Step 7: Manage your reference material

Michael Sliwinski — №24 with James Tonn

Do you catch yourself stuffing another important paper, business card or note to your drawer in order to never find it again? Take part in this lesson and discover tricks and apps that can help you with managing your reference material and documents. Find out:

Productive life starts and ends with to-do lists… but there is something in between - the reference material and all the helpful documents you need, to really get your tasks done.

Your documents, notes, files are not an integral part of your productivity system, but they are the “backbone” of information you need and they provide key insights that help you get a task done.

While I spend most of my day making sure the tasks get done, I would be lost without the remaining two parts of the puzzle - notes and files.

People deal with reference material in different ways, some use drawers where they put physical documents, others go "all digital” and scan everything to their computer.

Digital documents

While I appreciate the physical documents and I keep the originals at hand, I still prefer to move most of my stuff in digital form. It requires more effort (scanning) but it pays off.

It’s the mobility thing — once you have stuff scanned to a cloud-based system, you can access it from anywhere even with a mobile phone (as we mentioned in lesson 5 about mobility)

Tools to go all digital

There are great apps to help you go “all digital” and “all cloud” like Evernote or Dropbox. They have native apps on most of the platforms.

In Nozbe you can attach a note or file to any project as well, and access these from all of the devices, too. It’s pretty powerful and very handy!

Now, the key to maximum productivity is having the “relevant reference material” next to their relevant projects so that when you’re doing a task, you have the needed documents and files at hand.

It would be even better if you had relevant documents attached not only to a project, but also to a task. This way when you’re getting a task done, you have all the information necessary right there.

That’s where many simple to-do lists and paper-only lists might fail — because all you see is a task and nothing more… you don’t have access to other relevant information…

OK, this info is not necessary most of the time for most of the tasks… but when you’re trying to get a more complex task done, very often you’ll lose precious time finding the documents needed to complete it.

How Nozbe might help you

That’s why in many modern productivity apps, like Nozbe, the system is built in such a way that you can see the documentation right next to the tasks.

In Nozbe we even let you comment on a task with documents, files, short checklists, youtube videos, hyperlinks, and more…

And when you’re using external systems like Evernote or Dropbox… Nozbe can automatically search for relevant items there and show them to you right in your projects…

And Nozbe even lets you comment with Evernote or Dropbox files right next to a task you’re planning to work on. This way, you’re still using your favorite system for storing reference material…

You’re then using it together with your favorite task management app. We designed it like this because we actually use these services ourselves.

The key is to use the systems you’re comfortable with for storing documents and use a task-management system that let’s you quickly find the relevant information that will help you get things done.

Very well prepared tasks are important, but very often you need more info to get them done. You’re much better off with a good reference material system that helps you show relevant information to your tasks. Make sure to set it up well at the beginning and reap the rewards in the end. Good luck!

Michael sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski is the editor of Productive! Magazine, the founder of Nozbe (a time and project management application for busy professionals), and the best-selling author of the #iPadOnly book.

Visit Michael's blog Follow @MSliwinski on Twitter Check out his book: #iPadOnly