re inclined to tell someone, “oh my handwriting is terrible” how do you expect a computer to make the interpretations of your chicken scratch. I’ve got a crazy idea. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on tech to compensate why not spend some time working on your handwriting and note taking skills so it’s not an issue in the first place.

You can use scanning tools and smart pens such as LiveScribe or Rocketbooks, but neither will fix unintelligible handwriting. This is a skill that pays dividends for the rest of your life no matter what happens with technology. In this period of stay-at-home and social distancing, put some of that time to use to work on that penmanship so the digital translation isn’t the issue it has been.

I’ve included some links below to articles that may help you turn that chicken scratch into something you don’t mind reading and sharing.

How to Improve Penmanship – The Art of Manliness

How to Improve your Handwriting – Bullet Journal

Posted in Strategy, Techniques

Managing Physical Clutter

“Does it spark joy?” If you’ve done anything in the organization or productivity space you’ve heard this phrase from the popular organizer Marie Kondo. While I haven’t gone down the complete rabbit hole yet I have been making a concerted effort to get my physical clutter challenges under control. A few things have started to work well for me and I thought I’d share them. Your mileage may vary.

Label, label, everywhere

I used to chuckle at my father for years because there wasn’t a thing he had that wasn’t labeled in some way. The drawer, the box, the bag, it didn’t matter, there was always a label to tell you what it should contain. I’ve resisted using labels for years out of a foolish desire to find a way to make things work differently than my father. Since his passing, I’ve learned how foolish I truly was and that labels just make sense.

By breaking things down into categories, providing a container for each category, and then labeling each container, I’ve started to get not only a physical grasp on the clutter but a mental one as well. For example, I used to have a large freezer bag of pens (way too many to ever use them all) kept in a cabinet in my office. I thought that since they were all together in one place, I had them “organized.” To quote the late, great comedian John Pinette, “Oh, nay nay.”

Now what I do is break the pens down into the types of pens as I would need them. Those groupings fit into smaller containers (more about that later) and then I label the containers accordingly. The key is for the label to be relevant to the need. When I need a refill for my Parker pen I know there is a small container labeled “Parker refills”. When I need a cartridge for a fountain pen, it’s in the container labeled “fountain pen refills.” Again, the key is the labels identify the answer to the need rather than just being a description of the contents.

Little boxes

Over the past several months I have been on a quest to try and reuse as much packaging as I can from orders and purchases. If I buy something that comes in a small box, I keep the box. If something comes with a small cloth bag, I keep the bag. The idea is to use these free “little containers” to help subdivide my things into relevant groupings. If you go back to the labeling example, the “Parker Refills” container is actually a small, flat cardboard box from Harry’s shave club. I cleaned the packaging out and labeled it appropriately before putting it in my cabinet. Not only does this help the environment, but the smaller divisions make keeping a grasp on what I have and what I don’t have much easier.

Labeling things as well as containers

There are some things that don’t lend themselves to singular containers as well as others. For example, power supplies. Being a technology guy I have accumulated a large number of stray power supplies over the years. Now each power supply typically marries to only one device (thanks a lot old-school lock-in thinking) so it is important to know what goes to what. Hence the labeling for the power supplies. Rather than putting a label on the wall plug end of the supply (where there is usually a large wall wart to stick it to) I wrap the label around the plug end of the cord like a flag. This way I can easily tell what plugs into what before I damage anything.

USB cables are another excellent use case as to the importance of labeling. Look at this mess I have:

  • USB-A to USB-A
  • USB-C to USB-A
  • USB-A to MicroUSB
  • USB-A to mini USB
  • USB-C to USB-C

In most cases I have multiple of these cables of varying lengths and qualities. This is where I go back to the “little labeled containers” approach, but in this situation rather than hard containers I go with fabric pouches. These make it easy to bundle the cables by type and store them for easy access. It also means I can create “go bags” that are composite of the different cables into one bag so when I need to “go” I can grab one of the bags and know I’ll have all the standard cables I might need.

Only a beginning

There are many types of clutter that still elude me and my new ways. Notebooks for example are going to need some special thought to get them under control. In the end, each step closer to getting the clutter under control is freeing up mental cycles for me and making the quest of being productive move that much closer to success.