Evernote — Again!?

Seems one cant get away from the Big Green Elephant. Although there are many other note-taking apps like OneNote, Apple Notes and all in one app’s like Notion is gaining traction. I always come back to Evernote.

The main reason for this is twofold. The first reason is better all-round platform consistency. What I mean by that is Evernote is on every major platform. Doesn’t matter if you use Windows, Mac, Android or iOS. The second is their integrations. Since Evernote has been around the longest almost everything note related ties into Evernote.

Evernote covers the way I prefer to work. Using a journal to keep track of notes and tasks and thoughts is done via the Rocketbook Everlast. The mobile devices I use are Apple and the PC’s used are windows. Evernote is able to integrate with them all.

For a while, I tried going all digital and only using Apple Notes and for the most part, it worked well, however the difficulty came in when trying to access the notes via Windows. There is no native app for Apple Notes on Windows, the only way to access your notes is via the browser by logging into your iCloud account. You may be thinking, that’s not so bad, Evernote has a web version of its note editor, and that works pretty well? That was my thought and aim in accessing the notes via iCloud on the web. The problem came in was when I wanted to view the attachments, they weren’t visible as clearly as in the Evernote web version, no thumbnails and any attachments were one-way. Meaning you could download the attachment and view it but you couldn’t upload attachments to the note via the web editor on iCloud. To achieve this you had to upload the attachment via the iPhone or the iPad.

Back to Evernote

As I wrote in the Apple Notes article the mobile experience is not the best on Evernote, especially when you used to the content that has been clipped looking great on Evernote for desktop. Moving back to Evernote then from Apple Notes was going to mean a jarring experience again. During my time being all-in on digital using Apple Notes and using my iPhone and iPad predominantly I resorted to printing to pdf or converting to pdf a webpage from the safari web browser app in the Apple devices. There was no web clipper to use like with Evernote,  this was used as a workaround. Coming back to Evernote I started to do the same, instead of web clipping the full article I would clip article only and if that didn’t work I would print to pdf. For the most part, this new workflow has made the content more mobile-friendly on Evernote on my mobile devices.

One other thing I also realised is that going in all digital doesn’t work for me, I found myself being more distracted and less productive, hence me going back to using a journal, the Rocketbook Everlast journal in this case and using my digital tools, a hybrid system of a sort. This also created another problem as there was no easy way to scan the pages into Apple Notes using the Rocketbook app. The Rocketbook app ties in seamlessly with Evernote though but not Apple Notes. 

Having a native desktop app that syncs with Evernote allows other added benefits of offline use. If I wanted to use my PC to write or type out longer-form articles and the internet was bad or non-existent there wasn’t an option for me using Apple Notes as that was only accessible via the browser. Although I could type on my iPad or iPhone this wasn’t always convenient

Streamlining

Using one app for all my note-taking and storing of research is better than having many various apps to do many various things. The problem started to come in with having information in Apple Notes, Evernote and Ulysses. I had started to use Ulysses to start writing articles and found it to be similar to Apple Notes that it was only available for iOS and Mac devices. In the end, it made sense to just stick with Evernote. All the information is stored in one place and accessible pretty much from anywhere and any device.

Evernote Pains

From my experience using Apple Notes and Ulysses, there are definitely a few things that Evernote can do to make their app much better for a mobile experience and better for writers and note-takers.

Things that could use improvement:

  • Better rendering of the content clipped via web clipper on mobile
  • Convert a web page to pdf on mobile platforms.
  • Pin a note to the top of a list in a notebook.
  • Password protection at the note level and or notebook level.
  • Word count in the note that is visible on all apps.
  • Dark mode for native Windows app.
  • Export options like Ulysses has to popular blogging apps like Medium and WordPress and other general export functions like pdf, text, HTML, Docx and ePub
  • Allow markdown.

Evernote is on a journey to unify their different apps and note-taking experience that when new features are rolled out they can be pushed out to all the different type of apps one time and work uniformly across platforms. Hopefully, soon we will see the fruits of their labours.

What are your experiences and thoughts using Evernote?

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My Writing Journey So Far…

We all want to be writers. We think to ourselves if we just got that specific app or a new tablet or PC then we would be able to get started. Then we realize our typing is poor and that needs drastic improvement before we can start writing seriously. Then a thought pops into our head, we should get a journal and write ideas and cool stuff in there? Then what? Re-type what we wrote down? What a mission?!

Finally, we decide on what app we are going to use and settled on a device that we feel comfortable using and then we start being picky about where we can and cannot write. Can’t write at home because its not the right place, or we don’t feel motivated or we don’t have a place to write that’s comfortable or we can’t always go to the coffee shop, when we do, its sometimes too noisy or it’s too busy yada yada yada, so the list goes on. Has that ever happened to you?

Some of those things have happened to me and after reading a few articles on writing, I realized that it was me just making an excuse to get away from the real work. To just sit down and bang out the words. Even if they don’t always come willingly and sometimes it’s just word vomit, nonsensical. 

The main thing is just showing up and writing, no matter what. Doesn’t matter what device you choose to use, whether it’s on your phone using a default note editor or logging into your blog editor on the PC. If you like to write things down or journal then use that. Just get your thoughts down, analyze and retool later.

P.A.C.T

Sometimes we think that we need these fancy tools or apps or whatever else we think we need but its P.A.C.T. Patience, Action, Consistency and Time. We just need to show up each day and write, sometimes we will have things that we want to write about and other days we won’t, on these days I look at my journal and document my day. By doing this each day I have found a side benefit of being more at peace, feeling less overwhelmed like things are running away from me and helping myself draw insight from my days, and to a certain degree practice mindfulness during this experience.

Today we are too much in a hurry from one thing to the next that we don’t always give ourselves time to slow down. We don’t need much time to write, as an example I am lying in bed writing this article waiting for the water to warm up so I can go have a shower. I recently wrote about why I am cancelling Netflix and not having these distractions has helped me find more and more time to write.

Make The Time

At work, I have decided to leave a little later in the evenings and this has given me a good one to two hours to work on my writing. Today I had some extra time and published an article on the journal I use, the Rocketbook Everlast. My original plan was to get home, do some washing and then have a shower and go to bed. But I can’t have a shower yet as the water was off today and now need the water to get hot after filling the geyser.

The point I am trying to make is we can find time to write on pretty much anything and anywhere. We just have to look for reasons to write and not for the excuses why we can’t. 

Just keep showing up, just keep writing, be patient as your writing will get better over time, but only if you practice daily. P.A.C.T, as I mentioned earlier, is a good strategy to follow and I have been trying to live by it since I did my first article on Medium a little over a month ago.

Keep trying, keep writing, keep publishing even if you don’t get any reads, through this effort you will have the wins, one of my articles was featured and this helped keep me inspired. But it wasn’t long after I started writing. I thought it would have taken months to get a good article out but in a relatively short time, I was able to get something good out. Why? Because for most days since I started I have been typing 500 or writing words a day. Some days were a little more and some days a little less but the main thing is I kept going.

Keep Going…

If you feel like your not getting anywhere if you feel like giving up ask yourself, have I been committed, have I written 500 words a day for at least 30 days? If the answer is no, then just keep going. Don’t give up!

Looking back at how many articles I have published I was surprised to see that it is eight so far, thought it was less. My original goal was to publish one or two articles a month, so to have done eight is very good in my opinion.

I have also started a blog where I have published articles on there that I haven’t published in Medium as well, so in essence, I have published a total of ten articles. And to be frank I haven’t felt overwhelmed, they just kinda came naturally. Reasons I think this happened was the daily opportunities created by making time for writing and doing it.

Write, edit and publish. Some of it will be good, some of it will be bad but if you not writing and putting stuff out there all you gonna be is a wannabe writer with a long list of excuses for answers why you not publishing content. That was me for a long time, not anymore.

Apple Notes – A Good Alternative

Picture Taken From Apple Support Site

I have been a long-time Evernote user and have also used OneNote for an extended period, however, I have always been drawn away by the lack of mobile support on these note-taking apps vs the desktop experience. Yes, they do work on the mobile but the experience is not truly a mobile one. The experience has been “squashed” or feels forced to work on a mobile platform. So the experience is always less than perfect. Sometimes it’s rather janky depending on what you want to do. It feels like they are trying to replicate on mobile what works on desktop.

After upgrading my iPad to the Air3 model I decided to try out Apple Notes again, as I was keen to try the Apple Pencil. In the past, I have tried Apple Notes intermittently but found it to be a basic note-taking app, nothing to rave about. However over the last few iterations of iOS updates, versions 11, 12 and coming soon version 13 they have greatly improved the capabilities of Apple notes. Recently I also changed over from an android device to an iPhone XR and started to use the Apple notes more extensively since it syncs between the two devices in near real-time.

When trying to use OneNote on my iPad and the other mobile devices I always had a bit of a sync issue. Notes would get duplicated or wouldn’t sync because a note was open on another device, frustrations like that. Evernote seemed to create duplicate notes and I ended missing some information as I wouldn’t always see the duplicated notes, however lately this seems to have rectified.

The one pain point I have with Apple Notes is that you can’t do much with the notes on if you are a Windows PC user, besides basic editing and copying and pasting in the iCloud notes app in the browser. I wouldn’t mind if they had a great web experience, but for now, it’s rather a sub-par experience. I hope in time Apple realizes that many people could have an iPhone or an iPad or both but their primary PC is a windows machine. It would be nice to have a consistent platform for the notes experience even if the experience was just a great web experience to start with.

The good part with Apple Notes is that you can have a really clean interface for typing or writing if that’s more your style with the Apple Pencil 1. A feature I am looking forward to is dark mode on iOS 13. The darker colour won’t be so hard on the retinas and should make it even easier for longer typing sessions.

Apple Notes has all the usual things you would expect from a mature note-taking app, headings, bullets, numbers and even checkboxes or circles. You can also bold, underline italicize and strike-through your word on your note. To make your text look good they also have two heading options “Title” and “Heading” and support indenting and out-denting. I hope they will make the checkboxes into checklists that grey out and strikethrough your text when you mark items as done. Just makes your to-do list in your note look more satisfying when have completed things.

Using tables in Apple Notes is also super easy and much easier to achieve on mobile vs Evernote and OneNote. Another built-in feature is the scanning of documents or business cards and it works like a cinch. As a bonus when you are scanning into your note, pictures are added inline, meaning they appear where you want in the note, not just all at the bottom or the top, making our notes make better sense as you have the image with your notes underneath. To top it off once your note has been crafted with your images and carefully selected text you can easily print to PDF making it super easy to share to any app or even on email or other messaging platforms.

Another good feature in the Apple Notes app is security. Like OneNote, you can lock individual notes which is handy if you want to keep certain things private. Wish Evernote had this, they only allow you to lock the whole app on a mobile device.

So if you have an iPad or iPhone and have started to take notes, the built-in note-taking app is really good. You don’t need to be looking around for another app unless you need other features. Also if you are lucky to be all-in on Apple with your iPhone, iPad and Mac then things just work wonderfully together. If you’re like me and have a fragmented system maybe look at OneNote or Evernote for a better desktop experience, just remember the mobile experience won’t be as effortless as compared to Apple Notes on iOS.

Mind All Over The Place

Don’t you find it frustrating when you sit down to do a piece of work you end up doing a million other things, a term coined for this is Pre-Crastination, a brilliant article by Nick Wignall – Are you a Pre-Crastinator?

I suppose the only way to get into a groove or a flow state is to consistently work the habit towards your goal, to achieve this I have been reading a book about habits called Habit Stacking by S.J Scott. In it, he mentions that you will have good days when you are easily achieving your habits and the ideas and thoughts are coming like a torrent and then you will have days where it’s a hard slog.

I think for me, I just need to get all my various inputs (distraction, notifications) in some order and try to take better notes on the things that happen during my day for later reflection and analysis. I find myself reading and watching all these interesting, good articles and videos and then when I want to draw on them again for inspiration and reflection it takes me hours, ok maybe that’s a bit of embellishment, a frustratingly long time to try find the article or video again. By that time the flow state or original thought process has in a sense vanished. Damn!

In our hyper-connected world, this seems to be a new reality. We are continiously getting inputs from so many sources and trying to carve up our valuable time sliver by sliver to try and attempt to attend to all these inputs. My experience of this cycle over the last few years makes me feel that we don’t always get the full impact of the article we were reading or the video we were watching because all too quickly it’s onto the next video or article. Basically, consume and consume some more.

How do we take the time, to slow down, to maybe find 3 or 4 articles or videos or podcast’s and store them in a place that’s easily accessible? And then MAKE the time to consume them, where there are no distractions. By doing so we can watch, read or listen to the content we have collected and then really savour it! By that, I mean to write some notes about what you found valuable from said article, video or podcast. What insights did you gain? What did you learn from it, the aha moments? What else does it bring up in your mind, what other ideas or things could you try in your life to move you forward?

We have become too passive in our daily lives, just input, input, input and barely any output and not allowing ourselves to be with our inner thoughts, and that’s sad.

We have to keep fighting the autopilot mode of just consuming and consume some more and carve out time for ourselves to learn, think and meditate. Not only that, it would be wise to have a way we can keep track of the ideas that come to our mind without being distracted by our hyper-connected world with electronic gizmos, losing that precious thought. Another thing we should learn is to isolate ourselves so we don’t have someone coming in to interrupt us inadvertently during this process. We also need to fight the random thoughts that come into our minds to pull us away from the task at hand.

If we allow ourselves to become frustrated too easily and just give up without a fight. We find ourselves slipping back into autopilot mode and carry on consuming and consume some more. By allowing this to happen we find ourselves starting to feel depressed, or sad or you are just plodding along in life.

That’s not cool, how do we break that cycle? For me I guess in a sense I started to take the time, to sit in front of a blank page and just start writing and lately typing. To start spending time with my thoughts and start taking note of them and acting on them and see where they lead. I took action, not just be in autopilot mode and be stuck in a place to consume all the time and give nothing back.

Over time it has gotten easier and now when I am typing and in flow state, the ideas and feelings are just coming out like a gushing faucet. It’s not to say that what comes out is coherent, sometimes it’s a bit messy, to say the least, but at least you have something to work with.

Now you just have to rinse and repeat and use the insights you get, like anything worth having we need to keep practising and your mind and thoughts can become stronger and better. Your focus increases, your intuition gets better and your memory retention gets stronger because of the exercise you are giving yourself, mentally and emotionally.

Lessons From My First Medium Article

They Actually Liked IT!!

So last week I published my first article on Medium. It was kinda scary and exciting at the same time. I thought I did a good job. Getting feedback from friends and family is they actually liked it, it wasn’t bad for the first attempt. But there were a few gremlins. All the bad things that were running through my mind at the time of writing the article didn’t actually come to fruition. There were other things that did…

Insights

So after getting this feedback and getting over my initial hurdle of actually writing and publishing something, I decided to do a followup piece and delve deeper into what was said and what could have been done before pressing the “publish” button. I had initially checked for the silly things like capital letters were where they were supposed to be, full stops and commas inserted, but alas I missed a few things. I guess that’s what happens when you are doing things for the first time, your mind is thinking about million other things that don’t actually facilitate clear thinking, things such as ‘will the article be a failure’, ‘what will family and friends think’, ‘will people hate it’ ,’rebuke me for it’? These are just a few things that ran through my mind as I was typing and editing, the things that don’t actually have anything to do with the actual writing and publishing of the article, but your mind is distracted and as they say, the rest is history.

After some more time and effort, I discovered a few other things are connected to writing great articles

I have broken each section down how I have experienced it so far.

• Tools

• Workflow

• Donkey work

• Magic Time

Tools of the Trade

Another thing I am learning going through this writing process is assembling the correct tools to write with. I have noticed there is a little bit more to it than just opening whatever text editor, type, fix a few grammatical things and then press publish.

What text editor software are you going to use?

• web client

• Propriety editors like Ulysses/ AI Writer/ Scrivener

• Note taking apps like Apple Notes/ Evernote/ OneNote

• Document editors like Microsoft Word or Apples’s Pages

What hardware or devices are you going to write on?

• Laptop

• Ipad/phone

• Book and pen even

• And today recently learned, keep spare batteries for Bluetooth keyboard…

Where are you going to write?

• Home office

• Coffee shop

• Library

• Some other location

• Music to help mind focus

• What music helps with the creation process

• What music helps with the focus process

• What I have come to also realize is that the mind is in a very different state when editing and writing.

Workflow

I definitely need to design a workflow in order to research whichever article I want to write, then actually write it, clean it up, you know the donkey work by using a tool like Grammarly, then start the magic phase, the editing.

Donkey Work

Yes donkey work, you may be wondering why I call it this. It’s the stuff that doesn’t make the content of the article but its how it’s delivered. Then after you get over the nerves of writing something and publishing it and getting criticism you start to realize the donkey work stuff, you think to yourself ah if I just put a comma there, or a full stop here, it would have made better sense. Or maybe I could have used a heading in a certain spot and I definitely should have included an image to start the whole thing off.

Magic Time

Another thing I realized I need to invest is time. Not just time to research content, also not just the time to write the piece but the most important time, time to edit. I think that’s where the magic happens. You take your idea from birth to teenager to mature adult. I think I missed some of that on my first article. It was more toddler type you could say. You may wonder, but isn’t that the donkey work you referred to earlier? Well yes and no, yes editing to a certain degree is fixing the punctuation, spelling errors etc but for me, that’s the donkey work. Editing is now where you go through the article and make sure your ideas link together, you not leaving thoughts and ideas half explained, you read the article through with a critical eye and ask yourself questions regarding the piece.

Wrap Up

However that being said, at the end of the day I wrote, I published, and I learned. So now I can try again, I have added a few more things in my arsenal and now I have a better sense of what to look for and how to structure it, so during this process I can only get better and hopefully for the people that read my work it makes better sense to them and offers value and insight to their lives.

I have included some articles below that I found very insightful and helpful on my journey as a writer thus far.


Resources

Why I am Canning Netflix

At first glance you may be wondering, why is this guy putting Netflix in a can? Is he planning on going underwater or outer space?

Lol, no the simple truth is I am finding that too much of my life is being given away to Netflix. Making me feel unfulfilled. I sometimes feel like a spectator in my life, feeling like a mindless drone. So after reading an article by @Ronnie.H on Medium, I decided to start writing, properly, well trying to anyway.

However, on this path of writing and self-discovery, I am learning that to become better at the craft of writing you need to practice, practice writing and trying to articulate your random thoughts into coherent sentences that don’t come across as boring and drivel. But in order to do that one also needs to read more. I know, sounds contradictory right, but it is what it is. So if I need to read more I need to remove more distractions like Netflix. By reading more I have started to notice more of a variety of articles on Medium that I am interested in. Before it was basic ‘hit me’ fixes on productivity stuff, I didn’t have much more time to read the deeper things suggested to me by Medium because, you guessed it, time issues.

The articles I have been reading have been around writing, relationships, life and other humans exploring their creative side and struggling with similar issues as my self. I drew great insight from this article from Anthony Moore.

It’s amazing what else is out there and how we can contribute if we just take some time to try to give back a little vs just consuming all the time.

For me, the last 2 weeks has been this amazing journey of thinking and reading and resonating with others in the articles they have written. One that really went deep for me today was by Mary Wise, she opens herself up to the world talking or writing about very personal things and her relationship with her husband over the last 22 years. I was in a long term relationship myself and understand the struggles and fears she mentions in the article. However, that being said if I had been on Netflix watching some random mind-numbing episode of whatever, I would never have stumbled across this article.

Anyway, enough rambling, all I can say is start telling your story, awkward and messy as it may seem but over time like anything we do, we get better, your words will meld better together to form sentences of truth, honesty and passion. Words and stories that will resonate with people.

Give back, thank those that do, even if what you read seems janky and not to well written, remember they took the time to try make random thoughts into something the world can see and understand. Your support of these dear ones will help them grow and help shape our future with their insights and thoughts.

May we have more discussions over interesting topics that touch our lives and not gush over the last episode of Stranger Things…

Writing Everyday…

Was reading an interesting article 5 Insights From Writing Everyday by Conor Dewey talking about writing everyday.

Here he was speaking about his experience of writing everyday regardless for 30 days, in his article he has links to 9 positive side effects of writing and Should You Write One Story A Day? Here’s What I Learned From The Last Two Months.

These type of articles are helping me on my journey, as I explore myself as a writer. But I want to make sure that the content I am publishing is good to great mostly. No point in writing everyday and trying to get an article out there just for the sake of writing something for the day.

So by trying to write a story a day helps me to get my mind engaged, working, thinking about experiences, things I have read, seen and heard. Also what I have noticed is that you cannot write good creative material if you dont feed your mind. This leads me to another article I read today from Renard’s World 7 Tips to Develop The Habit of Writing one of the things he mentions, in the very first tip is to be an avid reader. This in turn helps you to learn things and help make your writing outstanding.

So for me I am going to try and write everyday, the goal not so much to publish everyday, but if I feel they are good stories then why not? For me I feel more at ease being able to post on my blog vs Medium, maybe the resistance comes in from all the great stories I have been reading over the last few years. But hopefully after a few weeks of writing and having published more articles on my blog and getting some feedback I will be more confident in posting my articles on Medium as well.

Happy writing 🙂