Strive to help people. That’s the mantra I’ve been holding as I write for this site every week starting 2014. This personal space of mine has grown from serving 100 readers into 400 readers a day. I want to deliver more value in 2015, and I would like to share a few choices that have helped me to push through 2014 with a satisfying result.

The underlying intention stays the same — I’m writing for a person, not a group of people, nor a tribe, but a person who shares the same interest as me. I never set out to make you buy a lot of tools. I want you to finish your task with least amount of time as possible. Reaching that goal doesn’t need to fork out hundred dollars on software, but it’s about how you choose to spend your time and effort.

I’ve renamed the “Apps Recommendation” page into “Inside Toolbox” to show you that I’m not recommending them as the best app among its category. It’s a page that lists out the set of tools that works for me, and who knows, you’ll discover a couple of useful apps.

Instead, I’m going to share with you what works for me in 2014 that sets me on the right path to writing consistently as a writer, and grow mature as a professional.

Track Your Time, Limit Your Time

When I set out to track my time with RescueTime, I never expect that it’ll change the way I work. I used to spend a lot of time watching videos, checking out social networks, or playing games on a Mac. I realize I shouldn’t carry one with this habit if I want to become a better person. So I decide to take control of my time.

RescueTime Premium has a feature that allows me to block distraction sites for a specific amount of time at certain time slot. I have this alert that blocks distraction sites for the first 30 minutes in the morning. Employing this alert has forced me to start with important tasks instead of browsing around, leaving the important tasks unfinished. Another alert reminds me to stop reading the news or watching videos after midnight, and let myself rest.

Limiting the amount of time spent on these activities has trained this body to naturally produce, either by writing, working, or creating something, whenever I use a Mac.

You can train yourself to adopt new habit by making the process to enjoy self-indulging activities more difficult than the productive one. In fact, I’d rather write rather than trying to unblock video or news sites these days.

Store Everything in Evernote

It’s not the end of plain text for me. I’m still keeping my drafts in plain text, syncing them with Dropbox, and do my writing in Writer Pro. But what has changed is how I store the rest of documents.

Everything is inside Evernote. I save read items in Evernote. I record iBooks highlights in Evernote. I keep receipts in Evernote. There are a hundred ways you can use Evernote, but I would like to focus on one important aspect.

Evernote makes a perfect learning tool.1

I have a notebook called “Writing” that acts as a notebook for me to improve my writing. What I do with this notebook is simple. I’ll pull a random paragraph from writing I like, make it italic, and answer a question why the paragraph works.

If you’re a professional, you often need to make a decision by gathering facts. With the ubiquity Evernote delivers, as you can snap everything from your iPhone, and scan document with the latest Scannable app, Evernote helps you get things done faster.

I’ve built a habit of writing down reasons, possibilities, and expected results for every decision I make, both professional and personal. If I fail, it’ll be a great resource to look back. If I succeed, I know what makes the method works. If you approach everything in your life as a way to learn something, you’ll be more daring to make a choice.

Personal Email Should Be Personal

Most of us deal with two kinds of emails: personal and professional. The way I approach these emails is to separate them into different apps. I use Gmail or Postbox for professional emails, and Unibox for personal emails.

I practice this concept by separating workspace into different browser. As I quit the browser, I won’t be dealing with works. The same for emails, when I quit Postbox, I’m no longer working.

It’s important to be personal with emails. Unibox is perfect for personal emails because it groups them based on senders instead of subjects. With a glance, you can see how often you interact with a person. I’ve received a couple of emails from readers, and the first thing I see in the sidebar is their name. If you happen to use Gravatar, I see your face. This change of approach towards emails makes you remember people name faster as you always start with “Who sent me that email?”.

Keep Personal Data & Privacy Safe

I’m writing this post while connected to a public WiFi network. Few years ago I won’t mind having the data sent over the network stay unencrypted. But these days I’m starting to pay attention to how to secure my network. One reason is how much ISP is interfering with the way I browse online, and also why I decided to subscribe to VPN service like TunnelBear.

I’ve chosen to allow publishers I trust to track my online activities. Cookies is a must have tool if you want to be more deliberate controlling your online presence. It’s comforting to know I can browse any websites without hurdles.

If you’re interested in keeping your online activities safe, I suggest installing Ghostery. Remember to be deliberate with the sites you choose to block. Sites like mine depend on the number of visitors to survive. Some sell ads; some don’t. But the point is we work harder when we know there are people waiting for our next work.

  1. Don’t confuse Evernote with journaling app like Day One. Evernote can act as a journaling tool, but Day One has more feature that is suitable for keeping a journal.