Keep It Simple

The set designers for Star Trek built the turbolift doors to open at the push of a button. The idea was that Kirk would turn to exit the bridge, someone offstage pushes a button, gears and hydraulics spring into action, and whoosh! However, it was an unfortunately common occurrence that something would go wrong and the doors wouldn’t open on cue.

When they filmed Star Trek: The Next Generation, they solved the problem by simplifying the set design. Instead of doors that opened at the touch of a button, they had ropes with counterweights. It was much more reliable, and it let them have some much larger doors.

It’s the application of an age-old engineering principle: Go with the simplest thing that could possibly work.

Star Trek © CBS

© CBS Corporation

Searching Evernote

The first note I ever saved in Evernote was a snaptshot of a coffee mug. We were having lunch, and someone mentioned this new iPhone app that would let you search the text in photos. We had to try it out, and that coffee mug was the closest thing with lettering at hand. Snap a picture, give the server a few minutes to process the image, search, and viola—there was the mug, with the word magically highlighted.

Evernote is a great tool for archiving and organizing your digital documents. With great power comes great responsibility—responsibility to go back and use this information when you need it. Otherwise, why are you saving it?

It’s fun to go back and browse through a notebook sometimes, just like flipping through pages of a diary. The best way to find what you’re looking for, though, is to search for it.

Calvin Search

I deleted the original mug photo to save space, so please enjoy this strip about Calvinball instead.
You can still see Evernote highlighting “Calvin” in the image.

Do More Up Front

My grandparents had an aquarium for as long as I could remember. They had angel fish, guppies, the occasional tetra or goldfish, and always an algae eater. I loved to watch the plants swaying as the fish darted between them, the bubbles swirling as the water recirculated, and the algae eater hanging off the glass.

I always wanted to feed the fish, but they never needed it. My grandfather, a career engineer, had rigged up an automatic feeder that slowly rotated a small jar of fish food over the aquarium. When the jar was upside down, a little food would fall through the small holes drilled in the lid. The fish were fed automatically throughout the day.

It was this sort of thinking that inspired me to become an engineer. Spend a little extra time on a repetitive task, and you can save a lot of effort down the road.

Automatic Fish Feeder

My grandfather’s automatic fish feeder.

How to Pay Bills on Time with Evernote

I have a love-hate relationship with paper. I finally plan digitally, though some days still need the power and reliability of paper. Most of my reading is done digitally, though physical books do have their appeal. I have switched every statement that I can over to paperless, but there’s always that odd account that sends paper bills in the mail.

Those paper bills are a huge crack in a paperless workflow that important things can fall through. If you’re going paperless, you need a good scanner, and a good way to file things so you can find them again. That’s where Evernote comes in.

Evernote is all about capturing information and making it available when and where you need it. It’s great at storing supporting information for the tasks and projects you’re working on.

Here’s how to use Evernote in a paperless workflow to make sure the bills get paid on time.

Bills in Evernote

How to Turn a Mistake to Your Advantage

Kids don’t know how good they have it. Boundless energy, little responsibility, and carte blanche to make mistakes. But, like Saturday morning cartoons, all good things come to an end. Lack of sleep and unhealthy diets catch up with us, our stewardships increase, and we develop this crazy notion that we have to be perfect.

Are you perfect? I’m not. Neither is your brother, or the guy who cut you off this morning, or the Ken and Barbie couple with the perfect hair that sit in the third pew. We compare ourselves at our worst to everyone’s polished personas, and it’s no wonder we come away thinking everyone else is perfect, we’re the only ones that make mistakes.

The most successful people you see around you aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, and they’ve learned how to own their mistakes and shape the experience into something from which they can learn and grow.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/goir

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/goir