An Archer's Focus

29 Powerful Focus Tools To Keep You On Target

 

Welcome to the last post in our "focus" series where we get to talk focus tools. We spent the last two posts discussing the power of focus. We started with Part 1: why you have so much trouble focusing then moved on to Part 2: key strategies for increasing and strengthening your focus.

If you remember, the 6 key strategies are:

  • Stop multitasking
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Create the right environment
  • Take breaks to recharge
  • Stay fueled
  • Completely unplug for a short time

Now it’s time to put our knowledge and strategies into action. Thankfully, there are focus tools, which can 2x your productivity.

In this post, I going list out my favorite tools for powerfully increasing your focus. Each of these tools fits into one of the key focus strategies.

Test these focus tools out to determine which work best for you.

Focus Tools To Help You Stop Multitasking

Multitasking can actually feel good, but it will absolutely kill your focus. Sometimes you need tools to force you to stop multitasking. I find that using the Pomodoro technique helps me to focus on a single task for a set amount of time and then take a break when that session is over.  It feels great to see results after a few sessions of deep focus.

Focus tools to stop multi-tasking

Pomodoro is a great technique, so I'm sure you can find a tool that works best for you:

Focus Tools To Prioritize Your Tasks

One of my first suggestions in the previous post was to organize and prioritize your tasks. Sounds simple, but I also know the lure of jumping right in and how much unproductive time results.  This simple but important step helps ensure you don’t spin your wheels on useless work.

focus tools to help you prioritize

Prioritizing your tasks requires some sort of task organization tool. Some of you may prefer old-fashioned pen and paper, but many of you will prefer a digital task organizer. If that’s your weapon of choice, a few popular and powerful focus tools are:

These organizers allow you to create projects, tasks, and subtasks and then organize them.  Don't get lost in these tools.  Just take a few minutes each morning (or night before) to determine what your 3-5 most important tasks (MIT) of the day. Check the list throughout the day as these tasks are your formula for success.

Focus Tools For Creating The Right Environment

Another strategy I recommended in the previous post was creating the perfect environment for focus. This often requires playing some form of ambient background noise to drown out distracting sounds in the environment. By minimizing the assault on your ear gates and eye gates, you can focus on what matters.

Many tools help create the perfect focus environment.

Software Tools

Freedom

Focus tools to create the right environment

Freedom is a multipurpose website blocker for both desktop and mobile. You install it on your device and then select which websites you need to stay away from and when you want to block them.

You should be focusing on your most important tasks first thing in the morning. With Freedom, you can block sites like Facebook from 8:00-11:00 AM. During those crucial hours, you literally cannot access the sites you have blacklisted. This is perfect for when you want to do a deep dive focus session.  Remember, guard your most productive times with vigilance.

If you really struggle with self-control, you can put Freedom into “Locked Mode”. This prevents you from changing settings in the middle of your session.

Self-Control

Self-Control is another web blocker that is free for both Windows and Mac. You can create a set of both blacklisted and whitelisted websites, which allows you to set your internet access for a given period of time.

Here’s the thing about Self-Control. Once you activate it, you have to wait until the timer if up to access the blocked sites. You can’t stop it mid-session.

But isn’t that the point? To keep you from accessing those stupid websites.

Stay Focused/LeechBlock

Focus tools to set the mood

Stay Focused and LeechBlock are web blockers for Chrome and Firefox. One advantage of Stay Focused is that it lets you set a total amount of time for yourself on time wasting sites. If you want to limit yourself to one hour total on brain candy sites like Buzzfeed, you can do that. It also has a “Nuclear Option” which blocks every site on your blacklist and will not let you deactivate it.  Since much of my wasted time is in Chrome, this works for me as I also believe in a bit of brain candy to keep my creativity flowing.

If you’re a Firefox user, LeechBlock should be your browser-based blocker. It has some unique advantages, such as allowing you to set timers for particular sites. If you want to limit yourself to 5 minutes on Twitter, you can do that. You can also set up redirects for time-suck sites, meaning that if you go to Facebook you can have it redirect you automatically to another site.

Rescue Time

Focus tools to track your progress

RescueTime does everything. Not only does it block specified websites, it also tracks exactly how you use your time. It begins by monitoring all the websites you visit and applications you use. After analyzing your time usage, it sends you detailed reports so you can evaluate and possibly alter your patterns.

It also allows you to set goals, such as using the first hour of each day productively.  Use this detail if it helps, but don't get lost in the software.

Zero Willpower / Focus Lock

Zero Willpower and Focus Lock are website blockers for iOS and Android. Zero Willpower has the standard blacklist features and timers, while Focus Lock has the additional feature of letting you block apps that you find distracting.

Given that most people can't seem to pick their heads up from their phones, mobile versions of your focus tools are likely crucial.

Smart Noise

Brain.fm

"Mood" Music actually works to keep focus

Brain.fm creates unique ambient soundtracks for you based upon your activity (focusing, relaxing, sleeping, etc.). These soundtracks are rooted in scientific research and are specifically designed to improve your focus. This is perfect if you work in a loud environment and need to overcome some significant environmental noise.  I've been using this technique with a custom Pandora station, but Brain.fm and the next tool are light-years ahead, so definitely check them out.

Focus @ Will

Focus @ Will creates optimized sound tracks to help you create intense focus. This tool is incredibly useful if you work in an open office or around noisy coworkers. Including 50 different types of sounds and thousands of hours, it’s pretty simple to find a track that helps you lock into a flow state. It has apps for all mobile devices, making it easily portable as well.

Non-Tech Tools

Sometimes you need a manual solution to a digital problem. Keeping your goals posted in a prominent place can help you remember the great things you’re trying to accomplish. It can also keep you from wasting time on trivial distractions. Hanging photos of your family can remind you of why you’re working so hard to maintain focus - to do great things for those who matter most.

These types of tools don’t just address the practical side of focus, they also foster deep internal motivation.

Focus Tools To Help You Take Breaks

Your brain is like a muscle, and like any muscle, it requires breaks. To work constantly without any rest will lead to burnout and exhaustion. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to remember to take breaks. You may feel like you're breaking a rhythm, but those prolonged periods produce fewer results than periods of intense focus followed by breaks. Some tools that can help are:

Pomodoro Apps

The Pomodoro technique is built upon the concept of intense work sessions followed by breaks. If you use one of the Pomodoro apps, you’ll inevitably find yourself taking breaks every 30 minutes or so, which allows your mental stamina to recharge.

Meditation Apps

Focus tools for the mediation newbie

Meditation breaks allow you to completely rest your brain. Remember, you brain is the ultimate focus tool and if it's tired, you're productivity is busted.  There are numerous apps available that will guide you through meditation sessions, including:

Apps To Get You Moving

Sitting at a desk all day is terrible for your health. Frequent movement breaks not only get your blood moving and muscles stretching but also allows your brain to relax and recharge. Some helpful apps to get you moving are:

Focus Tools To Help You Stay Fueled

Food is definitely a focus tool

Without proper fuel, your brain (and body)  simply can’t keep going. Your mental functions will slip, your focus will plummet, and you’ll find yourself completely unproductive. As a wannabe athlete, it is always frustrating when your mind goes before your legs give out.  Creating some simple refueling habits can significantly boost your focus. Consider:

  • Purchasing a water bottle that reminds you to rehydrate.
  • Keeping healthy snacks around that stay fresh, such as almonds, dried fruit, or chia seeds. Debbie Meyer green boxes work great to keep things fresh.  I practically live on almonds and seasonal fruit during my "power sessions."

Focus Tools To Help You Completely Unplug

While these aren’t exactly tools, they are physical methods to help you completely unplug when you need to. Consider:

  • Putting your smartphone in a drawer or in another room. Sometimes the act of cutting yourself off from the source of distraction can be very helpful.
  • Shutting off your internet. If your task doesn’t require an internet connection, shutting everything down can help you focus.
  • Use a power strip to shut off your computer completely. Sometimes you need to shut everything down and simply think.
  • If possible, get some sun, trees or water in front of you.  For many, nature speeds the calming of the mind.

Conclusion

Enhancing focus requires three things: knowledge, strategy, and tools. Once you know why you lose focus you can devise strategies for fighting distraction and deepening your attention. When you’ve developed those strategies, you can adopt particular focus tools to help you put the strategies into practice.

Denis Waitley said, “Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it.”

By acquiring knowledge, developing strategies, and utilizing tools, you can harness your energy to achieve great things.

Let me know what you do to stay focused at @troychristmas or @taskclone.


Evernote for tasks

How to Make Evernote a Task Management Powerhouse

Here at TaskClone, we breath productivity and love Evernote.  Evernote is a great for note-taking, project management and general organizing. But face it, when it comes to task management, Evenote is not the best. Fortunately, you can fix many of Evernote's shortcomings with a few small tweaks—turning Evernote into the backbone of a great productivity system, including task management.

Let's check it out.

Organizing Choices

Notes as tasks

The first thing you need is decide how to organize Evernote for tasks. Are you going to create a new note for each task, or use a task lists with checkboxes? There are tradeoffs to each style of task management.

Creating a new note for each task, for example, lets you store a lot of information related to that task in a convenient place. You never need to go looking for the notes you took, the files you stored, or something you clipped from a web page. It's all there.  This strategy is best when you work in the same note over a period of time and collect ideas from many places.

 

You can also set up reminders for each note so Evernote lets you know when you have to deal with something.

 

Tasks with Checkboxes

If every task is stored as a different note, you'll have to go looking for those notes whenever you need them. That's where the single-note system comes in so you always know exactly where your ideas and tasks are. Everything can be neatly organized and exactly where you want it. And if you use Evernote's checkboxes, you can easily see what's done and what needs to be done.  This strategy is best when you need to jot down tasks quickly (e.g. business meetings, phone calls).

One tradeoff - you can use Reminders to create a due date for the whole note, but not for individual tasks.

So what's a to-do list lover to do?

 

Hybrid System?

One solution is to use a combined approach. Create a master list in a single note, and then use note links to connect the other notes that contain information on each task. This keeps your list clean, lets you quickly access related information to your tasks, and allows you to use reminders on individual notes.

It's not phenomenal as far as task management goes, but it's probably the best Evernote has to offer without lots of extra effort. It's certainly not bad. And the fact that you can use a single app for task management, project management, note-taking, and everything else Evernote can do is certainly a bonus.

Let's look at how to get it set up.

Making connections with note links

Let’s say I need to prepare a presentation. This task is going to need a lot of information. It might need an outline, images, links, videos, and all sorts of other things. Let's put those in a note.

Now we have a master list with an item, and a related note that contains everything I need to know about that item. Let's connect them up.

 

In the note list, I'll right-click on the "presentation preparation" note and select Copy Note Link.

 

Then, in my task list, I'll highlight "prepare presentation," then go to Format > Link > Add... (or use the keyboard shortcut, Cmd/Ctrl + K). Paste the note link in, and I'm good to go.

Now, all I need to do is click on "prepare presentation" and my more detailed note will appear. It's that simple.

I'll also add a link back to the master list from my task note, just to make it easier to flip back and forth.

Staying up to date with reminders

Every good task management system has the ability to remind you of when things are due (or when to get started). Evernote's Reminders can serve this purpose—and while they're not as customizable as the reminders you'll get from dedicated to-do list apps, it can work in our hybrid note list system, the best way to set up reminders is to use them on the individual notes that you've linked to. Otherwise, you'll only be able to create a reminder for your task list note . . . which won't tell you which task you need to deal with.

To add a reminder to my "presentation preparation" note, I'll just click on the clock icon near the top of the note and tell Evernote when I want the reminder.

That's all there is to it. Now I'll get a reminder in a few days that I need to deal with this note. I'll also see a message at the top of the note list that the reminder is coming up.

Evernote Task Management Limitations

As you can see, this process turns Evernote into a capable task management system. Unfortunately, there are a few places where it falls short. Evernote's reminders aren't especially customizable. There's no calendar integration. Connecting all of your notes to your master task list takes time (it might not seem like much, but it can really add up if you have a lot of tasks on your list).

And if you're working in a note—jotting follow-up tasks during a meeting, for example—you have to remember to add those items to your task list and link them up to the note you originally started with.

There are many tagging and notebook systems that seek to go even further, but it becomes clear Evernote wasn't designed for maintaining your task list. It's great for organization, note-taking, and a lot of other things, but except for those committed to do everything in one app, most busy professionals find enough added value to expand beyond just Evernote.

Integrating Evernote with task apps & calendars

Fortunately, you can use some other apps to help you out with this. For example, if you sync Remember the Milk with your Evernote account, you'll get tasks displayed for your Evernote reminders. Nozbe and Smartsheet let you attach your Evernote notes right to your projects.

And both IFTTT and Zapier can link up with Evernote to create recurring reminders, sync with iOS Reminders, create Trello cards, and more.

These integrations help Evernote focus on capturing your ideas, but alone they don't address how you get those ideas from Evernote lists to a dedicated task app. That's exactly why we designed TaskClone:  It lets you aggregate your tasks from other notes all over Evenote into a master task list in Evernote or sync them to a full-featured task management app like Wunderlist, Todoist, iOS Reminders, and meistertask. It even works with project management software like Asana, Basecamp, OmniFocus, and Wrike.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP6oWbaFy50

In short, TaskClone gives you the full functionality of your favorite task manager with the easy of entering tasks along with ideas in Evernote.  Of course, you can also just use it to make Evernote a better task manager, too, without those other apps).

Wrap-up

We tell clients start with the Evernote tips above until they get frustrated.  It may be enough.  But if it falls short for you, with a little structure and an integration or two, Evernote can be the backbone of a powerful productivity system.

How do you use Evernote for task management? Let us know on Twitter @TaskClone!


Strategies to Focus in distracted world

6 Powerful Strategies To Strengthen Your Focus

We all know that creating and maintaining focus is a tremendous challenge in our distraction-laden world. We've got notifications to the left, email to the right, and we're in the middle trying to get stuff done. It's often more than our brains can handle.

Now that we’ve thoroughly identified the problem in The Painful Truth Why You Can't Focus, let's get to solutions. After all, it does no good to highlight a problem if we don’t also chart the way forward.

Thankfully, it's not rocket science.  Get ready for numerous ways to create, strengthen, and maintain your focus even when you’re surrounded by a thousand random stimuli. Expect to develop true focus in a world that is begging you to be distracted.

Apply these 6 time-tested strategies on a consistent basis and soar in your ability to focus with the added benefits of greater productivity and peace of mind.

STRATEGY #1 - Stop Multitasking

Multitasking absolutely kills focus. You need to once and for all accept the simple truth that your brain can’t effectively process more than one thing at a time. I know it may hurt your ego, but get over it.  Studies repeatedly show multitasking creates the illusion of productivity while actually lowering their effectiveness. It may feel good to do two things at once, but you certainly won’t accomplish much.

Additionally, studies suggest multitasking even lowers your IQ, effectively making you dumber. As Travis Bradberry, cofounder of TalentSmart writes:

A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.

Instead of trying to juggle multiple tasks, focus on a single task for short periods of time. Don’t spread your attention between several projects. Instead, put all your mental energy into getting a single thing done.

To avoid multitasking can be harder than it sounds.  The reason: you don't yet believe.  You don't yet believe that you'll get more done by focusing on one thing at time.  You believe something important will be missed. OK then, try it out for a week and see your results.  Run an experiment on yourself.  Prove the answer to yourself.  I run experiments on me all the time.

Many people find the Pomodoro technique helpful in this regard.  It helps you suspend the fear of missing something by giving you a specific time to take a break.

STRATEGY #2 - Prioritize Your Tasks

Many productivity experts suggest prioritizing tasks. Our tendency is to spend hours doing unimportant work, such as email, only to find at the end of the day that we haven’t accomplished anything meaningful.

Productivity expert James Clear writes:

We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.

This is a crucial distinction. Every day, there are only a few crucial things you need to get done. Prioritizing these tasks allows you to laser focus on accomplishing what matters, rather than letting your attention be hijacked by ten thousand unimportant things.

BONUS:  Prioritize your energy!  Schedule those priority tasks at times when you have the most energy.  For most, the morning works best.  No sense in trying to focus on complex strategy when your brain is exhausted from fighting distractions all day.

STRATEGY #3 - Create The Right Environment

Resisting distraction requires your limited energy.  Better to structure your world for focus.  There are numerous actions you can take to optimize your environment for maximum focus:

  • Close all unnecessary applications, such as email and chat
  • Silence your phone
  • Use an internet blocking software to block access to distracting websites like Facebook
  • Use ambient background noise to drown out distracting sounds
  • Set the temperature just cool enough so that you’re comfortable

I used to worry about being "unavailable" during periods of focus.  Nonsense unless you're a fireman or something.  Just schedule a reasonable check-in period when you'll check your phone for "emergencies" or authorize only 1 person to interrupt you if absolutely necessary.  Remember, your goal is to create an environment with minimal distractions to maintain intense focus.

STRATEGY #4 - Take Breaks To Recharge

Studies have consistently shown that willpower functions like a muscle. Consistent and lengthy use depletes the strength of your willpower. Just like your arms get worn down by curls at the gym, your willpower and focus decrease the more you use it.

This means that in order to sustain focus for extended periods of time, you need to take recharge breaks.  Breaks can be as short as 5 minutes, but I recommend 10-30 minutes, moving your body and getting some fresh air if possible.

University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains:

…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!

STRATEGY #5 - Stay Fueled

The American Psychological Association suggests that low glucose in the brain can cause waning focus.

The brain is a high-energy organ, powered by a steady supply of glucose (blood sugar). Some researchers have proposed that brain cells working hard to maintain self-control consume glucose faster than it can be replenished. In a study lending support to this idea, obedient dogs made to resist temptation had lower blood-glucose levels than dogs who did not exert self-control.

In order to maintain consistent focus, you need to properly fuel your body. Consistently eating small amounts through the day allow your brain to have the necessary fuel to power through challenging tasks. Think of your brain like an engine, constantly requiring input in order to generate energy.  However, eat a big meal and your body will be too pre-occupied with digestion to give your brain what it needs to focus.  Remember the after-lunch coma.

Coffee and energy drinks can give you a short-term focus boost, but as soon as your body processes the caffeine you’ll find yourself crashing. Some more natural alternatives are:

  • Avocado
  • Salmon
  • Leafy greens
  • Water
  • Mackerel
  • Peanuts
  • Blueberries
  • Granola
  • Popcorn with coconut oil

STRATEGY #6 - Completely Unplug For A Short Time

In our hyper-connected world, some people find this suggestion unreasonable, but you can achieve a miraculous amount when you completely unplug from all communication for a short time. This means shutting down email, completely turning off your phone, and closing out all unnecessary applications and windows on your computer. If you have an office, close your door and ask for no interruptions.

After a brief moment of panic, I enjoy the peaceful bliss of turning my phone all the way off!  This doesn’t need to be a long period - no more than an hour. However, you’ll be amazed at the quantity and quality of work you can achieve when you’re not receiving incessant notifications.

As Jan Bruce, coauthor of meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier, says

Even if you live and die by email, do yourself a favor and logout for 30 minutes either in the beginning of the day or for a period in the afternoon. You won’t believe how much you can get done when you’re not always interrupting yourself to return emails.

This kind of temporary digital detox is becoming increasingly necessary to get any meaningful work done.  Beyond the productivity benefits, you leave your brain less depleted for whatever comes next.

Remember, you might be able to power through some deep work despite distractions for an hour or two.  But, that you might leave yourself fried for the rest of the day.  Your brain will have spent so much effort fighting distractions for that brief period, the rest of the day is a total waste.  Don't do it.

Sometimes You Need Tools

One of the few great things about a lack of focus is you're not alone.  It's an increasing problem worldwide.  That means researchers and entrepreneurs are working overtime themselves creating awesome tools and gadgets to help you increase and maintain your focus.

In the next and final post in this series, I'm going to give you a list to some powerful tools that you can use to boost and maintain focus for an extended period of time. These tools, combined with the above strategies, will allow you to hyper-focus on your most important work.


What is focus?

The Painful Truth Why You Can't Focus

Remember when you were younger and it was really easy to focus? You could get lost for hours doing the simplest thing, like riding your bike or reading a book. Well, if you’re like me, that ability to focus waned as you got older.

Now, it’s really tough to get in the zone at work. Every ten minutes, your email is dinging, your phone is buzzing, or someone is pinging you on Slack. It’s hard to get much done, let alone develop anything like deep concentration.

Over the next three posts, we’re going to take a deep dive into the issue of focus and concentration. Specifically, we’re going to explore:

  1. Why focus is such a challenge
  2. How you can train yourself to grow in focus, and
  3. Tools to help you maximize focus on the things that matter most.

Alexander Graham Bell said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” By the end of this series, you’ll enjoy the peace and satisfaction that come from maximizing your time "in-the-zone."

Two Systems, One Brain

The brain is an astounding organ, capable of unbelievable things, including processing massive amounts of information. Unfortunately, we regularly push it far past the breaking point. When it comes to the science of attention and focus, we must understand two challenges of our brain.

The brain relies on two different systems to manage everything thrown at it. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman labels these the “Automatic System” and the “Reflective System”. The Automatic System is always on and takes all the stimuli around you and processes it. When you hear your name and turn your head, that’s your Automatic System at work.

The Reflective System takes what it receives from the Automatic System and directs your attention to it using something called “executive attention”. Think of executive attention like a teacher in a classroom. Rather than allowing everyone to say everything at the same time, the teacher decides who gets to speak and thus who receives attention.

Your brain uses executive attention to determine what gets your focus. If you’re sitting in a coffee shop pecking away at your computer, your brain sends signals to your locus coeruleus telling you to focus on your computer and not the couple next to you debating their vacation plans. This top-down method of focus allows you to stay somewhat focused and not go crazy because of too many stimuli coming at you.

Overloading Your Reflective System

Problems begin to happen when your reflective system starts to get overloaded with information. It’s like when a classroom slowly begins to spiral out of control. The teacher tries to keep control but can’t handle all the kids at once. Suddenly, she’s on her desk yelling, the kids are all talking and chaos has taken over.

When the filter of your Automatic System starts passing too much information to your Reflective System, your focus starts to weaken. Worse, concentration is like a muscle, so if you overuse it, the more tired it becomes. If your Reflective System gets too much input, your concentration will suffer and your brain will begin spinning in circles.

Think how difficult it is to read during a loud television commercial.  Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T, says:

It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial. If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.

But it’s not only sensory things that kill your focus - emotional issues can too. Daniel Goleman says:

It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds.

In other words, both internal and external distractions can overload the Reflective System, leading to a complete crash in concentration and willpower.  Remember trying to study when you were anxious about a test?  Same problem.

Stimuli All Around You

Are you starting to see why you have so much trouble maintaining your focus? If you’re like me, you are probably surrounded by dozens of stimuli. You’ve got your phone in your pocket, delivering hundreds of notifications each day. You receive thousands of emails per month, your coworkers want to chat over Slack several times per day, and you keep getting all manner of distractions from so-called friends on social media.

From the moment you awake to the second you hit the pillow, your executive attention has to fight against a horde of incoming stimuli, all vying for attention. By the end of the day, your brain is completely fried, exhausted not by deep, meaningful work, but simply from fighting the tide of distractions.

It gets worse.  Once you break your focus, it’s not as simple as diving right back into your project. Researcher Gloria Mark estimated that it takes around 23 minutes to return to a task once you’re distracted. If you break focus ten times per day, then you’re losing around 230 minutes of total time. Really!?

Given human, electronic and internal stimuli we face, it's not surprising you wonder how the day ends with so much time lost doing so little!

So How Do You Fight?

How do you overcome your environment and train your brain to focus on what actually matters? Great question that deserves a thorough answer, so that’s where we’re headed in the next two posts.  First, we'll focus on proven strategies for fighting distraction and developing deep focus.  Then, we'll turn to tools that make it much easier to get there and maintain it.

Until then remember, we all get the same 24 hours, but if your brain is overwhelmed with stimuli, you're wasting most of that time spinning in circles.


9 Powerful Strategies For Achieving Goals

New year, new you, right? This is finally the year you’re going to…

  • Increase your revenue
  • Finally get into shape
  • Learn a new language

The new year is a new slate and you have big dreams. Things you’ve been wanting to do for years. Goals. Ideas. Big plans.

But how do you ensure you actually achieve your goals? After all, around 90% of people never make their dreams a reality. How do you ensure you’re in the 10% that do?

In this post, I’m going to give you 9 simple tips for crushing your goals this year.

1. Make a Commitment

Suit up to achieve goals

Be honest here: are you really going to do something if you don’t make a firm commitment to it? No way. You can’t “kind of” want to achieve your goal. You need to be passionately, firmly, unwaveringly committed to crushing your goal. There’s no room for wavering here. No half-hearted attempts at “being a better person”.

You don’t do this just by getting yourself fired up. The solution isn’t to scream yourself into a frenzy or listen to loud rock music while punching a slab of meat (See Rocky). Rather, you take the following concrete steps to structure your life to win!

2. Be Specific

The first, most important step is to create a specific goal. Most people use generalities when setting goals. They want to lose some weight, run more, get healthier, be happier, or read more books. All these are noble, vague goals that have a low probability of being completed.

When setting goals, be concrete and specific. Specify:

  • Exactly what you want to accomplish (lose 19 pounds)
  • When you want to accomplish (by July 1)
  • What steps you will take to accomplish it (low carb diet, etc.)

Creating specific steps dramatically increases the likelihood of reaching your goals.

3. Write It Down

Write down your goals

Those who write their goals down have a higher chance of achieving their goals. Why is this? Because writing down a goal puts all your focus on that goal and reminds you of it on a constant basis.

Of course, it’s not enough to just write a goal on a sheet of paper and then throw that paper in the trash. You need to review that goal consistently. Some ways to do this:

  • Write the same goals anew every morning, yes every morning
  • Write the goals on an index card and carry them in your wallet
  • Make a Post-It note and stick it to your computer or mirror
  • Write the goals digitally and make them the background on your phone.

Master motivator Brian Tracy says:

I discovered that if it is powerful for you to write down your goals once a year, it is even more powerful for you to write down your goals more often.

The main point is simply to put the goals onto paper and then keep them at the front of your brain at all times.

4. Track and Measure Your Goal

Constantly tracking and measuring your progress allows you to stay motivated. It also allows you celebrate your victories, and get back on track if you stray. If possible, keep a visual representation of your progress in a high visibility to keep your goal in mind and keep you focused on moving forward.

Some simple ways to visualize your progress:

  • Enter your data into a spreadsheet and then create a graph out of that data.
  • Write your numbers on a whiteboard.
  • Use an app like Exist.
  • If your goal has a visual aspect, such as losing weight or putting on muscle, you can easily record photos or videos of yourself. This guy wanted to learn guitar in one year and made a video diary of his progress.

The point is to engage actively in collecting and reflecting on the evidence of progress.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehWeiliDy4I

5. Set A Deadline

Set target dates for your goals

Hard and fast deadlines can supercharge your progress and add a sense of urgency to any goal. A deadline can also help you understand how much incremental progress you need to make each day or week as you move forward. For example, if you want to lose 30 pounds in 6 months, you need to lose 5 pounds per month, which is a little less than a pound per week. Once you know this information, you can track your progress each week against your deadline.  Don't overuse this tip though as your mind will resist false deadlines (see The Surprising Reasons Why Due Dates Suck).

How do you keep yourself on pace to hit a deadline?

  • Countdown apps make it easy to set a date in the future and start the countdown.
  • Crossing off days on a paper calendar gives you a tactile reminder of your approaching deadline.

6. Get The Support Of Others

There will be many times when you feel like throwing in the towel. Giving up on your goal. Calling it quits or just cheating on the process. This is common. We all get worn out and discouraged when we have to fight upstream against our ingrained habits.

During our weak moments, we need the support of others. We need friends who can encourage us and remind us not to quit. When you initially set your goals, tell at least one or two close friends. These CANNOT be friends who are going to sympathetically let you off the hook when you’re struggling. They need to be the kind of people who will push you to be the best version of yourself.  They might even be a bit competitive with you.

If you also want to add an online community for support, Coach.me offers some great options.  The point here is encouragement and accountability.  If you're afraid to tell some friends, it's a sign you aren't ready to commit.

7. Turn Your Goals Into Habits

Whenever possible, turn your big goals into small, easily repeatable habits. For example, let’s say you want to read 20 books in the coming year. There are some simple habits you can establish to make it easy to accomplish this goal:

  • Begin your morning by reading 3 pages of a book.
  • Listen to audiobooks on your way to work (yes, today this counts as reading).
  • Join a book club.
  • Unwind at night with a few pages of relaxing fiction.

Once a goal becomes a habit, you begin to regret the times you can’t indulge your habit. This is the power of habits. They turn difficult goals into an unmissable part of your daily routine.  Definitely check out Duhigg's, "The Power of Habit" to learn how creating a few new habits could revolutionize your life.

8. Visualize Success

visualize your goals everyday

Elite performers constantly visualize their success. They paint a mental picture of what achieving a goal will look like and then they obsess over that picture. Their first thought when they wake up and last thought when they sleep is about the reward of their goal.  I first learned this as an athlete and later found it works in other areas of life.

If you want to achieve your goals, create a detailed visual in your mind of that success. What will you feel like it? How will you celebrate? What will other people think when they see your success? How will your success improve your life.

Don’t hesitate to write all this down and put it somewhere prominent.  The more real the vision, the more achievable to your mind.

9. Stretch Yourself

Set ambitious goals that are going to greatly stretch you over the next year. Success comes from pushing yourself hard, and stretch goals push you to be your best. Many people make the mistake of setting too many goals rather than a couple big goals.

What is the next big step you need to make in your life?  Pick one or two until you get good at it.

The Reality Of Making This Your Best Year Ever

Thomas Jefferson said:

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

If you follow the 9 powerful strategies above, nothing will stop you!  You will be drawn like a magnet to the goals you visualize and rehearse regularly.  You'll build habits that reinforce success and create the platform for even greater success.  This can be your best year ever. You’ll look back and marvel at the importance of your accomplishments.  That's what I plan to do.

What are you going to do with the time you're given and the knowledge you've obtained?


Due Date and Deadline

The Surprising Reasons Why Due Dates Suck

Most popular books about productivity or time management talk about the importance of due dates. You set a due date and it keeps you on track and accountable. Almost all the productivity tools I’ve tried also incorporate due dates.

And on the surface, it makes sense. After all, due dates ensure that I finish my projects when I’m supposed to. Or do they?

What if due dates actually harmed your productivity and sense of success? What if due dates can actually undermine productivity?

In this post, I’m going to show you why due dates can be bad, what you should use instead, and what tools can help you make the change.

Why Due Dates Suck

Most of the time, due dates are artificially constructed. We decide that something needs to be done by a particular time so we assign it a due date. Or, someone asks us to do something and we want to get it to them in a timely fashion, so we give it a due date. This is how almost everyone in business works. I did it for years.

Due dates create late nights

Then I read some material by a man named Michael Linenberger that rung true to me and shifted my thinking.

Speaking of due dates, Linenberger says:

...if you set a date that’s fake you’ll know it’s fake and you’ll ignore it. In fact you may miss some important deadlines because you’ll get in the habit of ignoring all due dates you write down.

In other words, if you arbitrarily set a due date, there’s a good chance you’ll ignore it because you know the task isn’t due on that date. You know that there won’t be any issue if you get to the task later and so you ignore the due date.  You essentially tried to outsmart yourself and failed.

Keep this up long enough and you’ll begin ignoring all your due dates.

I’ve also discovered that artificial due dates can lead to unproductive guilt. Have you ever opened your task app to a sea of red indicating overdue tasks?

 

due dates cause overdue tasksGuilt and overwhelm can easily set in, but there is no reason to feel guilty if you made the correct decision to do something else with your time.

Beyond unnecessary guilt, the focus on due dates undervalues a core skill in the modern workplace; adaptability. Life and business are moving faster and faster. Everyone needs to be flexible. Life happens, things come up, and priorities need to shift. Surely, changes in priority should be communicated, but often arbitrary due dates make it harder to adjust to current reality.

Again, to quote Linenberger:

...when the [due] date arrives you’ll know—you’ll recall—that it’s arbitrary. And then you’ll likely skip it. That’s because in a busy work environment there is nearly always some other fire drill going on that requires more attention. Think about it. If you’ve got a client screaming for attention, and at that moment a task to clean your desk drawers pops up, which are you going to pay attention to?

Yes, due dates have their place; when an item is really due on a certain day. When everything hinges on you getting that thing done or when the fallout from re-prioritization isn't worth it.  NOw, I know some of you will insist lying to themselves about due dates prevents procrastination. If you don’t have enough tasks to keep you engaged, that’s possible. But, for most of us, we have more on our plates than we could possibly finish which means realistic prioritization, not due dates, makes sure we doing the right things.

Of course, all this raises the question: if not due dates, then what?

The Beauty of Start Dates

Start dates are a much better alternative because they are focused on now and less on the future. They give you a sense of when you should begin a project without boxing you in.

calendar tasks with start dates instead of due dates

A start date provides more focus on what you should be doing now and peace of mind by allowing you to hide tasks until it’s time to begin thinking about them. Linenberger talks about start dates this way:

Essentially, what the future start date tells you is when you first want to see the tasks or when you first want to start thinking about doing the task. So, in essence, this is not a due date but rather it is a “DO” date. It’s the day you want to start thinking about doing the task. Tasks postponed to a future date like this I call Defer to Do tasks.

When I see a task appear on my list, I know that it’s time to begin planning, strategizing, and organizing for that task. It’s time to send out initial communications, take the first notes, and gather resources. This allows me to a huge jump on things in terms of productivity. Instead of hurriedly trying to complete a task before a due date, I’m way ahead of the game.

Writer Belle Cooper talks about the benefits of start dates in her life:

...since using start dates, I don't see those due dates so often. Because I set my start dates far enough in advance to complete the work early, I'm procrastinating and bumping up against deadlines much less often. What a relief.

That’s the beauty of the start date. I’m bumping up against deadlines less frequently, which lowers the stress and unproductive guilt. I can focus on what matters now, and I can prioritize about what I should be giving my time to. I’m also slowly building my ability to forecast how long projects will take to complete instead of making up arbitrary dates. Finally, using start dates forces me to weigh the opportunity cost between starting one thing versus starting something else.

Apps That Work With Start Dates

If you plan out your tasks on paper or in a notebook, you can write in your start dates. But if, like many people, you use a task scheduling app, it’s not always as intuitive. Fortunately, there are several outstanding task apps that can handle start dates (or, at least something close).

Todoist's take on due dates

Those apps include:

On this list, Wunderlist and Todoist don’t exactly have a start date feature, but they do allow you to set reminders to begin a task. Todoist even has a Smart Scheduling feature that helps you schedule and reschedule tasks.  The best situation is when you can hide or filter out future start dates to focus on current priorities.  That's what creates peace of mind.

Conclusion

None of us will be able to complete all the things we want to in life (unless we lower our desires considerably). This means that we must be able to both prioritize and be flexible when it comes to tasks. We must have the ability to adapt as life interrupts our well laid out plans. Most existing productivity systems seem to ignore this reality. The result is artificial due dates, unproductive guilt, and less well-being.

So go with start dates. You’ll get more done and feel better through the process.


Ensure An Effective Meeting

How To Master The 10 Most Important Minutes Of Every Meeting

We’ve all attended countless meetings that shouldn’t be held in the first place. Did we really need a committee meeting just to decide how cold the refrigerator in the break room should be?

As the aptly named Ashleigh Brilliant said:

Our meetings are held to discuss many problems which would never arise if we held fewer meetings.

That’s about right.

Nevertheless, meetings will continue to be an indispensable part of doing business. During an effective meeting, critical information is communicated, projects are moved forward, and collaboration is established. The question is what makes for an effective meeting?  And, effective for whom?  Despite their importance, very few people other than the meeting organizer actually prepare to ensure we have effective meetings. Instead, most of us wander in, drink a cup of terrible coffee, try not to fall asleep, and then wander out. [pullquote align="right"]The question is what makes for an effective meeting?  And, effective for whom?[/pullquote]

This is an opportunity I don't want you to miss.

By actively preparing for meetings, you can significantly set yourself apart from others and ensure that at least you have an effective meeting. Having a game plan for a meeting before it happens, you can achieve more, improve how others perceive you and your work, and have a much greater impact on your company.

Having a game plan requires spending only a few minutes in dedicated thought both before and after each meeting. Yes, I know that to those of you who see meetings as a necessary evil, the thought of giving more time to meetings is horrifying. But spending just 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after a meeting can transform meetings from a fight to stay awake into something that advances your career.

In this post, we’re going to walk through how to ensure an effective meeting every time through mastery of the 10 most important minutes of any meeting.

Before The Meeting

Plan for an effective meeting

Just like any good sports coach prepares before the game, you need to take a few minutes to create a game plan before every meeting. In that game plan, you must quickly tackle 4 preparation steps:

 

1. Determine Your Goal For An Effective Meeting

What is your goal for the meeting to be considered effective for you? Gather more information? Update your team on the status of a project? Get the answers to three essential questions? Taking a moment beforehand to clearly identify and outline your primary goal for the meeting will allow you to maintain laser focus during the meeting as well as stay on track throughout the meeting.  In most cases you won't want to hijack the meeting, but you do want to have your own objective.

2. Review the Agenda For Opportunities and Challenges

Reviewing the meeting agenda and making a note of key opportunities and challenges will give you a sense of the purpose of the meeting, as well as prepare you to speak clearly about any of the agenda points.  You'll know where to input and where to keep quiet.  As you review the agenda, formulate your questions. This will allow you to quickly get to the heart of issues and not waste anyone's precious time.  Remember this whole process of preparing for an effective meeting is meant to take only 5 minutes.  Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.  It gets easier with practice.

3. Gather Appropriate Resources

Don’t trust your shaky memory to remember everything during a meeting. You probably can’t even remember the names of all your children reliably. Collect all the resources you’ll need to speak authoritatively and to take essential follow-up actions. These items probably include:

  • Something for taking notes (Evernote or OneNote anyone?)
  • Calendar/Planner
  • Task lists/project plans
  • Email software for follow-up
  • Supporting documentation

Your goal is to enter the meeting thoroughly prepared to meet your objective.

4. Arrive A Few Minutes Early

We all know that one person who can’t seem to arrive at anything on time. They always show up 5-10 minutes late, attempting to appear "busy." Don’t be that person. Showing up late reflects poorly on your work ethic and commitment to the organization despite any poor office culture around punctuality. By showing up just a few minutes early, you demonstrate to people that you’re passionate about what you do and can be fully trusted with your contributions to the work.

 

During The Meeting

Stay Engaged for an Effective Meeting
Startup Stock Photos

There is a huge difference between an active and passive meeting participant. An active participant engages, listening for context and not just data, asking helpful questions and providing insight.  A passive participant secretly looks at Facebook memes the whole time. Active participants climb the ladder most quickly at their companies and get the most done.  Sure, there will be times when the most effective thing you can do is respond to that urgent email.  Just know, you're undermining yourself while you seek to do the opposite.  If you going to be there, be there.

Take these 4 steps to ensure active participation:

 

1. Take Detailed-Enough Notes

Taking detailed-enough notes to stay engaged, highlighting key follow-up actions, insights and questions which need further answers. It also keeps you from forgetting important items, which will most certainly happen if you try to keep everything in your brain (unless you happen to be like that guy in Rain Man).  I also try to jot down my perception of the mood in the room.  It helps provide context later.

2. Add or Request Insight

Some of us like to hear our own voice.  Resist the temptation, but absolutely do add insight to the discussion or request it from others if you feel it's needed for the overall meeting objectives.  If you do this well, folks won't mind if you occasionally ask a question more narrowly focused on your objective.

3. Keep A Running List of Questions

When things are muddled or unclear, make a note and either attempt to clear things up during the meeting or after the meeting. Whatever you do, don’t leave the water muddied and blindly hope you pick the right action. That will only create more work (and more meetings!) for you and everyone else.

4. Highlight Post-Meeting Action Steps

Your work isn't done until you create a follow-up plan. But you can’t create a plan if you don’t highlight post-meeting action steps during the meeting.  Depending on your role, you may need to assign actions to others or just follow-up.

For an effective meeting, you need to use checkboxes or some method to capture all action items from the meeting meeting.

 

After The Meeting

Take Action for an Effective Meeting

In the 5 minutes after every meeting, quickly take the following 4 steps:

 

1. Put All Your Action Steps In One Place

You probably have action steps scattered throughout your notes. Gather all your action steps into one location and take note of any deadlines you must meet.  If you take notes in Evernote or OneNote, TaskClone is a great service that automatically sends tasks out of your notes and into your task list app or calendar.

2. Communicate With Those Who Didn’t Attend

Most likely, someone on your team will need to know something from the meeting. Spend 30 seconds firing off emails to people, giving them details on what they need to know. These emails don't need to be epic treatises worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. Quick and dirty is the name of the game.  Write them now even if you want to send them later.  Use apps like Newton to send the email in the future.

3. Send Out Any Necessary Follow Up Communications

Whether it’s files, sales reports, project timelines, or pictures of cats, people are going to want things from you after many meetings. Taking just a few moments to send those items out after the meeting will instantly boost your credibility with co-workers and will keep you from forgetting.  Better yet, delegate!

4. Ask Questions and Fill In Gaps In Your Notes

Unless you have a personal butler who takes notes for you, for most of you, there will be gaps in your notes. Try to fill in those gaps before everyone disperses. Yes, people may be annoyed by having to stick around for an extra minute, but it’s better than you barraging them with emails after the meeting.  They should thank you.

Conclusion

Having an effective meeting is really up to you. There’s a really high chance that your co-workers don’t master the 10 most important minutes of every meeting. But, by taking just 10 minutes of preparation and execution, you can literally 10x your productivity and 10x your career. It's a no-brainer on just about every level.

Or as Michael Scott from The Office said, “It’s a win-win-win.”


Gratefulness kills procrastination

Why Gratefulness Is The Ultimate Procrastination Killer

It's Thanksgiving here in the USA, but I bet many of you struggle with gratefulness regardless of the season.  Let's face it, when surrounded with the daily challenges of life, it's easy to forget to be grateful. In fact, you may not even want to be grateful because it may feel out of place with the challenges and stresses of your busy life.  I definitely get it.

Despite how it might feel, I've discovered gratefulness is a powerful weapon in the fight against procrastination and for peak performance. Peak performance requires visualization of success, calm confidence and a willingness to take risks. If you struggle with procrastination, you know it kills all three of these elements of peak performance.

Practicing gratefulness improves overall health, confidence and the ability to live in the moment, which together crush procrastination and unleash peak performance.

I want us all to operate at our peak, so let's dive into:

  • The science behind gratefulness
  • 10 ways to practice gratefulness on a regular basis

My goal is to help you see the importance of gratefulness as well as provide easy ways for you to begin this key practice of success.

The Science Behind Gratefulness

First, gratefulness isn’t some mystical, zen mumbo-jumbo that’s only useful for monks. Science has proven that gratefulness can dramatically improve both your daily life and your productivity.

In a study in 2003, one group of young adults was instructed to keep a gratitude journal and another group was told to keep a journal of all the things that annoyed them. The results were rather shocking:

The young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups.

Gratitude has also been shown to improve the quality of sleep, reduce depression and anxiety, increase blood to the brain, improve relationships, enhance empathy, improve self-esteem, improve mental strength, and increase dopamine levels in the brain.

As Amy Morin wrote in Forbes:

...gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.

Clearly, gratefulness is both a tool and a weapon.

If you find yourself operating at less than peak performance and procrastinating about important projects, the solution may be as simple as increasing the amount of gratitude in your life.

10 Ways to Fight Procrastination with Gratefulness

It’s one thing to know that gratefulness improves performance and helps you fight procrastination, but it’s another thing altogether to practice gratefulness on a regular basis.

With that in mind, here are some simple ways to incorporate gratefulness into your daily life:

1. Keep A Gratitude Journal

Procrastination no match for gratefulness journal

Take a few moments every day to write down a few things for which you’re grateful. Consider people, circumstances, personal strengths, challenges overcome, and things soon to come. Sometimes, just waking up on this side of the dirt is worth appreciation.  Also, don’t feel the need to write in beautiful prose; a few simple bullet points will do.

2. Make A Promise Of Gratefulness

Research has shown that when we make a promise or vow, that action is more likely to happen. Therefore, write the following vow and post it somewhere you are sure to see it: I promise to be grateful today and to count my blessings. This simple note will always remind you to be grateful. No excuses.

3. Speak Words Of Gratitude

Using words of gratitude, such as blessing, gift, fortunate, and thanks, increase the amount of gratitude in your life and put your focus on what others have done for you rather than what you’ve achieved. Thank somebody for something. It’s easy.

4. Live In The Moment

Live in the moment to stop procrastination

Settle in your mind that living in the moment gives you the best chance of success.

[pullquote align="right"]Settle in your mind that living in the moment gives you the best chance of success.[/pullquote]

Planning time is critical, but once engaged in an activity, constantly looking to the future or regretting the past kills both gratefulness and productivity. Instead of always wanting to be somewhere else, savor every moment of every day. Make a concerted effort to be mindful and present even if you’re in the midst of a task you don’t particularly enjoy.

5. Highlight The Positive

With every person and in every situation, emphasize the positive rather than the negative. Be thankful that a cold room will keep you refreshed and awake. If a person laughs in a way that annoys you, focus on how much joy they have.

6. Make A Gratitude Board

Gather pictures, quotes, and anything else that inspires you to gratitude. Put these items on a board and then put the board in a place where you can see it. Start small just by remembering to save these items. Once you have enough for the board, add to it on a regular basis and you’ll soon see just how many things you have to be grateful about.

7. Refuse To Compare Yourself To Others

Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” All of us face the regular temptation to compare ourselves to others. We compare our looks, wealth, jobs, cars, and just about everything else. Few things increase unhappiness and decrease performance like comparison. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on the blessings in your life.

8. Focus On Helping Others

Instead of always thinking about yourself and what you don’t have, take the time to help others. I’m serious.  Schedule it and get it done.  Not only does this increase your own motivation, but it also reminds you of all the wonderful joys in your life.

9. Give At Least One Compliment Every Day

Charles Schwab said, “The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” At least once per day, compliment someone. This practice will dramatically improve your relationships, which in turn can have a positive effect on your career. Plus, it takes your focus off what annoys you and puts it on why you do appreciate people.  If you take your eye off of deficiencies, there's lots to appreciate.

10. Go Through The Motions Despite Your Feelings

There will be times when you don’t feel like being grateful. Frankly, complaining can be a release, but it's a release that deflates and destroys. Despite the temptation, it’s in those moments you still need to go through the motions of gratitude. This will keep gratitude at the forefront of your mind even when you don’t feel it in your heart.

Conclusion

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Wooden may not have known the science behind gratefulness, but his 10 NCAA championships prove that he understood the close tie between gratefulness and operating at peak performance.[pullquote align="right"]“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” -- John Wooden[/pullquote]

Procrastination will slow you down, kill your performance, and make you an unhappier person in general. Gratefulness, on the other hand, empowers you to get more done, live confidently, and enjoy every moment.

Yes, gratefulness is a choice, but when you consider the benefits, why wouldn’t you choose it?


11 Ways TaskClone Boosts Evernote Productivity

Do you use Evernote to store reference material, but have a separate task app or calendar for action items?  Have you ever been frustrated transferring to-dos from Evernote to your task app or simply forgot the task was in your notes?  With our newly-added features, TaskClone now boosts your Evernote productivity with 11 ways to bridge between storage and action.
TaskClone is bridge from Evernote to action

Now you can use each app for what it's great at doing.  Or, as our pal Steve Dotto says, "Let the dancers dance and the singers sing."

TaskClone is the only automation service that can integrate any Evernote todo, note, event or Reminder with Asana, Todoist, Google Calendar and dozens of other productivity apps. As a service that syncs directly with Evernote in the cloud, there is no app to download and you're assured TaskClone works with every Evernote platform on every device.

Use these 11 services and take your Evernote productivity to the next level.

1. Cloning tasks from Evernote to your task app

TaskClone copies (“clones”) individual tasks represented by Evernote checkboxes and integrates them into the task app of your choice (e.g. Asana). When the task arrives in your task app, there's a link back to your note in Evernote so you can remember the full context of the task.  For details, see Cloning individual tasks to task app

2. Cloning all tasks into one Evernote note

If you don’t have or want a dedicated task app, you can use TaskClone to aggregate tasks from anywhere in your Evernote account into one “Task List Note.”  Of course, each task in the list has a link back to the originating note so you can remember the full context of the task.  For details, see Cloning tasks to task list note

3. Cloning tasks to multiple apps or projects

We found many busy people use more than one task app or manage their lives using multiple projects in the same task app (e.g. Todoist and Trello).  TaskClone lets you set up multiple destinations and then simply choose which destination by adding the associated Evernote tag. For details, see Send tasks to multiple apps or destinations

4. Cloning note titles by tag

Send the title of your note to your task app as a new task by simply adding a "noteclone" tag.  If you've setup multiple destinations in TaskClone, add the tag associated with your desired destination also.  For more details, see Cloning note titles by tag

5. Cloning note titles by notebook

Send the title of your note to your task app as a new task simply by putting the note in a notebook entitled "TaskClone".  If you've setup multiple destinations in TaskClone, add the tag associated with your desired destination also.  For more details, see Cloning note titles by notebook

6. Sending events to your calendar

TaskClone makes it nearly effortless to schedule events in Google Calendar directly from your notes. Simply add “sch: ” to tasks and write your event in natural Language.  TaskClone creates the event in your calendar seconds after you sync your Evernote account.  Google Calendar is directly supported, but we'll show you how to sync with Outlook, Apple and other calendars.  For details, see Creating events from Evernote to-dos

7. Sending Reminders to your calendar

Once you activate this feature, simply add an Evernote Reminder to your note and TaskClone schedules it in your calendar.  Google Calendar is directly supported, but we'll show you how to integrate with Outlook, Apple and other calendars.  For details, see Create events from Evernote Reminders

8. Creating a new note from each task

Sometimes you get a list of projects and you want to create a note for each one.  Because TaskClone works using email, you can set up TaskClone to send to your Evernote email address.  Each task within the note will create an entirely new note.  You can even designate the tag, notebook or Reminder of the created note using Evernote's special syntax

9. Creating iOS Reminders from your tasks

A few task apps sync with iOS Reminders and in designing to support them, we found that many users just want tasks to integrate with iOS Reminders itself. Use our IFTTT Recipe and you’re ready to go in a few minutes. For details, see App Setup - iOS Reminders

10. Setting due dates, priorities and more

Many task apps let you email-in tasks and set parameters using the subject line of the email. Just add those same parameters as you type your tasks in Evernote and TaskClone will do the rest. From due dates, assignees, priority, tags, projects and more; creating tasks directly from Evernote has never been easier.  For details, see Adding task details

11. Adding default due dates, priorities and more

Sometimes you use the same parameters (e.g. labels) for every task that comes from Evernote to your app (e.g. Toodledo). Instead of adding these parameters each time, set whatever defaults you want and we'll apply them every time.  For details see, Change task app settings : Advanced

 

 

 

 


Crowdsourcing Productivity

Celebrating Crowdsourced Productivity

 

This post is a celebration of our clients.  In this era of crowdsourcing everything, it’s should be no surprise that there are benefits of crowdsourcing productivity.  In a world awash in productivity apps, I'm clear productivity is more about doing the right things and doing them efficiently.  For our company, what crowd better to suggest what to do and how than our clients.

Earlier this week, we released a new “feature” that resolves a significant frustration for most of our clients.  It essentially removes an extra step so they don’t have to remember it in their workflow and they save time by skipping it. We knew about the pain point and had devoted hours trying to find a remedy, but the solution came from an innocent comment in a conversation with an existing client.

Why didn’t we find the answer ourselves?  Because, we were too close to it. Ouch!

In the end, it was a remarkably simple change with profound implications not only to improve the experience for clients, but to minimize the likelihood of errors in our software. It wasn’t even technically difficult to implement, requiring only 5 lines of code.  Ouch again!

After the embarrassment of not figuring it out ourselves, I was reminded of how productive crowdsourcing improvements can be.  We could do more to seek good ideas from our "crowd".  The fact is, we can't see everything. Sometimes we give up after trying to find a solution but looking in the wrong place.  

Our clients aren’t burdened by the assumptions we carry. This is one of the many reasons I spend significant time personally responding to customer service requests. Every new client comes at a problem with fresh pain, but also fresh perspective to help us learn.  

At TaskClone, we pride ourselves on client service.  In fact, it’s why we use the term clients and not customers or users.  We are not just trying to sell a product but genuinely provide solutions to client productivity challenges.

While it may seem our software is just about note-taking and tasks, we see it as a vehicle to understand client challenges.  It is a privilege to get to know their challenges and get the opportunity to help them.  We’re all trying to get a little bit better every day and helping each other along the way makes it all the more rewarding.