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Improve Productivity using Multiple Notebooks in Springpad

One of the challenges I have found in personal productivity solutions is a propensity to limit the options I have in how I want to structure the organization of my information.  The notebook metaphor so commonly used by productivity tools often follows too closely to their real world counterparts.  For some reason, in many cases, the decision was made that when you have a piece of information you put it into a notebook to keep it organized.  One notebook.  No more, no less.  Why?

We are dealing with virtual information here and the constraints of the physical world do not apply.  Why can’t something exist in two, three, or more places at once?  Recurrently I have found one of the greatest strengths of the Springpad solution is it’s ability to allow springs (notes) to be kept in multiple notebooks.  This opens the doors to many possibilities:
  1. Springs shared between project notebooks and customer notebooks
  2. Collaborative notebooks and archive notebooks for backing up information
  3. Using notebooks for process flow of notes
  4. Combining notebooks and tags for rapid and comprehensive organization of notes
  5. Sharing of content between private and public notebooks
These are just a few of the ways you can leverage multiple notebooks in Springpad.  Here’s a practical example:  projects and customers.
If you’re using Springpad for business (one of the ways I use it) you can create notebooks for types of projects and for customers, then assign notes to both for easy access.  I have notebooks for major projects going on as well as for key customers as their projects progress.  By combining those with tags identifying the project and the customer, I’m able to leverage the notebooks as long as I need for quick reference, then move the notes to long term storage in other notebooks all through just a few clicks.
Productivity is more than cranking widgets.  Instead of turning the gears and going in circles, work the pump and things begin to flow.  Apply creativity to your tools and you will find that being productive is just a couple of ideas away.  Ideas such as multiple notebooks and dynamic organization can make all the difference day to day.
Photo credit: mrbill / Foter.com / CC BY
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Springpad and Project Management – Parts 2 and 3

In Part One I talked about the ideas behind using Springpad for project management.  Now here in Part Two we’ll cover one of the ways to set up your Springpad for just such a purpose.  One of the keys to setting up your Springpad environment for project management is to decide how you will handle notebooks.  My recommendation is to use one notebook per project to make things easier to keep track of and to assign to resources.

Step One – Create a Project Notebook

Inside your new notebook you will want to create some basics springs to organize your project information.  Start with what I like to refer to as, ” the governance spring”.  The idea with this spring is to provide the basic project information as well as a place to create all the tags you will need to manage the other springs you will be creating in this notebook.  If you look below you will see an example of a governance spring setup with basic project information as well as the tags needed for the project.

Beginning of a Governance Spring

At the beginning of the governance note put in the basic details about the project including the project title, project manager, another vital information including major deadlines and deliverable information.  The other important section within the governance note is a section listing all of the tags you will be using.  Tags are the most important part of organizing Springs for a project.  Without a master index, you can lose track of what tags you are using and what relevance they have to the project as a whole.  At a minimum you will need three sets of tags:

1. Resources
2. Status
3. Milestones / Phases

Part 2 of a Governance Spring

Tags – Resources

Using tags to identify what resources have been assigned to the various springs in your notebook makes cross referencing who is doing what much easier later on.  We’ll talk about how to put those to use in Part 3, but for now, just make a list of all the team members you will have on your project.

Tip:  If you have a team that is working on multiple projects, create a notebook for their contact records separate from the project notebook and then just add the contact record to each project notebook they are going to be working in.  This way you have only one contact record to maintain information for

Tags – Status

Aside from Tasks, Springpad doesn’t really have a way to track the status of Springs in a notebook.  By creating Status Tags, you can change the status of a Spring just by changing the tags that are assigned to it.  This also gives you the option to filter all the Springs of a particular status for easy reference and modification.

Tip:  If you want to have an easy time organizing your statuses, I recommend the following format:

“Status-1-status

Put the statuses in numerical order as they sequentially progress through to completion.  By using this format you will be able to filter and sort based on Status and by order of execution.  We’ll cover that in Part 3.

Tags – Milestones / Phases

If you are managing a larger engagement, it is often helpful to break it down into various phases so you can focus on the work at hand rather than being overwhelmed by the full project.  By creating Phase Tags you can assign Springs to various Phases easily and move springs between phases just by changing the tag assignments.

Example Tags for the Governance Spring

Now that you have a note with the core structures you need to get your project organized, we can move on to the next part…putting this all to use.

Part Three – Managing the Project

(please note that not all these tips transfer cleanly to mobile so I’m focusing solely on the web for this post.)

Assigning Resources

First, let’s get your team members connected to the project.  Since you’ve already created tags for them you’re ahead of the curve. Now we just need to make the resource contact information accessible from within the project notebook.  If you created a resource notebook as recommended earlier, you can just go into that notebook and use the Bulk Edit feature to select your team and assign them to your new project.  If you are not using a master resource notebook you will need to create a contact record for each resource in your project notebook.

Note:  Make sure you assign the tag with the resource’s name to the resource note.  Without that when you filter for everything connected to a resource later you won’t have an easy way to get to the complete resource record.

Tracking Tasks and Checklists

There’s a big functional difference between tasks and checklists in the Springpad world, so I suggest you decide carefully as to which is appropriate for the work at hand.  Tasks can have due dates and each task is it’s own Spring.  To me, this is good for significant items on a project, especially deliverables.  You can track when they are completed, their status (by changing the status tag you created earlier) and assigning them directly to resources.

Checklists are best used in cases when procedures or processes need to be followed but not to a line item level.  Something like a review checklist, production process, or communications plan fit well into this structure.  Since checklists are Springs you can assign a checklist to a resource and track the status of the whole list through the same process as you do for the other lists.

Filtering and Sorting – Pulling it all together

Being able to see what you need, when you need it is really the key to the entire implementation.  Here are my favorite tricks to making this happen:

Springs Assigned to Resources

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. Click in the Search box and select the tag for the resource want to filter
You now have a list of all the Springs for this project that you have assigned to this resource

Updating Statuses on Springs

  1. From the View Selection drop down, change to List View and then select Bulk Edit
  2. Select the items you want to assign a status to and then click on Tag As and select the Status tag you want to assign to the selected items
Example:

Changing Status on a Spring

  1. Repeat the steps listed for Updating Statuses but this time remove the Status Tag that doesn’t apply and then add the new tag you want for the updated Status

Organizing your Springs by Status Tag

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. In the Filter box enter tag:”Status*”
When you press enter you will get back only those Springs that contain any tag beginning with “Status”.  Since we also added the number after the dash, they will show up in the sequence you assigned to the Status Tags to make them easier to review.

Tip:  If you switch to List View Grouped by Tag rather than by type you will wind up with nice sections of each of your statuses to review.  They’re mixed in with groups of the other tags, but they’re not hard to find.

Moving Forward

There are many more tips and techniques I’ll be sharing on how to get the most out of Springpad to manage your projects.  If you have questions or wonder if and how something can be done, just drop a note in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer you.

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Make a Springpad Holiday Photo Album

If you’re like me your family has various levels of technical skill when it comes to the Internet.  Some are tech savvy, some not so much.  So when the family event is over and all the pictures have been taken, how do you share them among each other?  Springpad gives you a way, using a collaborative notebook, for your more technical to contribute and your less technical to just enjoy.

Create the notebook and use the Share option to create the link to email or IM your family members who will be viewing the pictures.  For family members adding pictures, make them collaborators to the notebook.  Now as they have a chance, either from their phone, tablet, or computer, they can contribute to the contents.

The best part is you can add pictures to the notebook as the event goes on by just sharing them from your mobile device…perfect for those who are unable to attend.  Comments can be added to the photos on the Springs and you can even tag the photos with the names of family and friends to make it easier to find all the pics of an individual.

While this isn’t a service like Google Photos, it is a great way to put photos together in a way everyone you want can enjoy now and later.

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Writer’s focus trick

If you’re in the need for an easy way to concentrate your focus when writing, here’s a tip.  In Springpad, create a new note and then press Ctrl-F and F11.  Ctrl-F will take you to the full screen editor for the note and F11 will cause your browser to go full screen, hiding everything else.  Since the notes automatically save you can now concentrate on your writing.  When you’re done you can share directly from the note or just copy and paste your draft content into whatever destination you desire.  Yes, it’s just that easy.

Bonus tip:  Use the [Ctrl +] and [Ctrl -] combination to make things larger and easier to read as you’re writing.

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Springpad Offers Starter Notebooks

One of the challenges of any productivity system is knowing how to get started.  Springpad has tackled this problem with the release of new starter notebooks, preconfigured around specific types of information needs with functionality and user experience designed to get you going as quick as possible.  Let’s take a walk through the new types of starter notebooks…

Creating a new notebook

When you create a new notebook in Springpad you get a new pop-up display listing eight different starter notebooks.  You’re not limited to just these types as you also have the option to create a custom notebook but you can use these starter options to get these types up and running quickly.  These types are:  Recipes, For Later, Tasks, Work Project, Holiday Gift Planner, Books, Movies, and Home Improvement
New Notebook Pop-Up

Recipes

If you’re a foodie, Springpad’s Recipe starter notebook gives you a quick way to capture your recipes and manage them in an easy way
Recipes Notebook
Each recipe can be entered using the normal Recipe spring and checklists can be created for shopping and planning.  This is the first chance for you to see the new quick tabs under the title that let you jump and filter for specific types of springs in the notebook.  In Recipes you can quick filter for My Recipes, Favorites (ones you have marked with Like flag) and Groceries (your checklists in this notebook.)

For Later

For Later focuses on bookmarking content you find on the web for later reference.  The content includes regular bookmarks and video bookmarks.
For Later Notebook

Tasks

Unlike the Work Project starter notebook, Tasks focus on punch lists.  If you have an activity you’re preparing for such as planning for a trip, the Tasks starter notebook helps you capture the to do items and track them to completion.
Tasks Notebook
What’s different in this notebook is rather than using a drop down to select the type of spring you’re creating, you enter the task right on the Add a Task line to capture it in the notebook.  This makes the entire notebook focused solely on tasks rather than other distracting things.

Work Project

The Work Project starter notebook focuses on capturing the information you need for most types of work focused projects.
Work Project Notebook
In a Work Project notebook you can capture and track notes, bookmarks, tasks, and files.  These all use the standard Springs but are grouped together in to maintain the information for this particular project.

Holiday Gift Planner

The Holiday Gift Planner is a starter notebook that not only organizes your information for gifts, it helps you find gifts as well.
Holiday Gift Planner notebook
When you click on Add Gift Idea, rather than getting a blank spring you get
Gift List Pop-Up
These gift ideas are searchable and include links back to Amazon for product information and even purchasing if you want.  Each created gift idea spring can indicate if you have purchased the item yet or not and tag items for specific receivers and holidays.

Books

The Books starter notebook works very similar to the Holiday Gift Planner from the perspective of not only organizing your books but helping you find them and even purchase them.
My Books Notebook
You can track books read, books you want, and your favorites.  Adding a new book gives you a smart pop-up helping you locate the specific book you want.
Book Selector Popup

Movies

Just like Books, Movies can organize your movies, show your favorites, and even keep track of films in theaters or out on Netflix.
My Movies Notebook
A tip of the hat to Springpad as well for changing the color theme on the Movies notebook to the dark theater look.  đŸ™‚
Movie Selector Popup

Home Improvement

Finally we have the Home Improvement starter notebook which looks a lot like the Work Project starter notebook but with a focus on the home and home ideas.  More than just tasks, it can gather inspiration for projects and help you plan them out.
Home Improvement Notebook

In Summary

The new Starter Notebooks are a great way to get into the world of using Springpad notebooks for a variety of uses.  Once you get comfortable using these, the next step is to click on that Custom notebook button and take off running!
If you’re trying the Starter Notebooks, or if you have other comments and questions, please let me know in the comments.  Happy Springing!