My Toolkit (part 2)

A couple weeks ago I went over the big tools I use everyday to get things done. I’m kind of a geek for those kinds of posts; I love looking over other peoples’ shoulders to see how they work. I went over most of the basics, things that are fairly common and standard.

Today I want to dig a little deeper. I have some social media tools that I use for different situations and I have some other apps that help me stay organized and be productive.

Twitter is powerful, as a news source, social medium, and for entertainment purposes. I absolutely love it. What I don’t love is one particular app. I currently like Tweetbot the best because it allows me to easily see where @replies originated; it lets me see the conversation as a whole. But I’m also a fan of Hootsuite because I can post to Facebook from the same screen and I can also schedule tweets. Yes, I schedule tweets to spread out my sharing experience. The interface on Tweetbot is much nicer than Hootsuite, but the later makes my writing experience easier and allows me to track clicks.

Pulse and Zite (news)
I’ve been convicted lately at how little I pay attention to the news. I always wish I knew more about politics, and even local stuff is important to stay up to date. Pulse is great for national stuff. It’s an app on iPad and I’m slowly getting the feed worked out so I can tailor my information. Zite is pure joy for me. I actually am trying to spend less time on it because my business simply doesn’t get advanced with its info. I use Zite to stay up on all things Apple, productivity, techy, and anything else with a really catchy headline that doesn’t move me forward. Still, I think there’s certainly room in a person’s life for these kinds of apps. Reading is always good. Current events and new product information is usually good. I have fun with it, it’s great conversation pieces, but I need to keep it in check.

Email to Evernote
Now my two worlds start colliding. I mentioned articles on Pulse and Zite. When I come across articles that aren’t only fun but I think I could use, I send them to Evernote, my digital brain. I love this feature because it allows me to send entire article to my notebook and based on my subject line, I can add it to any notebook I want and include any (and all) hashtags for additional organization. If I ever want an article down the road, I’ve got it. Period.

I include my iPhone because it’s such a fundamental part of my daily workflow. One of my favorite friends just switched to Android – I don’t care. I’m not about the debate. I use my phone as a PDA more than a phone, and I think that’s pretty spiffy. Always taking photos, always taking notes, always reading Twitter and news, always organized with all my documents and projects.

I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of the iPad’s brilliance. Many days are tough for me at work because I have so many apps open, so many pings (I know I should turn them off) from so many sources. I’ve been reading a lot lately of people working solely from their iPad. I’m actually leaning towards an iPad mini. Staying focused is essential to being productive, at least in my current role. The iPad helps me work on one thing at a time with greater ease. Plus it’s an absolute joy to work with such a piece of hardware.

WD External Hard Drive
My MacBook Air is light and fast. To keep it that way, I keep all my photos and music on the WD. At home, I sync my devices while plugged in to that so I have my essential stuff. One wrench in the system is now that PhotoStream goes to my Mac, I wish my iPhoto was on the Mac instead of the WD. I think I might be able to fix this when I upgrade to Aperture. Of course the biggest reason for the WD is backups. Yes, I have two (and so should you).

This is probably my favorite app right now. In grad school, I was bombarded with scientific papers (PDFs) and being a hoarder, I wanted all of them at all times. And fully organized. All my documents (PDF, Word, Pages) are in Dropbox in nicely organized folders. The GoodReader app allows me to connect to my Dropbox account and sync whichever folders I want. This is big for me because if I can work without an internet connection, I have a better workflow and less chance of getting distracted. So as long as I leave the house and sync iTunes for pics and music and GoodReader for documents, I have everything I need.

Moleskine app
I love my Moleskine notebooks. I was very skeptical that they were jumping into the digital app because how do you get away from the culture of your notebooks?! They’re legendary! Well I’m all but sold. The digital Moleskine app for iPad and iPhone looks like the notebooks we’re familiar with, but they have the ability to change fonts, paper styles, add pictures, and draw with pens, pencils, and highlighters. It certainly takes a little time getting used to it. But if you value capturing ideas and thoughts, then the medium shouldn’t get in the way. And the Moleskine app is no trouble at all. They’re still working out some bugs, but I can transfer any or every page to Evernote or Dropbox – bliss! Taking notes, brainstorming concepts, fleshing out ideas and being creative with words and pictures makes me a better man, makes me a better worker. I love this app.

Paper and SketchPad
As much as I love the Moleskine app, I eluded to the fact that many of these apps overlap in different areas. Moleskine is nice but it doesn’t have the versatility of brushes and pens that these other two do. I used the Paper app to fully design my proposal for my current contract with Transform Wisconsin. I use the SketchPad for more intricate drawings, fine tuned brushes are fantastic in this free version. My biggest frustration is that I’m a horrible artist. One of my goals for 2014 is to spend a little more time drawing to add some drama to my writing.

Be honest, you don’t really want me to go on. And I won’t. I believe thinking through what tools we use is important. As Coach Lecher said, “Life is a series of adjustments.” We need to understand our needs, understand the tools we have, search out the ones we need, and then get comfortable and start creating great work. These apps are great, they work for me. Your mileage may be different. I’d love to hear some of your favorites. Might you consider writing some of your tools down and sharing?

Thanksgiving Day: food, family, walk, write

It’s pretty simple: eat good food, enjoy time with family, take a walk, and write in a notebook. Simple. When I break down the highlights of today, this will be a recipe for success.

Eat good food, but honestly let’s not be gluttons. Believe it or not I’m known around my family for being good for three plates plus healthy portions of dessert. I’m all for eating good food, but moderation is always a good thing, even on Thanksgiving. Sure, even if I don’t eat as much as I want, it’s not like I can give the leftovers to starving kids in Africa. But for me this year it’s about the posture, about being thankful for great food on my plate but not eating in excess.

Enjoy time with family. Not always the easiest, but clearly the most important on my list this year. At the end of the day, family is our greatest commodity. Our relationship are vital to our health. We were built for relationship, we were built to live in community. Skip the formalities. Skip the conversation you always have with your sister-in-law. Take it further. Make moments. Snap new and exciting pictures together. Give the kids memories. It’s the only family you’ll ever have. None of them are guaranteed to be around next year. Sorry to be a downer, but be honest with yourself. The time is now to sow those seeds, harvest and cultivate others. Be intentional. I’ve got my plan.

Ah, the Thanksgiving Day family walk. Well I guess this one is piggybacking off number one. I’m a health guy, so I always gravitate towards the physical activity. And I’m not pulling any punches here. Bottom line is we are all eating really well today, and we’re probably inside with family a lot also. A family walk is good on so many levels. Imagine if your neighborhood streets were packed with families all on walks in the 35-degree weather today! How cool would that be?! Eat the food, not too much, enjoy the family and then take it outside. Great tradition to start this year if you don’t already.


Write in your notebook. I’ve rekindled my passion for words lately. The world doesn’t need more books published, but I believe it needs a few more blogs, a few more (meaningful) tweets. It needs a few more people to contribute a few thoughts to society. ┬áIt needs you to be intentional and make something good happen. We need thoughtful people, we need creative people. My examples above were ways to go public, but my title here simply references a notebook. I’m sure you have a notebook or journal around. If you don’t, write it on paper today and paste it in tomorrow when you buy one. Or write it on the computer, save it and start a journal there. Remember Doogie Howser, MD? He had thoughtful reflection after each episode. There was a life lesson there. Write what you’re thankful for, write what the family did, make a goal to lift someone up today.

I, personally, have much to be thankful for. I bet you do also. From my family to yours, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.