Monthly Archives: April 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

By Megan Wallace, Implementation Consultant, Formatta

 

Let’s face it, we’re all busy — pulled in 700 different directions at once, more to do and keep track of than ever before, or at least it seems that way. I blame the Internet. Or the fact that we’re constantly “connected” somehow, whether it’s to the TV, or your iPad/iPhone/computer/etc. I’m planning to disconnect as much as possible at some point (during non-work hours only, of course…), so maybe I’ll write a post about that once I do. But for now, I’m just going to talk one of the best apps ever for keeping my brain in check.

Back in the “olden days,” I used to hand write everything that I needed to keep track of, whether it was work-related or personal, on actual paper (with a pen!). Sometimes on whatever scraps of paper I had nearby, but usually a legal pad. And if I DID write something down, like a list, on a scrap of paper, I always transferred it over to my trusty legal pad so that it was all in one place. If I had a project call with a customer, I’d take notes on my legal pad, sometimes rewriting them on a new sheet to organize them, but then I’d act on each item and then cross it off my list. Such a good feeling, crossing items off of a list. I love it. Shut up.

I’d end up with several legal pads full of notes in it that I might need to refer back to — things that I might need to talk to a customer about, or just notes for future reference — and I couldn’t throw the paper away for quite a while. Occasionally I’d go back through the notepads and either get rid of pages or entire notepads if I could. However, when I did I’d end up with that nagging feeling that I was throwing away something I might need later, like that one vital bit of information somewhere that I should have kept, or a missed requirement, for example.

Fast forward to 2009, when I discovered Evernote. Sigh… If I could write poetry, I’d definitely write a poem about Evernote. It’s the best thing since sliced bread (next to my Kindle, of course…).

Evernote is an app for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Windows Phone, and it remembers EVERYTHING. You install it, create an account (or you can create your account online first), and then you’ll see your first “notebook” pop up in front of you. Here you can add new notes to capture anything you need to keep track of. I have an “Access” notebook for all work-related items, and I also have a TON of other notebooks for different purposes.

I even have a notebook called “Product Manuals” that holds PDFs of all of my paper product manuals — KitchenAid stand mixer, blender, food processor, router, laptop, etc. There’s an amazing browser extension called the Evernote Web Clipper that you can use to save PDFs or articles directly from your browser right into Evernote. Find the product manual PDF you need online (usually at the product manufacturer’s website), click the Web Clipper icon on your browser’s toolbar, and it’ll “clip” the PDF right into whatever notebook you want. I was able to get rid of a TON of manuals that were taking up space in a kitchen drawer, and also in my filing cabinet. That made me happy happy happy.

Back to how I use it for work, though — let’s say I have a call with a customer to discuss a Formatta form that I built that needs modifications. I click on the Access notebook and either hit Ctrl-N or click the New Note button to open a new note. I enter the customer name and the date as my note title, and then I take notes during the call, typing them directly into my new note. I can add lines to separate sections of notes, as well as bullets, numbered lists, tables, checkboxes, format text with different fonts, sizes, and colors, as well as bold, underline, etc. You get the idea — basically any kind of formatting you’d do in Microsoft Word you can do here. You can even add tags to your notes, as many as you’d like. I rarely use this though because of Evernote’s amazing search feature (more about that in a minute).

Users have unlimited storage and, depending on your user type (free or premium), you can either upload up to 60 MB or 1 GB of data each month. I’m a Premium user and never get anywhere near my upload limit each month. And I use Evernote EVERY DAY. So feel free to store everything you might need in there. I do. You can even lock the Evernote app with a password, or encrypt specific notes or text in notes for added security.

There are waaaaayyy too many awesome features in Evernote to write about each one in this post, so I’ll just mention a couple more, and then you can go check it out for yourself, and then come back later and thank me. (You’re welcome!)

First, because you’ve created an account with Evernote, all notes sync to “the cloud” (ooooooohhhhh…), so they’ll sync between all of your devices, if you so choose. I have it syncing on my work laptop (PC), my personal laptop (MacBook), plus my iPad and my iPhone, and it works seamlessly.

Second and most awesome, it will index EVERYTHING once it’s uploaded to the cloud, and will make it available for searching. And when I say EVERYTHING, I mean everything. Regular notes, PDFs, graphics, whatever. Take a picture of a menu when you’re at a restaurant, then later on, if you’re looking for the restaurant where you had that amazing caramelized goat cheese and arugula tart (Barley’s in Overland Park, KS — yum!), search for “goat cheese” or “tart,” for example, and it’ll pull up all notes with your search term(s) in it, including the note with the restaurant menu. Or if you need to find your popcorn popper manual, just search for “popper” and it’ll bring up your popper’s product manual.

By the way, I typed this post in Evernote. Blam! Go check out Evernote, try it for a month or so, and you’ll never look back.

Editor’s Note: Evernote also captures notes written with a stylus – via tablets like my beloved and underrated HTC Flyer, a tablet PC or on the iPad using Penultimate (which Evernote purchased last year). If Evernote can read and search my scrawl, it can read and search anything. Also, check out the Evernote Clearly app, which lets you read online articles without those annoying ads and links on the sidebars.

 

By TW Picht, Access Project Manager/Humorist-in-Residence

Editor’s note: If you’ve had the pleasure of talking to/working with this gentleman, you’ll know he’s one of the funniest people at Access, and a great project manager as well. And no, he didn’t pay the marketing team to say that. What better way to bring the Access blog back (yes, we know your life has been missing something while we’ve been working on new marketing materials, updating websites, and tending Green Paper Monsters). So without further ado, let’s here a big round of applause for Mr….TW…Picht….

 

Working from home has its perks:  listening to your favorite kind of music without Cassie the Complainer crying about the number of caps that have been “busted,” the fresh supply of coffee that has been neither freeze dried in a vacuum bubble pack nor sitting in the pot stewing all day on the office’s state-of-the-art 1954 edition of Mr. Coffee, and you don’t even have to get dressed to attend your meetings. Yes, we all know you sit around in your three-day-old underwear hoping that one of your clients doesn’t request a video meeting, just so you can put off doing laundry and taking a shower for the record fourth day in a row. Regardless, just like great responsibility is part of having great power , there are pitfalls that you must overcome in order to enjoy the awesomeness that is working from home.

Possessions/Family/Friends – Obviously, these are the reasons you even have a job in the first place. Yes, I know I am breaking the unwritten code. NEVER verbalize that you aren’t there for the fantastic benefits, great co-workers, and the overwhelming personal satisfaction you receive from doing a great job. While some or all of that may be true, let’s just clear the air. You want stuff!  A new iPad, a nice vacation with your family, or the newest DVD to complete your original series Star Trek collection (or even advance tickets to the holy-crap-this-looks-cool new version). It’s all stuff and that’s why we are here. However, this stuff can get in the way of being a productive home worker.

The stuff part is easy. Make sure you have an office space away from the stuff.  Don’t work in the space that you play in. Trying to answer emails and focus on phone calls will be difficult when your Xbox is only 2 feet away. Don’t make the man cave your office space. It may work for a few days, but no one can resist Halo for that long. The family and friends will be harder. Upon hearing about your new “at home office experience,” they will first experience jealousy and awe. Everyone wants to work from home (see previously mentioned perks).

However, their awe will soon turn into an uncontrollable idea that you don’t really do anything all day and can be at their every beck and call. Could you run Gramps to the VA hospital; you will only have to sit and wait on him for 3 hrs. You were home; why didn’t you do the dishes? Dude, let’s go to lunch and have some drinks for four hours.  You are home — it’s just like being off work right? Setting a clear expectation of your office hours and reminding them that you can no sooner drop your responsibilities than they can, will help. Make sure they understand that your day is just as full as theirs.

Loneliness/Boredom – Every “Corporate America” office worker shackled to his or her desk will insist that working from home, away from the other office people, is just what the doctor ordered. This can be entirely true. Working from home allows you the comfort of a much less stringent corporate atmosphere and provides a release from inter office personnel issues. You’ve been there; you know how the personal politics are played.  At home it’s just you. Just you and the plants. Day after day after day, just you. Yourself. No one else but you and Bob. “Who’s Bob?” Bob is my houseplant, when I overwater him, he floats around on top of the extra water because he is such a little guy, so I named him Bob……..What? “You named your house plant?” Yeah…..and? “And now you’re talking to yourself?” No I am not, don’t be ridic……wait…what?

The point is, people need human interaction. No matter how much you fool yourself into thinking you can work solo, you will eventually become stir crazy and need to talk with someone besides Bob. Schedule a workday with coworkers and get out of the house. Go to a coffee shop, the library, or anywhere that you will see and can say at least a couple sentences to a live human being.

Distraction – “I won’t get distracted; it won’t happen to me!” you’ll say. But in truth, it’s going to happen most likely sooner than later. The best way to combat this is to make a task list or schedule and always stick to it. In today’s world most of our information comes from the internet and most of us even get it on our smart phones. The internet and the television are going to be the biggest culprits in causing you distraction. They are like a plate of sprinkle- and frosting-covered donuts calling to the chunky dieter.  You will sneak those yummy pastries any time you get the chance. I mean why not? They taste delicious and one isn’t going to hurt. It’s just one and if you have coffee with it, really it’s not even that bad for you. The caffeine in the coffee helps boost your energy levels and your metabolism so your body is already working harder to counteract the massive jolt of sugar that is the “donut”.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that on average, every American eats about 63 donuts per year. That’s like barely over one donut a week. I don’t know about you, but I eat way more than a donut a week. Donuts even have their own national day; it’s the first Friday of June every year. In fact, donuts are so awesome – you can spell it two different ways: Donut or Doughnut. Both spellings are correct and both are delicious. I love donuts. Wait, where was I……..Something about diets? No, that’s not right….

Multitasking – Not all work-from-home positions are the same. However, it is likely that you will need to be flexible and possess the ability to multitask. Generally speaking, people can see that you are busy with a task or project and typically will let you finish before assigning additional duties. That’s not as true for satellite workers; you have just as many if not more demands on your time than you do in the office environment.  You will need to switch gears from the tasks you are working on, to the tasks that have just been called to your attention. You will likely also have to switch between projects and customers throughout your day as assigned deliverables are returned.

Probably the best course of action is to keep a flowing “To Do” list that items can be added to and removed easily as not to eat up more time keeping track of your tasks. Multitasking is not always easy, but being organized is the first step of being a great multi-tasker. Keep track of your duties and you can much more quickly switch gears to accommodate the demands of your day. Like eating donuts. Watering Bob. And, heaven forbid, getting some work done!