The “Eisenhower matrix” via Evernote

On the Evernote blog, Taylor Pipes has a helpful crash-course in the “Eisenhower matrix.” As Pipes notes, this diagram’s four-squares is perhaps better known from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In discussing the matrix, Pipes notes,

If you’re tackling the matrix for your professional goals, you may start to see that many of your to-dos are in quadrants one [important, urgent] and three [urgent, not important]. The biggest payoff comes from actions in the second quadrant [important, not urgent]. These are the goal-setting and evaluation of business objectives that impact the long-term success of a business, yet, they are rarely classified as urgent.

For the full discussion, see Pipes’s original post. Or, for still further treatment, and connection with other helpful habits, see Covey’s book.

Better attention than a goldfish

Goldfish imageA recent study commissioned by Microsoft Canada found, disturbingly, that the human participants’ average attention spans had fallen to 8 seconds, a shorter time frame than measured for goldfish (Evernote, New York Times). One of the major suspected drivers of these results is the propensity of the participants to use a mobile device while “paying attention” to something else.

Even comparatively minor distractions apparently have a compound effect on concentration and productivity (Computers in Human Behavior, Evernote). What is required to avoid this effect will be different in different contexts (Knowledge@Wharton). But, being as “present” as possible in or to whatever situation we’re engaged in should be helpful in at least raising for ourselves the question of whether the amount of time and life invested into something—e.g., a ding, chirp, buzz, beep, or blink—is actually worth the return that might be expected from that thing.

Evernote on minimalism

Although I’ve moved away from using Evernote, their blog still often features interesting content. Recently they’ve had a three-part series on minimalism that heavily leans on Joshua Becker (part 1, part 2, part 3). Among Joshua’s reflections that the series provides are a two-part suggestion for “saying ‘no’ effectively:

1. Figure out and write down what your priorities and values are, even if you’re in a hectic environment. Ask yourself some tough questions like “Who is the person I want to become? Would my 40-year-old self approve of this?”
2. Realize and understand this: “If you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. If you want to say no to something, realize that allows you to say yes to something else.” This is the true power of saying no: freeing up time so you can say yes to the things that matter most to you.

“If you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else.”

Or, in economic terms, each opportunity taken also has with it an accompanying “opportunity cost.” For the balance of the post series, see the Evernote blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). Joshua’s book, The More of Less (WaterBrook, 2016) can be found on Amazon.

Digital notekeeping

Michael Hyatt has a good discussion of digital notekeeping tools, a.k.a. “Evernote alternatives.” As even the nomenclature might suggest, Michael opts for Evernote.

I used Evernote for quite some time too but transitioned several months back to OneNote. I haven’t ever gotten particularly sold on Apple devices, so Apple-only alternatives were out by default.

While I enjoyed Evernote, their limiting their “Free” plan to sync with two devices was the main impetus for me to look for a change. Microsoft OneNote iconI already had OneNote at the Office and via an Office 365 University subscription at home. Plus, OneNote has both iOS and Android apps, as well as a web version, so it was a logical option.

(N.B.: Windows 10 comes by default with the OneNote app installed in a lighter version. But, that version doesn’t seem to allow files to be attached to notes, edited, and resaved immediately in the same note. The file has to be saved elsewhere and then moved back into the note, a workaround about which I wasn’t particularly crazy.)

Over the years, I’d accumulated quite a lot of data in Evernote. So, I was glad to see Microsoft’s Evernote to OneNote importer. Michael’s experience with importing notes was “a complete and utter mess,” but for me, things actually went quite smoothly.

OneNote has also gotten supported by a fairly convenient web clipper. Evernote’s web clipper might be slightly nicer in the abstract, but OneNote’s is definitely close behind. As with Evernote, OneNote also allows for emailing notes into a notebook.

Borrowing a page from the Franklin-Covey book, I’ve taken to setting up my OneNote notebooks in one tab per month. Then, I create a blank page numbered with the date out of that month and use the “subpage” feature to organize notes for that day underneath that main note. Tabs for months other than last month, this month, and next month get moved into an archival notebook for the year.

Very large OneNote notebooks do sometimes seem to have issues syncing to mobile devices. But, in the main, my experience with OneNote has been quite pleasant. It doesn’t have the tagging features that Evernote does, but OneNote’s search function has generally been quite sufficient so that I haven’t found myself wishing for greater tagging functionality. So, if you’ve been looking for a digital notekeeping tool and haven’t yet given OneNote a test run, you may want to give it a try.