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Productivity hacks weekly in bite-size chunks. Just up your alley if you're at least slightly geeky or a tad bit obsessed with Evernote or WorkFlowy!

Gollum uses Evernote and "eats his frog"

Frank Degenaar

Some obsessions, passions, priorities or goals are so overriding that we would never need to record them as tasks or put them on a bucket list to remember them. But even so - the funny thing is, we often do get distracted and lose focus of what is paramount. Sometimes, just the act of getting something out of your head and giving it expression in an app or on a note pad will help to galvanize your resolve and crystallize what it is that you want. A couple of months back I scribbled the word "breathe" on a post-it note and slapped it on a window in my classroom. I did this after reading a blog post, "Breathe" from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. Obviously I will not forget to breathe if I don't glance at my note every so often, but rather, it is a visual reminder of something to keep uppermost in my mind. 

Let us consider a character who needs no introduction: A fictitiously real character who has (in this progressive order) scared the crap out of us, made us want to punch him in the face, stirred our sympathy... and finally, captured our respect - because he relentlessly focused all of his ambition into the pursuit and final reacquisition of a long-lost ring. He could not get that precious ring out of his mind. It was the first thing the voices in his head reminded him of when he woke up, and the last thing on his lips before he fitfully fell asleep (and everything in between). Every waking and sleeping moment. 


What if Gollum was one of us?

I got to thinking... if Gollum had an Evernote account, how would a screenshot of said account reflect his ring-lust? Notwithstanding the digital technology being available, whether or not Gollum had more than one thing on his mind, he might have felt the need to represent his main goal in Evernote (albeit overdone) thusly:

  1. Create a master note in Evernote aptly entitled, "The Ring".

  2. Pop in a check-box with a well-defined goal to check off. 

  3. Include something graphic (which would not hurt)... with a Skitch annotation.

  4. Set a reminder for his note - so as to be pinned to the top of his note list in "snippet" or "card" view.

  5. Configure Evernote to email him with with daily due reminders, as an extra reminder (and set up his mobile device to notify him on his lock screen).

  6. House the all-important note in a notebook fittingly called, "The Ring" (within a stack of the same name just to be doubly obsessive).

  7. Tag his note with a tailor-made tag, "The Ring", so that it doesn't fall through the cracks. It helps to have an extra search parameter up your sleeve.

  8. Drag and drop the singular tag and notebook into the shortcuts section, thereby creating a fail-proof way of accessing either/or quicker than necessary.

  9. Create a saved search and include it as a shortcut, in case the voices in his head drown out the search syntax: [todo:false tag:"The Ring"], which will bring up any incomplete check-boxes in notes tagged with "The Ring" in a search result. 

  10. Adjust the Created date, if helpful, to reflect an approximate date he may wish to remember, such as something important being taken from him (Middle Earth - year 2941).

Eat that frog!

If you're not Gollum, then no doubt there is more to life's daily pressures than getting your hands on the ring - that one thing that will secure your fulfillment and bring closure to your epic quest. There is much to be said about prioritizing your priorities. Perhaps my favorite way to think of staying focused daily on that one overshadowing thing that will propel you and your family to a better quality of life, is a well-known illustration in the world of productivity - a quote from Mark Twain:

"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."

To that end, Brian Tracy wrote a fantastic book, "Eat that Frog!". He explains in the introduction: 

"Your frog is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment. It has also been said that, 'If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.'  This is another way of saying that, if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else... The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is for you to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of "Eating your frog" before you do anything else, and without taking too much time to think about it."

Over to you

In many cases, eating your frog first thing in the morning might not be practical (or even possible). The key thing here would be to make sure to set aside a period of time each day for that purpose - to make time - and work at it consistently... daily. In the end, like Gollum, you too will get what you set your mind and heart on - if it's the last thing you do.