How to combine Calendar and ToDo List

A systems approach to looking at meetings and actions in a day view.

1. Problem Statement: I need to see both my calendar and my to do’s on one view per day. I used to look at my calendar and say, that isn’t so bad… Then I would look at my to-do list and say, that isn’t so bad… When I merged them, I was trying to do 16hours of stuff in an eight our window. Here is a graphical view of the systems and how my calendar (Google Calendar) works with my to-do list (Todoist)

2.  While my core process works, I have been working on my “Ping system” for the last three years.

What is a ping system you ask?  It’s the little things in my life that I need/want to do, but without a system, I won’t commit them to habit.  Here is where the ping process fits into the daily plan.

3.  My ping process has evolved over the last 3 years in this way

2015 –
2016-  Todoist
2017-  Google Calendar (New Calendar)

4.  So how does this end up looking when the systems are integrated?  Here is the view I use every day

Again, I realize this system is way more detailed than most people need or want.  Here is what I have learned from a systems standpoint.  My system will probably only work for me, it is a combination of looking what others have done and building a best of practice approach for me.  We all have to find that balance and what works for us individually.  If you have comments or suggestions I would love to hear them in the comments below!

4 Strategies to deal with email more efficiently

The continual battle with email and cleansing process of email newsletters

Like most people, I can easily spend an exorbitant amount of time on email. I continually try to develop processes allowing me to spend quality vs. wasted time handling email. Here are my top four ways that I have designed to cut down  email noise

1. Use my Evernote email address evernote-email
When I sign up for an email newsletter, I utilize my Evernote email address. These newsletters now come into my inbox in Evernote. I typically file and browse these notes once or twice a week in the afternoon during a lower productivity time of the day. This process allows me to quickly tag these emails and search in Evernote if I ever wanted to recall a particular email.


2. Use of a separate Gmail address that I check once a month
I set up a separate Gmail address that I use for either marketing emails or required sign-ups that I don’t intend ever to read. I only look at this email account one time a month, and I sort by sender so I can filter through 1200-1500 hundred emails in approximately 10 minutes. This is my “permissioned” junk email filter that I set up years ago. If I ever wanted to search for deals or do price matching I can quickly pull up this email account and search for product X.


3. Use App unroll-me
I am surprised that even with a quasi-junk email address and intentionally using my Evernote how many emails still end up on lists in my primary email account. In this situation, I use a service called This service looks at all new emails and parses out auto emails. It compiles them and sends them in 1 email per day. My guess is that approx 10 emails per week I end up consolidate to  This service alerts so that you add emails to Unroll, unsubscribe, or keep in the inbox.  Very useful.



In Gmail, Select Filter Messages

4a. Use auto forward and file in Gmail. (Rules based Gmail) 
I use this process when emails are sent to my Gmail address, and they need to be captured and filed, but I do not need to touch them. An excellent example is when Home Depot emails me a receipt when I make a purchase. I have all these emails automatically filed in a folder so I can go back and located if needed.


4b. Use auto forward to EverNote and archive in Gmail. (Rules based Gmail)
This list includes emails sent to my Gmail address that I want to be captured and filed in EverNote, but I do not necessarily need to touch them.  Same process as gmail but I want these email stored in Evernote vs Gmail.  I migrating from 4a to 4b.


Under settings, select Filters

5 Great Uses for IFTTT

Automation of workflow

I have been using IFTTT since 2014 and find the service to be very helpful in streamlining workflow.   IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”. IFTTT is a service that allows users to create workflows using conditional statements, called “recipes,” which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Slack, Fitbit or Facebook.  If you have studied the 4-Hour workweek from Tim Ferris, IFTTT can assist with Step III, Automation.   Here are five samples I have set up in IFTTT that I find useful in my life.  

If new email in inbox from search for Subject: Your Fitbit’s battery is low, then create a task in Kevin-to do

IFTTT _ FitBit and ToDoist

This recipe sends a report to our “Family FYI” channel every morning with how much sleep I recorded.

IFTTT _ Slack Sleep

Have you left work yet?  Now I can send an alert automatically when I leave the office our family FYI Slack channel

IFTTT _ Slack

Record recently sold homes from designated zip codes in Google Drive.

IFTTT _ Sold Homes

Text me if it will rain/snow tomorrow.

Text if Weather changes


While our family utilizes over 60 IFTTT recipes, it is important to make sure we are intentional about setting these processes up.  I have learned, just because I can automate something, doesn’t mean I should.

Again, my goal is to make every step count, and this is a tool I use to help with that objective.    If you use IFTTT, what have you found beneficial?



How to create a “Smart Car”

Using an old phone, you can have on demand content without filling up your primary phone

What do you think of when someone references a smart car?  I use the term “smart car” a little different than others.  I have a 2010 vehicle, and I use the Bluetooth with my regular phone.  I have tested applications like Zubie and other ODB devices over the years for educational purposes, but my primary focus with the smart car is having an on demand learning center.  I want it to be able to deliver content quickly and effortlessly.  I also prefer free content when possible!

I referenced the podcasts that I have on my playlist in a previous blog post, in this post, I will share how I turned my wife’s old Droid Phone from several years ago into a dedicated learning device.

So, how did I create this learning center?


Step 1

Installed BeyondPond and configured auto download of designated podcasts at 3 am to my device.  ( I also completely wiped the device; it is not using a sim card connected to Verizon anymore)  Just basic wireless.

Step 2

Set up an access point in the garage, so the android phone is always online when in the garage.  This allows for the auto updating of content

Step 3

This may sound old school, but I use the headphone/aux setting on the radio. This allows me to quickly flip back and forth to Bluetooth for my main phone.

Why didn’t I use my primary phone for this purpose?

I Didn’t want to fill up memory and I liked the idea of a dedicated device for both podcasts and audio books.

Using this simple process I am able to make every step count while in the car.  Or should I say every mile?

13 Practical ways Evernote helps our family

simple ideas that make our lives easier and help us make every step count

This is not necessarily intended to be a tutorial on Evernote but more how/why we use it. EvernoteOur family always papers that always needed filed.  (I hated taking time to do this…)  So, we moved to a digital filing cabinet several years ago and now we have very little paper around the house;  both my wife and I can search and find needed docs on any device at any time.  We wanted to create this for others that might be looking for best practices on this tool!  

Here are 13 family use cases for Evernote

  1. Clipped articles from the web-  The web clipper in Chrome is awesome!
  2. Books I have read and/or want to read.  Now I can keep track of books and notes
  3. Email Newsletters- Using the Evernote email, all email newsletters go to Evernote and not email.
  4. Kids School work-  It has been so much fun to drop our kids’ school work over the years into Evernote to see the progression.  
  5. Kids Art-  Those drawings that you just love but can’t keep them all, drop them in Evernote!
  6. Digital Scrapbook for Birthday cards, notes, and family mementos.  It is neat to go back and look at birthday cards from years ago that my grandparents sent me.  Even after they have passed on, I still have the words and cards they sent.
  7. Gymnastics Scores and reports for the kids
  8. Appliance manuals and Warranties-  that stuff you never need but when you do can’t be found.  Drop it in Evernote.
  9. Vehicle service –  Simple way to track all those vehicle service notes
  10. Gift Ideas with reminders-  I am a horrible gift giver;  now, when my wife says, that would be cool, I can drop in Evernote with a reminder for 3 weeks before her birthday.
  11. Exercise note and ideas- track new exercise ideas
  12. Recipes/notes on Wines –  Easy way to store recipes and notes on special wines that we enjoyed
  13. CRM –  Names, notes and reminders

We use workflow and automation through Feedly, IFTTT, Zapier and other solutions.  View how all our systems work together -> Click Here 

Feel free to drop a note in the comments on other ideas/suggestions.  As we work to make every step count, tools and processes are important for our family.~

How our family created an “intentional” smart kitchen

removing screens from the kitchen area for less distractions

Ok… I know it may not be the smart kitchen we tech enthusiasts are dreaming about, but it is my first start!  Here is what I like about our kitchen set up.

Simple:  Our smart kitchen doesn’t have wires, screens or lots of hardware.  It only consists of the Amazon Echo.  Like many families, there are too many distractions in the day, and we are trying to keep our kitchen tech free.

Hands-free task/data entry:   Groceries, to do’s or calendar requests.  When things needed to be added to the to-do list or grocery list my wife and I were scrambling for a phone or device.  The problem was when we picked up the phone to add milk to the shopping list; we ended up spending 10 min on unplanned screen time. (thank you Facebook!)

Hands-free Cooking:  Imaging this… you are in the kitchen cooking bacon and eggs for your little girls, and you use the last  drop of orange juice.  Your family has already transitioned to a digital shopping list, in our case ToDoist, but your hands are wet, the baby is crying, and the bacon is burning.  Waalaa..  rather than scramble for a phone and open the app and type in orange juice, you yell over the chaos, Alexa adds OJ to the shopping list.  Bam, added to the shopping list and while you are cooking and your wife is at the store, it updates, and she knows to grab OJ.

***I should note that it is necessary to use one my favorite little life hacks called IFTTT to connect Echo grocery list with Todoist, but it takes just a few minutes to do so.

Hands-free morning routine:  During my morning routine of getting things organized, coffee and kids loaded for daycare, there is inevitably that “thing” that pops in my head that says “do this” or  “don’t forget x” when you get into the office.  Now I can relay the message to Alexa as I buzz through the kitchen, and it shows up in my ToDoist list.

Day to day use cases:

  • How many ounce’s are in a cup?  We will be in the kitchen and my wife will ask how many pints in a quart etc. Now, we just ask Alexa and the cooking magic continues.
  • Is it going to rain tomorrow?  In the old days, we would have to get out a device out and “ask Google”.   Now with Alexa always on standby we ask and she lets us know when the rain will be in our area.

I could keep going with the use cases but here is the summary.  We all have grown accustomed to getting answers from the web; now you can stay connected and not forget things but keep the focus on the family and not go to a device.  I believe we are only scratching the surface of Voice and if you have a voice product that you need more use cases or an enthusiast to test hit me up!


In an effort to make every step count, this is our current process.  How do you use Amazon Echo?