Archive for category Productivity
Yesterday, On my MinistryGeek This Week podcast, we discussed using Google Reader to subscribe to blogs and RSS feeds. I have written about Google Reader in the past, but we have had two podcasts talking about the benefits of RSS and blogs in general. During the show Dale Jenkins and I offered some of our favorite blogs that we thought our listeners might like. Here are the ones that I mentioned, in no particular order:
The Equip Network (Christian podcasts)
From The Mound (Jeff Jenkins)
TheFaughnFamily (Adam Faughn)
Creation Faith Facts (Rob Lester)
Weylan Words (Weylan Deaver)
Preacherpollard’s Blog (Neal Pollard)
Walking With God (J. Randal Methany)
The Christian Practice (Daniel Howell) – I especially like Tech Tip Tuesday
The Fellowship Room – brotherhood articles
BVBID Extension News – News about training preachers all around the world
Logos Bible Software Blog – especially for Logos users
Presentation Zen – Presentation tips and skills
Barna Research Update – ongoing research from the Barna Group
Pew Internet and American Life Reports – ongoing research in society trends
The Unofficial Apple Weblog – yes, I am a MAC guy
Macworld – did I mention I am a MAC guy
LifeHacker – This one is the most eclectic, but fun!
LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION
The Leadership Fund (Bob Turner)
Michael Hyatt’s Blog – CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing – this is a favorite of mine
Seth’s Blog (Seth Godin)
Six Pixels of Separation (Mitch Joel)
WRITING AND BLOGGING
I am sure there are some I am leaving out, but these should get you started. Happy RSS reading!
My students actually laugh at my style of typing. I have to admit, it is definitely a “style.” I fall squarely between hunt-and-peck and six-finger-frantic. You see, I never learned to touch type. I know, I know I have tried Mavis Beacon, and Ten Thumbs. They are all good tools but the truth is that I type almost 70 words a minute doing what I do. I have never had the patience to “slow down” long enough to learn to touch type with speed. I stumble along at 20 words a minute, get frustrated that the post, note or email should be finished already and resort back to my old ways. Maybe someday I will change…
But I have found tools that help me and they can help you too – text expansion utilities. Once you set up shortcuts in these utilities, they constantly monitor your typing. When they see a shortcut, they automatically expand it to the text you want. For example, I have mine set up so that when I type “bvsig” it automatically enters an entire signature in the bottom of my email or letter that includes my name, phone, links to my websites, blogs and even formats it with the fonts and styling that I want. Now I know that many email program can already do this, but text expanders work in any program on your system.
So many uses…
One of the areas that I find these utilities most helpful is typing long URLs. Truthfully, I hate typing long web addresses. I always miss something, or forget a slash. I hate it. I set up my text expansion utility to remember some long recurring URLs that I use all the time. For example, I like to post links to our MinistryGeek This Week show on Twitter and Facebook. If I want to post the Talkshoe link in a tweet I just type “urmgeek” (without the quotes)and it expands it to http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/79616. If I want to post the iTunes link to the MinistryGeek podcast I type “urmgeekitunes” and it expands to http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ministrygeek-this-week/id366655217. See what I mean? I can never remember all of that. These text expanders can expand anything. They can past in pages of text is you need them to.
For students – create a series of “snippets” that expand commonly typed words and phrases. Working at The Bear Valley Bible Institute, obviously we are continually typing the names of the books of the Bible. I have created 3-letter shortcuts for each one of them and my text expansion utility automatically expands them for me. I have also created a snippet to insert: (see syllabus handout) – all I have to type is “ssho” and hit the space bar.
Web developers and programmers can create snippets of commonly used code and insert it with a few keystrokes. You can even place space holders in your snippets for words that need to be changed on the fly.
TextExpander (MAC) or PhraseExpress (PC)
Being on a MAC I use TextExpander from Smile on My Mac. At $34.95 it isn’t cheap, but the amount of time it saves me is certainly worth the investment to me. TextExpander even keeps statistics to show you how much time you have saved and how many keystrokes it has handled for you. TextExpander also has an additional iPhone/iPad app that can help you do the same thing on those devices. It will share “snippets” with the desktop version so you don’t have to recreate them on your portable. If you are on a MAC, TextExpander is your ticket. You can download a free trial version to check it out. They even offer a 90 day money back guarantee.
On the PC side there is PhraseExpess. While it is not as feature rich and TextExpander on the MAC side, it will definitely get the job done for you. You can use a private edition for free (not to be used commercially – that means you can’t use it at work) and a commercial version is available for $29.95. They even offer a “network” version that can be installed in a workgroup environment.
Save yourself some time and wear and tear on your typing fingers by checking out these text expansion utilities. They can make a big difference.
I have to admit right from the jump here that I am not a particularly well organized kind of guy. My desk is usually messy (as is the rest of my office). I have tried to get organized – I have read Getting Things Done three times now – but have only had marginal success. But that all changed last week when I found Evernote. I heard about Evernote about 6 months ago, but didn’t give it much attention. I am paying attention now. This product is simply incredible and each day it is reducing the clutter in my office and getting me more and more organized all the time.
What is Evernote?
If you watch some of the videos on the Evernote website or YouTube, the head of the company describes Evernote as an “external brain.” It is a place to store all of the bits and pieces of information you collect throughout the day, knowing that you will always be able to find it again easily. There website say it this way:
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.
Whether the information is in text format, PDF or even an image, Evernote can keep track of it for you. The “killer app” functionality of it to me however is how it deals with images. Images added to Evernote are automatically run through a character recognition online and any text that appears in the image becomes searchable! Now I have to admit I was a bit unimpressed by this feature when I first heard about it, but I get it now! Here is an example – someone hands you a business card, you immediately snap a photo of it with Evernote on your phone. It is synchronized online in a couple of minutes and not if you search for any of the information (say the person’s name) that appears on the card, Evernote will find it for you! The system looks at the image and any text it finds becomes searchable information – EVEN HAND WRITTEN TEXT! Now as I said, I didn’t get how great this feature was until I started using it.
Here is a real ministry example from my system. I have a small newspaper article that listed religious struggles that people say they deal with. I thought the list would make good topics for Bible class someday so I wanted to keep track of it. Rather than put it in a file in my desk (that I will never be able to find again or would only have access to when I was in my office) – I hand wrote “Bible Class Idea – Topical” next to the article and took a picture of it with my iPhone in Evernote (I could have scanned it too). Once it was uploaded and processed (a couple of minutes total) when I search my notes for the word “topical”, Evernote shows me the image of this article! That to me is amazing. The best part is that I can get to this note – from my laptop, online, or on my phone – literally anytime, anywhere! Now when I am talking to a Bible class teacher about a possible class I can pull this exact article up on my phone and share the idea with them. I can even email then a copy of the article right from my phone while we are talking!!
How do you get information into Evernote?
One of the great features of the product for me is how easy it is to get information into it. You can enter information into Evernote through a desktop client (MAC or PC). Simply create a new “note” and type or drag and drop text into the note. You can also drag and drop PDF files into the system with ease. Scan a printed document into the system and once it has been uploaded it becomes completely searchable. There are components you can add to your web browser for making capturing information from websites a breeze too. Just click the icon in the menu bar of your favorite broswer and the text is added to Evernote. You can shift-click the icon and Evernote will create a PDF of the webpage as a note too. In addition to text or document based information, you can also add create audio notes from your phone and even video notes from your built-in iSight camera if you own a MAC. Another interesting feature is that you can email information into Evernote. When you sign up for your free online account, Evernote assigns you a unique email address. Use this email address to send PDFs, text, or images into your note library.
Once the note is in your system you can add “tags” which work like keywords to keep track of the note. In addition to your tags, any text in the note or image is searchable. PDF files need to be created as “searchable” PDFs before they are added to Evernote if you want to be able to search the body of the document. You can even create separate and distinct “notebooks” to help you sort your notes if you like.
Perfect for preachers and/or students
The uses for ministry and students are unlimited. Her are a few suggested uses, but I am finding more and more everyday!
- 1. Never lose you class notes again! At the end of the day, copy all of your class notes into your note library to create a permanent, searchable back-up that becomes accessible from your laptop, phone or any online computer.
- 2. Take a photo of assignments and notes the instructor writes on the whiteboard and they will become searchable and indexed in your note library for later review.
- 3. Clip information from a website for research for a paper you are writing. Tag the new note with the subject of your paper and you will be able to find all your notes on that subject in seconds – from anywhere!
- 4. Type (or take a photo) of the assignment page in your course syllabus so you always have access to your assignments specs and due dates.
- Place a PDF or your sermon outline in your note library, add the date and location you last preached it as a text note with it and keep track of where and when each sermon has been preached.
- Collect illustration ideas as text, audio or photo images into you library – tag the note with subject ideas and you have a fully searchable illustrations database.
- Forward important emails into your library to create a permanent, searchable copy.
- Take a quick photo of the list of elders at a church you are visiting to keep a record of who works where.
- Copy Bible study notes into your library to make them searchable from your phone.
- Scan or photo receipts for expenses
- Forward you final travel itinerary email received from your travel agent or airline to have it accessible on your phone or any online computer to check dates, times and flight numbers.
- Type memorable quotes in as text notes for easy retrieval when you need them.
- Keep lists of possible Bible class topics
- Collect bulletin articles with the subject, date, and Scriptures verses to create a searchable index
The list goes on and on and on and on….I have to say that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of how this product can be used. It is certainly flexible enough for you to customize it to your way of doing things.
What does Evernote cost?
The best part of Evernote is the price – it is FREE! You can upload 40MB per month for no charge at all. You can get a Premium membership for $45 per year that allows you up to 500MB per month. This really does make this product a no-brainer from the start. Try it – you will love it I am sure!
I may always be somewhat organizationally challenged, but Evernote has helped me come a very long way in a very short time. The amount of information that was previous locked in my office drawers, or worse hidden in a stack of papers I hadn’t process yet, is now all indexed and searchable anywhere I need it – even on my phone! I will be blogging more and more about how I am using Evernote and I ask you to let me know how you are using it too.
I have just discovered a great little gem called Dropbox. I work with a number of guys that have a machine at their office and a different machine at their home. It never fails that one of them will complain that a file they need is on their machine at home when they are in the office. Dropbox allows you to sync files on two different machines, share files with other users, or even access those files from a web browser when you are away from your machines. It is compatible with MAC, Windows and Linux machines, and the best part is the price – you can have 2GB of online storage FREE. There are paid versions that allow for greater disk space, but 2 GB should be enough for most casual users.
How it works…
Basically once you start an account with Dropbox a folder is placed on your harddrive. As you drag and drop files or folders into the Dropbox folder they are automatically and immediately synced to your account online. If you have a second computer linked to your online account, the Dropbox folder of the second machine is also updated automatically. That is cool!
Say you are working at home on a sermon, Bible class outline, lectureship manuscript or even some photos from a recent mission trip. You save the files into your Dropbox folder on your computer and your done. When you get to your office you realize that you forgot to put the files you needed on a jumpdrive, but never fear – simply open the Dropbox folder on your office machine and your files are there. Make whatever changes you need to the files and your home machine is updated automatically as well. This can really be a lifesaver!
Another feature that is worth noting is that you can share files and folders with other people as well. Collaborate on a project. Share your presentation files with a colleague. Or place files that need to be accessed by a group of people in your Dropbox. When one person makes a change – all files on all the machines sharing that file are updated!!!
Get to your files from a web browser…
Your are also able to access your files from any web browser. Simply sign on to your online account (this is part of the FREE account when you first sign up) and access your files. The online tools allow for full file versioning (you can go back two or three versions) and recovery. If you delete a file from your computer, you can recover it from your online account. Accessing these files from basically anywhere in the world would be a great benefit for traveling missionaries and lectureship speakers. Update your PowerPoint presentation while you are on the road and know that those changes appear on your home computer as well.
There are a number of great uses for this tool. Check it out and let me know what you think.