How do you keep track of your ideas, inspiration and bits of useful research?

I’m ex-Evernote-r. Since they changed their terms & conditions to make me the product, I haven’t found a real home for my stuff. Using Linux probably doesn’t help in the sense that I’d like any “solution” to be platform-agnostic. I’ve found some awesome tools that only work on one platform.

So I took to the Twitter hive mind to ask: Hey folks! How do you keep track of your ideas, inspiration and bits of useful research?

I got some excellent replies: a huge thank you to everyone who took time out of their weekend to reply.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Most people have somewhere to store their research, links or thoughts be that blogging, Evernote, Onenote, Google Keep, or a notebook.
  • Some people have a way to keep work moving along nicely, for example Trello.
  • Having a method that works for you can saving you from productivity porn, where you spend more time working on becoming creative organised and productive than being creative, organised and productive.

I especially liked Matt Jukes using blogging as memory:

And Abi using tried and tested paper as a bullet journal:

In a nutshell? I want a supporting scaffolding for my interests and work rather than being sucked into the tyranny of productivity. So I’ll think about how I want to be organised and find a tool-agnostic method that works for me. Finding the tools first won’t get me the results I’m looking for nor do I need to have everything in one place.

What next? I’m reading or rather listening to Getting Things Done: : The Art of Stress-free Productivity recommended by Lucy Knight. Then I’ll iterate with my existing tools and find out what works for me.

Two things I was reminded of this weekend? Methods > Tools, Blogging as Memory.

This is a working in the open blog post. It’s off the cuff, stream of consciousness stuff to capture what I’m doing, learning and sharing.

img: Jim Campbell, Scattered Light


The world is digital

The world is digital. As a non-profit, this presents an opportunity to take your charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation to new funders, donors and volunteers.

Digital is transforming the way we live, learn and work. Here, we’ll dip into what digital means for charities, the voluntary sector and non-profits.

What is digital anyway?

Digital has become a buzzword over the last decade and like a lot of buzzwords, it can be hard to pin down what it really means, even as we can’t deny its impact. For some organisations, digital means new technology, for others it means new ways of connecting and engaging with funders, donors and volunteers, or even entirely new means of fundraising. This diversity reflects just how digital is transforming the way we live, learn and work.

In a nutshell, digital is storing bits of all kinds of information as 1s and 0s. Deceptively simple but the shift from analogue to digital has had a profound impact: it gave us computers, electronic records, the internet, social media and a multitude of new ways to communicate, trade, connect and engage with people around the world or just a mile away.

When some people say digital, they could be talking about the technology, information, or skills that have impact on the people, culture and processes in a non-profit. How a charity, social enterprise or non-profit makes use of digital has an effect on how it is seen, its strategies and ultimately, its impact.

Who’s doing what online?

The world is online. With over 40% of the world’s population online in 2015, (up from 1% in 1995), chances are you’ll find your funders, donors, or volunteers using digital in one way or another.

ITU Facts and Figures Infographic

And what will you find them doing? Most of the 92% of the UK with access to the internet are shopping, watching videos, or socialising and sharing on social media, with new ways to use the connected web of the internet emerging all the time. Non-profits are also dipping their toes into digital, with many charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations having a website or web presence.

Despite this, many charities are struggling to develop digitally and improve their digital literacy. Some notable cases of non-profit organisations using digital to transform how they serve their communities, raise funds and attract volunteers include Asthma UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Asthma UK has developed a digital asthma action plan for beneficiaries after judging that they were poorly served by the paper-based action plans currently provided in primary care.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has expanded its volunteer base by 450 per cent as a direct result of its HR and digital teams working together to allow staff in all departments to use a variety of tools, including Skype, Yammer and Office 365, to bring them closer to the people they serve.

Tip: You can find Asthma UK’s digital asthma action plan on the award winning Asthma UK digital resources page

So, what does digital mean for my non-profit?

For the non-profit organisation, digital is changing who you can reach, how you can serve your community, and how your organisation operates. To take advantage of the digital trend means more than having a website. It means understanding what digital means and how to use it to help your charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation do the most good.

That means everyone in your organisation understands how digital works. With good digital literacy throughout your non-profit, how much more of an impact can you make in your community?

Are you there Mabel? Tech & The Art of Aging

There’s this thing about tech, you need to keep up…

When I was a much younger data whisperer, I worked for an e-tailer, so most of my pay packet went into buying the latest gadgets. I was up for bashing Twitter till I figured out what it was for and I jumped feet first into the whole smartphone shenanigans with enthusiasm and bucket loads of curiousity.

Lately, as I approach my 40th year, despite spending over half my lifetime in Tech, I’m feeling a sense of comfort with the staus quo. Nope, I don’t snapchat, I hardly instagram and I’ve never, ever swiped for a date.

"i saw you on tinder" Trastevere 2014 by Denis Bocquet
“i saw you on tinder” Trastevere 2014 by Denis Bocquet is licensed under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

It used to be that as defacto tech support for the OAPs in my life, I struggled for patience. I barely restrained the eye rolls at timidity  when it came to tech. I never really knew how to explain the love, concern, fear and hope I have for Tech and its myriad of products. I’m still a little irritated when old dears say “Oh you must be so clever to do that”. Not that I’m not clever, I don’t think you necessarily need to be clever to have digital skills. What I think you need are a healthy dose of curiousity, a dash of tenacity and a smidge of devil-may-care for making mistakes.

Dexter's Lab © Genndy Tartakovsky / Cartoon Network
Dexter’s Lab © Genndy Tartakovsky / Cartoon Network

It occurrred to me that I just wasn’t speaking their language. I knew deep down I didn’t understand how some older folks saw newer tech. It took one incident to really drive that home.

On a cold, autumn evening in 2014, Arriva Yorkshire’s announced bus timetable change landed. Not world ending you might think but the OAPs on my street were up in arms: Confusion abounded! Even the bus drivers were getting the new route wrong! All was not lost, the brave ladies who shared my route took matters into their own hands – they set up a social media page.

From my spot at the back of the bus, I listened in amusement as I learnt something new.

Firstly, they didn’t talk about tech like I do. Sure, this may be a geographical or life experience thing but what struck me was the conversation was like all their conversation (what can I say, bus journeys can be boring!). It went a little like this:

“So, what you do is, you go onto this website and put your details in. Then you say, ‘Are you there Mabel?’ and if she is, she’ll say hello.”

No “log in”, no “type”, heck, barely any tech terms.


Jargon via
Jargon via

As if to drive the point home, a few months later I was on a train (this happens more than you’d think). Someone had barely missed being hit on a track and delays were inevitable. The silver-haired lady next to me tried and failed to send a text, so she called instead. Getting an answerphone messsage, she said:

“I’ve sent you an electronic message”

No “text”, not even a “message” but a very preceise “electronic message”.

This made my day. My point here isn’t that their terms are right or wrong, simply that they are. Could my newfound understanding of the language barrier help the OAPs in my life ignite, well, not a passion but perhaps less of an aversion to all things digital?

So what if I started this quest from a self-centered point of view? My own sense of loss of being at the cutting edge of tech was the trigger, but Mabel and her friends planted a seed of curiousity that blossomed into conversation and a renewed passion for “Tech for everyone”.

In April, I began my project “Are you there Mabel?”. Every month or so, I’ll be talkng to OAPs about tech, how they feel about it and what it was like in the analogue day. The intention isn’t to convert them to tech fiends but to tell the story of new tech with old words, to connect the dots between their experience in which they’re comfortable and the alien Tech world they may feel excluded from.

Aged by Ronnie
Aged by Ronnie is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Tech is for everyone and we can learn so much from people who’ve lived through things you only ever read about. People who have a deep life experience to share with us only we reach out and include them.

header image: Aged by Ronnie