How I Use Evernote

I mentioned on twitter the other day that I love Evernote and use it to keep my daily to-do list and keep track of what I work on. A couple people said I should write a blog post about it. Since I’m just waiting for my Tylenol PM to kick in, I figured… why not.

If you’ve never heard of it, Evernote is a note-taking app that is accessible from anywhere. They have desktop applications for OS X, Windows and the iPhone and a really nice web interface too. I clip things I’m reading to it all the time to either save for later or because I know I’m going to want to send it to people and might not be able to find it again. I put quotes in it I want to save, put URLs to things, and even jot notes down on the iPhone if I come up with an idea while I’m out. It’s fine for that, but I didn’t become a heavy user of it until I started keeping track of my to-do list. I’d tried implementing GTD (Getting Things Done) several times before, but it never stuck, until now.

Evernote has the idea of notebooks and notes. I have notebooks called Stuff – for everything not work-related that’s not a to-do list, Journal – for all my daily to-do lists, and Work – for work stuff I want to remember.

Here’s how I use it for keeping track of my daily to-do list:

  • I have the desktop application open all the time. It’s never closed unless I’m rebooting, so my to-do list is only ever a couple keystrokes away.
  • Either at night before I leave work, or first thing in the morning, I create a new note in my Journal notebook with the date as the title.
  • Then, I just start creating a list of to-do items I want to get done that day. They’re usually always work-related, but sometimes they’re not (lthis week, one was: “Call doctor about the whole not-being-able-to-breathe thing” – and I did… check!).
  • Then, as I go through the day, I’ll either just check them off if they’re simple, or add details about exactly what I did and approximately how long it took. The details are the important thing, since I can now remember the steps I went through to do something and have much better recall when I need them again.

This sounds really anal, I know, but it’s really helped me concentrate on my productivity, and how much time I spend doing things other than the stuff I really need to get done that day. I also remember more of what I do during the day just by writing it down.\
The to-do items in Evernote are still a little buggy. For example, until recently, you could only add them in the desktop application and you couldn’t mark them complete in the web if iPhone apps. I just checked and you can’t mark them done in the web interface… oh well, nothing’s perfect (and it’s still in beta).

There are some great web apps out there that are all about to-do lists, and I’ve tried most of them (I got the farthest with Remember The Milk). I think Evernote is sticking because I use it for more than just the to-do list, and I can get to it wherever I am.

Max’s Birthday at the Oatland Wildlife Center

Max is excited about seeing some alligators!

Today is Max’s 9th birthday. To celebrate, I took the boys to the Oatland Wildlife Center to see some alligators and other wildlife. Little did I realize that it was a two mile hike around the center to see everything. And we did the whole thing. I, of course, took pictures which are up on flickr if you want to go see the rest of them.\
And just because it’s maybe my all-time favorite of Brian, here’s a bonus pic!

Brian wants more food for the fish.

Ga to Va, and back again

The kids used to have Babba Day, where they would get to spend the day with Babba (Kevin’s mom). This time they got Babba Bonanza, where they got to spend more than a week with her. She flew down on Friday, spent the weekend with us, she then drove the boys and me back to Va, we spent the week there, she drove us back to Ga, and then she flew home. How awesome! Here’s how our time was spent.\
Friday: Picked Babba up at the airport. Her plane was delayed so we truncated our plans. We were still able to take a quickie tour of downtown, the cute squares and historic buildings; stop at Leopold’s for ice cream; and took the boys to the beach. Babba and the boys had a blast playing in the water. Every time I tried to take a pic though, Babba would throw sand at me! So, no pics of her from that event. Sad. We came home to the hot lasagna I made earlier. YAY for great timing.\
Saturday: Dolphin tour and dinner at a seafood place that had a great view of the water. I had crab, two types of shrimp, and scallops. YUM! (Erm, Kevin had an allergic reaction to the fresh scallops. Not so fun.)\
Sunday: Church and fabulous homemade enchiladas and tortilla soup. Wooo. Babba sat next to an outgoing woman that I’ve decided should become my new BFF.\
Monday: Drove up to Va. Long day. Babba drove since I have a notorious light foot and we wanted the drive to only take one day. She asked me to stay awake for the entire drive and entertain her while she was driving, which was the least I could do. But, staying awake the whole trip??? Waaah.\
Tuesday: Babba treated us to lunch at a Japanese Steakhouse, the boys’ favorite type of restaurant. Then I did a bit of shopping- both at stores, the internet, and Babba’s closet- yay! I scored the most beautiful pink flats from Babba. And some white flats, and (faux) snake skin flats, and black flats, and beige flats, and another pair of pink shoes, and…\
Wednesday: Took the boys to the LDS Temple’s Visitor Center, a greasy diner for lunch, this amazing park (we had an awesome train ride there too!), and a butterfly house.\
At some point in the week I exclaimed, “Don’t make me go back!” Babba had been treating us really well- turkey dinners, fresh peach muffins, trips to new playgrounds. And I’d been sleeping on some magical, pillow-topped bed that allowed me to wake without pains in my legs and back.\
Thursday: I don’t remember much of Thursday. Oops. I know Grandpa played frisbee golf with the boys in the yard after dinner. It’s now Brian’s favorite game. ETA- I think the boys decorated t-shirts with Aunt Heather. Oh, we also went to the library to score some cheap books for sale (I found The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide for \$1!!) and then let the boys play at an indoor playground. (No sunscreen means no outside play.)\
Friday: The boys played with our old neighbors, Daisy and Mico, and then checked out a new playground with Babba, while I did laundry and took a nap. It was like everyone’s-favorite-activity day!!\
Saturday: Drove back home. Babba made excellent time, woot. Kevin made an excellent dinner. Woot, woot.\
Sunday: Babba flew home. Brian cried.

Dolphin Tour!

Two dolphins chase down a shrimp boat hoping for an easy meal.

My mom came down this weekend and we went on a dolphin tour (Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tour to be exact)! I don’t have time to tell the whole story now, but it was great. It was the perfect length – the boys were just starting to get antsy at the end of it and we saw lots of dolphins. The rest of the photos are here. I haven’t gone through all of them (we took a ton – I took 235 with the big camera, Max took almost fifty and Brian took a dozen or so), so I’ll probably add some more to the set this week.

Passing the Commute

I have a commute now. It’s not long or even unpleasant. I get to see some nice scenery, and it’s only about fifteen minutes. I’ve realized that now I have thirty minutes a day to listen to something I wouldn’t listen to other than the radio or music (which I listen to all day anyway).\
Before I get to the list, I have to say, I love iTunesU. It’s such a great resource for interesting stuff from public broadcasting and universities all over the country, and all for free.\
So, here are a few of the things in the queue for the iPod to listen to for the drive:

  • The Bugle – Hilarious “audio newspaper for a visual world” podcast from John Oliver (from The Daily Show) and Andy Zaltzman. I look forward to this every week.
  • Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams – I’ve heard about this from all corners of the web, so it’s in the queue, and free from iTunesU.
  • Funny People: George Carlin – I just found this one while wandering around… it’s on the list.
  • This American Life
  • TED Talks – TED is amazing, and they’re putting all the talks online for free.\
    Seriously, spend some time wandering around iTunesU and see the amazing amount of content. It’s a ton of fun to wander around and see what’s there and grab stuff.\
    Obviously, now I need a longer commute.
Categorized as uplaya

Three Weeks In, A Look Back

I know I’ve been rather quiet since leaving AOL and joining up with Music Intelligence Solutions, but as you can see from Jen’s entries, we’ve been busy. I’ve been going back and forth to Savannah, trying to both get to know the team, the vision and the plans we have for launching, and at the same time, designing architecture, doing training and helping folks get up to speed on scrum and other stuff. It’s been a lot of late night, long conversations, whiteboard sessions (note to self, get a bigger whiteboard), and late-night epiphanies while trying to get to sleep.

I keep thinking about what I learned over thirteen years, and the people who took their time to mentor me, and the excellent managers I had who showed me how to deal with both pressure and conflict. I keep thinking about one of the first technical meetings I had way back in 1999 about AOL Search. We were just getting started with the project, and I was the front-end guy, and one of the only people involved who knew AOLserver and Tcl. So, there I was in a room with two PhD’s, with them asking me what I wanted the API to look like. Joe Dzikiewicz and Tom Donaldson sat there and asked lots of questions, we drew on the whiteboard, and I was freaked the hell out…

There are hundreds of people I should thank for helping me over the years. I tried to count up all the people I worked with at AOL, and it’s easily over a hundred and I got close to two before I stopped. But, the person I keep coming back to is Joe. He was one of the first computer scientists who took me under his wing. I don’t have a degree – everything I know about technology is either self-taught or through experience and others helping me out. I’ll never forget an IM Joe sent me while we were working on AOL Search. It went something like:

  • Joe: Hey, things are looking good, but it seems kind of slow. Are you threading the requests?
  • Me: Am I what?
  • Joe: … I’ll call

I think I scared him; but, he very patiently explained it to me, and then sent me off to figure out how to implement it.

I learned so much from Joe, and from the hundreds of other people I worked with at AOL – from my first manager, Judy Winger, who “saved” me from getting fired from a really stupid e-mail I sent to the wrong manager (well, that manager was the intended target, but…), Priscilla Serling for encouraging me to take the job in Virginia, to Robin Vinopal and Mark Robinson who taught me so much about how to treat the people who work for you, and to Bert Arians and Alan Keister for giving me all the room I needed to try new things. And all the nerds, geeks and smartasses I worked with.

It’s only now that I’m gone and have a couple weeks away that I see how lucky I was to work with all the people I did.

I’m having a blast at MIS trying to implement all the stuff I learned over the years at AOL, and all the stuff I wanted to try but couldn’t, either because of upper management (I can only say that I learned a whole lot about what not to do from AOL’s upper management over the years) or because I wasn’t in a place to do it. It’s been a lot of fun seeing my new team embrace all the things I’m throwing at them (and I’m throwing a bunch, everything from The Cluetrain to web standards).

It’s going to be an adventure, and before I get too far along in it, I have to say “thank you” to everyone I worked with at AOL. Without you, I wouldn’t be here, and I’ll be forever grateful.