Friday, September 7, 2018

Alignment - Information Storage

In last week's post, I mentioned that to be truly effective we need to be in control of three aspects of our lives - the schedule we must keep, the things we must do, and the information we must know/remember. Of course, each of those areas may cross-over into another area. For instance, what we must do requires knowledge and must be done within the schedule we must keep. However, while overlap exists, the ideas of these three elements can be separated, and should be for clarity sake.

Having covered that concept last week, and having spent a few weeks on tasks (including a mention of ToDoist as the tool I use to manage tasks), I now want to turn to the information portion of the triad. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the choice of tool is not the most important part of being effective - the use of the tools you choose is what will make you effective. By that statement, I mean two things. First, you must choose a tool that best fits your need. Second, you must use it. This week, I will cover my journey through three tools. Next week, I will spend more time on Evernote which has become my tool of choice.

As I just mentioned, choosing the right tool is important. But my choice of tool may not be the best choice for you. Personally, like most anyone over the age of 30, most of my information storage in the past was on paper. I have a couple of file cabinets that contained a great deal of information in a manner which was easy to find as long as I filed it properly. But as technology has developed, the amount of available information has exponentially increased. A paper file system may work for some aspects of life now, but having information at our fingertips has become more important. Thankfully, with the advent of smartphones, we are able to have information at our fingertips if we take the time, and develop the know-how to do so.

Like to-do list managers and calendars, options exist for electronically storing data. Of course, if you have a computer, you are familiar with storing files in a file system. But data storage in the second decade of the 21st Century goes well beyond that option. And the options can help us store anything from pictures to book notes to receipts to recipes and even a great article or blog entry that you find on the web. So, with multiple options, you may need to take your time to try a few and determine which one works best for you.

For me, I have spent time with Evernote, Google Keep, and OneNote, but have settled on Evernote after eight years of trial and error. Google Keep was a nice option for me because of it being a part of the Google ecosystem. Back in the early 2000's I traveled occasionally on business, and I needed access to email and a calendar wherever I was. This was before smartphones, so I began with Yahoo. But I didn't truly care for it, and soon switched to Google. Because I was already using Google for email and calendaring (and a few other items), adding Keep seemed natural. I used Keep some, but never liked the design and could not get comfortable with the notes as they simply appeared on the screen. I would try to shuffle them to make the total process more appealing, but I just never liked the overall look and feel.

I also gave OneNote a try. However, OneNote's biggest obstacle initially is that I am not a fan of Microsoft. However, I really liked OneNote, particularly the earlier version (2013, I think). The "notebook" concept with the individual tabs on the right and the pages within each tab was ideal for someone who demands the functional aspects to be matched by the visual (i.e. aesthetic) aspects. Because of my work with the seminary, I needed to convert away from a Linux-based operating system and OpenOffice, so OneNote became accessible and I liked it. However, because of my different roles I found myself using the product a little differently on three different computers. That is not the fault of OneNote, but when I went to fix the issue, I was unable to get the notes to match as I needed them. Furthermore, the changes in OneNote2016, and the phone app, were not as appealing to me.

So, that led me back to Evernote. Interestingly, I first used Evernote back in 2010, but after a year or so, I abandoned it for Keep. But on my most recent trip to Kenya, I decided I would use it to track my days (i.e. journal) and give it a fair chance to be my tool of choice. On the previous trip, I had used Keep, and again, that was ok, but at that point I was using Keep for a few items and OneNote for others, and when I went this past January, I knew my goal was to stay consolidated. Well, Evernote, did the trick. I liked the phone app and when I returned to the States, I installed it on my laptop. Soon after, I decided to pay for the premium version so I could have it installed on another device as well. Over the past seven months, I have become well-acquainted with Evernote and plan to use it for years to come. (Of course, the challenge of moving data from one system to another is one reason not to switch, but I have done that with all of my old notes to Evernote, and I suppose I can do it again, if I ever need to do so).

So, that is a bit about my journey with storing notes and information. I realize you may not care, but as I flesh out much of how I have become more organized which, in turn, has made me more effective, I wanted to share that I have tried a few options and found some to be wanting. But, again, it is a personal preference. If you are all-in on Microsoft, then integrating OneNote and Outlook may be a tremendous help for you. Likewise, some may prefer Keep. Other options such as Zoho exist as well. But for me, I have found much to like about Evernote and I am still finding new tricks to use.
Next week, I will share a few of the ways I use Evernote to help me be productive, to remember, and to reflect. Until then, make your week a productive week - for you and for God.

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