Productivity Tools: a Bullet Journal Makes You Smarter

Productivity Tools: a Bullet Journal Makes You Smarter

If you want to be productive, you need good productivity tools. Not only can the right tools save you time, they can make you smarter as well. I’ve always been interested in productivity software; I used to review software for computer magazines, back in the day.

Hands down, my favorite productivity app of all time is the dear departed Lotus Agenda. Agenda fans have been looking for a replacement for 20 years. The program had a steep learning curve. But once you’d figured it out, with the help of a couple of thick manuals, Agenda did what no other software has done as well: it made you smarter. You shoveled information in, and it showed you what you need to know when you needed to know it, as well as making connections between bits of information for you.

I think I’ve found my own replacement for Agenda, and it’s not an app. It’a a bullet journal.

I’ve written about my bullet journal here, and here. I won’t cover the same ground. Watch the brief video on the bullet journal website, and try it for yourself.

You might find as I do, that it fills a gap in your time management and productivity efforts. Or it may not be to your taste all all. However, as the days go by I’m more and more impressed by how elegantly simple a bullet journal is.

Bullet Journaling: Am I Going Totally Analogue?

A reader asked this, and my answer is: NO, of course not. I have so much material in Evernote, OmniFocus and Things that that could never happen. Evernote is my general business Inbox. I use OmniFocus for client stuff, and Things for everything related to my writing students and ebooks/ books/ programs. I need the repeating tasks in those apps, otherwise I’d never keep track.

I’ve always used paper journals; my bullet journal is an enhancement to my collection of productivity tools and time management apps.

My bullet journal helps me to see what I need to do NOW, today, and what I need to do over the next few weeks. I don’t duplicate tasks and appointments I’ve entered into apps at all, there would no point. The bullet journal emphasizes what I MUST focus on throughout the day, and collects sudden rushes of blood to the head. :-)

Here’s how this works in practice. It’s mid-morning on a Sunday. I’ve worked through everything scheduled for the day in OmniFocus; I have four tasks left in Things; and I have four tasks and several notes in my Leuchtturm bullet journal. One of the bullet journal tasks I decided against doing after I’d entered it, so that has a line drawn through it.

I’m not looking to replace my apps with the bullet journal. It’s an added safeguard so that I won’t miss anything. The Collections are brilliant. I’m a big list maker, and most of my lists are in Evernote. I tend just to scan them, then delete them. Writing a list by hand helps me to remember, so I’ll be keeping my lists in the bullet journal going forward.

The bottom line: for whatever reason, the bullet journal helps me to feel in control. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s fun. What’s not to like? The “fun” comes from my obsession with fancy fountain pens and inks. :-)

I get the same feeling of comfort and security from my bullet journal that I once got from Lotus Agenda, and haven’t been able to find from any app since. I feel more in control of my schedule, and I even imagine that it’s making me smarter. Who knows, maybe it will. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

7 Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired to Create

7 Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired to Create

Today, everyone needs to be creative. Whether you’re a writer, designer, or marketer – you need to create. Inspiration makes creativity easier, so when a writing student asked me about apps for inspiration, it made me think about the apps I use. Can apps help you to become inspired?

Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired on Demand

Can you demand inspiration from yourself? I doubt it. If you try to force inspiration, you’ll choke. However, you can create the right conditions for inspiration to land on you – like the blue bird of happiness. :-)

I’ve come up with seven apps I use which help me to get inspired more or less on demand. The apps create the conditions in which you’re likely to become inspired. They’re in no particular order.

1. Evernote: Your External Brain – and Inspiration

I’ve been using Evernote since 2009. Over the past five years, Evernote has become more and more important to me. I especially like the Related Notes feature. When you start writing a note, Evernote offers you “related notes”. Occasionally, especially if you have lots of notes, Evernote will bring a real gem to the surface, which inspires you.

Most of my thinking happens in Evernote, simply because it’s always available both on my computer and phone. I snap images with the Evernote camera, send handwritten notes from Livescribe (more on Livescribe in a moment) and Penultimtate to Evernote, and record audio notes.

If I want to get inspired, I create a note in Evernote, and start searching and browsing. I write a lot of content, for my clients’ books and blogs, and my own. I wouldn’t be half as creative or productive without Evernote.

2. Penultimate: Take Handwritten Notes on Your iPad

Evernote bought Penultimate, so all your handwritten notes and sketches transfer to Evernote automatically, as soon as you create them.

3. Livescribe Desktop (Requires Livescribe Pen)

Much as I love computers, nothing replaces handwriting for inspiration. I’ve been using Livescribe pens for several years.

Originally, I bought the pens for interviews. It’s wonderful to be able to take notes, and record an interview at the same time, then play back ONLY what you need to hear. It saves transcribing, which takes time, both uploading audio, and then waiting for the transcription to come back.

Over time, I started to use the Livescribe pens and Livescribe Desktop to plan, take notes, and create initial drafts of my writing. You can send any Livescribe page to Evernote.

4. Tinderbox (Mac): Automatic Organization for Your Inspirations

The more you put into Tinderbox, the more inspiration you can draw from it. For me, the app works much like Evernote. I stuff material in, and related material pops out, firing my inspiration.

5. Scapple: the Endless Canvas for Ideas

I adore Scrivener, and have used it for years. Recently Literature and Latte released Scapple. It’s the perfect companion for Scrivener, and wonderfully inspiring.

The app gives you an endless canvas. If you’re stuck on something, start writing notes on Scapple, letting your mind drift, and make associations. Before you know it, you’re inspired.

6. Drafts (iOS): Grab Inspiration as It Flies Past

Have you noticed that inspiration usually strikes when you’re in the middle of doing something else? This is where Drafts comes in handy. Jot a few notes, and go back to what you were doing.

I used to jot notes on sticky notes, and on text notes. Invariably, I’d lose them. A week or two later, I’d remember that I wrote down something brilliant for Project X. I’d spend the next 15 minutes searching the piles of material on my desk, the notebooks on my shelves, and my computer. Then my devices. Could I find it? NO. Since I couldn’t remember what the heck it was, I had no search terms to search on.

After I discovered Drafts, it became my automatic scratch pad. Whenever I’m in the middle of something, and get inspired, I tap a few notes into Drafts. Later, I send the notes to Evernote, Dropbox, or email.

7. PicMonkey: Get Inspired With Images

I’m a writer, not a designer. Since I started to use PicMonkey I’ve found that it’s perfect not only to create images for blog posts and social media, you can use it to get inspired too.

Often I’ll start with a blank canvas on PicMonkey, and start doodling. Or I’ll drop an image onto PicMonkey, and start playing with it. Within five to ten minutes, I’ve been inspired. Try it yourself – it’s free.

So, there we have it. Seven apps for inspiration.

A tip: apps like Evernote and Tinderbox become truly inspirational once you’ve packed material into them. So stuff material in. Don’t worry too much about organization. Inspiration often happens with serendipity. :-)

The Easy-Write Process: Get Inspired on Demand

Want to get inspired on demand? It’s essential in 2014. The Easy-Write Process will help. It’s especially useful if you’re ruled by your inner editor, or tend to procrastinate.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Bluebird image credit

Productivity Secret: Get Inspired, Regularly

Productivity Secret: Get Inspired, Regularly

If you’re feeling desperate because you’re procrastinating, and would love a “magic” productivity secret, read on. You’ll love this.

For true productivity, you need a state of flow. In flow, you’re totally engrossed in what you’re doing. You’re unaware of time, and your environment. You work smoothly and efficiently, without stress and pressure. Sadly, most of us can’t switch on a flow state at will.

Although you can’t turn on flow anytime you feel like it, you can do something even better. You can turn the task over to your subconscious mind. When you return to the project, you’ll often find yourself working in flow, because your subconscious mind is in charge.

Let your subconscious mind deal with it

As I said in Enhance Productivity and Stop Over-Thinking:

When you get stuck on a project or task, allow your subconscious mind to help.

Albert Einstein said that: “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Let your subconscious mind do the work if you’re stuck. A flash of insight for a solution which allows you to move forward will dawn on you. I get my best inspirations when I’m walking my dog; some people get them in the bath or shower.

Do a little spadework first

You can’t twitch your nose like Samantha in Bewitched, and magic your task completed.

Bewitched
Your subconscious mind is magical

You can however kickstart your subconscious to get it working on the project, so that you’re mentally prepared, and will work on the project in flow, when it’s time to get it done.

You kickstart your subconscious processing by doing some preparatory work now.

For example, let’s say you need to create a presentation for a client. Write out a description of the project (don’t omit this, you’re telling your subconscious what you want it to do). Then create graphics for the project, or get started on an outline. Spend 20 minutes on any kind of prep for the project, and you’ve done the spadework.

Your subconscious mind is now in charge, and working on the project while you carry on with your life. (Yes, you’ve got your very own cobbler’s elves working for you. :-))

Alternatively, do a little sleep thinking. Think about the project tonight, as you’re falling asleep. Imagine yourself completing the project quickly, and efficiently. This is another way of alerting your subconscious about the importance of this project.

Your subconscious mind is your own personal supercomputer. Put it to work. It’s a wonderful productivity secret. You’ll find yourself developing your own shortcuts to working with your subconscious. You’ll become inspired, more or less at will.

We spend a lot of time working with your subconscious mind in the 3O Days to Writing Success coaching program. You’ll be amazed at how efficiently your subconscious will work for you.

 
, and on Twitter: @angee