Daily Archives: June 26, 2013

The Value of Digitizing the Remaining Paper in Your Life

Paper and Digitization

Over the last few months, I’ve discussed the value of paper solutions in the modern day (for example, in regards to the Hipster PDA) and I’ve extolled the value of digital solutions such as Evernote. The truth is I’ve noticed the a balance in productivity exists somewhere between the two. There are still a lot situations in which I prefer paper and pen, but I try to eliminate paper as much as possible in my daily life. It just makes it easier to deal with paper documents when you can search through them digitally rather than by hand. OCR (optical character recognition) technology has come a really long way and now it’s easier than ever to convert documents into a digital format that can be easily indexed and searched. It might take time, effort, and resources to digitize the remaining paper in your life, but it’s worth it in the long-run.

Your Scanner and Evernote

The fact is that you’ve probably seen a lot of infomercials marketing scanner specially designed for the task of scanning every type of paper document you might have lying around, from receipts to tax forms. I’ve never used any of these devices, but I’m sure that they serve their purpose. There are also a lot of professional services offered by business out there that will scan your documents for you and then send them to you digitally. This is really meant more for business though and I wouldn’t recommend them. There is also the concern of your document privacy. If you had a lot of financial documents to digitize, you likely wouldn’t feel all to comfortable with having a third-party handling those documents. My preferred method is to just simply use your own scanner and a program/service, such as my preferred program, Evernote. Evernote is just one of those programs that I can never talk enough about because it offers solutions for everyone. You can scan your documents into the PDF and drag and drop it into Evernote. Evernote will sync the document for you and if you’re an Evernote premium user you can even encrypt your documents. The one caveat is that in order for Evernote to OCR your documents they do have to be synced to the Evernote service so you can’t simply keep them in an offline notebook. Nonetheless, I think this is the best and most inexpensive way to digitize the remaining paper in your life and it might be a worthwhile endeavor for your next weekend. 

Capture anything.


Human Resources, The Hiring Process, and Bold Ideas

A piece from Financial Intersections regarding the state of the job market and typical company hiring processes. It’s about innovative and bold ideas that bring about positive change, further efficiency.

Financial Intersections

The State of the Job Market

Having been in the job market one and off, formally and informally, I’ve come to realize that the prospects are still very bleak, even despite quoted improvements. The recession really did a lot to damage the job market and to make it difficult for highly qualified candidates to obtain employment in a reasonable amount of time. There are several other observations I can make. One of the major ones is that it’s really become a recruiter’s market. Recruiters have the benefit of a larger applicant pool whereas applicants themselves find themselves in a larger pool with fewer opportunities. It’s really kind of mind-blowing to really think about how anyone actually gets hired because what it comes down to is company culture and compatibility. This is something that is really difficult to ascertain and I don’t see how most company’s application processes manage to discern…

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The Willingness to Create Your Own Opportunity

Hidden Opportunities

Back to Work is one of my favorite podcasts at the moment. It’s a talk show hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin that focuses on productivity, communication, work and life in a way. It’s a great show. It’s very funny and I highly recommend that everyone check it out. In the latest episode, episode 124, Merlin talk’s about his latest trials and tribulations with his jury duty. For the sake of brevity, he talks about how important it can be to set your mindset up in such a way as to prepare yourself for the low points that everyone invariably find themselves at throughout life. The point he makes is that there’s essentially a difference between getting punched off guard and knowing your going to get punched. On some level, his point boils down to the value of maintain an optimistic outlook on life, but it’s really more than that. It’s about focusing on opportunities rather than losses or negatives. Rather than focusing on the negatives associated with carrying out one’s civic duty, why not focus on the positives allowed, such as having the time to catch up on one’s reading (during the course of one’s commute), the ability to improve one’s diet, and lastly and generally, (but not last) the opportunity to approach daily life in a new way. 

The Boldness to Create Opportunities and My Occupation as a Thinker

I truly believe this is a powerful and meaningful notion, but I think that it can be taken a bit further with the idea of initiative. Sometimes it really only takes the ability to see an opportunity coupled with the initiative to see it, in order to embark on a course that can yield great success. I’ve talked fairly often about what inspired me to begin writing, blogging, and essentially becoming a content creator. One of the major inspirations was the sort of negative cycle I found myself in during my active job search a few months back. My life circled around the job application process which is something that isn’t meant to give a life meaning. It is invariably a means to an end even though you can learn a great deal about yourself, people, work environments, and human psychology in general. I found myself with a gaping hole in my life because people get fulfillment from being creative and doing great work. I found myself with an opportunity to do what I love to do which is to think. If someone were to ask me what my one title is to summarize the others, I would say I’m a “Thinker.” It took that opportunity, put it together with who I am and what I love to do, added in a platform (WordPress), and as soon as I built the initiative that set me on the course to getting where I am now. In my mind, I essentially created my dream job and it’s one of those things in which the pay isn’t great. The benefits aren’t there and you can roll down that list of things that you usually expect from a job, a career. The bottom line is that I didn’t keep standing around and focused on the negatives of the situation I was in; I looked at the positives and took initiative. It set me on the course of being independent and always being able to do the best work that I can do, doing what I love to do, which is to think. It just goes to show that having the ability to identify opportunities can sometimes be the deciding factor between whether you stay focused on the negatives or embrace your personal initiative, which is key. When all else fails, sometimes you have to have the boldness to be able to create your job or to just simply do what you love to do, whatever that may be. 


The Myth of Multitasking, the Internet, Media, Focus and Productivity

The Myth

Multitasking is one of those terms that gets pushed around a lot. We tend to put a lot of value into the ability to be able to work on more than one task at the same time. It’s a skill that gets listed on resumes. It’s a skill that employers are after and it’s an ability to that we expect people to have in general. For me, I’ve always been forced to ask myself the question whether or not multitasking is a real thing. This is one of those skills that’s taken at face value and rarely ever thought about. If you think about it though, you realize that multitasking is really more of a myth than an attainable skill. I won’t deny that maybe there’s a handful of people in the world with the attention, focus, and brain power to actually think about and work on two separate tasks or projects at the same time, but for the majority of people I think it’s highly unlikely and untrue.

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A Redefinition

I propose redefining what it means to multitask into a more realistic understanding. For me, multitasking entails having the ability to juggle multiple tasks and projects at the same time, but not actually working on more than one thing at any particular time. Sure, you can juggle multiple projects and keep yourself organized, but I highly doubt whether anyone can actually take in more than one “information stream” (coining this as a term referring to all of the information associated with a task, project, media source, or person etc.) and be able to act on those two or more information streams and further interpret them. The example I like to use is whether or not a person watching two TV shows at the same time can tell you what happened in both programs and further interpret what happened in both. Even a person can, I’d surely argue that they won’t be able to complete either task to the same ability as if they had only watched one television program. Under my understanding of multitasking, many people do have this skill and it’s something that can be developed. The reality is though that with this understanding when a person multitasks they are good at moving from one task to another and their associated focus, smoothly and with little resistance.

Implications

The Internet is something that makes it very difficult for people to maintain their focus on a particular task. Nowadays many of us suffer from information overload and those of us who are effective at dealing with this overload are the ones who are capable of closing the figurative knob a little. If you’re writing something, you don’t need to know what e-mails you’ve just received, whose messaged you on Facebook, or what the latest trending topics are. You just don’t. The Internet is meant to be a tool, not a detriment. The only thing you should have opened are webpages associated with your particular writing, task, or project. This is difficult for me to do, so I can only imagine that it is for other people. I’ve seen the negative effect that information overload has on my writing. I’ve gone back and I’ve noticed that there are certain posts of mine that are much more fragmented then fluid. The cause of this has been my inability to focus on the particular topic I’m writing about. You have to be willing to cut the information addiction. When all else fails, disconnect completely from the web. In a previous post about procrastination, I listed this as one of the ways to cope with putting off work. One of the major themes you’ll find in the study of productivity, if you will, is the value of simplicity and limits. You don’t need the all of the vast information available to mankind on the Internet to do great work, you need your mind and the bits and pieces of information that are necessary to whatever your doing. You further don’t need some complicated and complex personal productivity system to stay organized. Sometimes all you need is pen and paper.

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A Quick Sidenote: Music and Work

Music is one of those types of media that can be really inspiring. I can admit that when I write I’m usually listening to some music in order to help me set a particular tone in my writing. It can be really helpful. That being said I’ve made a significant observation about what type of music helps and what kind of music can deter your writing/focus. In short, I’ve noted that I can only focus and listen to music when the piece is instrumental. Whenever I try to listen to a vocal piece, it parts my focus between my writing and the lyrics in the song. I think that this is something that is true of a lot of people and even if  it’s not, there’s is something to be said for noting the kind of habits that help your creative workflow and hinder it. Choose an instrumental piece next time and maybe you’ll see a change in your work.


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