Yojimbo vs Together vs Evernote: a review

I have been trying to choose an information collector and organiser for the last few weeks. There are quite a few available for the Mac and I thought I would write about how I came to my final decision.

What exactly is an information organiser? Basically it is an application that can collect and store pieces of information as notes. Little bits of text, web page archives, snippets from a web page, photos, PDFs, all sorts. These applications are enormously versatile with as many uses as there are users.

What do I need it to do?

I have three main uses.

  • I want to be able to store little snippets of text, such as a reference number for something I just bought online. The type of things I could write in a notebook but could more quickly add to the computer if I’m already sitting here.
  • I buy loads of stuff online. Almost everything except groceries. (And the only reason I don’t do that is because the service isn’t available where I live.) When I’m researching something I want to buy I want to keep track of all the items I’m considering. For example, last week we bought a new TV. (It’s not arrived yet but that’s a whole other story!) I looked at multiple websites comparing plasma and LCD, features and cost. I could have bookmarked each page (or kept multiple tabs open) but I would have ended up with a large number of pages, flipping back and forth all the time. Instead, it is much easier to save relevant snippets of each webpage (or sometimes an archive of the whole page). I want to be able to save web archives, with a link to the original page and have the ability to add my own comments.
  • I need to keep track of reading material I use for work. I read a number of online journals and websites and need to record and archive anything I have read – a mixture of web archives, bookmarks and PDFs. They need to be kept well organised – I have an annual appraisal where I have to present evidence of what I have read with comments that I may have added.

Features I consider important

  • Add a URL or web clipping with only one mouse click (or an easy keyboard shortcut)
  • Preview a web archive or PDF within the application
  • Tags for organisation
  • iPhone or web access (only necessary to access my reading material at work)

Having looked at a few applications I decided to trial Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software, Together from Reinvented Software and Evernote. Read the rest of this entry »

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My implementation of GTD

I started using David Allen’s Getting Things Done system to keep me organised over 7 months ago. I have tried many different implementations, regularly fiddling when it hasn’t felt right. My current system seems to be working well for me and I haven’t felt the need to tweak it for a few weeks.

Although in the book David Allen mainly talks about keeping lists on paper I love technology and liked the idea of keeping lists on my Mac. Having tried almost every GTD application available, both web-based and desktop, I have settled on Things from Cultured Code.

My current implementation of GTD is based mostly on the book but also takes inspiration from Zen Habits, Patrick Rhone, The Weekly Review, 43 Folders and Organize IT, amongst others.

Capture

I have four buckets in which to collect “stuff”. I have a basket on my desk at home into which I put physical items that need dealt with, such as post and receipts.

Email comes into Apple Mail.

If I’m at my computer I put tasks straight into Things, either directly or more often using the quick entry dialogue box which I have mapped to F2.

When not at the computer I use a Moleskine pocket notebook to capture thoughts and tasks. For a long time I used disposable Pilot V fountain pens. They are convenient but over time the cost fairly mounts up. I’m now writing with a Pilot Prera fountain pen (£25 from Cyberpens). It’s lovely to write with and has a nice narrow nib.

Process and Organise

I usually sit down mid-afternoon with a cup of tea and empty my buckets. First I sort out my basket. Anything that can be done in under two minutes I just do. If it’s to be deferred to another time a to-do is added to Things. Anything that needs to be kept for reference is scanned or filed. Read the rest of this entry »

How I use short-term goals with GTD

Getting Things Done is a great organising system but I have always had a problem with step 5, “doing”. David Allen says to just look at your lists, consider the context, time available, your energy levels and priority – and then pick what you’re going to do. This is too wishy-washy for me. I’m someone who prefers rules. Without some structure I just don’t get things done. And I really don’t like assigning priority levels to tasks. Low ranked tasks just get ignored.

I, like many, have a tendency to procrastinate. I put off the more boring tasks and tend to avoid those that require too much effort. Or I may have good intentions but then get distracted, usually by the computer. And before I know it the day is over and I’ve not done as much as I would have liked. 

A few months ago, in an attempt to get over my issues with “doing” I started setting myself monthly goals. At the beginning of each month I choose 3 or 4 tasks or goals that I promise myself I will complete before the month is up. I keep a journal that I write in most days. There is a page at the beginning of each month where I write down these goals. By writing them down I don’t forget them and it makes it “official”. It’s as though I’ve signed a contract with myself. I have found this really motivating and fairly easy to achieve what I have set myself.

In fact it worked so well that I decided to also set myself weekly goals. I choose 3 tasks for the coming week. I’ve found a convenient time to do this is whilst doing my weekly review. Again, I write them down. I currently use a Moleskine pocket notebook for this. However, this is the same notebook I use for shopping lists, to-do capture, draft blog posts, all sorts – and I find my lists of weekly tasks get lost amongst everything else. I’ve bought myself a Moleskine pocket weekly notebook (18 months, from July this year until December 2009) and am going to start using that instead from next month. Read the rest of this entry »