My Favorite Ways to Get Things Done

Have you ever just really loved using something? We guys love our gadgets and tools. And, with Father’s Day this weekend, I thought about my favorites. Next to my Leatherman, my iPhone is, without a doubt, my favorite and most used tool. In particular, I love the apps on my iPhone and especially the ones on my home screen! They help me work and live more productively, so I thought I would share them with you…and, yes, this is a super geeky blog post!

Here are my favorite apps from top to bottom (on the screen):
1. Messages: This is Apple’s messaging app. Honestly, I’ve never tried another messaging app…why get rid of a great thing! I use it regularly to send text messages to friends and team members.
2. Calendar: This is Apple’s calendar app. I’ve tried other calendars, but I really like the new daily and mothly views. This app syncs perfectly with my Google Calenders and even my tasks in Nozbe (more about this later).
3. Google Maps: Google Maps is my go-to app for maps and directions. I recently tried Apple’s default Maps app, but Google Maps has voice guidance directions that are easier to understand, the directions are more precise, and the maps show more detail than Apple Maps.
4. Camera: This is Apple’s Camera app. I really like the way Apple allows the user to switch from video to still shots within the app. And, the picture quality on the iPhone 5 is a great improvement from iPhone 4.
5. FastEver Snap – Camera for Evernote (FE Snap): FE Snap is my camera app for Evernote (more about Evernote later). I take pictures of equipment and other items to remember in Evernote, and I don’t like for these pictures to get mixed into many pictures Jorjanne and I take of our family events. FE Snap is a quick and easy way to take and store pictures into Evernote.
6. Scanbot: Scanbot is the newest addition to my homescreen. This is my iPhone document scanner. What’s even better is that this app also automatically uploads the documents to the cloud (Evernote for me)!
7. Instagram: Instagram is my app of choice for sharing personal pictures to my social media channels. I love the filters, too!
8. Cobook: Cobook is my social address book. I already store friends’ and colleagues’ contact information in my Google account, but Cobook connects their information with their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). How cool is that?!
9. Calculator: As if I wasn’t geeky enough for writing a post about iPhone apps in a blog post, I included the Calculator app in the post! But seriously, I’ve tried other apps, and I like the simplicity and ease of use of Apple’s app.
10. Podcasts: I LOVE listening to podcasts! They help grow my faith, leadership skills. and knowledge of cool new apps to help me be more productive. Apple’s Podcast app is the easiest and best way to do this.
11. Audible: I love to read, and Audible is the best way to listen to books in the car and when I’m running.
12. Dropbox: Dropbox is my server in the sky. I share files at work with my team, and I store my personal files in Dropbox, too… all accessible on any device.
13. Buffer: Buffer is the service I use to schedule my social media posts. I scheduled this blog post’s announcement with Buffer. And, Buffer allows you to post to multiple social media sites using predetermined schedules!
14. Hootsuite: Hootsuite is social media’s version of drinking from a fire hydrant! Hootsuite allows you to connect to all of your accounts with one app. And, you can view it all on one screen. Talk about catching up in a hurry!
15. Feedly: Feedly is the way I follow, organize, and read other blogs. Much like podcasts, I read blog posts that help grow my faith, my leadership skills, and knowledge of cool new apps to help me be more productive.
16. Lift: Adam Suter and I stay accountable to each other with Lift. We each have a goal of getting up early to conquer the world. But, when no one else knows about my goals, it’s easy to just sleep in. This app allows us track our progress and cheer each other on as we create great habits.
17. Safari: Safari is Apple’s web browser. I’ve tried other browsers, but I really enjoy the features Safari offers such as syncing bookmarks and browser history between all of my Apple devices.
18. Drafts: Drafts is the way I write down quick notes that also sync with Evernote. I open up the app and start typing. I don’t have to create a new note. The app just opens up with a blank page…very handy for conversation or meeting notes!
19. Mint: Mint is my personal finance app. Mint is produced by the same folks who make QuickBooks, Intuit. They really know how to make functional and easy-to-use financial software. Mint is easy to use and it syncs with my all of accounts.
20. Converter+: When your day is filled with converting tanks of muscadine juice to bottles and performing various other mathematical conversions, Converter+ takes care of every unit. Super geeky and easy to use!
21. Phone: Apple’s Phone app is the easiest way to make and receive my calls. The apps syncs up with Google’s contacts. And, the built-in voice mail system helps me keep track of missed calls without an extra app or service.
22. Mail: Mail is Apple’s default email app. I’ve tried using other apps, but I keep coming back to the basics. Email addresses sync with my Google contacts. And, I never miss an incoming message. One of the few features to improve is the app’s search function. I just use Google’s Gmail app to search for old emails as a work around.
23. Nozbe: Nozbe keeps me on task. I’ve tried other task managers. But, no other app or service syncs across my devices and with team mates, Google Calendar (yes, Nozbe tasks will sync with Google Calendar to show tasks on their due dates on the Calendar!), and with Evernote (notes from Evernote can sync with tasks) like Nozbe. This is the way to really Get Things Done!
24. Evernote: The app of all apps! Evernote is my digital brain. I scan documents into Evernote. I take pictures of cool ideas. I write down notes for later reference. I write down tasks within my notes and sync into Nozbe. Seriously, if I want to remember something, I store it in Evernote. In fact, Evernote is a blog post all on its own.

So, these are my most useful tools & apps. I hope one of these sparked an idea to try something new and become more productive. These apps help me throughout the day. I’m sure they can help you, too.

Question: What are your favorite apps? What helps you get things done? Please leave a comment below.

How I Wake Up at 5am Every Morning

I woke up this morning at 5am to exercise, read, and pray. This is my morning habit…except this morning was only the 2nd time in a week that I’ve woken up on time. Not much of a habit, huh?

I was first inspired to wake up early with purpose in 2012 after reading [Michael Hyatt’s blog post ] his morning routine. During that summer, I started getting up early with some friends to workout. A couple of the guys had gained a little weight, and I wanted to help. I bought the Insanity workout DVD set, a workout mat, and offered a section of the warehouse for us to shape up together at 5:05 every weekday morning. All was well until the summer ended. The school year started back, our routines changed, and we all went our separate ways. I took the DVDs home and decided to go at it alone. Who needs someone else to help you get out of bed anyway? I am a grown man…can’t I wake up by myself?

Well, after almost two years, I am here to tell you that waking up early by yourself is tough…really tough. I have the most intense motivation at night. But, when the alarm clock sounds the next morning, I can’t seem to get out of bed. I place my alarm clock in another room. I lay out my clothes the night before. I get 7 hours sleep. I have tried every trick in the book…and I have read several books on this topic! But, I can’t get up early every single morning.

This morning I realized I had two benefits in the beginning that I don’t have right now:

  1. Accountability – I knew that my friends would be looking for me. Not only was I the one with the key to the building, I knew that they were expecting me to work out with them. I wanted them to show up, so I needed to do my part and show up, too.
  2. A sense of urgency – I knew that my friends were going to arrive every morning at 5:05am. Waking up at 6:30 was too late.

The most useful thing about these two benefits is that they can be applied to other aspects of life. I can think of a few home improvement projects I put off until the day before guests visited. I accomplish the most in areas of my life where I have strong accountability to myself or a friend. And, I am the most intense with tasks that are due soon. The secret is to self-impose accountability and a sense of urgency to tasks that are important but not urgent.

I hope these two factors can also help you accomplish a goal or form a new habit. Now, I just need to find someone to look for me at 5am!

Question: What have accountability and a sense of urgency helped you accomplish?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Why I Can’t Sit Down

During the spring of 2012 I started working out regularly. I love the morning routine of exercising, listening to books on Audbile, and thinking about the day ahead. A friend introduced me to the Insanity workout early on and I was hooked. If you aren’t familiar with this workout, think intense cardio plus strength training for 45 minutes. I’ve completed this 60-day program several times. I run on the weekends, but I keep coming back to Insanity during the week. I just love the mix of cardio with strenth training.

Insanity seemed like the perfect at-home workout…until last Wednesday. I was in the middle of my workout when I quickly stood up and sprained my Sacroiliac (SI) Joint. In just a few seconds I went from running a 22 minute 5K and doing 100 pushups with ease to struggling to dress myself in the mornings…frustrating to say the least. I don’t think I have ever experienced pain like this! WOW! My lower back is uncomfortable when I stand up. My lower back and left hip experience severe pain when I sit down. Oh, and I can hardly bend over.

Fortunately, I remembered Michael Hyatt’s post entitled “A Question That Changes Everything.” In this post, Michael experiences a health setback and asks himself “What does this experience make possible?”

I am very grateful for his blog, and especially this question. I have been tempted to ask myself several questions over the past several days:
Why did this happen now?
What did I do to deserve this?
Why did I not bend my knees more instead of stooping over?

But, the question “What does this experience make possible?” shifts my thinking in a couple of ways.

First, I acknowledge that I am not in total control. God is in control, and I am not. He has a great plan for my life, and I don’t want to miss it by being angry at Him and myself for my current condition.

Second, this question shifts my thinking from the past to the future. I hope this experience makes me a better planner, better leader, better delegator, and better writer since I can’t physically accomplish all I have been doing. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Elanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

The bottom line is this: Bad things happen, and you are not in total control. But, you can control your response to negative situations when they do happen. Asking yourself the right question can help direct your response.

So, think about a negative situation in your life. Ask yourself, “What does this experience make possible?” I would love your comments.