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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Minor Behavior Modifications

Comments (19)

As I live my Digital Life theme, I realize that sometimes I need to take a step back to take a step forward.  This happened today when I was in the shower.

When I switched to an iPhone, I lost the ability to synchronize Outlook/Exchange Tasks.  I’m a heavy Task user and a zero inbox person, so I spent a few weeks trying to find a good workaround.  I didn’t find it yet.  So – I started typing my tasks into a page in the Notes application on the iPhone and emailing the page to me at the end of each day.  I then cut and pasted the individual entries into my task list.  Stupid, but it was the best option up to that point that still integrated with my Outlook workflow (yes – I tried Evernote and a bunch of other similar things.)

For the past two weeks, I’ve been carrying around a little moleskin notebook that my friends at WordPress game me and scribbling down notes in the notebook.  I’ve had fun with this approach and realized that having the freedom to just scribble down my thoughts as "items" liberated me some from the more task oriented view I have taken for the past N years.

In the shower this morning, I realized that this was exactly what I was doing in Notes on my iPhone with a few minor tweaks to the formatting.  I was resisting Notes because I really thought I wanted Tasks and this was blocking my ability to see that the Notes approach actually worked better.  Of course – if I could automagically have selected Notes go into my Task list, that would be even better, but I’ll live without it.

By working on paper for a few weeks, I made a minor behavior modification to my own workflow that I think will be more effective for me.  Interesting.

  • http://newestindustry.org/ Stephen Pierzchala

    I carry three notebooks.

    One for my employer, with meeting notes, project ideas, and other miscellaneous things.

    One for me for blog ideas, things I need to do, personal notes, and other mutterings.

    And one is a large format spiral bound graph paper book to do large layouts for presentations, site designs, and mind maps.

    I have a blackberry. Great for seeing what's happening at work when I'm not at my computer and keeping up with Premiership scores via twitter.

    Electronic tasks and notes don't work for me. There is something permanent about putting pencil to paper and writing down your idea. It is much more real.

  • Kelly Taylor

    I'm kicking around an idea called The Programmer's Notebook based on this type of thinking. Personally, I use Notes on the iPhone for random stuff, usually work related….a nice brown notebook for taking notes at conferences, presentations and when I watch Meet the Press (I know that's lame) and Things for Mac OSX for GTD (tasks,projects) because it has a great UI and now syncs with the Things iPhone App…which works smoothly.

    On a similar note, Adaptive Path has been publishing some interesting stuff on visual note taking, etc lately:
    http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/

  • Keith Martin
    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Tried it. Sucks. Needs to be exchange integrated not outlook integrated. Also I think the app is weak and slow.

      • Keith Martin

        Brad,

        How do you really feel?
        ;-)

        K

  • Simon Appleton

    I used to be addicted to outlook – broke away to gmail, and haven't looked back since (which surprised me).

    I've found Remember the Milk is a great task 'plumbing' tool (the site itself is atrocious). I use this with the gmail plugin and ToDo on the iphone – very nice (supports Toodledo as well, which has notes and tasks, but no neato gmail plugin).

    simonA

  • http://www.bijansabet.com bijan

    the lack of tasks sync just sucks

    i'm going to use your workaround. great tip.

  • http://blog.leedrake.com Lee Drake

    If you haven't tried it yet Microsoft's OneNote application is their hidden gem in this field. It allows you to just highlight something and say “Make it a task” as well as take freeform notes and drawings, organize by folder, search across all folders, etc. It's like having a multi-function notebook. Many of my programmers who WERE addicted to written notebooks have switched because they like the Notes organizational and search capabilities. It's especially nice on a tablet PC and it works well on a Windows Mobile device (though not as thorough an interface you can sync your notes back into your notebook, and then use the interface there to create tasks etc.).

    Unfortunately there isn't a Mac/iPhone version. Yet. And it's not nearly so widely adopted as other Microsoft stuff because for some inscrutable reason it's relegated to only being distributed as a stand alone product or with the Enterprise version of Office (dumb). It should just be built into every OS they release.

  • http://www.falseprecision.com Todd Vernon

    I am currently trying livescibe. Its a notebook with digital pen that remembers everything you write. It download it all to your computer when it becomes searchable. The search shows the page on the screen and tells you what page in the physical notebook. It also will record audio during note taking and playback based on where the pen is on the paper. Its pretty cool.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I bought, tried it for a few days, and then gave it to Amy as a gift.

  • http://christian.nimsky.net Christian Nimsky

    Your journey between notes and tasks is what ultimately brought me to 37Signals' Backpack app. When coupled with an offline method of jotting (email-a-page or use an app called PackRat for OS X) it has let me quickly capture thoughts as they happen and then sort them into more structured actions later on.

  • http://www.qolfe.com Giulio

    The right mix of old tech (moleskine&pencil for actions and waiting-from and ideas) and new tech (Outlook calendar syncing with my Nokia mobile) works best for me.
    I don't like having dozens of apps to update and sync, I want to simplify my life…That's what my blog is all about.: http://www.qolfe.com.

  • http://www.thehighwaygirl.com The Highway Girl

    I'm in love with my Moleskin. Especially the soft cover. It's just not the same to write a song or a poem on a computer. I can't get my mind in that dreamy space that's required.

  • http://www.thehighwaygirl.com thehighwaygirl

    I'm in love with my Moleskin. Especially the soft cover. It's just not the same to write a song or a poem on a computer. I can't get my mind in that dreamy space that's required.

  • Randy Castleman

    I share your disappointment with KeyTasks – not what one would expect from Chapura, who has a history of writing pretty robust apps on other platforms. If you're going in the “writing notes” direction and liking it, check out the WritingPad iPhone app. It has a novel (and effective) way to speed the writing of notes. And, when you're done, you can email the note.

  • http://yoherb.typepad.com/domino Herb Morreale

    I'm also a huge Outlook tasks person. Like you, it's what kept me from getting an iPhone for a long time. The one thing I do with Outlook that some people don't is drag my email onto my todo list. Anyway, I have also found that the iPhone Notes app and emailing to me works just fine. I was surprised! I always have a note called “ToDo” and that's where I capture things when I'm mobile, then I email to myself, and convert it into tasks. Sounds clumsy, but there's actually some value in that extra step.

  • Tom

    another vote for OneNote. Really slick, and perfectly horribly marketed by MS. Synched on all my computers (including a Dash) via Groove. Everything works perfectly, except: don't try groove on 64-bit windows, and don't throw a Mac or an iphone or a spanner into the works.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kelly_taylo4868 kelly_taylo4868

    I'm kicking around an idea called The Programmer's Notebook based on this type of thinking. Personally, I use Notes on the iPhone for random stuff, usually work related….a nice brown notebook for taking notes at conferences, presentations and when I watch Meet the Press (I know that's lame) and Things for Mac OSX for GTD (tasks,projects) because it has a great UI and now syncs with the Things iPhone App…which works smoothly.

    On a similar note, Adaptive Path has been publishing some interesting stuff on visual note taking, etc lately:
    http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/

  • Simon Appleton

    I used to be addicted to outlook – broke away to gmail, and haven't looked back since (which surprised me).

    I've found Remember the Milk is a great task 'plumbing' tool (the site itself is atrocious). I use this with the gmail plugin and ToDo on the iphone – very nice (supports Toodledo as well, which has notes and tasks, but no neato gmail plugin).

    simonA

  • Stephen Pierzchala

    I carry three notebooks.

    One for my employer, with meeting notes, project ideas, and other miscellaneous things.

    One for me for blog ideas, things I need to do, personal notes, and other mutterings.

    And one is a large format spiral bound graph paper book to do large layouts for presentations, site designs, and mind maps.

    I have a blackberry. Great for seeing what's happening at work when I'm not at my computer and keeping up with Premiership scores via twitter.

    Electronic tasks and notes don't work for me. There is something permanent about putting pencil to paper and writing down your idea. It is much more real.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Tried it. Sucks. Needs to be exchange integrated not outlook integrated. Also I think the app is weak and slow.

  • bijan

    the lack of tasks sync just sucks

    i'm going to use your workaround. great tip.

  • Lee Drake

    If you haven't tried it yet Microsoft's OneNote application is their hidden gem in this field. It allows you to just highlight something and say "Make it a task" as well as take freeform notes and drawings, organize by folder, search across all folders, etc. It's like having a multi-function notebook. Many of my programmers who WERE addicted to written notebooks have switched because they like the Notes organizational and search capabilities. It's especially nice on a tablet PC and it works well on a Windows Mobile device (though not as thorough an interface you can sync your notes back into your notebook, and then use the interface there to create tasks etc.).

    Unfortunately there isn't a Mac/iPhone version. Yet. And it's not nearly so widely adopted as other Microsoft stuff because for some inscrutable reason it's relegated to only being distributed as a stand alone product or with the Enterprise version of Office (dumb). It should just be built into every OS they release.

  • The Highway Girl

    I'm in love with my Moleskin. Especially the soft cover. It's just not the same to write a song or a poem on a computer. I can't get my mind in that dreamy space that's required.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Giulio Giulio

    The right mix of old tech (moleskine&pencil for actions and waiting-from and ideas) and new tech (Outlook calendar syncing with my Nokia mobile) works best for me.
    I don't like having dozens of apps to update and sync, I want to simplify my life…That's what my blog is all about.: http://www.qolfe.com.

  • Christian Nimsky

    Your journey between notes and tasks is what ultimately brought me to 37Signals' Backpack app. When coupled with an offline method of jotting (email-a-page or use an app called PackRat for OS X) it has let me quickly capture thoughts as they happen and then sort them into more structured actions later on.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thehighwaygirl thehighwaygirl

    I'm in love with my Moleskin. Especially the soft cover. It's just not the same to write a song or a poem on a computer. I can't get my mind in that dreamy space that's required.

  • Keith Martin

    Brad,

    How do you really feel?
    ;-)

    K

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I bought, tried it for a few days, and then gave it to Amy as a gift.

  • Randy Castleman

    I share your disappointment with KeyTasks – not what one would expect from Chapura, who has a history of writing pretty robust apps on other platforms. If you're going in the "writing notes" direction and liking it, check out the WritingPad iPhone app. It has a novel (and effective) way to speed the writing of notes. And, when you're done, you can email the note.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/herb_morrea3697 herb_morrea3697

    I'm also a huge Outlook tasks person. Like you, it's what kept me from getting an iPhone for a long time. The one thing I do with Outlook that some people don't is drag my email onto my todo list. Anyway, I have also found that the iPhone Notes app and emailing to me works just fine. I was surprised! I always have a note called "ToDo" and that's where I capture things when I'm mobile, then I email to myself, and convert it into tasks. Sounds clumsy, but there's actually some value in that extra step.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tom tom

    another vote for OneNote. Really slick, and perfectly horribly marketed by MS. Synched on all my computers (including a Dash) via Groove. Everything works perfectly, except: don't try groove on 64-bit windows, and don't throw a Mac or an iphone or a spanner into the works.

  • Todd Vernon

    I am currently trying livescibe. Its a notebook with digital pen that remembers everything you write. It download it all to your computer when it becomes searchable. The search shows the page on the screen and tells you what page in the physical notebook. It also will record audio during note taking and playback based on where the pen is on the paper. Its pretty cool.

  • Keith Martin
  • http://tucsonplumber.wordpress.com Tucson Plumber

    I've been doing the same thing for about two weeks now and it's becoming a very disorganized notebook! I'll have to go back to my digital ways soon.

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