Technology Tip: Scannable for Evernote (iOS only)

Fighting Clutter

We all use technology to improve our lives and to accomplish more. Periodically I will share technology that I find helpful.

Use Evernote's Scannable App to Go Paperless in a Snap

I want to start with a phone app that I use several times per week. Let’s put this in the category of clutter-buster. I constantly fight a battle with paper and clutter. This battle is waged in both my personal and business life. Evernote has been a staple of my life for several years now. If you do not use Evernote, that needs to be at the top of your list.

Once you are using Evernote and begin to realize all of the amazing ways it can help you organize your life, you will want to add to it all types of documents. Evernote’s mobile app does allow you to access your phone’s camera, but this has never worked very well for me.

Scannable solves that. I want to thank my wife’s, cousin, Chris Towle, for telling me about Scannable. It is a simple app that works beautifully. I use it to scan business cards, receipts, printed obituaries I want to keep , etc. The types of documents you can scan are unlimited. Once scanned, you can send the scanned documents in several ways:

  • Email
  • Evernote
  • Camera roll
  • Text message
  • Export
  • Export to Apple iCloud
  • Post to social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Scannable is available for Apple iOS only at this time. If you are an Android user, you can use Evernote’s native scanning capability. Perhaps you have found a better solution for Androisd? Use the comments below to tell us which scanning app you find the most helpful.

What You Can Learn From My Hard Drive Crash

On a recent Friday I turned on my three year old laptop as usual. Everything seemed normal, until it was not.

In the old days we got what we called the Blue Screen of Death. A simple restart usually solved the problem, for a little while. I had not seen a blue screen in a while, but this time the blue screen was the Blue Screen of Your Hard Drive is Dead!

Being an old computer guy who bought my first PC back in 1983, I know that a hard drive is a hardware device. This means they can and do fail.

So, I purchased and installed a new hard drive right away. Fortunately, I had all of my data backed up to a cloud backup service. That is the good news. The bad news is that it took ten days of constant restoring to get all of my data back. During that time I experienced disruption to my work duties as a result of missing data.

I also had to re-install the operating system and all of my applications, not to mention tracking down the license keys for each of them. I also had to reconnect each program to its data source once those files were restored. The amount of time I have wasted on this during the previous week has been staggering.

What would you do right now if you computer’s hard drive crashed and died?

While this is fresh on my mind, let me share some things you can learn and implement from my misfortune. The main lesson is:

Back up your data. Since your hard drive can fail, your data is not safe residing only in that one physical location. “Your data” is not specific enough. Remember, we are talking about your precious family photos of children when small and loved ones who have passed on. “Your data” also includes financial records, family information, and important email conversations. This is information you really don’t want to lose just because your hard drive crashes. Imagine your predicament right now if your hard drive crashed and you lost all of that. If you do not currently have your data backed up, please do it right away. Do not delay. There are two basic ways to backup your data:

  • Online automatic cloud backup. The easiest and cheapest way is to backup the way I do with an online cloud backup service like Carbonite. They are not the only ones, but their service certainly saved me. All of the data you deem precious gets automatically backed up to the cloud without your worrying about it. When and if the time comes that you need to restore your backed up files, you can do it easily. As stated earlier, though, it does take some time. One of the great benefits of this type of backup is in the case of a fire or natural disaster where your computer is located. If your computer is physically destroyed or stolen, your data still lives and can be accessed.
  • Local backup. A local backup is a physical drive or other storage system at your premises where you backup or clone your data. You may wonder why you need a local backup if you already have a cloud backup? Well, my wasted week of work is the main reason. Imagine if, in addition to my cloud backup, I had maintained a clone of my hard drive. When the main hard drive failed, I could have simply swapped the cloned drive in for the failed drive. This would mean that I would not have needed to reinstall the operating system, any of the programs, find any license keys, or reconnect any data. It would have made my life much easier. The word of warning, again, is that I would not want to count only on this one local backup because it is vulnerable to fire, theft, or other natural disaster.

I know there are many different solutions available for both online and local backup. This is not just a Windows or Apple issue. Hard drives are physical objects that can and do fail regardless of manufacturer. Take it from me, your data is worth protecting, and your time is worth saving.

Let me know if you have had similar experiences and what backup strategies you employ. I am looking for “best practices.”



Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain

Based on a recommendation from my wife (via Michael Hyatt’s Twitter feed) and from the podcast by “Relentless Roger and The Caveman Doctor,” I recently read a post at Lifehacker on Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret. It turns out that his secret is incredibly simple and effective. Basically Jerry identifies some task or behavior that is important for him to perform. He hangs a calendar on his wall and then marks a red X on each day where he has completed that activity. In Jerry’s case it is writing jokes. After a while he has a string of red Xs. His advice then is simply:

Don’t Break the Chain!

After a couple of years of sporadically working on my first book, I decided the time had come to get serious. Since I travel quite a bit, I printed out a calendar I can take with me. On May 1st I began rising at 5 AM to write. I write for at least an hour, but often for an hour and a half. I permit myself no sleeping in on the weekends and no excuses because of travel.

This is a photo of my calendar from two days ago.

Don't Break the Chain

Don’t Break the Chain

This morning’s writing session made it seventeen in a row for me. I am now in a groove, and I do not hesitate to get up when the alarm goes off. The corgis are not quite sure what to make of it yet, but they will figure it out in time. Of course, by about 9 PM I am starting to think about sleep, but that’s OK.

I am really making progress, and I do not want to break the chain. Thank you Mr. Seinfeld for something so simple and effective.

What project could you move forward with Seinfeld’s calendar approach?



Can Kanban Improve Your Work and Unlock GTD®?

© Bellemedia | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Bellemedia | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

People who are categorized as “knowledge workers” often struggle with managing all of the information that comes their way on a daily basis and with getting everything done that needs to be done. My wife and I are both knowledge workers, and for years we have been mutually searching for a way of working that allows us to stay on track, manage a flood of information, keep our promises, get things done, and be great at everything we do. Modest goals, right?

Getting Things Done

In 2009 we discovered David Allen‘s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. His book has had so much impact that many people (including us) simply refer to his system as GTD®. We highly recommend the book and his method of organizing everything in your life. We are committed to his method of putting all tasks in writing and keeping them in context-specific lists. For example:


  • Buy groceries
  • Mail tax return at post office
  • Make deposit

At Computer

  • Finish RISE proposal
  • Request meeting with James for the 22nd
  • Schedule web conference for new project

You define your own contexts and add everything in your mind that you need to do in those contexts. My list is very large and evolves daily. If I trusted my brain to remember all of this, I would surely fail.

After understanding the purpose and power of GTD®, one of the first questions most people have is: “What software tool should I use to implement this system?” The beauty of GTD® is that there is no one tool that David recommends for everyone. He wants you to understand the system and then find the tools that work best for you. Finding that perfect mix of tools has been a challenge for us. Initially I used an iPhone tool (and related website) called Toodledo. This tool allowed me to create unlimited contexts and unlimited tasks. It also allowed me to include due dates. However, it was still not a natural part of my work day. I did not find myself using it effortlessly the way Zamfir uses the pan flute. My tasks were all “there,” but I wasn’t doing much with them.

Lean Manufacturing

I now believe that what I was missing to properly implement GTD® was right under my nose the whole time. In my day job I help companies and individuals manufacture their products. This career gives me the opportunity to be in many different types of factories (I wrote about my affection for factories here). Great factories have nearly all adopted Lean Manufacturing practices that were first developed in Japan. Among the many concepts used in Lean are:

  • Kaizen (“good change” – continuous improvement)
  • Muda (“wastefulness” – waste elimination)
  • Poka-yoke (“fool-proofing”), and
  • Kanban (“sign-board” – an inventory pull system)

Please hang in here with me. The payoff will be worth it. All of these Lean concepts are powerful, but I want to focus on one of them: Kanban.


A kanban pull system is the way many factories are organized today for Just-In-Time (JIT) production. For a brief explanation for what a kanban system looks like, please check out this video:

So the kanban system relates to the inventory of parts and sub-assemblies that flow through a factory to completed product and customer order fulfillment. What does that have to do with knowledge workers or GTD®? Well, think of your capacity as a worker as you would think of a factory. In a sense you are your own factory with a set capacity to do work each day. You have a lot of people making a lot of demands on your time. You have work to do, promises to keep, and miles to go before you sleep (Robert Frost reference). Not to mention the fact that you have to attend that piano recital tonight, pick up a gallon of milk at the grocery store, and call to check on Aunt Edna’s gall bladder surgery. You only have so much time in the day. How will you balance your workload so as to not break promises or create big bottlenecks?

Let me introduce another book. My wife is currently reading a book titled Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry. Think about the title for a moment – Personal Kanban. Remember, you are your own factory. You have only so much work that can flow through your factory today. You need a personal kanban system to effectively manage the inventory of tasks you need to do, those you are currently doing, those that are waiting for something or someone else, those that have been completed, and the entire backlog of all things that need to be done. I have not read the book yet, but as she and I have discussed it, it has become clear to me that implementing my own personal kanban is the secret to unlocking GTD®. It is in harmony with David Allen’s concepts. It is very possible that David even has the same idea just stated differently, but the concept of me being my own factory and having my own kanban has been powerful to me.

However, the question of tool still lingers. How do I implement my personal kanban? My wife has started using a physical white board with sticky notes for each task that are placed in one of several columns that reflect her workflow bins. This is the way kanbans are still used in some factories while others have gone to electronic kanban systems. I have found a software tool that is working beautifully for me.


I must give credit to John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing for sharing a terrific tool called Workflowy. John’s article provides a nice overview of the capabilities of Workflowy. The Workflowy site also has a good video introduction. My special recipe, though, is the combination of GTD®, Personal Kanban, and Workflowy. With the three of these merged together I am starting to use these tools like our buddy Zamfir and his pan flute. It feels natural to me.

Let me show you the way I have set up Workflowy bins to give me unprecedented productivity in my personal factory:

  • READY [Work Waiting to Be Processed – Tasks That Need to be Completed First]
  • TODAY [Work I Need to do Today]
  • DOING [Work In Progress – Limit 3]
  • WAITING FOR [The Pen – Things I’m Relying on Others or Time to be Able to Complete – Additional Actions Beyond My Control]
  • DONE [Completed Work]
  • BACKLOG [Work Yet to Do]
    • Personal (By context)
    • Work (By context)

Not only can I access my free account directly on, I also have the Workflowy app on my iPhone. Each task listed in my personal kanban bins on Worklowy can be easily moved from one bin to another by dragging. It is very powerful to be able to look at the task I am currently DOING, to drag a completed task to DONE, and to pull a new task from TODAY or READY down into DOING. I hope you will at least give it a try by setting up your free Workflowy account as I have above. To really fine tune it all, I recommend you read the two books cited above. For me, implementing my own Personal Kanban on Workflowy helps me with Getting Things Done.

Forward Story

To me there is an obvious connection between all of this and Forward Story. The future I am working toward depends in large part on how I do my daily activities. This is true whether I am a student, an employee, a business owner, or a stay-at-home parent. The more effectively my personal factory runs, the more positive possibilities will show up in my future.

What tools and/or practices do you use in your daily life to help you keep on track and be more effective in your work?


Mind-Mapping the Nearer Term – Adding Age 25

In our last article our 18 year-old John completed his mind map for the time-frame 12 years down the road when he is 30 years old. He put in writing in his mind map his various dreams and goals across three areas – family, career, and personal. However, there is a large gap between where John is right now at 18 and where he wants to be when he is 30. Now comes a crucial step for John. He must answer the question, “How do I get there from here?”

When we introduced John in this series we identified the time-frames that he will plan for. The exact time-frames are flexible and can be defined as John desires. The most important thing is that these time windows make sense to the person creating the mind map – in this case John. Here is the mind map we laid out for John: (all images will enlarge when clicked)

With his age 30 mind-map completed, the next time-frame for John is the next seven years. At the end of that window he will be 25 years old. This period is exactly five years before the age 30 period he has already completed. With each new time period, John has to review the plans he has already written to make sure that what he plans in this new time-frame truly enables him to accomplish what he has already written in his longer time-frames. For example:

  • Family. John wants to be living near his parents when he is 30 in order to be able to take care of them. The likelihood of that happening will depend in large part on John’s decisions by age 25. He has to make sure that this new time-frame takes location into account.
  • Career. John said that when he is 30 he will be in his 7th year of work as an engineer. In order for this to happen, John needs to have already been an engineer for two years by the time he is 25. If he were now to write that by age 25 he wants to start his first job as an engineer, there is no way he will be in his 7th year of work when he is 30. This is why he must review what he has already written.
  • Personal. Since John wants to be under 190 pounds by the time he is 30, he will want to make sure he is setting a realistic goal for his age 25 time-frame with regard to his weight and health. If he does not pay attention to his weight and instead gains weight in his early to mid twenties, John may have weight problem to deal with when he is 30.

In this way John reviews what is already planned in longer time-frames and begins to write a coherent plan for the shorter time-frames. It is important to note that John’s already completed age 30 plan is not chiseled in stone. In working on an earlier time-frame he may discover that something he has written for age 30 cannot be accomplished by that time. OR he may determine that he has been too conservative and that he can really accomplish more in that more distant period. In either case he will need to go back to age 30 and make changes so that his plan has a realistic shot of success. In this way, the entire process is really an iterative process. That is, it will likely take several iterations (or repetitions) to develop a coherent plan.

Back to Age 25

After reviewing his age 30 mind map, John will now begin writing for age 25 across all three realms. Here is the blank template for age 25 with the familiar fields to guide John in his planning.

Since John has already completed his more distant time-frame, he can more easily step back in time and create his goals:


  • Family Status: Mom & Dad 62, Steve 27, Jane 24, Kate 20
  • If we are not already living near Mom & Dad, we will look for career opportunities to move closer.
  • Steve may have children by this time, and it is important to me to be a good uncle to my nieces and nephews. This is true even if we do not live near one another.
  • I will have contributed my love and help to Jane and will have a healthy, supportive relationship with her as an older brother. I will maintain healthy boundaries.
  • I will continue my strong relationship with Kate and assist her in whatever ways she needs me.
  • I may be an uncle to Jane and/or Kate’s children at this point. As with Steve’s, I will invest in these nieces and nephews and be a wonderful uncle to them.
  • Robin and I will be celebrating our third anniversary.
  • I will support her in her career, life, and interests.
  • I will spend quality time with her and work seriously on making our marriage great. I will invest in us.
  • We may have children by this time. I will take fatherhood seriously and will look out for the well-being of them all.

In reviewing his age 30 map, John notices that he failed to say anything about his in-laws in what he wrote about family. He address this now in the new time-frame by writing:

  • I will make it easy for Robin and the kids to spend time with her parents.
  • I will look for ways to help Robin’s parents.

Also, now that John has identified this oversight from the age 30 plan, he will go back to that age 30 map and add his thinking about his in-laws.


  • I will be in my 2nd year of work as an engineer.
  • I will establish a reputation as a person with a strong work ethic.
  • I will cultivate relationships with engineers I admire in order to learn from them and grow my network.
  • I will look for and participate in continuing education opportunities.
  • I will earn at least $60,000 per year.
  • We will practice wise budgeting and will pay off all student loan debt.



  • I will keep my weight under 190 pounds.
  • I will play tennis and walk regularly.
  • I will eat a healthy diet, and continually educate myself about the latest in nutritional science.
  • I will get annual physicals from my doctor.


  • I will take guitar lessons and review the fundamentals of music.
  • I will play in at least one charity golf tournaments each year for fun and to support good causes.
  • I will hunt annually with my Dad and brother.

The World

  • I will explore various charities and volunteer my time to determine the place I am most passionate about serving.
  • I will explore the mentoring a young person through Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
  • I will financially support humanitarian relief efforts through world-class charities.
  • I will vote in local, state, and national elections as an exercise of my civic duty and of patriotic gratitude.


  • I will continue to learn and explore my own spiritual nature and the nature of God.
  • I will focus on my spiritual journey with my wife and grow along with her.
  • I will explore and identify a good group of people/church to belong to and to do spiritual work with.
  • I will strive to be consistent in my religious beliefs and allow them to guide my actions in work and personal life.

Here is all of this information in the mind map for age 25:

When both the age 25 and age 30 map are included, here is John’s map. Remember, this image will enlarge:

Now that we have gone through two different time-frames for John we can begin to understand the process for doing a complete mind map. I think you will agree that it is actually hard work. We have not even completed John’s plan yet for his two closest time-frames. One thing that will emerge as we look to the closer time-frames is that the specific goals will become more like tasks as he begins to realize actions he will need to take to make his longer vision a reality. In our next article we will examine how the closest time-frames will drive John’s actions.

How To Incorporate Family Into Your Mind Map

In our last article we helped 18 year-old John use a mind map to focus in on his plans when he is 30. We said that in this timeframe John needs to do a lot of thinking about several areas of his life: Family, Personal, and Career.

NOTE: All images will enlarge when clicked.

Now let’s examine the Family realm more closely for John when he is 30.

As with all of us, family is important to John. Like a fingerprint, each family situation is unique, and John’s is not exactly like yours or mine. Let’s lay out some facts about John’s current family situation:

  • He is single, but in a serious relationship with Robin.
  • His parents are both still living and are 55 years old. His father has had serious health problems with his heart.
  • He has an older brother named Steve who is 20 and two younger sisters Jane, age 17, and Kate, age 13.
  • 17 year-old Jane has dropped out of school and has a drug problem.

John has no crystal ball, but he knows how old they will all be if everyone is still living in twelve years. His “Family Status” at that point will include the fact that his parents will be 67 years old. His brother will be 32. He will be 30. His sisters will be 29 and 25. There is value in simply listing these ages as facts in his family status:

These facts alone will spur John into some serious thinking about what he may want to be doing in twelve years as part of this family:

  • I will be living near Mom & Dad to help with Dad’s medical needs and to support Mom.
  • Steve may have children by this time, and it is important to me to be a good uncle to my nieces and nephews. This is true even if we do not live near one another.
  • I will have contributed my love and help to Jane and will have a healthy, supportive relationship with her as an older brother. I will maintain healthy boundaries.
  • I will continue my strong relationship with Kate and assist her in whatever ways she needs me.
  • I may be an uncle to Jane and/or Kate’s children at this point. As with Steve’s, I will invest in these nieces and nephews and be a wonderful uncle to them.

In addition to family status, John wants to include his relationship with Robin. They have been dating for two years and think they want to be married. In this mind map dealing with his life at age 30, John is assuming that he and Robin have been married for eight years. In regard to Robin, John thinks the following:

  • I will be Robin’s champion to support her in her career, life, and interests.
  • I will spend quality time with her and work seriously on making our marriage great. I will invest in us.
  • We may have children by this time. I will take fatherhood seriously and will look out for the well-being of them all.

In addition to these statements of purpose with regard to his family, John might include his grandparents, in-laws, and extended family. He is tying in to his deepest values about the people he loves and determining what he hopes to be doing with these people. He is creating a narrative about what his life will look like at age 30. What will happen to these people if John makes no plan? His parents, siblings, and Robin will still be 12 years older. John will still be 30 at that time. It’s just that if he has had no plan and has not thought seriously about the family realm, he may have regrets when he gets to that stage.

In her commencement address to the Spelman College graduating class of 2012, Oprah Winfrey said:

You must have some vision for your life. Even if you don’t know the path, you have to have a direction in which you choose to go. What I learned is that that’s a great metaphor for life. You want to be in the driver’s seat on your own life because if you are not, life will drive you.

John has decided to drive his own life instead of being driven by his life. What about you?

In our next article we will focus on the realm we are calling Career.