Productivity Products: Trello vs. Evernote

In Student Affairs, we are constantly juggling multiple projects and deadlines. It can be daunting to keep track of all the items on our to-do lists. Fortunately, there are some great productivity systems to help us. But which products can serve us best?

I have used Evernote daily for several months and I love it! Recently our department started exploring Trello for collaborative projects and tasks. I am still learning my way around Trello, but here are some of my initial thoughts on both.

Trello

trello

Trello is a project management application that makes collaboration easy. It has a remarkably clean and visually appealing interface.

Trello-ToDo-board

Trello is great for:

  1. Project management. Map out a big project  with lists and see all your to-do items on one board. Break larger tasks into smaller tasks. The most common lists seem to be To Do, Doing, and Done, but you can also create lists like Today, Tomorrow, and Someday, or Big Ideas and Little Ideas.
  2. Event Planning. Create due dates and visually arrange them on the calendar. If you have annual or reoccurring events, Trello is a great place to archive and record tasks after project completion for easy reference.
  3. Collaboration. Add members to a board and communicate about tasks by leaving comments on notes. Notes can be assigned to members, and when a note is updated the assigned member(s) can receive a notification.
  4. Multiple to-do lists. You can easily break up your to-do list by day, week, or month, and tasks can be moved from one list to another effortlessly.
  5. Supervision. If you are overseeing a project, you can see which team members are contributing to tasks and how the project is progressing. If team members have questions, they can post the questions on notes and you can respond.

Evernote

evernote

Evernote is a digital filing cabinet. It is an excellent tool for helping you remember everything (hence, the elephant logo)!

evernote_todo-screen

Evernote is great for:

  1. Lists. I love to make lists. I have lists of words, quotes, movies, songs, memories…you get the idea.
  2. Going paperless. I still like to make notes on paper, but I can take pictures of my handwritten notes and back them up on Evernote. Evernote can decipher the text on pictures which allows me to include pictures of these handwritten notes in my searches.
  3. Brain dumping. Evernote is my backup brain. I dump everything into it, which allows me to free up my mental capacity. Once all these thoughts and ideas  are out of my head, I easily prioritize and categorize them into notes and notebooks.
  4. Storing email. Evernote gives you an email address which allows you to turn your email into a note. Just forward the email you want to save – travel confirmation information, newsletters, or tracking online orders – to your Evernote email address.
  5. Sharing notes. You can share a note with another Evernote user or a non-Evernote user using their email address.

As I mentioned, I am an avid user of Evernote. I use it throughout the day to keep track of names, blog ideas, birthdays, websites, and meeting notes. However, I am impressed by Trello’s clean interface and collaborative possibilities.

What is your experience with Trello and Evernote?

10 Tips for Getting It All Done

gettingI_it_done

I recently revisited some of my old blog posts and found this gem. I have been a hobby blogger for the past seven years, and when I first started blogging I wrote a lot about balancing my personal and professional life. Although my days are filled with different responsibilities now, I still find these tips extremely useful!

The past twelve months have been extremely busy. At the height of it all, I was working full time, preparing for a baby, writing my dissertation, serving as a committee chair for the local United Way, and running a side business. How do you do it all – balance home and work while finding meaning in modern life?

Here are ten tips for getting it all done and feeling fulfilled at the end of the day:

1. Set small goals. Most of my commitments are part of a larger long-term goal, such as finishing graduate school. It these cases, it can take a long time to reach success. Instead of measuring success by the completion of my degree, I set goals each quarter to work on my assignments each week. By setting small goals, you can benefit from achieving success more quickly.

2. Build self-efficacy. When I achieve a small goal, I am motivated to work towards another goal because it reinforces my belief that my actions can lead to positive results. This is in effect building self-efficacy – the belief that our actions have certain consequences. Remind yourself of your achievements. Research tells us that people who believe they can accomplish a goal are more likely to achieve that goal.

3. Write it down. I don’t know about you, but ideas and thoughts swim in my head all day, and every once in a while I have to “unload” my brain. Writing things down allows us to focus our attention on the important things, rather than spending energy remembering a thousand little things. By writing down everything that’s on your mind, you’ll also be able to group similar items (just like when you file papers). You may find that some items can be accomplished simultaneously.

4. Nurture your relationships. I have all my girlfriends on speed dial. If I’m having a bad day or need someone to give me an “atta girl,” I call up a friend. Relationships are like our emotional armor – they protect us from disappointment, fear, loneliness, and set-backs. Medical researchers have found that those who have friends tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer than those who do not.

5. Work it out. A few years ago, I was talking to my physician about all the stress in my life – her prescription? Exercise. In our modern world, we sit at desks, talk on the phone, and type on our keyboards all day. There is no outlet for our natural fight or flight responses to deal with stress. Over time, either days or weeks, the stimulus we take in begins to accumulate. Exercise is a natural stress reliever and a mood enhancer.

6. Schedule the “big stuff”. The best analogy for this comes from Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If your time is analogous to a bottle, and you first fill your bottle with small rocks and sand then there is no room for the “big rocks.” However, if you first fill your bottle with “big rocks,” then the small rocks and sand will fit in between the cracks. Covey’s message is to schedule the important stuff first – a date with your spouse, a phone call to your best friend, a workout, a massage, etc. Otherwise, these things won’t fit into your schedule.

7. Be grateful. No one can do it all alone. It takes many people to achieve a great accomplishment. Acknowledge the contributions of others to your own successes and show gratitude. Gratitude has many benefits as well, scientific evidence indicates that grateful people feel more inclined to share, and that gratitude is linked to optimism, better health, and positive social interactions. New research tells us what philosophers and religion have told us for thousands of years – being thankful can increase our overall happiness.

8. Be patient. When I have back to back meetings, a looming deadline, and I’m trying to catch the last bus home, it’s easy to lose my patience. In this modern world, we often find ourselves in long lines, traffic jams, and put on hold. However, without patience, we are left annoyed, frustrated, irritated, and angry. When you lose your patience, remember to be grateful. Count your blessings – you have a job to provide for your family and a house to call home.

9. Enjoy the moment. With a packed schedule, I have made the mistake of thinking my “to do” list is only temporary – that once I get through it I can enjoy life, my family, my vacation. There will always be items on your list – phone calls to make, cards to write, projects to finish. It’s part of being alive! John Lennon once said, “Life is what’s happening when we’re making other plans.” If you wait until you have checked all the items off your “to do” list, you’ll miss everything!

10. Learn to live with imperfection. Whether you have many or few commitments, no one gets it right all the time. The need for perfection turns our attention to what’s wrong with something and leaves us feeling dissatisfied. This is not to say don’t do your best, but rather try not to be overly attached and focused on how things could be different. Remember what they call the guy who finished last in his class in medical school – Doctor.

There’s one more item not included in this list, but of great importance – Keep your sense of humor!

5 Strategies for Dealing with Disappointment

Flikr_Road

This weekend I watched my sister perform in the musical “Into the Woods.” And she did a great job, by the way! In the story, the woods is where the action happens – challenges, lessons, temptation, and loss.

I work with a lot of students who are in the woods. They are struggling with a challenge or disappointment and trying to navigate their way through it. Almost daily I find myself reminding students and parents that there are many paths to success.

Disappointment can come in many forms – low grades, loss of employment, ending of a relationship. We don’t always get the life we planned – and even when we do, it’s not always the way we expected it to be.

Here are 5 strategies for dealing with disappointment:

1. Don’t take it personally. This is not to say it doesn’t hurt. Rejection, criticism, and disappointment can be painful. It’s ok to be sad, upset, or angry. But don’t let your ego get you stuck there. Our ego tells us everything is personal, but many of life’s disappointments are not about us but rather about the way someone else sees the world.

2. Try again. The way you respond to rejection is a choice you make about who you want to be. You may be steps away from victory, but if you give up now you will never know. Let your disappointment fuel your creativity and drive. Focus on your strengths and look for opportunities to take another chance.

3. Be flexible.Disappointment is the result of reality not meeting our expectations. When we allow our expectations to be flexible, we create more possible acceptable outcomes. Look for another path that may lead in the same direction. Think of rejection as redirection.

4. Remember you are not alone. If you have been rejected, you are in good company. Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, and Marilyn Monroe were no strangers to rejection. If you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t taking enough risks.

5. Have an awesome backup plan. We don’t always have control over getting what we want in life – having a baby, getting a job, meeting someone special – but there are still plenty of great options that are within our control. If plan A doesn’t work out, what is something awesome you can do that is within your control? Invest your time, money, and energy into yourself – plan a vacation, pamper yourself, or pick up a new hobby.

Image by Nicolas Raymond

Managing Your Boss Saves You Time

EmployeeOfTheMonth

Today Paul Gordon Brown published a great post on What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: Managing Up. He is right on when he said, “learning to manage up entails a critical set of skills necessary to advance and be successful in your career.” I share the following tips on how to successfully manage your boss in my Time Management workshop. I have been presenting this information to groups of students and young professionals for years, long before I started working for my current boss. Regardless of your age or professional level, I think these tips are still helpful.

Why is it important to manage your boss?

•  An adversarial relationship with your boss can cause stress (which equals wasted time)

•  When your boss trusts you, you will be given more freedom to work independently (big time saver)

•  A positive relationship with your boss may result in additional resources or support (that may save you time)

9 Steps for Managing Your Boss

1. Bring solutions not excuses

Believe it or not, your boss doesn’t have all the answers. And if he/she does, it may not be the answer you want to hear. It is better to bring the solution you would like to see than to take a chance on the solution your boss may suggest.

2. Exude confidence

When your boss sees that you are confident, you are more likely to be trusted and given more autonomy. This creates more flexibility for you to do your work independently as well.

3. Prepare your “done” list

Be prepared to share your accomplishments with your boss. When you are asked “what have you been up to?” or “how’s it going?” you should have a positive response that demonstrates your contributions and productivity.

4. Clarify

Clear communication and expectations are paramount to your success. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you, who you can turn to for help, and how your success is being measured. If necessary, take notes in your meetings so you can refer back to conversations about these key expectations.

5. Approach your boss with honesty, respect, and empathy

Support your boss’s decisions. Do not bad-mouth your boss. Approach your boss in private if you disagree or have a concern.

6. Manage your meetings

Be sure you know when your next meeting is with your boss and what you need to have done by then. Be prepared with appropriate questions.

7. Avoid Interrupting

Your boss is a busy person. Do your best to find answers and resources independently before interrupting your boss.

8. Don’t draw attention to your mistakes

Avoid turning a mole hill into a mountain. Overall, your boss wants to hear your good news and positive stories. For every problem you bring to your boss, be sure you have shared 2-3 solutions or positive outcomes.

9. Learn to read social cues

Timing is crucial. Understanding how your boss behaves when he/she is working on a deadline vs. feeling sociable can increase your chances of gaining positive or negative attention. Do not attempt small talk if your boss appears stressed. On the other hand, if he/she is feeling sociable take the opportunity to share a few success stories.

Check out another great article on What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up at Harvard Business Review.