Jacob contacted me by email to ask about productivity tools and tips:
Long time listener, first time… well you know.
I have a strange question for you – how do you work? Let me explain. As an engineer, entrepreneur, family man, etc, etc, time is my most limited resource though I expect even with more time, I wouldn’t be able to digest the amount of networking information out there. Blogs, tweets, white papers, user manuals, and on and on. How do you organize yourself in such a way to be successful? I typically use Evernote as my nucleus to keep track of my weekly priorities. I capture things I’d like to read (but usually never get to). But I like to take notes the old fashioned way…. anyway.
You strike me as someone who is very well organized and has a system that works. I’m always curious (but have a hard time asking) how people organize themselves. Would you mind sharing?
I’m not really sure how to answer your question, but I’ll give it a go and leave the risk of deciding whether it’s a good answer to you. The really hard parts isn’t the tools — it’s the habits you need to build to capture, tag, and sort.
Evernote Is Crap
Firstly, I’m not a fan of Evernote and believe it’s rubbish. It’s too easy to build a data swamp with a ‘dump and forget’ mindset. You need tools that will sort, tag, and structure your data at ingestion and search for extraction, neither of which Evernote is good at.
Second, Evernote costs more as you store/keep more. This creates a strong negative incentive to use the product and further reduces usefulness.
I use Devonthink, which has a powerful intelligence engine. More on this later.
How I Do It
I’m a big fan of software tools for my productivity. I invest time and money in software that helps me think, capture, and review. Lots of people take the default tools (like Microsoft Office) and attempt to work with them. This is doomed to failure; these products aren’t suitable for technologists. FWIW, I don’t have Microsoft Office installed on my computers.
I use Mac OS X. This allows file tagging so I can search for stuff. Tagging is unknown to most people, which makes me sad.
I capture a lot of stuff and use tags at point of capture. This requires building a habit that will capture content and to tag it immediately. I will download and keep just about anything that is interesting in PDF format. This includes Web pages. You can do this directly from the Web browser:
However, I capture most stuff directly to DevonThink Pro. This has a machine learning engine that can index all types of content, including OCRs of PDFs. It’s on my computer so I have access at all times and it is relatively cheap to own.
I keep a big bookmark library, with tags, at pinboard.in. This lets me scan my browsing history. I have apps that keep this index locally on my machine but mostly don’t use them. The Pinboard Web interface is fast and slick.
I have tools like Houdahspot that help me find stuff anywhere on my disk by referencing the spotlight index.
I use RSS Readers to rapidly scan more than a thousand blogs. My RSS reader changes from time to time (currently Readkit on OS X, Fiery Feeds on IOS). I use Feedwrangler as a backend but will probably switch to Feedbin in the future.
Twitter: I have ‘hidden’ twitter accounts for discovering new content. This removes distraction from my main twitter account.
Speed reading: I learned how to speed read at school and use this when scanning content. Biggest productivity tip ever.
I have some videos on my Youtube channel that talk about these tools: https://www.youtube.com/user/MyEtherealMind. Please note that these are three years old and I don’t use some of these tools anymore.