How to Never Forget Anything Again

158 Comments


Systems allow stress-free productivity without wasting mental RAM. (Photo: Fotopakismo)

The human brain is a wonderful thing, but it’s a bit faulty as a tool for remembering things. Luckily for us (and for our frazzled brains), technology has stepped in to help out.

With the proper habits and the right tools, you and your brain won’t have to remember a thing again.

There are a host of tech tools that can help with taking notes, managing projects and to-dos, and manage your email and calendar needs just fine. Though I’ll include the best choices below, these tools are just one piece of the puzzle. There are more elegant methods (ever scheduled something in Google Calendar via voicemail?)…

To really never have to remember a thing again, you have to combine a few tools in smart and comprehensive fashion, and even more important, you have to develop specific habits that will ensure that things don’t slip between the cracks … because the cracks just get bigger and bigger with more time and more data.

In this post I’ll look at some of the requirements of a “Never Forget Again” system, along with 4 key habits for using that system. I’ll include my setup, as well as some other tools you can use to develop your own setup.

A Comprehensive System

What are all the things you need to remember? There are many types of data, from phone numbers and emails to tasks and projects, from follow-ups to status reports, from errands and appointments to websites and photos, and from random ideas to notes for class or about a book, etc..

A comprehensive system will handle all these things and allow you to save them, access them, and be reminded of them with ease. There shouldn’t be a lot of fuss.

Sound about right? Let’s take a look at the system and tools — then the habits — needed to do all this.

My Setup

This might sound a bit complicated to some, but I assure you all of these tools are simple, easy to use, powerful, fast, and fun to use. Those are my criteria. I use a setup the includes Evernote, Gmail, Gcal, Anxiety and Jott. These tools allow me to capture any information, at any time, and retrieve the information quickly and easily.

Let’s take a look at how:

  1. Evernote: This is a great app for storing just about any information you want. In fact, if you wanted to simplify your setup, you could almost just use Evernote to remember everything. It can hold notes, clip web pages, store photos and audio notes, and more. Really cool feature: snap a picture of something on your camera phone, and send it to Evernote … then Evernote will scan the image and you can search for words within the note. This makes sending yourself notes really easy — you can take pictures of business cards, menus, receipts, documents and more … and it’s automatically searchable. Evernote is available on PCs, Macs, on the web and on mobile devices such as Blackberries and the iPhone … and it syncs very easily across all these platforms, which makes it available from anywhere. Need to find a note while on the road? Just access Evernote with your mobile device and do a quick search. It really works well for just about everything.
  2. Gmail: My favorite email app, Gmail uses archive and search (along with labels if you like) to quickly store and retrieve any information you need. I also send quick emails to Evernote from Gmail, allowing me to turn emails into notes that will be retrieved from anywhere. I also use a Firefox plugin to combine Gmail with Gcal (see below) so I can see emails and my calendar in one view.
  3. Gcal: Also known as Google Calendar, Gcal is accessible from anywhere and just works really well. I set up reminders if I want to make sure to remember something, and it’ll send me an email or text message. Need to remember to follow up on something? Set a reminder in Gcal for one week from now. Get used to setting up reminders quickly in your calendar, and you won’t have to remember anything.
  4. Anxiety: I actually play around with lots of to-do apps, but my current one is Anxiety. It’s very lightweight and very simple, and it sits right on my Mac. I don’t like to keep actions in my email program, so when I receive an email that requires an action, I just quickly add a to-do item to Anxiety (it just takes a quick keystroke to do that). There are lots of other great to-do apps that can be integrated with the other apps on this list, but I don’t need anything complicated — I like my apps to be light and fast.
  5. Jott: This handy app ties everything together, and is very valuable for when you’re on the go. Just call Jott from your cell phone and leave a message, and it’ll be sent to your email … or to another service you specify. For example, I’ve set up Evernote as one of my Jott contacts, so that when I send a Jott message to Evernote, it’s automatically added to my Evernote database and is searchable later. I’ve also added Gcal so that I can easily set up appointments and reminders while on the road. Other to-do items go to Gmail, where I’ll process them later to add to my to-do app.

Finally, I use Quicksilver on the Mac to make everything faster. I can easily send an email from Gmail, add an appointment in Gcal, or send a note to Evernote, by using the fast keyboard magic of Quicksilver — with a few keystrokes, the information is entered and sent, with no mouse required, and no apps required to be opened.

4 Critical Habits

If you want a system to work, you’ve got to develop the habits to make it work. It’s that simple — without the habits, the system will fall apart — always. You’ve done it again and again, and so have I: set up a great system that works for a few days, maybe even a week. Then it slowly falls by the wayside.

Focus on developing these habits for one month. If you can do that, the habits should stick.

  1. Make a note, immediately. This is perhaps the most important habit. If you can teach yourself to make a note of things right away, immediately, without putting it off, you’re halfway there. Someone give you some contact information? Make a note and save it, right now. Receive an email that requires an action? Put it on a to-do list, right now. Want to remember this website, or have a receipt you need to save? You get the picture. Don’t put it off.
  2. Use your lists and tools, consistently. The next most important habit. A list, a calendar, a note-taking app … none of these are worth anything if you don’t use them on a consistent basis. For some of these tools, that means checking them daily. For others, it might be 2-3 times daily or even more often. Tie these actions to something already firmly established in your daily routine: for example, check your calendar and email list right when you get into work, check your email before you leave work, or check your notes right when you get back from lunch. Find what works for you, but you get the idea.
  3. Make it quick and painless. If it’s difficult to add a note or save information, you’ll put it off sometimes. Same thing with retrieving the info — you don’t want to go digging through folders or waiting on a slow application to load just to get something. You want it fast and easy, or it won’t work.
  4. Archive and search, don’t file. Along the lines of the above item, it’s better to use a quick search function than to have to remember where you saved something. If it takes too long to find, you will stop using your system. Archiving stuff (instead of filing into folders) and then searching work fastest — Gmail is one of the best examples of that in action.

Alternative Tools and Set-ups

The tools I use are just some of the great options available. See below for other apps I recommend.

Note-taking Tools

1. OneNote: This is the default note-taking tool for anyone who uses Microsoft Office, and it’s very powerful. Unfortunately for some of us, it only runs on Windows I believe.

2. Yojimbo: A Mac-only program, Yojimbo is beloved by its many users for its power, flexibility, and easy of use. It’s super fast to add things into Yojimbo, which is a great selling point.

3. Backpack and Packrat: One of the best of many web apps for collecting info, Backpack is versatile and easy to use. You can store notes, text, images, links and more … and send items via email and SMS text messages. It also has a calendar and reminders. For Mac OSX users, there’s also a desktop application, Packrat, that works well with Backpack for off-line needs.

4. Text files: The simplest method of all — and one that I’ve used with success. Create a series of text files for different needs, and copy and paste your notes into the appropriate text files. I have text files for ideas, to-do items, errands, notes and shopping lists. Small and fast. Works very quickly if you use a program such as Quicksilver for opening the appropriate text file or even adding text to the end of the file without having to open it.

Email Apps

1. Mail.app: Mac OSX users love their Mail.app, a program that comes with Macs and that has some very powerful filters for manipulating emails and to-do items. Can sync with different computers if you use Apple’s online service.Webmail: If you don’t like Gmail, there are many other types of webmail, including Yahoo or Hotmail. I just think Gmail’s the best.

2. Outlook: Of course, Outlook is the default mail program for PCs, and it’s actually a pretty good program for capturing most of your data, including calendar and to-do items, although I won’t list it in the categories below because it’s already listed here.

Calendars

1. iCal: Free, simple, but great calendar program for Mac users.

2. 30 Boxes: Good online program, but not as good as Google Calendar, in my opinion.

3. Sunbird: Open-source, cross-platform calendar app from Mozilla, the creator of Firefox.

To-do Apps

1. Things: Awesome Getting Things Done app for the Mac. Simple, easy to use.

2. Omnifocus: Another GTD program for the Mac, maybe the most powerful there is.

3. iGTD: Yet another great GTD program for the Mac. It’s hard to choose between these three.

4. RTM: Remember the Milk is probably the most popular online to-do app, and it’s extremely flexible — you can integrate it with Gmail, Twitter, Jott, text messages, email and more. Other good online to-do apps include Nozbe and Vitalist.

On-the-go Tools

1. Mobile devices: the iPhone, Blackberry and various PDAs are all good choices for capturing tasks and information on the go.

2. Pocket notebook: You can also go retro and use a small notebook (or index cards) for capturing data. I use a Moleskine pocket notebook. Enter the data into your computer when you get home.

###

This guest post was written by Leo Babauta.

Read more from Leo Babauta at his blog, Zen Habits, or check out his effort to raise funds for humanitarian causes, Train For Humanity.

Posted on: September 17, 2008.

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158 comments on “How to Never Forget Anything Again

  1. I use Outlook synchronized with a Palm Z22. Plus some sticky notes and a pencil. This setup has replaced my Franklin planner for a major savings of space. Together with my cellphone and my sketchbook I have an office that fits in a couple of pockets.

    I’d like to like Google Calendar but Google is pretty stupid about synchronizing calendar and contact items with other apps such as Outlook and Yahoo!

    Data is periodically offloaded to backup USB drives and Yahoo.

    Like

  2. I completely agree that it’s absolutely crucial to make a note IMMEDIATELY.

    Not only is it the only way to make sure you don’t forget – it’s also very freeing, because your brain is free from trying to remember the stuff that you wrote down.

    Like

  3. Gmail is the best thing since sliced bread!

    “1: Make a note, immediately”

    This is always key. The second I put something down, it becomes swallowed up by the chaos of life.

    This post is filled with some great apps and ideas. Great job and it’s good to see you, Leo, in the house of Mr. Ferriss.

    Like

  4. Some nice ideas, Leo. And thanks for the links to Anxiety, Jott, and Things. I don’t read lifehacker as much as I used to so I miss out on a lot of these apps.

    BTW, awesome picture.

    Right now I am simply using txt files on the computer (with quicksilver) and a small notebook (not moleskine… I know, I know.. I’m sorry). But I will look into a few of these ideas.

    Thanks!

    Like

  5. What a great blog post and I absolutely love Zen habits. I remember things by writing down notes when I know I need to remember it. That is the easiest way to remember things because you can always come back to your little notes. The hardest thing is when I am laying in bed and I think of something I need to remember but I do not want to get out of bed to remember it. But the best thing is that you usually remember it in the morning. It is kind of like when you study late at night. It has been proven that we all remember things if we study right before bed. So if we are laying in bed and remove a think about what we want to remember you will most likely remember in the morning. It really works for me, I’m sure it will work for other people also.

    Like

  6. Hey Leo,
    I too love the moleskin notebook. I take it with me as I’m traveling around the world filming and can use it to record thoughts- in kind of a Hemingway sort of way. I also like the Omnifocus program but have found the “Things’ program way better especially as an app for my iPhone. Either way terrific post as always.
    Rob

    Like

  7. Thanks Rob! Yeah, there’s something really pleasurable about using a Moleskine notebook, and that in itself has a lot of value. If you love using a tool, you’re more likely to use it.

    I’ve also found Things to be pretty great, but I’ve opted for simplicity in using Anxiety.

    Btw, thanks to Tim Ferriss for publishing my guest post … it’s an honor to be here!

    Like

  8. As for the Moleskines, I have them as well but my favourite for sticking in a back pocket are the “Pentalic Modeskin” knockoffs which have similar but heavier paper and soft leather covers bend to fit my butt. You have to patch the Modeskins a bit after some use but they’re a third the price of Moleskines.

    Like

  9. Things now has a version for the iPhone that will sync to-dos and whatnot automatically via WiFi. Enter on the Mac, check off on the iPhone, and vice-versa.

    Great for having your to-do list with you at all times, and, unlike some of the other options mentioned, doesn’t require that you always have a WiFi/3G internet connection.

    Like

  10. Off topic for this item Tim but an interesting heads-up if you hadn’t come across it. (I can’t recall a post about it, and there’s nothing on Search.)

    You recommend ProfNet for PR. Well Peter Shankman of http://www.helpareporter.com (aka HARO – help a reporter out) has usefully similar service for free. Peter is very contactable too.

    Worth researching for your readers, I’d suggest.

    Like

  11. I use just about the same habits, only I am using paper instead of technology. I know it’s less environmentally friendly, but since my life goal is to save the planet, and I recognize the fact that I’m using the paper, I think it’s a small sacrifice in the long run.

    What I do is I put a blank index card in my pocket every day, with a pen, and whenever I think of anything I have to remember, I write it on the card. Then at home I have a looseleaf sheet of paper I use as my to do list, and a week-by-week calendar for longer-term duties. I also have a very detailed weekly schedule make up using the facebook application, and I have it printed out and set up in my study area. I also have an index card with the names of books that I want to buy in my wallet, and an extra copy of my weekly schedule in case I need to add anything new.

    It’s a relatively new system for me but it works! and it’s cheap! I don’t have to remember ANYTHING anymore, and my brain can finally relax.

    Like

  12. I was a bit disappointed coming to this post only to find its not about actual memory improvement, such as the methods taught by Harry Lorayne, Tony Buzan , or my favorite author, Dominic O’Brien. His methods for having a mental diary have helped me IMMENSELY and I now can instantly remember any phone number given to me without hassle. I even can memorize a deck of cards in under 3 minutes!

    Although I will concede there is certain advantages for these online apps.

    Like

  13. Fine, remember that deck of cards. Now memorize another one. Now play back the OTHER deck of cards you memorized last Thanksgiving.

    Many of Harry’s tricks (Harry was a magician) work for remembering certain sequences, but not for sets of identical sequences. And even if you forget a couple of cards, hitting 50 more or less in a row is still impressive.

    But forget a mortgage payment or job interview or to finalize the Jackson contract… and the consequences might be just a little different.

    Like

  14. Great post! Started using RTM a few weeks ago and find it extremely helpful. It’s hard to get into the habit of checking it constantly, but it saves me time.

    Also, just finished the “Eliminate” section of 4HWW and applied an e-mail auto-responder this afternoon. Received 10 e-mails since then and no complaints thus far. Felt instant relief as I knew everyone would now know when to expect my response and not hassle me to provide one until then.

    Now it’s back to homework…(I’m a college student in charge of our Engineering Student Council and these tips have allowed us to become more productive while reducing my time commitment.)

    Thanks!

    Like

  15. Fancy tools are great, but simplicity has its place too.

    I hope it’s “cool” to share this. It relevant and free so I hope I am not goofing it.

    I put out a nifty free ebook recently that tells the story of how Otto Lowei almost lost the idea that won him the Nobel Prize becuase of a bad capturing technique.

    It also provides:

    4 Fantstic ways to develop and ignite your personal creativity.

    2 ways for overcoming the things that stifle your creativity and imagination.

    1 tip I personally learned from Donald Trump for obliterating the fear of failure.

    1 technique used by creative intellects like Salvador Dali and Thomas Edison for capturing the powerful insights from the dreaming mind.

    Great stuff from all.

    Steve

    Like

  16. @Israel: Lol. How are you posting this comment while disconnected from the web? ;)

    Seriously, though, I agree that disconnecting from the web can be a very productive habit, for at least a few hours a day … but the reality is that for at least part of the day, most of us are connected and we need habits that will keep our information organized without hassle.

    Like

  17. @Jezza: The beauty of these tools is that while you can certainly work on your memorization skills, you don’t *have* to do that … these tools take the burden off your memory, and free your mind for more important things. You can worry about creating your masterpiece, instead of all the little details of life.

    Like

  18. I like the Stickies application on the Mac. It’s the PostIt Note application and it’s nice because I’ve got notes right on my desktop that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. I can look at those when I open up the computer and remember to take care of them right away.

    Like

  19. Hey Leo,

    Great to see you posting here! As I imagine there will be other suggestions from folks. . .I’ll chip in. One of my absolute FAVORITES is FuseCal.

    http://www.fusecal.com/

    One of the trickiest and most tedious things I’ve had to keep up with over the years are event calendars from groups I’m involved with in some fashion. I used to have my admin check out the calendars each month and then add things manually until I find this program. Essentially, it allows users to copy the URL from the calendar page of whatever group they’re in, or wish to monitor, and then seamlessly adds it to your gCal, Yahoo, Mac or whatever calendar you’re sporting. It’s free. . .yeah! And super-a$$-sweet.

    I even have Tim’s EventBrite calendar in there so I’ll know if he’s comin’ to Chicago!

    Cheers,
    Doc

    Like

  20. I use several of these, and in fact, use Google Docs for quite a number of things related to business management. The “to do” list suggestions are a missing piece, and the habit of doing it all immediately and integrating it all are both key.

    Great post. I’ll give some of these a try. Nice notes on which are for Mac and which not.

    Like

  21. You’re on target with your Four Critical Habits. I used to save emails in different Outlook folders … and still have trouble finding things. With Gmail, you can save everything, add tags (optional) and then search. That’s much easier.

    Remember The Milk makes task management very easy. I’ve using Outlook and other tools (even paper!) but RTM works extremely well. I love being able to email tasks to RTM when I think of them, and getting a daily email reminding me what’s due today.

    I haven’t found the right tool for storing stuff. I want something that’s online for ease of access and painless backups. I want something that’s on a USB flash drive for offline use. I’m currently testing a very interesting tool called PersonalBrain (http://thebrain.com) which allows nonlinear linking to items. It runs off a USB flash drive and the basic version is free.

    Like

  22. Leo,

    Thank you for the writeup on Evernote – wonderful idea!

    Here’s a big question: Evernote helps you search for things you want to remember… but what about things you forgot? You wouldn’t know to search for them – you don’t remember that you ever knew them!

    For example, I might be researching a way to build a treehouse, while completely forgetting that my friends brother owns a treehouse building company.

    I see two solutions to this.
    1. Always check with EverNote on everything, just in case.
    2. Make a Google add-on, so that for every Google search I do, EverNote matches are displayed on top.

    Thoughts?

    Like

  23. Jott now charges for the privilege. I used to send my text jotts to evernote for free, but now there’s a fee for jott-to-text emails and older users aren’t grandfathered.
    Still a great tool, one of my favorites. But FYI to your readers.

    Like

  24. Dang. Now I’m lost in getting the GCal and Gmail extension to work together. Hmm…..

    But its a great list of web tools to let us improve in productivity and remembering things better. :)

    Thanks Leo (and Tim for publishing this)!

    Daniel

    Like

  25. Dear Tim,

    Thank you very much for this amazing post. If it’s not too much trouble, please do add a plug in that allows one to share your posts on Facebook.

    Wishing only the best,
    Yaser Anwar

    Like

  26. While online tools have their place I find that being around a computer / internet connection only around 33% of the day makes them out of reach most of the time you need them. This especially applies if you are working and office-bound only a few hours a week (like Tim) or only a few months a year (like Me).

    What’s worked for me is to religiously carry a PDA – it doesn’t really matter which one as long as it has an address book, calendar, todo lists, and notes. For a while it was a Danger Sidekick, but for the last 18 months it’s been a palm TX. Very basic software can do everything you need as long as you are religious about carrying it, entering data, and backing it up!

    If for whatever reason that doesn’t work – like you are out rural where you can’t charge batteries or everything gets a regular soaking of water – then I advise carrying a pen & small pda-sized notebook, pre-populated with the most important contacts, lists, etc.. It’s also a good place to write the most common language phrases that you’ll encounter where ever it is you are traveling.

    Cheers,

    — Greg

    Like

  27. Great suggestions, but what about the new Pulse smartpen from Livescribe? I’ve been using it for the last few weeks and it rocks. its at livescribe.com.

    Great for capturing everything you write and hear, and you can search for words within your notes so you can actually find what you were looking for.

    Like

  28. Excuse me Mr. Ferriss,

    But I see some contradiction.
    One of your main pieces of advice is to: “throw away your Blackberry”

    This post recommends a Blackberry.
    So which is it? Throw the Blackberry away and be “decidedly low tech” as you once professed; or buy one as this post advises?

    Thank You Mr. Ferriss

    Like

  29. Has anyone tried Live Scribe? http://www.livescribe.com

    It is basically an electronic pen that works with a proprietary pad of paper to record voice and notes by touching “icons” on the pad of paper.

    I could see how this would be great for college students.

    Looking for feedback, is this just another piece of technology that ends up sitting around your house instead of being used?

    Like

  30. Hi All,

    First off, thanks to Leo for the great and thought-provoking post. It appears that Jott now charges for some services, but I’m eager to test out the Jott –> Gcal connection.

    @Mr. J,

    I don’t own a Blackberry and would throw mine away, but others have the self control to keep e-mail checking to set times. I don’t, so I avoid the tool that is prone to abuse.

    @Yaser,

    Thanks. Actually, the “share this” button allows you to share on Facebook. I wish I could put up a Facebook icon as well (and I might), but I don’t want it to get too crowded.

    Thanks all for the great comments!

    Tim

    Like

    • This is for everyone;
      Has anyone noticed (or is it just me?), that the iPhone app for Google Docs is terrible? Or I am missing something? Once activated, there is an edit feature. It is a plain white screen and with the Apple keypad works real nice. Once you upload to Google Docs, it looks odd; letter a re spaced out. Has anyone else noticed this?
      Thank you so much!

      Like

  31. @MrJ: Just to clarify, I wrote this post, not Tim. But I think the two pieces of advice can be combined:

    1. Don’t use a Blackberry to check email and browse the Internet all the time.
    2. But, you can use it (or other tools) to send yourself notes on the go. Again, you don’t need to use a Blackberry — a simple cell phone or pocket notebook will do.

    @Greg: Great points … not everyone is connected all the time. You can and should use the tools that work for you — my setup is just one example. But the key habits are still the same.

    @lisan7: Yes, you’re right … Jott was free and now has moved to a paid plan. I signed up for the paid service — it’s only a few dollars a month.

    @Oleg: Great idea — if you could have a plugin to search Evernote when you search Google, that would rock! Someone should create that.

    Like

  32. Nice post. I’ve been searching for ‘The Way’ on personal memory management for about 20 years and have tried ever gadget going. I do find personally that the best thing for me is to simply carry a small notebook and pen around, but I’ll be trying the suggestions here too.

    Like

  33. When I saw the title of the blog I thought it might be valuable, it seems it was written by a person who is conversant with how human memory and human brain works.
    Instead, I found that it is quite a cheap article written by an average project manager kind of person who struggles with his daily bits and pieces of work.

    I wasted my time.

    Like

  34. I change to do apps more often than my socks but the enduring one has been Thinking Rock. It supports Windows (and Mobile), Linux and Mac. The only problem being that it has no client for the iPhone yet. As soon as is has that, my assimilation will be complete…

    Chandler is very raw at the moment, but is worth check out as it has online calendar integration and a web client that acts as an online store for your tasks/cal information therefore enabling online/offline syncing.

    Cheer,

    Simon

    Like

  35. Great collection of tools.

    I would also recommend http://www.gtdagenda.com , not only it combines some of these features (it has projects, tasks, calendar, GTD contexts and next actions, etc), but with it’s “Priority 1 line”, that separates priority 1 tasks from the rest it could be very useful for Tim’s book advice of starting the day with focusing only the 2-3 most important tasks.

    Like

  36. I agree – simple and effective are key. I’m a fan of text files.

    My most powerful tool has been yellow sticky pads. I try to capture one great point or one key action per note. I can arrange them or stick them wherever, whenever. I bring my sticky pad with me to meetings, movies, you name it.

    Like

  37. Great post Leo. I like both Gmail and Mail.app and combine the two using Gmail’s IMAP facility by forwarding all of my emails (from my five different accounts) to my one Gmail account (giving great spam protection into the bargain).

    When I’m at home, I access my Gmail account via Mail.app and deal with messages within that application. Mail.app’s folders mirror my Gmail labels.

    When on the road and away from my home laptop, I access all of my emails via Gmail webmail.

    This gives me the best of both worlds. At home I have the functionality, ease-of-use and desktop app strength of using Mail.app while on the road I can access all my emails via Gmail (and send emails so that they appear to come from any of my five accounts).

    It also gives me a double on- and off-line backup: I have all my emails in Gmail if my laptop gets stolen and I have all my emails in Mail.app if my Gmail account gets hacked.

    More on Gmail IMAP setup here: http://5thirtyone.com/archives/862

    Like

  38. Thanks to Leo for the interesting post.
    As for me, – right now I am simply using DEVONthink Pro to organize files on the computer, and a pocket size Moleskine notebook with small voice recorder on the go. Synchronization between cell phone, iCal and gCal through BusySync and gCal’s text messages works fine as well.

    Like

  39. Guys, I am actually surprised and I apologize if this ha been mentioned in any comments and I didn’t notice but Gosh Tim, how could you forget the best calendar/Address book EVER: PLAXO.COM. Let me tell you, these guys should pay me money not only do I pay them even though the tool is free but brag about them everywhere…. So #1 feature of Plaxo is synchronization of your offline addressbook + calendar with your online one meaning if I update my info on my Plaxo profile, EVERYONE in my address book sees updated info without ever needing to ask for it or plug things in manually. Why is that important? TIME SAVER. So Try it….NOW. it also comes with Pulse which is their AMAZING social tool allowing to feed your tweets and others! LOOOVVVVEEE IT. And considering Tim did not include Linkedin which keeps someone’s info online for you….I’m thinking he’s getting some kind of payoff for the list of less known

    Like

  40. Great Post Leo!

    Unfortunately Jott doesn’t work in the UK. There are some other services such as Spinvox.com and dial2do.com that could possibly be set up to do something similar.

    Anyone know?

    Think I’ll research these and post when I’ve got more info.

    Like

  41. Geez, talk about overcomplicating the simple. Keeping all those things up to date must make life a nightmare.

    The easiest method is to use the basic ‘to do’ list on your mobile phone to track the big, upcoming things (appointments, birthdays, etc) – with alarms so you don’t forget – and, each morning, write down what needs to be done that day (and that day only) on a piece of paper or card and put it in your back pocket. Voila – stuff gets done, and it’s so simple it’ll make you cry with pleasure.

    I would have thought a lot of stuff in here goes against many of your principles, Tim. Seems to require an awful lot of time for the user to spend behind a PC or Mac, updating his or her life. Who wants that? Nightmare.

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  42. @Sheamus: I think you raise an interesting point. This could be looked at as a sort of conflict of interest, but I think it’s more of a broader set of options that we can pick and choose from.

    I use and iPhone and find it to be incredibly useful. And yet there are times I feel it can be a time waster as well if I abuse my ‘connectedness’. So I think there just needs to be a balance. One that is right for the individual.

    I do agree, though, that a lot of these productivity apps can be easily turned into a productivity mess. It’s just all in how you use them.

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  43. This may have been posted…but those of us with Blackberrys, Google calendar and other apps will sync very easily with your phones net browser.
    I just use the calendar, but there are other apps.

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  44. I dunno about this; some of the suggestions seem, at least to me, so be more complicated than they really need to be.

    For instance, using Evernote to send notes to your GMail account sounds like a two-step process to do one thing. Why not just cut out Evernote and stick with your GMail?

    Now, I understand that you’re offering different options and readers are encouraged to pick-and-choose which system works for them personally, but like you (Leo) mentioned in the post, in order for an organizing system to work, it’s got to be quick and relatively angst-free. I don’t see how using synching two programs to do one thing simplifies the process.

    For me personally, I only use two apps to keep all my stuff organized – Outlook and Gmail (I’d do without Outlook if possible but the organization I work for uses it) – and given that my job is 90% keeping things on track, less = more.

    I do agree, however, that cultivating the habits are more important than which app you use. Should not the habits come first, then decide which apps to use?

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  45. It would be great to see this type of write up for personal finance. I often wonder what others are doing to organize their finance, whether that is in terms of mobility or just getting the most out of the money you come in contact with.

    Anyways, this is a great post. I will definitely be experimenting with some of these technologies.

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  46. Excellent! Jott sounds awesome… some of my best ideas come when i’m in the car with nothing to write with.

    I’ve just have to find a way to stay consistent with new apps i begin. For some reason I always wind up back with the good old pen and paper method.

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  47. Tim,
    Great Post! So much useful stuff here. As I was reading through I noticed that all of these things are external manifestations, as in ” intermediary devices ” that are similar to when we want to change the channel on the TV we use a remote control. It may be interesting and timely to synthesize the use and exploration of these gadgets with a good dose of understanding our own human ” Internal Remote Controls “. May I suggest the writings of Dr. Joseph Murphy ( Late 1880’s, but the material still stands strong today ). Murphy and Buckminster Fuller had similar views and beliefs, and they applied their visions in interdisciplinary ways. Murphy’s theories on the activation and use of the subconscious mind are seriously effective. Anyone can google his name and find all the info they may want. I feel it is complimentary to this post, plus it empowers us to know that we are far more than we think we are.
    Thanks for the post!

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  48. Concerning the gCal and Outlook combination — has anyone tried GooSync? I’ve been using it for a while with a Outlook/IGoogle-gCal/PalmTX combination. The technology is working well, better if I’d keep the calendars updated more often!!

    Great post and comments — thank you all!!!

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  49. @Sheamus, one of the nice things about a getting things done app like Things is that it can show the next three things (or 2, or 5, or…) you need to do in any category, or things scheduled for that day. Complete one, and the next item pops up on the list.

    Writing something down on a single card may seem simple, but if your life has any level of complexity to it you’re going to need to remember more things than will fit on a card. So now you’re going to need a master list, or lists, which now implies that each and every day you’re going to be copying stuff from one list to another, updating master lists with stuff checked off yesterday’s card, recopying uncompleted items from yesterday to today, and so on.

    I have better things to do.

    With Things on my Mac AND on my iPhone, maintaining lists for multiple projects/clients is easy, doing those types of synchronizations is handled automatically, and I have my entire set of to-do’s with me at all times.

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  50. I’ve got the same setup as you Tim (minus Anxiety). I have a Notebook setup in my Evernote labled “Todo” and that has been working well for me. You can also split the notebooks into something like “Todo @ Home”, “Todo @ Work”, “Todo @ Internet” , etc which I have been thinking about doing.

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  51. @Kris: I use the free version of Evernote, at least for now. It’s been working well for me.

    @everyone else: Thanks for all the comments! A couple people have said that my setup seems complicated … and that’s fine — it’s just one possible setup among many. The key is to have some kind of system that will hold all of your information, and develop the key habits for using the system. Each person’s needs will differ, and the tools you use should suit those needs.

    However, I don’t feel my setup is complicated. I just have different tools for different types of information — knowing which tool to use is pretty intuitive, and calling each one up is just a matter of a few keystrokes. In actual practice it’s very fast, and calling up information is very simple.

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  52. Tim,

    Have you done a post on how to remember things that you must actually use you brain for? Such as memorizing new words or math concepts, for example. If not I would be interested in one, or if you could simply direct me to somewhere that discusses this that would be great.

    Thanks in advance.

    Jeremy

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  53. Thanks for the to-do list recs, I am such a to-do list person and have never heard of many of these. I need a to-do list on my Blackberry. I hate the to-do list they give with the device. Which of your recommendations has a Blackberry version. Thanks.

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  54. Thanks for a great post! And thanks for pointing out Evernote – I haven’t heard of it before but just gave it a try and it looks very useful.

    I am a bit of a BlackBerry addict myself and so far have been using this BlackBerry GTD software application from http://www.kartamobile.com called Vera.

    Vera does a great job of storing down everything you need to remember and classifying it in a way you can quickly pull it out later. Give it a try, you might find it handy.

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  55. Gcal is wonderful and I won’t resist an iphone much longer, but as a Mum as well as a solopreneur my cool quotient is already so low that nothing else can hurt; I use a cheap steno pad for my to-do list! I’ve tried load of others, on and offline, but nothing else has worked well for me since my trusty Palm got juiced (other parents will understand this).

    My indulgences are vintage fountain pens and Clairefontaine notebooks, but a 4 quadrant list on a steno pad keeps me in line. Crossing out completed stuff is satisfying, and each new weekly list is a good planning exercise; time spent planning is saved 10fold. (Brian Tracy). I track work and home – left and right – and urgent vs important – top and bottom. Urgent stuff is rarely important.

    Thanks for the great post, Leo

    Wendy

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  56. Great article Leo. I am an Outlook enthusiast. All of the tools in the program work so well together as well as with the entire MS Office Suite. Calendar, email, contacts, task list — it’s all there. I synch to a Palm Tungsten e. I do carry a small spiral notebook in which I keep notes (it’s easier for me to write with pen and paper than in my PDA). I also carry a cell phone. I’ve not joined the Blackberry bandwagon because it’s just not what I need right now. It may happen in the future though!

    Almost all my bills are emailed to me these days and I pay online. I have Adobe Professional on my computer so I no longer print out payment confirmations from online bill pay. I just right click on the confirmation and convert it to a PDF, then save it to the appropriate folder on my computer. This one change has probably been the biggest time saver for me this year. I can electronically search for statements, check when they were last paid, etc. Plus I don’t have all that paper to file!

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  57. This is a great post. I have struggled over the years with a method of keeping track of related performance issues for a number of restaurants that I supervise. When in the restaurant and taking notes on the visit I use my phone and either Jott a note to myself which goes to my outlook tasks, calendar, or email draft. This system is very smooth. Once the information is in OUtlook, I am able to drag it from task to email, email to task, task to calendar, and so on. The point is to capture.
    Additionally, I have a small app that is HotKey. It allows you to establish standard text and using “ctrl X” or any other shortcut, insert the text into emails, tasks, or any document. Saves a ton of time and encourages getting capture of information. I use it for inserting date and time that I update task followup with my managers.

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  58. What I have yet to find is a calendar with a section for general to-dos. My daily schedule is usually comprised of 80% “loose” items (no set time) and 20% of items that occur at specific times. What system works with this? Any ideas?

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  59. Used a Moleskine for a few years. This year tried a Ciak for the first time and I prefer it. Similar retro low tech look as the Moleskine, also Italian. The elastic is horizontal and not vertical, which works beter if you like keeping loose bits of paperwork in your diary.

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  60. I read 4 hour work week not too long ago. Its hard to put into effect in a corporate job, but some things are changing for me and I did find the book very encouraging.

    Great to see a cross post from Leo. I read most of Leo’s posts and will read more of Tim’s posts now.

    I use my blackberry for todo lists and quick notes on the go. I’ve just posted a blackberry shortcuts key list today on my blog, shortcuts can make any application twice as productive.
    I use windows notepad to jot down quick notes with timestamps using the F5 Date/Time stamp shortcut key.
    I archive my notes to a tiddlywiki file for fast searching and review.

    I’ll check out some of the apps Leo mentioned. Thanks for the great post!

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  61. Hmm, I use GTD methods every day at work but my private life is not as neat.

    Part of the trouble is paper clutter. Has anyone tried just photographing all the bills, letters, etc, that come in and used something like Evernote that does character recognition, and done away with paper records and mail that pile up? I’d like to know if there are any pitfalls to watch out for as I consider going for it myself.

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  62. Great article.
    I’d like to add some tools. You mentioned text files, those are what i use, i live in the command line in both linux and mac os.

    i use the todo.sh from lifehacker to keep a test todo list and i wrote my own simple calendar for the command line that keeps everything organized on a simple text file. you can get it (free, open source) at http://www.geocities.com/urifrid/calendar.tar.gz

    for note taking i use quicksilver (mac) and gnome-do (linux) simple text files.

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  63. Hi Leo,

    nice post. I have more or less the same setup and Evernote seems to be the central hub for me. I have even used it in a class as the only source of presentation material.
    I am interested in your setup for using Quicksilver to add notes to Evernote; how do you do that? I could imagine sending an email from Quicksilver to Evernote or is there some other clever usage?

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  64. Excellent list! I would add that along with Remember the Milk, the one I have chosen is Toodledo at http://www.toodledo.com. They have more features than RTM (they have a comparison table) and support the iPhone with a webapp for free (RTM requires payment to get iPhone friendly version). I’ve paid for a Pro account myself, and if an iPhone webapp isn’t good enough, since they have a full API, third party Appigo has created Todo and Notebook for the iPhone that sync with the Toodledo service (Appigo Todo also syncs with RTM if you prefer, but only Toodledo has support for notes that Notebook syncs with). I tried RTM and others first (www.todoist.com is another good one, especially if you like the keyboard!) but Toodledo is what I settled on for better or worse (so far better).

    There were a few things in your list I hadn’t seen before, thanks for the new info!

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  65. You can get all the online-apps together in one desktop-app with thunderbird (except evernote). Just install thunderbird the lightning extension for a calendar and then the googe-calendar-extension and the rmilk extension. so you habe a nerve-centre with the advantage to access your data offline.

    here the links:

    thunderbird: http://www.mozilla-europe.org/de/products/thunderbird/

    lightning: https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/2313

    google-calendar provider : https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/4631

    rmilk provider : https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/7125

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  66. thanks a list for the apps. Like never forgetting you keys. FInd on place to keep so that if you forget you at least know where to start. What has helped me not to forget is to think of the action this way, “You are going to have to do it either now when you have the time or later when you don’t have the time. So do it now because the payoff is going to be a whole lot more than waiting.”

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  67. A fantastic free tool is NetRocket at http://www.bookmarks.com. You can bookmark a site, and it is always there online, so all your nicely organised, tagged and scheduled bookmarks are available to you 24/7 on any online device wherever you are. I have NetRocket send me scheduled email reminders to take me straight to the sites I need, exactly when I need to reach them. Scheduled payments, bill reminders etc. etc. I never have to think about remembering them. NetRocket reminds me exactly on time..

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