Data collection

Published November 22, 2014

I’ve found the exams I’ve taken this year to be really quite intense and it turns out that the closer it gets to the day itself, and the more intense the revision is, the less room I have in my head for anything else. Whether that is writing on my own blog, connecting with people on Twitter, keeping up with news online, or listening to podcasts, everything comes to a grinding halt.

The world around me doesn’t stop turning though, inconsiderate as it is, and so I’ve been searching for ways to put everything in a holding pattern until I’m ready to deal with it. As of this latest exam period, I think I’ve found the right combination of tools to keep tabs on everything I need to know.


Things logo

The first step is getting things out of my head. My initial point of extraction still involves a pen and paper but I’ve recently managed to get my digital to do list in order. For the longest time, I’ve been using Things but in a wonky way that I cobbled together myself.

Their recent integration with the notifications/widgets sidebar on Yosemite for Mac has meant going back to the drawing board. I actually went back and found out what the Today view (the one showing up in said sidebar) actually does and it turns out, it’s very useful!

You throw all your to-dos into the inbox, as soon as you have access to the app (desktop, mobile, you know the kind of thing). Then you assign them a time, a category and move them to a project or into a timely folder. Things will then scan your folders and projects each day and present you with a list in the Today view. You go through and accept items you intend to do that day, or put off ones you know aren’t going to get done.

Let’s be fair, at the moment, my list is very much full of items I intended to do that day and haven’t, but it all seems a bit more manageable now I’m using the app how it was intended. Whodathunkit?

Safari reading list

Safari logo

Although there wasn’t a lot of time for tweeting over the past few weeks, I did peruse my Twitter accounts. I used to get bogged down in reading everything I found interesting straight away, lest it be lost in the sea of information that Twitter floods you with. Not any more. Now it’s a simple case of scanning through the list, and sending all the interesting links to the reading list for viewing later.

That latter step hasn’t really managed to come around that often for me, and I think it’s a problem not just for brief periods of insanity like when studying but in general for all busy people. I saw one person commenting that they were adding links to their “read-it-never” list, and I can see how that would happen.

Hopefully I can get it under control, though, because filtering down information into this list is like creating your own RSS feed reader of content you actually care about. That can only be a good thing.


Evernote logo

This tool for keeping notes, pictures, links, lists, everything, has been around for a long time but I’ve never really thought I had a use for it. In the end, you just have to dive in and start using it, so I did the Lynda course and got on with it. The brilliance of the app doesn’t start to shine through until you use it and then just keep using it.

Now, I’ll stumble across something and think about Evernote, where I previously never would have thought it could be used for such a thing - for example, those travel leaflets you inevitably pick up when visiting a tourist attraction, and hold onto because you might want to go there someday? I just snapped a picture and filed away in Evernote, thus avoiding the inevitable desk clutter!

Evernote can also play a part in the reading list process above, because whilst reading all the links I’ve put into the list, any that I want to keep around for a long time can go into Evernote (for ideas, for creativity, for further use in the future), rather than bloating the reading list. Everything is starting to play its part!

I can see the workflow as it begins to take shape but I’m not quite there yet. It still needs polishing and I’ve got quite a lot of catching up to do at this point, but technology seems to be working for me at last. You just have to embrace it!

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