Stop searching and start doing

I have read a lot of interesting posts so far this year about Evernote, OmniFocus, GTD, inbox zerogeneral productivity approaches, and now my friend Dan Gold is trying an experiment where he is going back to paper!.

When Mr Gold posted in Google Plus that he was trying this paper experiment and invited some of the productivity people to join him, I said no thanks, and good luck.

I touch so little paper these days I’m affraid if I went back to paper that I would break out in hives.

But based on his follow ups, he is having a lot of success with the paper system and it reminded me of something I have said before. There is no perfect system for everyone.

Just because I run my real estate business in Evernote does not mean you should or would want to. Just because I structure my day a certain way does not mean that is what will work best for you.

Some agents I talk to and help get into a system spend so much time thinking about things and trying to copy what others do that they forget the important thing.

Get the work done!

Stop overthinking it. This is not rocket science.

Here is what I suggest you do. If you are looking for a system that works for you read Getting Things Done, read some tips in this blog and other blogs about productivity then take the things that you think can work for you and create your own system.

Once you have a system, do it and keep doing it. Make it a habit. And if you find yourself getting on track and needing to get the habit back, there are good blog posts for that too.

There is no right and wrong way to do things. Do what works for you.

5 Reasons Students Will Love Using Evernote

Today, something a little different. I want to introduce you to Jordan Collier. Jordan, the author of Evernote Student Handbook, has agreed to share with my audience some tips on using Evernote for your children.

My daughter, who is in 8th grade, received a Fire Kindle for Christmas. She asked me to teach her Evernote, and as much as I love Evernote I had a hard time telling her how she may be able to use it.

So off to the web I went and I there I found Jordan. He shares with us some great tips that we can pass on to our kids. And if you like what you see make sure you check out his ebook.

Now join me in welcoming Jordan.

 

I surveyed my 8th graders to see what tech devices they could use at school if needed and the results were astounding:

98% of my students had at least one device.

The overall ratio was 2.1 devices/student.

If this is true, then why do students still prefer to hand-write assignments? Why do students lose notes and assignments? Why do students lug around bulging backpacks and have one unorganized notebook for each class?

I use my phone and iPad for just about everything. If it works for me, wouldn’t it work for the digital natives who think an iPhone has always been around? Students could use their phones and tablets to help them at school and stay organized, right?

But they don’t.

It’s not because they don’t want to; it’s because they don’t know how.

So this year I’ve tried my hardest to teach students (and other teachers) how using Evernote at school will help them stay organized, be less stressed, and be better prepared for school. I hosted a workshop, wrote a handbook, started a blog, and I use Evernote daily in my class to teach my students the benefits of digital organization.

Here are five reasons reluctant students may try using Evernote:

1. Search notes instantly. This is by far the coolest feature of Evernote. Type a note, snap a picture, or scan a handwritten document into Evernote and it becomes a searchable document (even handwritten notes). For students, this is a complete time-saver and great when studying for tests.

2. Keep a digital notebook for every class. By using Evernote, students no longer need a 3-ring binder for each class. Instead, by creating notebooks and notebook stacks for each class, students can keep all of their notes, assignments, and class papers in one place– Evernote. Say goodbye to this:

Use Evernote to stay organized

Use Evernote to stay organized

3. No more lost or misplaced papers. If students complete notes or an assignment on paper, they can snap a picture of it (or scan it) and save it directly to Evernote. I’ve had several students this year lose an assignment, but email me their scanned document when the assignment was due. Storing assignments digitally definitely saved their grades!

4. Share notebooks. When students work in groups, inevitably the student who has the group’s folder is absent or goes on a “unexpected” family vacation. It always happens. Using a shared notebook allows students to have one location to save and share information regardless of their physical locations. Whether they are working from school, from home, from Starbucks, or from Disney, each group member always has access to the shared notebook.

5. Text papers in class. Students are FAST at texting– ridiculously fast– and most of them hate handwriting anything, especially essays. So instead of physically writing an essay in class, many of my students use their phones instead of pencil and paper. They open an Evernote note, text their paragraph or essay, and then email me the note. If they don’t finish in class, their note is automatically saved and synced on Evernote, and the next time they open the note, they can pick up where they left off. No flash drives or computers needed.

Even though the digital natives are very tech savvy, they still lack confidence and know-how when it comes to using tech at school. At first, many of them feel it’s more work or takes too much time, but like anything, the more they try, the faster they become.

To get more ideas about how students could use Evernote at school, download the free ebook 19 Practical Evernote Ideas for Students.

Click below if you’d like to purchase the Evernote Student Handbook– a how-to guide I created for my students.

Not getting your to-do list done each day, here is why

Often I run into agents who want to talk about how they never get anything done. They think all they need is a new system or a new program to make it all better.
More often than not the problem is not with the systems, the problem is with the work they are doing.

If you find yourself failing to get things done, I’m fairly certain that one of two things is happening. Either you are trying to do to many things, or you really just don’t like what you are doing.

If it is the later, if you really don’t like what you are doing, you have two options. You need to either learn to outsource or delegate the items you don’t like to do, or just don’t do it, and find something else to do. Life is to short to spend most of your day doing something you dislike.

But what I want to focus on is the person who has to many things on their plate. The person with the to-do list with hundreds of items that grows more than it shrinks each week.

Stop, just stop

Here is a little exercise I want you to do. It is similar to the Warren Buffet way to success with a little twist of my own.

First thing I want you to do is write down a list of everything you want to accomplish. Vacation, new business, run a marathon, get a promotion, launch a project, get a certification, finish school… Whatever you can think of that you want to accomplish over the next year, two years or five years.

Now look at the list and boil down a top ten. What are the top ten things you want to accomplish on that list if you could only do ten.

Now that you selected ten write them down on a desperate sheet. Look at them, study them, pray about them, really think about them.

Now number them in an order of importance to you from 1–10. Take a night and sleep on it if you need to. Make sure you are happy with your order.

Now split the list into two. On one sheet put the top five things you want to accomplish. After that you can stop. Yup, stop there.

Now you have your priority list.

What next

Now that you have your priorities you are going to focus on them and forget everything else on you list. Yes forget them. Why?

Because that’s your problem, you are spreading yourself to thin as it is. You have to much going on. If you add them back to your to-list you are going to end up right back in the same place. Wondering why you never get anything done.

Now you need to start working on that list ever day. And only with what is on your list.

The next step

Don’t get bogged down in your long lists though. Ask yourself every morning, what are three things I want to accomplish today. What are three outcomes I want to achieve. Not necessarily three to-do items, but an outcome that you want to achieve or complete.

That is your to-do list for today. Achieve those three things, achieve them first before you do anything else. Then if you have more time move onto other tasks.

The key is though, stay on task and don’t do anything that moves you away from your top five list.

Your takeaway

If you are not happy with your productivity:
* Stop doing things you hate to do, even if that means finding a new line of work
* Write down everything you want to do and accomplish
* Pick the top five things from that list
* Eliminate everything else
* Every morning pick three outcomes you want to achieve that move you slowly towards your five
* Do those three first, before anything else
* Rinse and repeat and win!

 

Photo credit Flickr creative commons

How moving away for GTD and to-do list made me more productive

So for as long as I can remember I have been setting New Years resolutions and goals. There was actually one year I achieved my resolution, that was the year my New Years resolution was to not make a resolution.

Wait. Now that I think about it, I failed there too. Grrrrr.

The best part is at the end of this post I give you a sure-fire way to make sure you accomplish your goals this year.

A few months ago I switched things up a lot.

I have had a looooooooong to do list for a long time. I have managed my to do list in Evernote, and am glad I do.

I also have been a long time admirer of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done).

My only problem with my system has always been I spend way to much time managing my system. GTD is a great system, and Dan Gold has a great and inexpensive ebook on running your GTD system in Evernote (affiliate link), but it is not for everyone.

At the end of the day I often wondered, what did I get done today? I never really feel like I was moving the ball forward enough even when I check off a long list of task items every day.

Things have changed for me in a big way

Recently things have changed, and I could not be happier.

I have completely got away from being run by my to-do list and now I focus on desired outcomes.

This is not an understatement, since I moved to an outcomes system I have upped my productivity by at least threefold, if not more.

How does outcomes work?

So you may be wondering how does this outcomes thing work? The amazing thing about it is, it is so simple.

What I did was figure out three things I wanted to accomplish over the next year.

Then I gave myself a couple of big goal or outcome for the month. And of course that goal/outcome was working to get me towards my overall outcome for the year.

Every Sunday night, when I do my weekly review, I think of three things I want to accomplish this week. Not a to-do item, but a completed outcome that moves the ball closer on my monthly outcomes list.

And to break it down even further, every morning I come up three outcomes in my business I want to accomplish today, and one personal outcome.

I always make sure there is one personal outcome too so I make sure not to over focus on business and forget my personal life and health and fitness.

I also make sure that the first things I do every day are those outcomes for the day. Nothing else gets done before them. This does take some discipline. I can assure you after you start seeing the results multiply it becomes a lot easier.

I first started doing this system a few months ago and the outcomes have been fantastic. In a months time I accomplished more towards the growth in my business that I had accomplished in six months before that. I had a laser focus on the outcome and a daily reminder of what that outcome was.

A problem I ran into

The system was not without it’s problems early on. One example is a bathroom I was trying to remodel.

One of my outcomes for the week was finish the remodel job on the bathroom. It was started already, I just needed to clean the walls down, paint, get the toilet in and get the new vanity in.

Really wasn’t that much more work.

On Sunday night I set the goal and on Monday I set the outcome of working on the bathroom. Well I didn’t really get any work done on Monday. Then the next day I set the outcome of finishing the bathroom. Again not much in the way of results.

This was a new system and obviously wasn’t working the way I wanted. Then the next day I took a closer look at the system. I set my outcomes for the day smaller which was to dust all the walls off. I ends up dusting the walls off and taping everything off. The next day my goal was to paint it. Which I did and the next day the goal was to get the vanity in.

Before I knew it my weekly goal of finishing the bathroom was done.

What I have learned

I have learned it is indeed important to keep your why front and center. If you want the goal of making $10,000/month that goal is very hollow for most people. But if your goal is to be able to take your family on a cruise in six months and get health insurance for your family. Well to do that you need to make the $10k a month, but the emotional connection of why you want to do it is much greater than a dollar symbol. So make your outcome the trip and the health insurance, not the $10k/mo.

Set an aggressive monthly goal that is attainable and really break that down. I have learned how quickly you can really get things done if you just do something, one small thing a day to move you towards your goal.

I had a marketing goal for this month that was something I had been wanting to do for close to a year now. I set it as an outcome for January, and every day I have done just a little something to move the ball forward on it. Well today is the 8th day of the month and after today’s outcomes are complete I will have completed this item that had seemed so big to me in the past that I kept putting it off.

Conclusion

Want to totally kick butt on your “goals” or “resolutions” for 2013? Here is what I would recommend you do, and if you do it I can almost assure you that at the end of the year you will win.

First take a look at those goals and resolutions again. Figure out the why. Why do you want to accomplish this, what does it really mean. Why do you want to make $10,000/month. Why do you want to have three closings a month. What does that really mean to you. What would you really do if you hit those goals.

Now take that why such as “I would buy health insurance and take a cruise” and make those your outcomes instead of the goal of $10k/mo.

Now break that down and figure out something that you can complete in January to move your towards that goal. Maybe a new marketing campaign you have been putting off. Maybe a new website overhaul. Whatever it is make that an outcome for the month. When you have completed it, it will have moved you towards your outcome of the health insurance and cruise because it is getting you in position to make more month.

Now break that down a little further into what I need to complete this week and finally three things I need to do today, in which at least one of them has to be something that moves you towards your weekly outcome.

And finally now that you have your three outcomes for today. Do them. Do them now. Stop reading email, stop looking at Google Plus and Facebook, stop everything else. Get those three outcomes for today done now, then worry about all the other little things.

This system has really recharged me.

If you feel like this system is something you want to implement but really need help doing, contact me here and see if maybe I can help.

PS about two months after I started this system I was introduced to a system called the “Agile System.” The Agile system is very similar to what I do, but has a lot more to it. You may want to read about it, but for me after I read it I saw many similarities, but my system was just a lot more simple and the basic parts of the Agile System.

 

Photo credit creative commons flickr

Start using Evernote to get ready for 2013 taxes today

2013 is here and many of us are starting to get organized for our taxes for 2012. We only have 4 and a half months, which will go by quicker than we want.

Are you organized and ready? I am. And I have already started getting ready for 2013 taxes using my favorite productivity app, Evernote.

My tax organization is easy, let me tell you about it quickly and see if there may be something you can take from it to help you be more productive and organized in 2013.

There are two different ways to go about this. First I will discuss if you do your own taxes, second how to set it up if you have someone else prepare your taxes for you.

Do-it-yourself tax preparation
For the do-it-yourselfer I recommend using tags. Set up tags for each category in which you will take a deduction for. Below I will use an example of different categories you may use and the tag I would use in Evernote:

  • Marketing – 13marketing
  • Travel – 13travel
  • Charity – 13charity
  • Meals – 13meals
  • Supplies – 13supplies
  • etc, etc, etc

Have a tax preparer
The first thing I do is create a new notebook called Taxes 2013. The reason I have a notebook here is because I am going to share it with my tax preparer.

Inside the notebook I will put all my receipts and use the following naming technique for my receipts 13–01–01 $240 Marketing

That example is a receipt I received on 1/1/13 for the amount of $240 for marketing.

The reason I use this naming technique, because now my tax preparation person knows what was added since the last time he looked at the notebook, how much it was for and what catagory I’m thinking it may be under.

I never have to tell my tax preparer when I add anything. Any time they log in, which could be weekly, monthly, or whatever works for you, they will see what was added.

For both groups
Here is the key I have found to make this system work for me. This will be the third tax season I have used Evernote to track taxes, and the second one I have done it for the complete year.

I have found this to be the key, as soon as I get a receipt it goes into Evernote immediately. If I get a receipt handed to me I take a picture of it with Evernote app on my phone. If receipt is emailed to me I forward immediately to Evernote. Doing so as soon as you get the receipt saves you from having to recreate things down the road.

I also highly recommend you get emailed receipts as much as possible. It really does make your life easier. When forwarding emails to Evernote I find using Powerbot a very useful tool.

Now is this the only way to track receipts, no, but it is what I have used for the last two years and I am very happy with how much easier it has made my tax preparation at the end of the year.
Photo credit rangerholton on Flickr

My 2013 outcomes

In the past I have set New Year’s resolutions like everyone else and have failed misserabley like just about everyone else.

This year I am going to do things a little different. This year I am going to set three outcomes for the year as must-hit items. If I do not hit these three outcomes, that means this year was more than likely a disapointment.

And I am going to have a list of other things I want to accomplish too. Things that when I look back a year from now I can say I am happy I accomplished them too. But those are secondary to my three big outcomes.

First my three must do items. Notice there is nothing like Make $xx,xxx a month or the such. When I started this list I started with outcomes like that. Then I asked myself, why, why do I want to make more money? What does that really mean? I think goals like make $xxx,xxx/ year are very arbitary. But if you think why you want to reach that goal then it has a lot more meaning.

My Must Do Items for 2013

  1. Pay for private health insurance for myself and family so not forced into Obamacare
  2. Pay cash for a newer Truck or SUV that I am happy with
  3. Run a sub 20min 5k

This is a list of a few other things I hope to accomplish in 2013

Other 2013 outcomes
Learn to play the guitar
Write at least one more ebook and more likely two
Close over 30 real estate sides this year
Take the family on a vacation this summer
Write more consistantly on Productivity Agent
Video/blog frequently on East Valley Team
Continue to eat healthy non-processed food diet
Three month emergency fund
Maintain a more clean and organized home and office
Strengthen my relationship with God
Pay more attention to the budget
I will have a great year

 

Photo Credit angietorres on Flickr

13 Apps for a more productive 2013

13 apps for 2013

Today is the first day of 2013. Time for goals, resolutions, cleaning and thinking about being more productive.

13 days ago I started a series of 13 apps for a more productive 2013. These are 13 apps I use on a regular basis which help me be more productive.

Here is my list. Each app links to the short post I wrote on why the app was included.

I would love to hear what your apps would be that maybe I did not include.

  1. Evernote
  2. ScheduleOnce
  3. Zite
  4. Unroll.me
  5. LastPass
  6. SignEasy
  7. Google Drive
  8. CloudOn
  9. Google Voice
  10. PDF Expert
  11. TextExpander
  12. CrashPlan
  13. Everbot

13 apps for a more productive 2013 Day 13: Evernote

Heading out of 2012 and into 2013 I am highlighting 13 apps that help me with my productivity. This is App 13 and today I’m going to talk about my favorite app to one ones surprise… Evernote.

When talking about productivity is it any wonder that I save the productivity wonder-app for my final in the series of 13 apps for a more productive 2013?

The amazing thing about Evernote is how flexible it is.

Evernote is a very simple and easy to use program. One of the problems I had early on with Evernote was it was so simple that I didn’t really see all the power Evernote had.

Evernote can do anything from store all your business cards and meeting notes, all the way to acting as a full transaction coordinator.

If I had a few pieces of advice for Evernote newbies looking to take it to the next level they would be:

  • Search what others are doing
  • Put EVERYTHING into it for 30 days to really get in the habit
  • Harness the power of note-linking

And of course if you are in real estate you may want to check out my “Complete Guide to Using Evernote for Real Estate” ebook.

That is it, that is 13 apps I think could make for a more productive 2013. Of course there are other apps, but these are 13 I am excited about right now.

 

Full list of 13 apps for a more productive 2013

13 apps for a more productive 2013 Day 12: ScheduleOnce

Heading out of 2012 and into 2013 I am highlighting 13 apps that help me with my productivity. This is App 12 and today I’m going to introduce you to ScheduleOnce.

Let me give you a quick scenerio a lot of us face. A real estate agent is driving down the road and a new client calls him wanting to set up a meeting. The agent says he is driving and asks the client to email him what time works best for him.

The customer emails the agent and says he would like to meet at 10am on Tuesday.

The agent looks at his schedule and cannot do that time so he counters back how about Thursday at 10?

And before you know it multiple emails were shared until an acceptable time was agreed on.

Scheduling can be a drag and a productivity killer. Why not use a scheduling software that acts as your personal assistant to schedule for you.

I used to use Tungle.me and love it. They sold out to RIM about a year ago and well, now they are out of business, and it is a shame.

I went on the search for a replacement in the late summer and tried many apps. I was not really that happy with any of them, Tungle has spoiled me.

Then thanks to fellow productivity enthusist Tanya Smith I discovered ScheudleOnce.

ScheduleOnce will sync to your Google or Outlook calendar and display times available for clients to select. You set the times you want to work and ScheduleOnce will show your available times to clients.

Once you book a meeting the time will be removed from your available schedule.

Another great feature with ScheduleOnce is the ability to schedule large groups with ease. When you have a group of 4-5 or more people trying to get together scheduling can become a nightmare. With ScheduleOnce the organizer can send out an email with all the times they have available, then each member selects the times that work for them, and before long you have a time that will work best for everyone.

When I first started using Tungle a few years back I made it easy for people to schedule me by reserving the domain ScheduleDean.com. Now if someone calls me or wants to schedule a meeting with me I just tell them to head to ScheduleDean.com and select three times that work best for them.

Scheduling programs can be a great productivity boost to your workflow.

 

Full list of 13 apps for a more productive 2013

13 apps for a more productive 2013 Day 11: Zite

Heading out of 2012 and into 2013 I am highlighting 13 apps that help me with my productivity. This is App 11 and today I’m going to introduce you to Zite.

Zite is an app you may not think of when you think of productivity, but I am going to tell you how it helps me be more productive and how it could help you too.

First what is Zite? Zite is a service that allows you to specify what subject areas you are interested in and Zite will deliver new and usually relevant content on the subject to you via the Zite app on your Andoird, iOS device or Windows phone.

So how does this help you become more productive? If you are trying to be a true expert in your field you will want to stay informed and educated about what others are doing and talking about.

Now, instead of always searching out new information and content, Zite will deliver it directly to you, saving you hours a week of searching.

Many of us have blogs we visit often. These blogs and platforms such as Google+ (add me on Google Plus) provide us with great content. But when we rely on information from the same sources all the time, we may be missing some new and up and coming experts in our field of interest. Zite will help you discover new sources of great content.

Zite does a great job over time of becoming even more in-tuned with the type of information that interest you. Zite allows you to “Thumb Up” or “Thumb Down” each article, and over time Zite will learn what type of content you are really looking for.

A great example is I have a catagory on “Phoenix” in my Zite account. At first I often got articles about “River Phoenix.” Why not, it had the word Phoenix in them right?

Every time an article about River Phoenix came up I would hit the down thumb. Now, I never see any articles about River Phoenix in my Zite account, but more often it is articles about the city Phoenix.

If you have not done so I recommend downloading Zite onto your mobile device of choice and start your mornings with some new discoveries.

 

Full list of 13 apps for a more productive 2013