Why you should always use an online calendar to schedule meetings

using electronic calendar to scheduleWhy you should always use an online calendar to schedule meetings

When it comes to most time and productivity stuff I couldn’t care less whether it’s done electronically or on paper. In fact I’m in the process of reading The Organized Mind by Prof. Daniel Lavitin. He makes a compelling case for using 3×5 index cards as the basis of your organizational system. Of course Merlin Mann was getting at something similar when he invented the Hipster PDA.

I understand the thinking behind this and am tempted myself. A paper-based system is simple, tactile, portable, foolproof (unless you lose it and it’s not copied) and offers fewer opportunities to get distracted. Detractors will point out that most incoming actions are electronic (emails, etc) so you waste time transcribing stuff. But putting it on paper gives you the opportunity to review whether it needs doing at all and allows you to think about things calmly, in the context of your overall goals, rather than immediately responding to “incoming”.

However I would venture to suggest that there’s one activity that should always be done electronically, and that’s scheduling meetings. Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters for most people and that time is double-wasted if you turn up at the wrong place, wrong time, or you are there ready to go and the other person fails to materialise. Using something like Google Calendar or MS Outlook means…

  • You can check the availability of people in your organization. Less to-ing and fro-ing required.
  • Everyone gets emailed an invitation. No-one can claim they didn’t know about it.
  • You can attach the agenda. Everyone should know what it’s about and hence what to prepare.
  • You can include details of the location and how to get there. Fewer late shows.
  • You can set reminders for yourself and others.
  • Your admin can share your calendar to help organize the meeting.
  • Afterwards you’re automatically left with a log of who you met and when. Useful if you need to produce follow-up minutes, travel expenses, etc.

Having said this I suggest for “biggies” such as critical CxO level meetings you still confirm by phone and other means. Better safe than sorry.


Three ways to use Markdown with Evernote

As many of you will know, Markdown is a very fast and easy way of generating HTML without knowing how to code. Effectively this means that you can quickly create all kinds of formatted documents, which may be blog posts, web pages, or in this case Evernote notes. At present Evernote doesn’t have an inbuilt Markdown capability, but there are tools and hacks available to bridge the gap.

The first tool that can be used to work with Markdown in Evernote is Markdown Here, a browser extension available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. As a browser extension you need to work with Evernote Web, not your desktop or mobile client. The markdown text is simply written in an Evernote note and whilst the note is selected you click the Markdown Here button in your browser toolbar. Hey presto, you have formatted text. The great advantage of this method is that you never have to leave Evernote Web.

The second tool that enables markdown in Evernote is Markable. Markable is an online editor which lets you write, edit and preview markdown. It also allows you to save markdown to Evernote. Select “Export” on the menu and then “Save to Evernote”. Make sure you save as HTML to get the formatted output in Evernote and not the source code. You have to previously have connected Markable to your Evernote account and told it which notebook to use for your exported notes.

The third option is Byword, a Mac editor. Byword is an inexpensive but powerful editor with the advantage that you can write and preview markdown when you don’t have an internet connection. Once you’ve set up connections to the relevent accounts you can publish from Byword to various platforms such as WordPress, Blogger and Evernote. In fact I’m writing this blog post with Byword and will publish it to WordPress where I can add images, make any final edits and then publish.

Finally you may recall that I posted on 3 ways to use templates with Evernote. Markable and Byword give you a fourth way to create templates. The same markdown document can be published to Evernote multiple times, effectively creating a neatly formatted template each time.

If you want to learn more about markdown, its syntax and uses I recommend Instant Markdown.


Using Evernote for contact management

card file

Before Evernote

Computer, tablet or smartphone users have many ways of storing their contacts. There’s usually a default contact manager, which can suck in contacts from your email system, social media, a CRM system, etc. You can search all of those systems independently to find the contacts that you need. But often storing and retrieving contact data is not a problem the real issue is entering that data in the first place, and the productivity hit that it causes.

The systems that I’ve described are great at capturing standardised data, such as the address from someone who emails you. But often the information that you receive isn’t in a standard format, it could be from a…

  • Web page, or online press release
  • Business card or other printed material
  • email sig
  • Conversation over the phone or at a networking event
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook

To use this freeform data you have to get it into a system, but manual entry is slow and painful; and we all know how busy sales and small business people are. Furthermore after you’ve taken the time to enter it into your system, will you ever need it again? This explains why many sales people detest using a CRM system, it turns them into data-entry clerks. I understand this well, over the years I’ve been obsessive about entering contacts into my database only to look at them now and wonder how I ever knew some of them.

This is where Evernote can be invaluable. Evernote provides multiple methods to quickly capture information and make it searchable. So let’s go through the examples above and consider how we get the contact data into our system. But firstly a bit of preparation is in order. I suggest you set up a “contacts” tag in Evernote, or even a “contacts” notebook to hold your contact data…

  • Web pages or online press releases. There are a couple of ways to capture contact data here:
    • Firstly using the Evernote web clipper. This is the browser add-in that lets you capture whole web pages, articles, a selection or just the url from within your browser of choice. The clip initially goes to your online Evernote account where it can be viewed immediately. If you’re using the Evernote app running on your Mac, PC or smartphone the data will be available there after your next sync.
    • The second way to capture data from a web page, or for that matter any document on screen, is using the Helper app that sits in the Taskbar on a Windows machine and the Menubar on a Mac. However this has an extra feature. It also lets you select a rectangle on screen and capture that as an image. This allows you to capture contact data when the web page is complex and trying to select the text is difficult. Although this is an image, Evernote’s optical character recognition (OCR) capability means that it is still searchable.
  • Business card and other printed or even handwritten material.
    • A scanner can be used to capture physical data. These vary from specialised business card scanners to desktop scanners or combined printer/scanners. Some scanners integrate directly with Evernote.
    • But by far the easiest way to do this is with your smartphone. Smartphones have great cameras nowadays and the ability to run an Evernote app. You can take a photo directly from the Evernote app on Android which will, of course, sync with your web and desktop apps.
  • email sig. Often someone’s email sig will contain all of their contact details such as job title, landline, mobile, Skype address, Twitter username, and even the name of their assistant. Fortunately we can send emails directly into Evernote using the custom email address that is provided for each user. So if you want to capture someone’s sig just forward the email into Evernote. If you don’t want all of the email text you can delete it just leaving the email address and sig when you forward it, or do it in Evernote. When forwarding it you can add #contacts or @contacts to the subject to either have Evernote automatically tag it with “contacts” or add it to your “contacts” notebook.
  • Conversation over the phone or face-to-face. What a low tech way to communicate! But still there are options…
    • Jot the contact details down on paper and later scan it into Evernote using your phone.
    • Create a new note using your smartphone Evernote app and type in the data.
    • The Evernote mobile apps on Android and iPhone let you record audio directly into a note. So you can dictate the contact details and listen later on phone or Mac/PC and transcribe the note.
  • LinkedIn profile. This is a web page so can be captured simply using the web clipper or Helper app. You may wish to clip all of their information (career history, education, industry bodies, etc) or just keep it short and sweet and clip only their contact details.
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook. Well once again, these can be viewed as web pages so content including contact data can be clipped using the helper app or the web clipper. For instance the web clipper, when set to clip “article” will neatly capture someone’s Twitter profile.
Screenshot of LinkedIn data clipped to Evernote

Clipped from LinkedIn

So there you have it, a whole bunch of ways in which you can capture rich contact data into Evernote. Evernote’s powerful search capabilities mean that finding a contact is then easy, but how we organise those contacts and use them, for instance when prospecting, we’ll cover another day.


Three easy ways to create templates in Evernote

Evernote templateEvernote is great at capturing all kinds of information from photos, to audio clips, to web clippings and beyond. However often we want to capture similar information, such as the minutes of a meeting, or a phone call. In such a situation it’s also useful to have some “prompts” to make sure that you ask the right questions and record everything that you need to follow up effectively.

What we need is a template. The question is how to create one, given that Evernote doesn’t have a simple way of creating and managing templates? Here are three ways to do just that finishing with, what is in my opinion the most powerful method –

1KustomNote is a web app that links to Evernote letting you create templates/forms, fill them in and save the data into your Evernote account.

  • Pros
    • Integrates well with Evernote
    • Creates interesting looking templates using in-built themes
    • Integration (at a price) with Evernote Business
  • Cons
    • Costs up to $4/month depending on the features you require
    • The default themes are a bit “cutesy”. They look nice, but take up a lot of room and some people (myself included) would prefer a clean, text-only template.

2. Export a Note from Evernote and use this as a template. Create your template note in Evernote. Select “File” –> “Export Note” and save it to somewhere handy (e.g. your desktop) under a suitable name. This will create a file in .enex (Evernote export) format. When you want to create a note using the template, just drag & drop the .enex file back into Evernote and a new note will be created with the template contents and even the same tags as the template.

  • Pros
    • Works fine
  • Cons
    • Slightly clunky way to do things
    • Could get messy with multiple templates

3. Use a Text Expander. Text expanders are apps that let you enter a preset keystroke sequence, preceeded or followed by a “hotkey” combination which will then insert a string of text. More powerful text expanders when triggered can produce a pick-list, open an app or even a web page. Good examples are TextExpander on the Mac (from $34) and PhraseExpander on the PC (from $56).

So, for instance, on my Mac I can open a new note in Evernote, type “phc” (for phone call) followed by a space and Text Expander will expand that to…

Name : _


Company :

Phone :

email :

Date :

Notes :

Next action…

– Who? :

– What? :

– When? :

You can also tell it where to put the cursor when it generates the text. Here it’s in the top field (next to Name:)

I prefer this approach because it’s a really fast and easy way to generate templates in Evernote, but also for that matter any other tool. For instance I use it in prospecting emails where there are chunks of text that I often use, but I want to customise the email and don’t want a complete “boilerplate” email. I also use it for email sigs because I work for myself as well as a number of clients, so have different email sigs depending on which client I’m representing that day!

If you want to learn more on how to use Text Expander I suggest Take Control of TextExpander


Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes


Sign up to our newsletter now and receive "The ultimate guide to creating templates in Evernote"

  • Updates... get new posts automatically
  • Extra content not available on site
  • Increase your personal productivity

We promise not to share your details with anyone else