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Notetaking Symbology

Notetaking Symbology

Note Taking Symbology

Patrick Rhone today posted about his Dash/Plus System for taking notes. It is an elegant approach to capturing ideas, discussions and other items that might come up, and then working out whether they are an action (open or closed), a “waiting for” item, a delegated item, etc. I suggest you take a look at his post.


Patrick’s system is not unlike an approach I use when in meetings, or otherwise taking notes. Particularly “back in the day” when I managed a diverse group of people, it was important for me to quickly move from meeting to meeting, capture items that I needed to action, or that my people needed to action (because I was ultimately accountable for their action completion), and swiftly ensure those were “in a trusted system” and move on.

It’s important in these situations to ensure that your notetaking system is leakproof (as much as possible), and that you can quickly reference back to check on the status of an item.

In my case, I use(d) the following:

  • Square – a next action
  • Triangle – a project (in the GTD sense)
  • Inverted triange – a someday/maybe type of future project
  • Circle – a waiting for item (i.e. something that someone else might be responsible for delivering)

Any of the above with a cross through it simply means that it is “done”. Of course, it is important to capture who is responsible for a waiting for (delegated) item, and when they might need to deliver it.

I post this as a bit of a quick response to Patrick’s Dash/Plus System, but you may have noticed that I stated that “I use(d) the following” above. I think Dash/Plus is a little more elegant, and I think I’ll give that a go. There are two things I like about it

  1. First and foremost, separate items can be “captured” without “processing” on the fly. This means you can come back to the items at the end of a meeting, or at the end of the day, and process them into your organisation system.
  2. The separation of “waiting for” and “delegated” items. My first response was why, but I quickly realised the power of this. Waiting for means others are wholely responsible to deliver. Delegated means your team is responsible, which means that you continue to hold ultimate responsibility.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else has a system for note taking symbology, like what I used, or the Dash/Plus System.

The Launch of OmniFocus 2

The Launch of OmniFocus 2

CEO of Omni Group, Ken Case announced the Debut of OmniFocus 2 (at Macworld/iWorld):

…our goals for version 2 are to bring back to the Mac all of the design and innovation that went into our iPad edition of OmniFocus: dedicated Forecast and Review modes, clearer navigation, and a fresh look and feel.

As a long-time practitioner of what is a personal evolution of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach, I’ve used a variety of organisational tools on a variety of platforms – OSX, iOS, Windows, PalmOS, etc. These have included native and third party apps. OmniFocus on OSX and iOS remains my pick due to its all around power. I love the fact that the Omni people have uncovered a very clever workaround to get OmniFocus to work with Siri.

A lot of people however find OmniFocus to be a complex app, particularly on the Mac (OSX). As Katie Floyd mentioned in her post about the announcement of OmniFocus 2, there is the perception amoung some users that you need a “degree in OmniFocus”!

OmniFocus for iPadBy contrast, OmniFocus for iPad sports a brilliant UI, and is actually where I do most of my process and review activities. I use the OSX and iPhone versions of the app to capture and also to check off next actions completed. The iPad version has a special “review mode” that takes you through a review of Projects that have had the appropriate attention recently. This powerful function will be a feature of OmniFocus 2.

The other factor that has made OmniFocus less approachable to the average user was its pricing. In his post he also outlines a new pricing approach, which will see a standard version available at US$39.99 – still a high end app, but half the price of the current version. There will be a Pro Version with support for custom workflows. There will also be special pricing for users of the current version of OmniFocus on OSX, available through the Omni Group’s website.

OmniFocus is a high end, quality app. With the new UI in OSX, and with its new pricing model, it will continue to be the first choice for productivity power users, and will be an excellent choice for less full-on productivity enthusiasts. Availability has yet to be announced, and it will go into private testing shortly.

Send to Evernote as Print Option

Send to Evernote as Print Option

EvernoteI’m a big Evernote user, using it a repository for many personal records that I need to have access to, but don’t want the paper clutter in my life (or my house or office). I scan most documents directly to a ScanSnap S1500M in my office, although when on-the-go I use a NeatReceipts scanner.
The PDF’s generated are then moved on each computer (iMac in the office, Macbook Air on the go) using a series of Hazel automations to a Dropbox folder. From that folder, the files are then pulled into my Evernote Inbox notebook for processing. Sounds a little complex, but once setup it all happens seamlessly.

When I receive documents by email (including PDF attachments), I forward those documents directly to an Evernote email address that deposits the files directly to that same notebook. I also use Evernote’s Web Clipper to grab web pages I want to keep for archival records (not for later reading, which I simply use Instapaper for.

This gives me (almost) a single place to drop files for later filing. But I also get occasional other documents that I read on my Mac, but then I want to keep a PDF copy of in my records (regardless of the original format). In the non-App Store version (i.e. non-sandboxed) version of Evernote, I can simply use the Save PDF to Evernote option under the Print > PDF command. In the App Store (sanboxed) version of Evernote, you lose this option.

MacPowerUsers co-host Katie Floyd today made a post showing how to add a Send to PDF option when using the sandboxed version of Evernote:

The solution is simple, you need to create an alias to the Evernote application and drop it into ~/Library/PDF Services. (This is your users library folder for those of you unaware what the ~ means.) This can be a little tricky because is the ~/Library folder is hidden by default in OS X Lion and above. To see it you have to hold down the option key while selecting “Go” in the finder and the Library will become an option. If the PDF Services Folder doesn’t exist, just create it but make sure you title it exactly that.

Total Finder

Another way to see the hidden files is to use the excellent TotalFinder app (recommended by Katie and co-host David Sparks in episode 106 of MacPowerUsers. Once you’ve installed TotalFinder, open up Finder Preferences, and go to the new TotalFinder pane. Then select the Tweaks tab, and check the Show System Files option. Then you’ve got permanent access to hidden system files. (Of course, with great power comes great responsibility). Don’t play around with system files unless you know absolutely what they are, and what you’re doing!

Ultimately, the goal is to capture your documents into an Evernote notebook. Once there, you can use your GTD processing step to move the documents into your reference folders, or of course, action them if there is an outstanding next action!

Drafts for iPhone and iPad

Drafts for iPhone and iPad

Drafts for iPhoneIts not often that an iOS app makes its way to take up precious position on my device’s dock. Actually, its not often an app goes onto my main screen, let alone the dock, so when this does occur its really saying something about the potential of that app.
David Sparks of the Mac Power Users podcast has mentioned once or twice about an iPhone app called Drafts, which is a quick way to collect thoughts and info as they arise. David, along with his co-host Katie Floyd, have become people who I pay attention to when it comes to productivity on Mac and iOS devices, and when David recently blogged about the release of a new version of Drafts for the iPhone along with a new version for the iPad, it was time to give the app a try.

Of course, the fact that Brett Terpstra and the Time Management Ninja blog also posted about the release of Drafts 2 / Drafts for the iPad only reinforced the need for me to check it out.

This “quick collect” system fits nicely with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) as it allows an iPhone user to quickly collect ideas and thoughts as they arise, so that they can be processed and organised later for action.

On opening Drafts, the first thing seen is a blank note. You can quickly type your thought and leave the app, no other action required. By default, if you reopen the open more than 60 seconds later, it will automotically start a new note, but of course you can review older captured thoughts. If you’re running Drafts on both iPhone and iPad, there is a seamless syncing capability of the notes.

Once you’ve got your drafts, its quite simple to later do something with them. You can Tweet, post to Facebook, send emails or messages, send to apps like Byword or DayOne, or other web services like Evernote and Dropbox.

As a writer, I like that Drafts supports John Gruber’s Markdown. This allows me to easily integrate Drafts to my writing workflow, which is built around Byword as my editing device. From Byword, its easy for me to then export to my Squarespace or WordPress blogs, or to apps like Pages, Scrivener or iBooks Author. My only criticism of Drafts is that the Markdown preview process seems a little flakey at this time. I am sure that will be fixed shortly.

I like the seamless, low-threshhold method of quickly capturing thoughts and ideas. The app has a lot of power, and easily integrate into many workflows. As with any capture device (such an in-trays and inboxes), the trick is to ensure that it’s contents are regularly processed and organised for action. Get Drafts for iPhone and iPad