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Visualize Your Commitments

Visualize Your Commitments

Taking on a new job is a great time to spot-check the power of your organizing and executing systems. Mine came up severely lacking (as evidenced by how few posts I’ve sent to LifeHack recently). But with all things, “That which does not kill us…” Here’s what I’ve learned lately about my organizing needs, and here’s a few tips that might be useful to you, if you’re not already adequately dealing with managing your commitments and efforts.

Visualizing Your Commitments Helps

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I mean this in lots of ways, but in this specific case, I also mean at the baseline, consider having a software application (or you can do this in the analog world easily, too) that gives you a VISUAL sense, an at-a-glance, Heads-up-Display vision of all your commitments. How am I doing it?

I’m using the built in Mac software, Stickies. It’s good because I can throw a little collapsed Sticky on the screen for every commitment I have. I can change colors on them such that pink (there’s no red) means “DO IT NOW” and blue means “follow up later” and traditional yellow means “clear this off when you can.” But the workflow that goes with this is this:

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  • INPUT- Email or Voicemail or Phonecall – I get a commitment request. “Can you send me your list of 5 favorite tools?” If I can answer the input right away, no Sticky. I just do it and close out the input.
  • CAPTURE- Write the “to do” Sticky and leave it on the screen (under other apps until I’m ready). If there’s a date attached, use Google Calendar instead.
  • PROCESS- Use yellow for general, pink for right away, and blue for follow-up later.
  • PROCESS- Check Stickies once every 30 minutes as part of a sweep.
  • PROCESS- Clear Stickies when that’s the task at hand.

Variations on the Theme

Some of you are still gasping at the idea of using simple, low-data-value sticky notes. Sure, I love Remember the Milk and a million other to-do apps that have tons of great built-in power. But what I am digging about stickies is the VISUAL element of having my commitments in front of me in a visual way. I can drag groups of items together. I can place FOCUS items in the center of the screen. So, it’s a way to add visual nuance and gestures to what I’m getting done.

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If you don’t want an on-box application, try Stikkit or Thinkature. Stikkit is a great app by Rael Dornfest and team, and it’s got some additional functionality that makes it really useful. Thinkature is actually more of a mindmapping tool, but it can be used for the same purpose I’m describing here. You can stack data visually.

Why Visualize

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So, the reason I’m pushing the visual on this is simple: lists of lists and commitments stacked by 1,2,3 don’t always give your brain the right queue. It doesn’t say: your plate is full, or you’ve got lots of things to do in THIS area of life all of a sudden.

Those planning methods don’t often let you queue things in non-linear ways. Maybe you want to group by context *and* by priority *but without* some wildcard that only you can describe. I think the visual method of organizing helps in this regard.

What’s your take?

— Chris Brogan is community developer for Network2, a guide to the best FREE internet TV shows you should be sticking on your video iPod or Zune. He keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]

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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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