Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Solopreneur Job Tickets with Evernote

It's funny how two things that are great apart don't seem to have a connection until some spark of genius kicks in. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a great example; peanut butter and chocolate, whoa! 

Yesterday I had a flash of genius when it comes to keeping notes on computer jobs; but this works for any service type job. It would have worked in the past; but not so well as it would today given the improvement in Evernote's mobile apps. This is not so much a technology solution as it is a work flow idea. 
First, I use Evernote to keep track of my notes and other day to day information.
Second, I use Zoho Invoice to keep track of my receivables. 

I used to work at a radio company where we kept track of hours worked and detailed what work we performed in a job ticketing system. So, before we got dispatched, we created a job ticket. We kept paper notes with that ticket number and entered the information into the system for invoicing. The rule was, you don't work unless you have a ticket number. 

Here is where it comes together; it would not take much to do something similar with Evernote and your invoicing service. As a job comes in, you would create a draft invoice for the client. This gives you a job number. Then, you create a note in Evernote with that job number and client name. Record all notes relating to that job. So long as you maintain a consistent naming and tagging convention, tracking your work should be pretty easy. 

The clear advantage of doing all of this is that your work notes are not limited to just text. You can add photos, documents, voice notes, and other files as needed. 
You could have open ticket and closed ticket notebooks in Evernote to keep track of work that is still in progress and work that has been completed. You can tag tickets with some form of client identification. 

This works much better than my current system in that I have been organizing notes by project name or client name, which is rather messy, requiring several notebooks in Evernote. Using a ticketing system, I only need the two notebooks. 
If you do end up with two or more notes with the same ticket number, Evernote allows you to merge them into one. 

If you are working on a big project that has several payments, you can invoice by phase, giving each phase a ticket number.

If you have accounts where you invoice monthly on all your services, you can open up a ticket every month and keep adding notes as you work. 

Where this breaks down, somewhat, is when you have multiple employees. At that point, you have a couple options. Share one Evernote login amongst them so that they can all enter notes into the same, centralized system. Or, have them maintain their own Evernote tickets in their own accounts and then export/import to a central Evernote account for invoicing. 

At the end of it all, if you like, you can even add a picture of the check that pays for the work performed. 

Can't wait to put this into practice. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Starting the New Year With Reset

Blackberries are a source of polyphenol antiox...
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My friend Lebby Salinas introduced me to USANA about a year ago. She would tell me how the shakes helped her transition to a low-glycemic diet, whatever that was. I've ever only know her at her current weight, which is rather thin. It wasn't until I saw her "Before" pictures that I started to pay attention.

I've been progressively gaining weight over the years. It has been slow; but, unrelenting. So, I decided to give it a try. I've been losing weight since Thanksgiving, slowly. While some of the credit is directly due to USANA's Nutrimeal, some is also due to eating better.

I think what has helped tremendously was that Lebby taught me about the Glycemic Index and how different foods rate. So, I've been able to mix and match my daily nutrition with combinations of shakes and food. At this point, she and I don't have to order the Nutrimeal shakes; but, it's good to have them at hand for when we are pressed for time or aren't really too hungry.

After seeing the results of eating better and taking vitamins, I started to talk like Lebby when we first started working together. Recently, she asked me to join her in helping others learn about proper nutrition and exercise to make meaningful changes in peoples' lives. So, we are organizing the McAllen Reset Challenge. It's a 12 week challenge to help participants learn about nutrition, exercise, and even lose a little weight in the process.

Lebby and I both have stories about what a poor diet and lack of exercise can do to your body. Earlier today we talked about how some people are defeated when problems arise, whilst others step into action. While our stories derive from misfortune, it has been a blessing in disguise in that it has motivated us to help others. This is a blessing that can be duplicated by others without the need for them to go through the same misfortunes.

Yes, we are using vanity, in the form of weight loss, to begin teaching others about exercise and nutrition. Don't wait until your health  has deteriorated to the point where you can no longer do anything about. Take some preventive steps today. Join us as we kick off the new year with Reset.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Evernote for Android Adds Checkboxes That Work

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Earlier this month, Evernote announced their updated Android app, which has some long-requested features that bring it more in sync with the iPhone and iPad versions.

Among the main features are Advanced Search, To-dos, and other updates that make using the app a much better experience.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search is great in that it allows you to better filter your search results. One problem that I've had with Evernote, lately, is that I get too many search results. That's a problem when you save as much information as I have been. This is something that was missing in previous versions of Evernote for Android. You were only able to perform a brute force search.

Check Boxes

What most excites me is the ability to click on check boxes in Evernote to mark items done. I have struggled with making Evernote my personal organizer given that it contains so much information necessary for my work. In the older Android apps, you could see check box items; but that was all.

While, the current Android app does not allow you to create new check box items, I am at least satisfied that I can mark things done. As far as adding more items, you are still only able to append text to existing notes containing check boxes.

Why Evernote?

I have increasingly relied on Evernote as a central information store. Many people will use their laptop or computer to keep track of information; which I understand completely. My work is information-related, which makes accessing information anywhere a necessity.

I have been experimenting with Springpad as a way of dealing with the To Do items; but, it gets to be a bit much switching from app to app and having duplicate data. Now that I can at least mark things done on Evernote, I am halfway towards my dream of having one inbox to rule them all.

I keep being asked why I like Evernote so much. The short answer is that I can just dump data into Evernote. Other apps require you to fill out fields or jump through hoops so your information can be properly categorized. Evernote doesn't care. Dump it; sort it out later. You can dump text, voice, photos, or documents.

Of course, once you have a chance to sit down and sort it all out, it's nice to use the same app to create actionable items. This is where having working check boxes makes a difference. Now you can create a custom search for undone items and use that as a way of organizing tasks, projects, and other items that need to be tracked.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Political Mirror Images

The other day I wrote a blog post in defense of Texas State Rep. Aaron Peña, who also just so happens to employ me part-time. I explained why I thought he would do such a thing.

I've talked with him briefly; but haven't had a chance to really delve into his reasoning. After all, we have work that needs doing even with all the craziness going on.

I've had time to think that he and I would be mirror images. I've been conservative for years. I identify with the Republican party because they are more conservative than the Democrats; but they have some kooky ideas that annoy me.

I think Aaron has been the same way. He identified with Democrats more; but had reservations about a few their kooky ideas. I think he was happy to carry the Democrat banner and could have lived a long, fulfilling life if he had stayed a Democrat.

I was a Republican working with Democrats because Ds pretty much run things here in the Rio Grande Valley. So, if I want to have any real effect, I have to help the Democrat of my choice get elected.

Aaron Peña was a Democrat who had to work with Republicans in the Texas House, who ran things. So, if he wanted to accomplish anything, he had to help the right Republicans achieve their goals.

So, we both have been maneuvering to achieve our aims through opposite parties. Mirror images. I came to realize the irony just the other day.

The similarity ends there. I can bend so far as to support candidates I've come to know personally and think would be good in office, even if they are not Republican.

Whereas Rep. Peña has a responsibility to his constituents, my only responsibility has been to my own conscience. Since I don't answer to anybody, I can stay Republican. However, since Aaron Peña is responsible for representing the people who elected him, he has to bite the bullet and switch parties.

I've given it some thought. I think Aaron would have stayed a Democrat if the party had not screwed up by losing seats in the Texas House, making it next to impossible for him to achieve anything. Especially now that redistricting will affect elections for years to come. The Dems have gone too far left, emboldened by Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. They overreached and marginalized people like Aaron Peña.

There have been calls for the Rep. to have run as a Republican if he wanted to switch parties. That's just silly; just like all the Democrats, he thought the Democrats would maintain or win some House seats back. If the Democrats had announced that they were going to lose twenty some House seats, maybe he would have switched at the primary. But, they didn't announce their losing strategy.

And then, calls that he should resign and run as a Republican in a special election; that's stupid. The whole purpose of him switching parties was so that he could maintain or improve his place in his committees. So, the Democrats think the District is better off with a freshman Democrat with no useful committees than a Republican with membership in choice committees? I just don't see the logic.

Actually, I do. It's just politics. And that's the problem. What Aaron calls the "professional left" are people whose living it is to run campaigns for the party. As they say, to a hammer everything looks like a nail. To a campaigner, everything looks like a campaign. They want to spin EVERYTHING rather than be forthright.

This is what really messes with the Democrats brains. They just can't seem to wrap their minds around it. Aaron switched parties knowing how monumental a challenge reelection would be. They keep threatening it as if he didn't already know. Their whole focus is on the campaign. They keep looking for the angle when the truth is right in front of them.

Even the astroturf "protests" were anticipated to some extent. To these people, protests are just another campaign to organize, right out of the playbook. Obviously, Aaron can't just bend over and take their abuse. It would undermine his status in his new party. He has to fight back a little. In the end it actually helps him in that it allows the Republicans to rally to his defense.

One thing I haven't mentioned to the Rep. is the the Press is not his ally as a Republican. I figure I'll let him learn the hard way so it sinks in. Fox News 7 in Austin has a report that twisted facts. Expect Aaron to be burned a few times before he realizes the bias he was spared as a Democrat. I know I'll get some laughs out of it. :-D

On the other hand, it helps that he's a blogger. The right has excelled in social media because they don't get a fair shake otherwise. In that sense, the lefty bloggers should know better than to try to BS him on the web. Not only is Aaron pretty savvy on web stuff; he's got me to take care of the serious web stuff. So far, I haven't had to step in.

It's going to be interesting. He has taught me much about politics. I suppose it's only fair to teach him about being a Hispanic Republican. Obviously, we'll have some issues where we will have to put a stop to the far right's crazy train. Just like the Democrats have their fringe..., well, that's all that's left; the Republicans have their fringe who have to be restrained from going too far.

If the far right infringes on my Mexican-American lifestyle, I'm going to have to help them find other lines of work. I'm happy to be a Republican up to a point; once they cross they cross the line, I'll turn conservative on them. There are some places government should not go; that includes asking me for papers.