Processing Email Faster with Mail Act-On

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I love how Jim Gaffigan describes how lazy we are...

You ever find yourself being lazy for no reason at all? Like you pick up your mail, you go in your house, you realize you have a letter for a neighbor -- you ever just look at the letter and go, 'Hm, looks like they're never getting this. Takes too much energy to go outside.'*

I wonder whether he has a point when I get SO excited about turning three mouse-clicks into one single key-stroke. Perhaps it's not so much that I am lazy [nervous throat-clearing], but that I am so easily distractible. This is especially true reading emails. I have found that I often read an email, decide it's something that needs action, agree with myself to do something about it, and then (before doing anything), move on to a shinier email object. I lose tasks this way, which can be very frustrating.

Mail Act-On** has really streamlined the way I manage emails. It's an Apple Mail add-on that allows the user to create additional rules for mail, some of which are executable by hot-key commands. For example, I like to forward all tasks to my OmniFocus inbox, all reference material to Evernote, and some items to both. Until recently, I did this by

  1. opening the email,
  2. clicking "redirect" 
  3. entering text in the "To:" field, and then clicking send

If I have twenty tasks in my email inbox to process, that can result in many opportunities for distraction.

Using Mail Act-On, I created several rules that run on Hotkeys (btw, I am CERTAIN that this could be done with KeyboardMaestro, but I just don't know how). When an email is highlighted that needs to go to OmniFocus, I click "control-O", which

  1. redirects the email to OmniFocus
  2. colors the email blue (for task) 
  3. marks the email as "read" 
  4. sends the email to my Archive folder

Similarly, I have a hot-key for Evernote that does the same (turning those emails green), and one that sends to both Evernote and OmniFocus. I like having the color of the emails coded, so that I can quickly look through my archive and see what's been sent to Evernote or to OmniFocus (or both). I have a number of hot-keys set up at this point (forwarding to my staff, or to common collaborators), each doing a different task. 

One other feature of Mail Act-On is that you can highlight a number of emails and perform the same task on all of them at once. I recently needed to forward a bunch of different emails to a colleague to catch her up on a conversation. Since she was already in my Mail Act-On rules, I highlighted all of the emails I wanted to send her, clicked the keyboard short-cut, and all of them went to her (individually forwarded).

As a result, I am processing email WAY faster. Even better, I'm not nearly so distracted by shinier emails that draw my attention from moving tasks out of my email Inbox. There are other, more complex, rule-options as well, and I am playing around with those. Frankly, I downloaded the free trial version because I was dubious whether this was worth the $15. Mail Act-On is available for a trial at http://www.indev.ca/MailActOn.html They have some other products I'm trying on for size - but I have found that Mail Act-On is worth the $15 price-tag.

Image Credit: 

*http://on.cc.com/1JLXZzk

** I have no affiliation or financial arrangement with Indev, other than I gave them some of my money ;-)

Posted on September 2, 2015 and filed under General.

Crisis Cleanup

I was in Prague this last July to present a paper at a conference, when my summer pretty much devolved in a few short hours. It started when my wife called to tell me that a member of our family had died in an accident. Within an hour of that call, I learned that one of my grants was unexpectedly defunded. Additionally, my step-daughter and her family moved in with us for the month of August as they prepared for a move to Costa Rica, I took two classes, and tried to get ready for the new semester.

In short, I've been in a constant crisis-state for about a month-and-a-half. I breathed a little sigh of relief last Thursday when, for the first time, I started to see some regularly coming back into my schedule and task list.  

In some ways, working in Higher Ed is similar to running one's own business. We have the freedom to choose many of our priorities, but we can also feel like the weight of an enterprise rests on our shoulders. And when crisis comes, the whole system can feel like it's falling down around us. 

I took some important lessons away from the last six weeks...

1.  Crisis tests priorities - One evening, my wife came into our make-shift bedroom (the kids and grandkids were in our bedroom) and said, "I just need to get away with you for a little while." My first reaction was, "I've got too much to do," but I knew she was right - I needed the same thing. We drove around town for about an hour, just spending the time talking to one another. Crises test our ability to make good decisions on the best use of our time - and spending time with those most important to me is the best use of MY time. In GTD terms, many of my current projects became "Someday Maybe." 

2.  Crisis tests our independence - I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and colleagues over the last six weeks. When the grant was defunded, several of my colleagues helped me scramble to find institutional funds and draft an interim plan. A family friend took us all to a resort for a day of rest. I am rarely comfortable with giving my plans over to others, but crises are times where we can discover our need for interdependence.

3.  Crisis can redefine success - It is tempting (at least for me) to feel like we are failing to meet our goals and objectives when we are constantly sweeping up the messes around us. I had to spend some time reminding myself that, at least for a while, "sweeping up" is success. In time, the messes will accumulate at a slower pace, and we can start to plan again. 

4.  Crisis is exhausting - I only made it to the gym a couple of times over the last six weeks. I run on the treadmill with a heart-rate monitor. Usually, I can run at 4.5 MPH with my heart rate at a steady 140 - but lately, my heart rate has been at 160 at the same speed. I shared this with one of my colleagues in the Exercise Science dept. He looked at me incredulously, and asked, "Ever hear of stress?" We just don't have the same energy under the stresses of crises that we do in calmer times. Feeling tired and run-down is not exclusively emotional - it's physical as well.

I was able to make a pretty good list of future posts during the last six weeks, so I am hoping that I'll be back to regular updates. Meanwhile, if you find yourself in crisis, be sure to cut yourself some breaks!

Image Credit - http://bit.ly/1KtXXMZ

Posted on August 29, 2015 and filed under GTD, General.

Wrangling the Email Inbox

Lots of folks address the problem of wrangling email with great efficacy (Merlin Mann, David Sparks, and Mike Vardy to name a few). And while I wonder whether I sound like a scratched-record when I say this, things are slightly unique for the Higher Ed context. Sometimes our email needs run on a full 24-hour cycle. I often get emails from students the night before a major assignment is due with specific questions. I could be Mr. McGruff and refuse to answer those late-night questions, but many of them are good questions from good students. And to be honest, I'm a educator, not a policy-enforcer.

I also think that part of the challenge with email centers upon the bad email-citizenship of others. My step-daughter used to work in admissions. She showed me an email that her boss sent at 3:00 a.m., wanting some information "as soon as possible." There's a possibility that the bad habits of others can condition us (subconsciously?) to adapt to their habits. I often discover that tendency within myself.

One of the biggest problems with email is that the "important" email can potentially get lost among all of the other "cruft" that accumulates in our email. In fact, we might be tempted to hold everything in our inbox, just in case there is a gem that needs attention; We herd all of the cows for fear that we'll lose the one we really want. This temptation is understandable, but not necessarily effective. Here are some tips to get that email inbox sufficiently wrangled...

Use "Archive"

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get that inbox under control is to "select all" and "archive." In gmail, iCould, exchange, and most other email services, there is a folder or label called "Archive." This function saves the email, but gets it out of the inbox. I find that I rarely delete an email - even it seems unimportant at the time, I never know whether it might become important later. Archiving email gives me the security that I still have all the email I received, but gets it out from under my nose. It also makes email applications (like Apple Mail and Airmail) run really fast!

Tip: If you're just getting started, and there are 12,586 emails in your inbox, go ahead and archive everything at once. It's all still there, and waiting for that one day when you're free to read all 12,586 of them ;-) From there, other habits can be added as they are useful to your workflow.

Get tasks out of Email

As I mentioned previously, many task managers have a method for capturing tasks out of email. For me, I forward email that requires action to my OmniFocus secret email address, and then archive the email. That process can even be automated using IFTTT.com or Zapier.com if some tasks have a predictive terms. If a student requests a letter of reference, for example, I almost always see that task in my OmniFocus before I've even read the email.

Tip: If you send an email to someone that includes a promise to do a task, you can "BCC" your special email address so that the task is captured there.

Be "SMART" about Folders

This actually has two meanings: A) use folders sparingly, and B) use smart folders.

A. Use Folders Sparingly - This is in direct reference to a nightmare I once created for myself where I decided to file every email in a specific folder. I had something like 50 folders listed in my mail app, and really never knew how to find what I was looking for. Searching for email by using the search feature of your mail program is SO much faster than browsing through folders. I do use a folder for each course that I am teaching, as I really like being able to browse those emails (I find common questions or common learning opportunities when I browse the emails). If there is value in browsing through a set of emails, folders make sense. Otherwise, ARCHIVE.

B. Smart Folders - Smart folders are really nothing more than "saved searches." For example, I have created a smart folder that searches for email from our Provost's office. The emails themselves are stored in the archive, but the smart folder is a saved search of those archived emails. If there are searches that you do on a regular basis, a smart folder can be a real boost to your efficiency!

Check Email at Scheduled Times

Ok, even as I write this, I have to confess that I am NOT good at it. In fact, this morning I opened my email to look for some information from a vendor, and realized that I had a new message from one of my friends. I spent about 10 minutes drafting a clever response to his email and sent it off before I realized that I had forgotten about the original reason I opened email. A habit of checking email at certain times of day can create a lot of space to get other things accomplished. Here's how I TRY to do that in my own schedule:

  • 8:00 a.m. - Check email for the first time. Process the inbox. In this case, I forward any tasks that need to be sent to my OmniFocus or Evernote, and I archive everything so that my inbox is empty - there's a caveat to this that I'll describe below.
  • 10:00 a.m. - Check email for any new important items, tasks or vital information.
  • 12:00 p.m. - Process the inbox. 
  • 3:00 p.m. - Check email for any new important items, tasks or vital information.
  • 5:00 p.m. - Process the inbox. 
  • 8:00 p.m. - This is SUPPOSED to be my final look at email. If someone sends me an email after 8:00 p.m. that needs immediate attention, they probably should have called. Seriously, I do tend to check later in the evening when I know my students are working on a project and may have last-minute questions.

Tools to Help Wrangling Email

Sanebox - So many people I read and listen to have suggested Sanebox, and I really didn't think that I actually needed it. But when I started receiving a great deal of spam in my personal email account, I decided it would be worth the investment. WOW! Sanebox took care of the spam stuff on my personal email, but it REALLY took over my work email. I wish that I had started using it a long time ago. Sanebox actually creates several folders in your email (I know, but bear with me) where email can eventually be processed automatically.

  • @SaneLater - one of the most commonly used features is the "SaneLater" folder, which will train itself over time to move email that you don't need to see immediately (like newsletters, or advertisements for Harley parts).  More than half of the email that gets sent to my inbox never actually shows up in my inbox - SaneLater has it, and I can read it whenever I feel like I have the time to catch up on new offers from buildabear.com
  • @SaneBlackHole - I mentioned that my personal email had a lot of spam. Things went crazy when, on one occasion, I "unsubscribed" from an illegitimate link. I guess the spammers found a real-live-person, and sent me every unsavory form of spam. @SaneBlackHole unsubscribes from spam by swallowing the email from your inbox without ever communicating with the sender. It's effectively blocking those emails from reaching your inbox. Very nice, although I am a little worried that I haven't heard from the Nigerian Prince in a while - hope he's ok.

Slack - Email within a workgroup is quite possibly the worst use of email, and also the most common. We've started using Slack for all of our interoffice communication, which has also obviated the dated "Group Text." Slack allows the group to create different "channels" which can be arranged in terms of projects or specific areas of concern, sharing messages and files. In fact, we have a channel where "fun" stuff goes - it's a virtual water-cooler of goofy gifs, memes, and inside jokes. More importantly, that stuff is not in my email.

IFTTT - There are some pretty cool "recipe" ideas already shared in IFTTT.com, some of which can really boost one's efforts toward "inbox-zero." 

There's a special kind of peace in knowing that my email inbox has less than 10 messages at a time waiting to be processed. By archiving, processing, and checking email on a consistent basis, I've discovered that I really don't feel the anxiety related to email that I once did. 

Note: To be honest, while I was working on this post, Bonni Stachowiak published a podcast that does a GREAT job of describing a functional process for managing the email inbox (check email at certain times, get tasks into a task manager, etc.) . I highly recommend that you consider giving Episode 56 a listen - it's well worth the 11:00 minutes!

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1TOnJy4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on July 21, 2015 .

Capture - 3. Tasks

I feel a little under-equipped to describe the process of capturing tasks - there’s a LOT of information out there on getting this done. I do think that Higher Ed presents some special challenges when it comes to capturing tasks. We don’t just sit at a desk, promises are made in the hallways, and important ideas emerge in the strangest situations.

As a means of comparison, before I worked in Higher Ed, tasks almost always came in the form of emails or phone calls. I was oftentimes at my desk when promises were being made. I always seemed to have my Franklin Planner open and ready for inputs whenever the need arose. Nowadays I find that tasks emerge in very disorganized ways. I’ve lost track of the number of times I finish class, pack my back, and head to the door when a student asks me for something that will result in a task. Collaboration with colleagues many times finds its genesis as we walk between buildings. We’re on the move, and that means that capturing tasks can be a moving target.

Here are some ways that I’ve found to make capturing tasks just a little easier…

Low Tech

The easiest, and perhaps most effective, method I’ve found for capturing tasks on the go is an index card in my pocket. I will often grab one at the beginning of the day, and write short notes about tasks that I’ve gathered on the fly. I tend not to use my low-tech method when I have a way to input the task directly (like when I’ve got my computer open, or can easily enter one on my mobile device), but I do like to use a notecard for capture when I’m moving around campus.

Once I’ve entered a task into my task manager from a notecard, I simply draw a line through the task so that I know it’s been captured. There have been times when I filled a 3x5 notecard on both sides before the day was over. This low-tech method has been one of the best solutions I’ve found thus far.

Medium Tech

Siri - Many task management apps will talk to Siri. I use OmniFocus, and it will grab tasks from a specific list in the iOS Reminders app. This means that I can ask Siri to “Remind me to change Larry’s grade to an A,” and it will capture into my OmniFocus Inbox. I’ve mentioned this before, but I find that it models good productivity-habits for students when I take a moment to capture something in Siri. Many times, my students will ask, “Can you help ME set up something like that?” I am always happy to get that question ;-) If you use OmniFocus, HERE is how to set it up. 

Email Drop - Many task managers have a dedicated email address that will send tasks to your Inbox. I actually entered this address in my contacts list, and nick-named it zzz. When I need to send myself an email (or forward an email) from my mobile device, I just type zzz in the “TO:” field, and it populates my OmniFocus email address. Another REALLY cool idea is to share that email address with people you trust (colleagues, staff, wife). My staff have my task email address, and can send me tasks into my OmniFocus Inbox. I was nervous initially, but I am now extremely happy that others have my task-inbox address. I’m even a little sore when those same people send me an email with a request - I’d rather it just go to my task manager.


Drafts - I can’t say enough about this app for iOS. It is an extremely well-designed text editor. The geniuses at AgileTortoise put a great deal of thought into how one would USE a text-editor on iOS. When you open the app, you get a cursor on a blank note. It opens VERY quickly, and one can just start typing. But the power of Drafts is found when you decide what you want to DO with that piece of text - you can turn it into an email, or a text message, or send it to Evernote, or html. If you use OmniFocus, you can also send the text as a task to the Inbox. This app is reaching the point of replacing my pocket notecard entirely. Drafts has become one of the most important apps in my entire workflow.

A Little Nerdier

There are some ways to automate tasks into your task manager. I use several that I find so useful that it was well-worth the time it took to set it up.

IFTTT - If This Then That is a simple script developer to help manage the “internet of things” (take it from a linguist, that’s becoming a term). I have a couple of recipes that rummage through my gmail inbox looking for key words. When those key words are present, the emails are forwarded to my OmniFocus Mail Drop. For example, some of my student workers accidentally send my messages to my email, rather than my OmniFocus email. I have a “recipe” (that’s what IFTTT calls these scripts) that finds the key word VMS and forwards it to my OmniFocus Inbox. More recently, our finance department asks us to submit a report monthly - but the start-date and due-dates are always changing, so they send us a reminder every month with updated details (uggghhhh). IFTTT looks for the key word, and forwards that to OmniFocus.

Hot-Spot - If I receive a file in an email that needs action, I will usually forward the email (with the attached file) to my OmniFocus Mail Drop. But there are times when I need to act on downloaded files. THIS script has been shared around the internet a few times - it uses Hazel to convert a file into an action in OmniFocus. Joe Buhlig’s instructions are the clearest version I’ve found. He has a GREAT site, BTW!

Capturing tasks is only the beginning - they must be organized and ultimately done (or NOT done), but having ways to ensure that they get captured so that they don’t have to be remembered is key to getting them done. If you’ve any tips for capturing tasks, please feel free to share them!

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1HOwZ1a

Posted on July 8, 2015 and filed under GTD, Task Management.

Capture - 2. Evernote

If you look at satellite pictures of my back yard (stalker), you’ll see a well-worn path from the door to the back corner. Every time our dog goes outside, he runs to that corner. What’s weird, though, is that the path is not technically a straight line - about halfway down the path, there is an inexplicable bow. It’s as though Jett has been avoiding a big rock on his way to the corner every time he runs the path. There’s nothing there - he apparently likes to make a miniature detour on his way to bark at the neighbor’s dogs.

I think Jett’s behavior is a good illustration of the challenge of capturing information, tasks, and responsibilities. Why do I write stuff down on a sticky note, when I know I’m gonna have to go back and enter it again somewhere else? Why do I save web-pages as “bookmarks,” when I’ve a billion to scroll through already? Why do I make a grocery list on the back of an envelope, only to discover that I forgot to bring my pen to the grocery store?

Evernote has really helped me address a lot of these “detours” over the past several years. There are a number of ways to “capture” things into Evernote, other than opening a note and typing. This means that just about anything can be easily directed into the Inbox, without creating a significant detour in the workflow. Here are a few of my favorites…

Default Inbox

When you use Evernote for the first time, it creates a notebook with your account name as the default notebook. I changed the name of mine to “!Inbox” - the exclamation point makes the notebook sit on the top of Alphabetical listings. You can change any notebook to be the default notebook by clicking the settings wheel on the bottom-right corner of the notebook, and selecting “Make this my default notebook” Having a dedicated inbox is the first step to Evernote Nirvana, as this is where all new information will go IN, and from where all processed information will go OUT (to other notebooks). I’ve written elsewhere about setting up Evernote more generally.

Email Drop

Evernote provides the user with a unique email address that will send information directly to the default notebook. To find this, open the Evernote web-app at Evernote.com, and go to account settings. On the account summary, near the end of the list, will be an email address that is attached to your default notebook. If, at any point, this address is compromised, you can reset the address. Forgive me for the blocked out information on the image below - as my mom used to say, “I trust you, I just don’t trust the other drivers.”

The email drop EXTREMELY valuable, and may be the most important part of my workflows with Evernote. There are some obvious ways to use this email address, and some not-so-obvious-but-oh-so-cool ways to use it as well.

Before Evernote, I used to try to delete emails that I thought would never be important. I’m not talking about spam here, but the email from Larry announcing to the university that his daughter was visited by the tooth-fairy. I am quite happy to hear it, and don’t mind the email per se. But I have found it difficult to accurately predict what will be useful in the future. Nowadays, I keep a great deal of email in my email-archive. I still delete spam and a lot of bacn as well, but Larry’s family dental history may well be archived in my email account.

However, when Larry sends me some data that may be important for a future committee meeting, I’ll forward that to my Evernote Inbox. If something seems important, or potentially important, and I believe that I will want to reference it someday, I send it to Evernote (e.g. emailed receipts, travel confirmations, interesting articles, committee reports).

Some email doesn’t seem important at the time I receive it, but becomes important in the future. Since I archived it in my email, I can find it and send it to Evernote. So Evernote has the stuff that seemed important (at one time or another), and my email archive has stuff that may never be important. Who knows, Larry may ask me to give a toast at his daughter’s wedding one day, and I’ll have some great tooth-stories to share.

I’ve found that some of the most important information in my email is in my “Sent” folder. If I send data, or information, or anything that I want to keep reference of, I add my Evernote Email Drop address in the BCC line. I just used it this morning - HR asked me for some information for an upcoming retreat. I blind-copied Evernote, so that I can pull that same information up in the future (cuz … you know … HR loses stuff).

Pro-Tip - If you forward the email, it will have all the forward-formatting. But in mail.app (Apple Mail), you can “redirect” an email to forward it without all the forward-formatting.

Web Clipper

This is the second-most used feature of my Evernote workflow. I must confess that I hesitated to use it much in the beginning - I really didn’t see the need to save something in Evernote that was retrievable on the web. Nowadays, I clip a lot of stuff. Searching in Evernote for something I clipped is SO much faster than navigating the web to find it. I clip online-payment receipts, interesting articles (not academic ones, I use Zotero for that), instruction manuals, conference schedules, blog-posts - a LOT of stuff. I did worry whether I would clip stuff that would later be useless - and sometimes I do clip stuff that I decide later on is not worth keeping - but I clear that out on Friday afternoons when I process my Evernote Inbox.

The web clipper is available for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and IE. It’s also available on mobile devices, if you have Evernote installed on your phone or tablet (and you should). Here’s how to set it up on iOS…

Once you have the Evernote app on your device, open a page in Safari that you would like to clip. Choose the “send to” icon…

Scroll the top row to the right to the “More” button

Turn on “Evernote”

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Now you can “Share” web-pages with Evernote, which clips them into your Evernote Inbox.

Drafts

If there is anything I don’t like about Evernote, it’s opening it up on my device to take notes. It takes a moment for the app to open, and there are a few clicks to make to get to a new note. Plus, you have to name the note in one field, and then click in the body-field to take the note…ok, this is totally a first-world problem. But I will show you a more excellent way…

Drafts by AgileTortoise is my FAVORITE iOS app. I procrastinated for a long time in trying it out - and I wish I had started using it the day I learned about it. Drafts is a very simple text editor for iOS - but it is also very powerful. Drafts opens quickly to a blank page, where one can start typing immediately. That’s nice when someone finds out you’re going to Jason’s Deli for lunch, and they ask, “Hey, could you pick me up a Southwest Turkey Sandwich with no cheese, no turkey, and extra bananas?” 

But it’s also nice for taking notes in a meeting. I have been trying to go “iPad only” at conferences and meetings lately, and I’ve been using the Markdown features of Drafts to take notes. Drafts can export any note into Evernote in several different formats. I’d be happy to describe how to use Drafts and Evernote, but AgileTortoise has two EXCELLENT articles on their site. Drafts will also make a repeat cameo when we discuss capturing tasks.

Scanning

While a lot of my scanning gets done on my desktop scanner (click HERE for a recent post on going paperless), I use Evernote to scan a lot of bits of paper - receipts, sticky notes, my Moleskine notebook. I prefer to use Evernote's Scannable app, in part because it allows me to capture a scan very quickly without opening the Evernote app. 

Automations

Evernote is so ubiquitous that most automation packages have found ways to integrate it. If This Then That (IFTTT.com) has great integrations with Evernote for web-automation, as does Zapier.com. I use Feedly for my RSS reader, and clip a lot of stuff to Evernote from there. 

Cleaning !Inbox

By the end of the week, my Evernote Inbox can be pretty full. As mentioned previously, I tend to first decide whether I was under the influence when I sent stuff to Evernote, and delete as much as necessary. I then process the notes, adding tags and sometimes changing titles of notes. Most everything gets sent to my Reference notebook, which is my archive in Evernote. I try to get the Evernote Inbox to Zero at least once a week.

 

 

Posted on June 30, 2015 and filed under GTD, Evernote.

Capture - 1. Inboxes

When I first started in seminary, one of the faculty described the program as "trying to drink from a fire-hose." I learned later that this is a cliché used by lots of academic programs - but the metaphor does a fine job of describing the immense challenge of capturing information and responsibilities. It can be difficult to gather everything that needs to be processed - and the same is true in our work contexts as well.

One of the specific frustrations I've experienced in the Higher Ed context, more than in any other work experience, is the way that new streams (or to maintain the metaphor, fire-hoses) seem to spring up. I referenced this earlier in the post entitled Streamlining Inboxes, but I thought I'd spend the next several posts describing solutions to the problem of "Capture."

Establishing Inboxes

One of the best pieces of advice I've received on capturing is to have great set of inboxes. As David Allen suggests, one should have as many as are needed, "No more, and no less." I have four major inboxes, and wherever possible, I like to push everything I can into one of those four. Here are the four that have a primary place in my workflow...

Evernote - I entitled this inbox "!Inbox" so that it remains at the top of the list of notebooks in my Evernote. This is the default notebook for everything that goes into Evernote - which tends to be a lot of stuff. I make it a priority to clean this inbox at least once a week (I have a recurring task to remind me to get it done on Friday afternoon). If I am having a crazy week, I may clean it more than once in the week.

Dropbox - Like Evernote, I have a file folder called "!Inbox." The folder sits at the top of my list of folders. I save EVERYTHING into that notebook, and in fact, I have designated it as the default place to save files from the text editor, Scrivener, Word, and everything else. As in the case of Evernote, I clean this out on Friday afternoon.

Email Inbox - This inbox gets cleaned once or twice a day. I tend to process mail before lunch and before leaving work for the day. Tasks are sent to my task manager, receipts and reference materials are sent to Evernote, and everything else is sent to the email archive. 

Task Manager Inbox - This inbox gets cleaned twice a day. After I have processed my email inbox, I'll go to my task manager (in my case, OmniFocus) and assign tasks to projects, assign contexts, and defer dates.

Streamlining Inboxes

Whenever possible, I try to get all information to flow into one of these four inboxes. I'd rather not have to go to 17 different apps and platforms to "hope" against hope that I haven't missed something important. Here are some ways that I have found streamlining to work for me...

Shared Google Docs/Spreadsheets - Some of my colleagues (with whom I collaborate on research) prefer to write in google docs. A very easy way to get these into one of my four inboxes is to copy the link to a file and attach it to the note of a task. I keep the task active (deferring as necessary) until I am done editing a shared document/spreadsheet. The link ensures that I am accessing the latest version of a shared google doc, but I don't have to open google drive to see what's going on. I also have some files on my own google drive that need to stay there (shared with others, attached to scripts, etc.). In those cases, I have created a Hazel rule that copies them into Dropbox so that I have the most recent versions in my Dropbox system.

VoiceMail Messages - My assistant and student workers take messages on the phone for me. I asked them to always ensure that the subject line of the phone message starts with "VMS..." I have a quick and easy IFTTT recipe to look for messages with "VMS" and send them to my OmniFocus maildrop.

Drop-Zones - If Evernote is on your dock, you can easily drop files onto the icon to have them uploaded to your Evernote inbox. I also have a drop zone for my Dropbox Inbox (see the images below), and created a Hotspot using Hazel to do the same with OmniFocus (coming in a future post). I can quickly drop a file onto any one of these three icons in the dock to have files shunted to the appropriate inbox.

 I created a folder named "!Inbox" and found an icon to make it stand out. Then, I simply dragged the folder onto the dock next to the other folders. Now I can quickly drop email attachments or things from my desktop onto the hotspot.

I created a folder named "!Inbox" and found an icon to make it stand out. Then, I simply dragged the folder onto the dock next to the other folders. Now I can quickly drop email attachments or things from my desktop onto the hotspot.

Phone Calls - When I am on the phone, I almost always have a new OmniFocus task opened and ready to capture. I've discovered that almost 80% (I measured it, cuz ... you know ... nerd) of the phone calls I make or receive contain some task that either I or someone else needs to get done. I tried opening Evernote for each phone call, but discovered that I rarely need to capture information, and more often need to capture a task (or a delegated task). 

Email Forwarding - I can't remember whom I owe this nugget to, but they deserve three cheers. When I forward an email to my OmniFocus, the subject line changes to "FWD: <original subject line>" - which means that I either have to fix all of the task names in OmniFocus, or get over the fact that much of my task list has the blasted FWD prefix. But if you are using mail.app, you can REDIRECT an email to your task manager, rather than FORWARDING the email. In this case, the email is sent to the task manager without all of the forward formatting junk.


Processing Inboxes

Sometimes (less than 15% of the time), I may to skip Inboxes and file things directly where they need to go. I've determined to do this only when I a) know where the file needs to go, b) have the time to put it there, c) named the file according to the naming convention, and d) know for certain that the file (or note) will be saved forever.

Otherwise, I process information in my Inboxes by asking myself a series of questions...

  1. Should I just delete it? - Sometimes I save stuff into Evernote, and by Friday I realize that it's not nearly as important as it seemed while I was drunk with web-clipping joy. I'll delete that stuff first.
  2. Does it belong in a different Inbox? - There are times where a task ends up in Evernote, or a file ends up in Dropbox that probably belonged in Evernote. I'll determine if it's in the right place.
  3. Is the file named correctly? - I try to follow a strict naming convention (see my convention HERE). Sometimes, stuff that needs to stay needs to be renamed.
  4. Should the item be processed? - Metadata like tags, projects, contexts, start dates, reminders, etc. get added to the file, note, task, or email.

Going from Inbox Zero to Inbox Hero

When I first heard Merlin Mann describe the Inbox Zero idea, I immediately took note, and started archiving all of my old emails. It turns out, that was not what he was suggesting. It's more about processing the inbox consistently and intentionally, getting stuff where it needs to be, and creating a means by which it is out of mind until it is necessary. Anyone can "select all" in gmail and "archive." But more attention and intention is necessary to actually "process" mail and tasks and files and notes into places where they belong. I call it, "getting to inbox hero."

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1LymlxR


Posted on June 25, 2015 and filed under General, Evernote.

Screencasting in the Classroom

I've been increasingly interested in finding ways to "shift" the lectures for my courses out of the classroom. The concept of "flipping" my courses has had a demonstrable effect upon student performance, SLOs, and evaluations of my courses. We use class-time to discuss a lot more, and explore the material together.

But moving lecture out of the classroom can present some significant challenges to faculty - we weren't necessarily "trained" in creating digital media. What's more, there are a lot of different ways to go about creating digital media. What follows is a description of my workflow for creating short lectures in video format for students to view outside of class.

Example

HERE is an example of a chapter review I created for Ream, T. C., Pattengale, J. A., & Riggs, D. L. (Eds.). (2012). Beyond integration: inter/disciplinary possibilities for the future of Christian higher education. Abilene, Tex: Abilene Christian University Press. This episode focusses upon Chapter 1 by James K. A. Smith.

Software

Camtasia - I have tried a number of different apps and combinations of apps. As I've said before, the adage "you get what you pay for" applies here - free apps tend to take a lot more time, and require the use of other free apps to complete the work. I finally went to our Digital Learning Studio on campus and asked one of the staff there to recommend software - without hesitation, she answered "Camtasia." I ran back to my office, and upon finding that the app is kind of expensive (~$100), I thought, "Can this really be worth it?" In a word, YES! I have used this program a lot over the last two years, and I have discovered that I can create a 5 minute video in less than an hour. The program has an awesome help menu, videos, and so far, answers to every question I've had to date. 

Keynote or Powerpoint - I create my slides with Keynote, and then record the slide presentation in full-screen mode. The preparation of slides is no more difficult than preparing for any lecture. I have, in many cases, just used the slides that I had already created for lecture to make a video.

Vimeo or Youtube - As I mentioned in the Evernote in the Classroom post, I am increasingly insistent that my materials belong to ME, not to my LMS. When I post videos in the LMS, it is always as a link to Vimeo. Also, I will take stuff down from Vimeo when it's not in use.

Hardware

Mic - A good mic is really important to creating video that you can be proud of. I originally tried to use the built-in mic on my mac - and the video sounded pretty bad. I purchased a USB mic with a little stand for about $25 on Amazon, and it's pretty OK. I may, at some point, spend a little money for a better mic, with a boom and a "pop" screen.

Computer - Duh. It is important to put notifications on hold so that they do not appear on your screencast. Also, my iMac has a LOT of RAM - but my Macbook Air only has 8 gig. I have found that, when running Camtasia, I get better performance on the MBAir if I close all the apps and refresh the RAM before starting.

Clicker - Some of my early videos had a noticeable "thud" sound whenever I advanced the slides because the mic (sitting on my desk) picked up the sound of my keyboard. I started using a clicker during recording, which solved the problem.

Workflow

Create Slides - I tend to do this first, as it drives the script that I'll write in the next step

Create Script - I initially tried to do these things in natural unscripted speech. No more. I discovered that a script is really important for several reasons...

  1. Time - It helps bring the total time of the video into control. If I write a script, I can edit it for brevity and directness. In fact, I've found that a good script can reduce the total time of a lecture significantly. I get more content into a five minute script than I feel I ever do in a 30 minute lecture.
  2. Accessibility - If you are in Canada, you are already required to caption all video content. In the US, this requirement is coming. A script makes captioning really easy, as text can be copied and pasted into the caption. (My example above does not have the caption layer, as I re-uploaded it for example purposes only). Additionally, you could attach the script as a transcript to the video file if captioning is not an option. For my part, I try to make content accessible through several forms simultaneously - but I am a disability compliance officer, so I would, wouldn't I?
  3. Clarity - Don't you hate it when folks read their slides? But I tend to do it a lot in live lectures. Scripting gives me a chance to overlay the text on the slide with different language in the audio track. To see an example of this, check out the example starting at 3:10.

Practice - Cuz, you know ... perfection.

Record - I prefer to do this in one long take. If I make a mistake, I will make a popping noise with my tongue and then back up to the previous sentence. The "pop" creates a visually identifiable peak on the audio file so that I can quickly find and edit the mistake out. I try not to talk during slide transitions - that way, I'm not worried about fixing audio and messing up the transition effects from slide to slide.

Edit - There are four steps that I complete IN ORDER. I cannot stress this enough - the order is kind of important...

  1. Edit the sound - Take out any errors (easy to find on the visual representation of the audio track) and ripple delete (apparently, that means delete the audio and corresponding video section of the project). This will create a clean, but boring, draft of the video.
  2. Add intros and outros - I do this just because I loves me some music - my students seem to notice it as well. 
  3. Zooms and Transitions - Now is a good time to see whether there are any video effects that need to be added. I like to sometimes zoom in on a portion of text for accentuating effect. Also, some text can be tiny (like in the cartoon at 3:54 of the example). Zooming in makes the text readable.
  4. Highlights - Once the draft is edited, and the effects are in place, text can be highlighted. See 2:42 in the example video of highlighting text.
  5. If you edit in this order, things won't get all messed up from edit to edit.

Export - I tend to save my files as mp4s, but then I am on a campus where almost everyone uses an iPad or Mac. You may discover that other formats are better for your campus. Regardless, I share these by uploading them to my Vimeo channel - so the format is not really very important.

Save the Source Files - I keep all of the files (script, Keynote, Camtasia, final product) for a video in a folder on Dropbox. I have discovered that there are a LOT of reasons why I may need to go back and fix something (errors, clarifications, adding captions, etc.), and that having them available saves a great deal of time.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don't Give Up - On the first attempts, these videos will take a lot of time to produce. Keep at it - there is a literacy to this stuff that develops in relatively short order. 
  • Get Students Involved - I have some videos that my students produced, which saved me a load of time, and gave them the chance to get creative with the material. In cases where I intend to share the video with future students, I get written permission to use the video.
  • Free Tools - I still use cheaper and simpler screencasting tools like Snagit or Screencast-o-matic to record instructions for a project. They are useful - but not for the solid gold I'm putting out there in my lectures ;-)
  • Student Paper Feedback - Here's the interesting thing. I thought that I would continue to use cheaper or simpler tools to record my feedback on student papers. But now that my classes are increasingly "flipped," I have time during class to talk to the students one-on-one or in groups about their work. I'm mentoring students directly on their writing in ways I could only DREAM of in a screencast. 
Posted on June 24, 2015 and filed under General.

Zotero for Personal Library Management

My name is Scott, and I'm a bookaholic. When I hit rock bottom, I was rummaging through library sales, garage sales, and even dumpsters behind Barnes and Noble to feed my habit. I bought books that no one, including me, wanted to read. But I've been giving it all to my higher power, taking it one day at a time, and remaining accountable to my sponsor - and things are getting better.

Seriously, I thought I had a problem until I visited my Greek professor's home - he had books pouring out of his kitchen cabinets! And there were no first editions of The Great Gatsby in the pile - he had Danielle Steele paperbacks for cripes sake.

At about the time I visited his home, I was also preparing for a big move - and decided that it was time to rethink what to collect and keep in my physical library. I can honestly say that, at this point, every book on my shelf (whether at work or home) has earned its real-estate. Desk copies that I don't like get donated, novels are given to friends, and paperbacks get recycled. I still have a LOT of books, but the ones I have are important to me.

About a year ago, I started cataloguing my library in Zotero. At first, it was a laboriously slow process, and I'd log a book or two in my spare time. More recently, I discovered some ways to automate the process so that I could move much faster. Now, whenever I receive new books that I intend to keep and use, I log them immediately with almost no effort. Here's the workflow so that you can save time at the expense of my experience...

Scanning ISBNs

I use a free iPhone app called "Bar-Code" to scan the ISBN code on the back of the book. In this example, I have scanned only one book (it just arrived), but you can scan several at a time. I found that if I scanned around 10 at a time, the app was reliably stable and happy to help - if I got greedy and tried to do more than 10, the app would sometimes crash.

Once the codes are scanned, the app offers the option to "Do something with the scanned barcodes." I choose "send the list by email."

The app sends the list of bar-codes in plain text format. Select all of them and copy to the clipboard.

Import ISBNs

Open Zotero (standalone or webapp) and click the "Add Items by Identifier" button (it looks like a wand). A small window will open in which a single ISBN, or a list of ISBNs, can be pasted...

Zotero will search for the ISBN information, and import the record into your library. Zotero will search for the bibliographic information, and create a record of the resource.

Old Books and Bad ISBNs

I'm sure a library scientist could describe why, but some ISBNs are not easily searchable. I was VERY frustrated with bad ISBNs, and books that were printed before ISBNs - until I ran across a workflow that should have been more obvious from the start.

When I find a book with no ISBN or with a bad ISBN, I simply go to my university's online catalogue and search for it. Since the online catalogue searches for books in lots of libraries, I am able to use the Zotero web-clipper to download the information into my reference manager. Other resources that can be used in a similar way include the Library of Congress, and even Amazon!

Books printed by self-publishers, or that are unique imprints (like some specialized textbooks) won't show up in any of these places. In the end, I had a few books that I had to enter information manually - but only a few.

Managing the Library

Tags - You can move all of the records for your physical library into a folder in Zotero, or you can tag them as items in your physical library (I used the tag "Personal" to note all of my own physical books). Consider tags for Personal, Home, Work, etc. Zotero will also import the keyword tags that some catalogues include in the citation information.

Notes - If you continue to be a sucker like me, you can note whom you lent your books to, or even annotate specific information about the book. I do keep annotations in the notes section. I used to note which were at home and which were at work - I now do that with tags.

Standalone - The standalone app is really quite nice. The catalogue syncs nicely across all my devices.

iOS - If you want to access your Zotero libary from iOS, ZotPad is a great tool. It's free, and will open any pdfs that are stored in your Zotero library right on the iPad. It's a great way to organize a lot of reading!

Keeping it Up

No that everything is in Zotero, it is VERY easy to add new members of my personal library. When I receive books, I scan the ISBNs, copy the numbers, and import them into Zotero. It takes only moments to log a new book into the reference library. It's a great way for a bookaholic to feel like they have a handle on his addiction.

Seriously - he had Danielle Steele paperbacks!!!

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1J8MIKn

Posted on June 19, 2015 and filed under General.

Going Paperless - 3. The Old Stuff

So, having stopped creating new paper, and finding the right tools to get a paperless office in order, it's time to look at those filing cabinets.

This is difficult to admit, but I'm not the most emotionally intelligent person in the world. I've had to learn late in my adulthood to identify and understand my emotions - and frankly, I am often surprised by what might be somewhat rudimentary for others.

A prime example was my unexplained attachment to about 12 linear feet of paper-files. My graduate school experience was mostly comprised of hanging out in the basements of libraries, my cargo-pants loaded with rolls of nickels. I'd collect bound journals, and start copying. On one occasion, I asked the librarian to refill the paper TWICE in one day. I then found some labels for my dot-matrix printer, and created labels for each article.

I've shlepped that corpus of files all over the country. Every time I've moved, including to and from Hawai'i, I've boxed those files up, found new file cabinets, and carefully put them back in order. I'm sad to say that I really only went back to them on VERY rare occasions - but I took them with me wherever I went.

When I decided to go paperless, I found it very difficult to part with these files. As I tried to understand why I couldn't let them go, I realized that I had invested a great deal of time (and nickels) into gathering them - and while I knew that I could find all of them (and more) online, I discovered that I had an emotional attachment to those files.

I got over it - they've all been recycled - but I discovered that we tend to keep stuff for more reasons than "I might need it one day." Like Costanza's overfilled wallet of receipts, we tend to think of "stuff" as "friends."

So in looking at the old stuff in the file cabinet, it's likely important to confess the emotional attachment to the stuff inside - it makes letting it all go a little easier if one can account for the feelings that are associated with our old friends.

Parsing Files

Not everything gets scanned - some of it can be recycled. Here's how I classified the stuff in my filing cabinets so that I could save time and digital space in scanning my old files...

Vitals (Scan and Keep) - The following are scanned into Evernote, but also kept in paper-form

  1. Government issued documents - I scanned birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, titles, deeds, and state-issued licenses.
  2. Gradebooks - Most institutions require that gradebooks are kept forever. Nowadays, my gradebooks are all digital - but I decided to scan my old paper ones and keep the books in my files as well.
  3. Vital Records - Wills, living wills, divorce decrees, and powers of attorney
  4. Recent Versions Of - Insurance policies, retirement statements, social security statements. Keep only the most recent versions of these, and destroy the older versions.

Necessaries (Scan and Recycle) - The following are scanned into Evernote, and then the paper is shredded and/or recycled

  1. Records - You should have a records policy, especially if you operate any external grants. For example, on the external grants I am responsible for, things must be kept for three years after a grant cycle is complete. 2 CFR Part 200.335 allows for any federal grant to keep digital records "whenever practicable" so long as there are "reasonable safeguards" against alteration.
  2. Personnel Records - Frankly, some institutions prefer that these be housed ONLY in Human Resources. But if you are likely to keep records, they can all be digitized and shredded.
  3. Student Product - I've always kept specific artifacts from students in each class (a final exam, the final paper, etc.) to have some record for program evaluation. Once these are scanned, it makes a lot of sense to shred and recycle them.
  4. Institutional Receipts - Check with your financial office. Mine requires that I be able to produce a receipt from the previous fiscal year if requested - anything before that can be destroyed without scanning. Original receipts are not required if one can produce an electronic version
  5. Personal Receipts - Ask your tax-man what he wants you to be able to produce. Original receipts are not required if one can produce an electronic version.
  6. Unpublished Personal Work - I've kept some of my papers from graduate school and seminary in digital form, and discarded the paper. Who knows, my grandchildren may one day want to know my thoughts on the trade-incentives for Iceland's conversion to Christianity.
  7. Attaboys - I've some cards that I received from students, colleagues, or family that I kinda wanted to keep. I scanned them, and then discarded the originals.

Non-Essentials (Recycle Only) - The following do not get scanned, the paper is shredded and recycled

  1. Old Institutional Records - If your institution or department's records policy states that records can be destroyed, they should be destroyed. I learned the hard way that keeping old records that are older than the records policy presents some liability in an A-133 audit - if you have it, they can test it. It's also a good idea to expunge electronic records according to your institution's records policy as well.
  2. The 12 Linear Feet - Oh, this was hard - but I said goodbye to my good friends. I threw out anything that was published (academic or otherwise). So far, I've not been sorry yet.
  3. Unnecessary Student Artifacts - Quizzes, Midterm exams, minor papers, and homework assignments went to the shredder without the warm glow of the scanner.
  4. Manuals - I found a manual for my old IBM 8088 computer. Maybe I should have checked whether that was collectible before I chucked it. Hmmmm.
  5. Old Contact Information - Let's face it, a phone number on a yellowed piece of paper from 20 years ago may no longer be useful. Plus, you can likely ask the person for updated contact info on Facebook. You say they're NOT on Facebook? They don't want to talk to you anyways, then.

Full Disclosure

When I was in seminary, I took notes for 8 hours a day for three years (summer included). The result is a series of about 16 2-inch binders with all of my notes in them. I'm not going to scan them, and I am not going to throw them away. I decided that I am quite comfortable with a little nostalgia. Also, I'm no Philistine.

Discarding Old Files

When throwing out old files, whether they were scanned or not, it's a really good idea to shred them before recycling them. I initially started shredding stuff myself - but that took a lot of time, and it was really messy. I finally decided to pay to have my old stuff shredded and recycled - it was a great decision. Not only was it easier, but I also learned that the service I used CROSS-shreds, which means that they turn your paper into little quarter-inch squares. It's super secure. I still have a shredder that I use for small jobs - but if you've boxes of stuff that need to be shredded and recycled, consider paying someone else to do it.

Scanning Services

I didn't try having my stuff scanned by professionals - and I'm not sure I would have in retrospect. One of my colleagues, however, used a service that collected his boxes of files, scanned them, stored the files on a cloud so that he could get them, and then shredded and recycled the paper. It was a little expensive, but he believes this was the best way to go. Once I pared down the vitals and necessaries, I discovered that I had a lot less to scan than I thought I would. 

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1H0ahof

Posted on June 18, 2015 and filed under General, Evernote.

Going Paperless - 2. Essential Tools

Perhaps because my pop was a machinist, I am a tool-freak! In fact, one of my guilty pleasures is browsing the Snap-On and Matco tool websites - I sorta like to fantasize about all the wonderful things I could do with a good Cleco fastener (for sheet-metal work). The truth is, I don't need a Cleco fastener, because I am never going to do sheet metal work - besides, I'm pretty sure my pop has one anyways ;-) On the other hand, I've found that the right tools, and the right QUALITY, are really important to getting things done effectively.

I once stopped to help a man on the side of the road change his flat tire. When I drove up, he was trying to remove the lug nuts with a pair of pliers. I guess it COULD have been done - but he really needed the lug wrench that remained pristine and undisturbed in his trunk.

Frankly, when it comes to going paperless, some of the same principles apply. There are a lot of very specialized tools that are both expensive and specific. Conversely, there are probably ways to get lugs nuts off with a pair of pliers - but the right tools can make a MAJOR difference.

So what tools are most valuable when it comes to going paperless? I have found the following necessary in my normal every-day management of files and paper.

Dropbox

This is my default place for storing files. I even keep my iTunes and Photos libraries there - so all of my stuff is available on my desktop, my laptop, and my tablet. I recommend starting with the free version, but keep in mind that at some point you will want to pay for additional storage. I've tried other cloud services (iCloud, GoogleDrive, Box, and even thumbdrives) - there's just nothing out there that does the trick as well as Dropbox.

Dropbox is NOT a backup. It's a really good idea to use some sort of additional backup (like Time Machine or Carbonite) to have second version of your Dropbox saved in case aliens abduct all of the Dropbox servers. 

Pro-Tip - Other folks on campus will invite me to Google Drive documents to share stuff "in the cloud." I've written a Hazel rule that gathers stuff from shared folders in Google Drive and places them in an "inbox" in Dropbox. I try to process that inbox once a week and put things where I want for them to go.

Evernote

I use Dropbox to store FILES. I use Evernote to store INFORMATION. There are other services that are also pretty good as well (OneNote is great), but Evernote is becoming increasingly ubiquitous among other users. Since you will likely want to share a note or notebook at some point, Evernote is likely the best option.

I use Evernote for almost everything I scan. Receipts, student work, course development materials, projects, and even my own personal LMS are in Evernote (see my post about Evernote as my preferred LMS HERE). If I am likely to need to reference information later, it will be in Evernote.

Evernote is free to start, but you should plan on purchasing an upgrade in very short order. Currently (as of June 17, 2016), their plans are Free, Plus (24.99/year) and Premium (49.99/year). I started with the free version, and then went to the full Business version - that was a bridge too far. If you are planning to go paperless, I recommend starting with Plus, and then move to Premium if necessary.

Pro-Tip - When I want to take notes on my iPad, I have find "Drafts" by AgileTortoise to be indispensable. The app opens VERY quickly, talks to other apps very well (Evernote, OmniFocus) and supports Markdown (you can even Markdown to Evernote). If I am typing on my iPad, it's in Drafts.

Scanner

Folks will be giving you paper, whether you want it or not. I have three scanners, and they each do different things for me...

  1. ScanSnap ix500 - This desktop scanner is the most important part of my paperless toolbox. It is extremely fast, scans duplex (two sided), almost never "misfeeds," and the ScanSnap software is remarkable (it allows one to choose whether to scan to Evernote as PDF, Evernote as JPEG, Dropbox, etc.). My assistant uses a NeatDesk scanner, but she's decided that mine is better. It's pricey (around $420), but it works ALL the time. The ScanSnap s1300i is also quite nice, has a smaller footprint, the same software, and a lot cheaper (around $260). I use one of these on my home computer.
  2. Scannable - This is a free (as of June 17, 2016) app that the good folks at Evernote developed for iOS. It is a GREAT scanner!!! The camera finds the edges of a sheet of paper (or Moleskine page, or receipt) and captures the page. Scannable will capture the image as soon as it sees it - without having to push any buttons. It will also deskew, unwrinkle, convert images to black-and-white, and send them to Evernote with exceptional ease. Evernote has the same software in the iOS Evernote app, but I keep Scannable on my home screen so that I can quickly capture paper without opening the Evernote app. Scannable is so fast that my colleagues who travel with me have joked about how I can scan a receipt faster than they can open a wallet to store theirs. True. What's also true is that I'll actually have mine when it's time to do the expense report ;-)
  3. Copier - The university provides offices with a big copy machine (Canon irC2550) that also scans. It's in our department's main office, so it's not really convenient to go over there to get something scanned. But when I started clearing old paper files, it was really useful. I actually had student workers do a lot of that scanning, so it was nice that they didn't have to sit at my desk - and the copier chews through big files very quickly. My rule is, if I am doing the scanning, I use my scanner. If a student is doing scanning for me, they can use the big copier.

Pro-Tip - I use Scannable a lot in the library. I take a quick snapshot of text that I want to refer to later, and send it to Evernote. 

Zotero

I'll probably refer to this in the next post as well, but I spent a good deal of my graduate education in the basements of libraries with my cargo-pants LOADED with nickels. It's so very nice to be able to search for and find academic articles online. Zotero has become my file-cabinet for all academic articles.

This is one instance where free is better. I purchased Papers III, and have paid for Mendeley, and found that neither met my needs nearly as well as Zotero (to see a comparison of Zotero and Mendeley, CLICK HERE). I also tried to keep that stuff in Evernote for a time, but I decided that Zotero's citation tools and browser integrations were just too good to pass up. If I am saving a peer-reviewed article, especially one that will likely be cited at some point, it goes into Zotero.

Pro-Tip - I use Zotero to manage my own library as well. I use a free app called "Bar-Code" to scan the ISBN bar code on the back of the book, and import those into Zotero. I can track where by books are (Home, Office, Student-who-I-errantly-believed-would-return-it), and the citation help is really nice as well. I've an upcoming post planned for that workflow.

There are other tools that may be valuable for more specific concerns - and if I ever need a Cleco fastener, I'll go get one. These are the tools that, at least currently, are indispensable multi-taskers that have proven valuable in my paperless office.

Image Credit: http://selnd.com/1GP6uIt

 

 

Posted on June 17, 2015 and filed under General, Evernote.