Mind-mapping and Notebook Mashup: Let the Digital Meet the Physical

Back in the Saddle Again

I’m back into the productivity/notebook blogging game again.  This is the place where I ruminate on my own productivity (and unproductivity) practices.   My life these days is very library centered, take what you can and adapt it to your life.

I’ve been away for over a year because I’ve been busy.    On top of being in my second year as a high school librarian, I’ve also was chosen to be an American Library Association Emerging Leader, where I worked with a great group of librarians to create a resource guide called Defending Intellectual Freedom:   LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries.     On top of managing a school library program (or trying to)  and being a parent, I’ve agreed to do some interesting committee work.   Many fingers.  Many pies.

Mind-mapping the Overwhelm

Mind-Map for Managing My School Library

An online mindmap allows you to move different branches to create priorities. This mindmap has not been fully prioritized but since I updated it at the beginning of the school year, “Startup” was the most important and therefore is at the one o’clock position.

To deal with some of the overwhelm of conflicting interests and projects, I’ve gotten back to a web and app-based mind mapping program called Mindmeister.    This program allows you to create mind-maps to organize a project or your life.   Mind-mapping online or on an app has several advantages over mind-mapping on paper:

  • You can have access to it from anywhere with an internet connection
  • It is easy to move the different branches of a mind-map to reorganize your priorities.   (I’ve learned that it is good to put your most important or pressing branches at one o’clock.)
  • It’s easy to add smaller branches.
  • You can add documents, links, notes and much more to an online mind-map.

Also, you can switch from the large overview picture to zooming in on more granular details by opening and closing sub-branches.   For example, the mindmap above is a good overview of the different aspects of what I’m trying to do as a librarian.    One specific goal is to help Global Studies teachers adapt to new standards and a changing state exam.  I created sub-branches with links so I can get back to the key resources that will help me get a handle on the shifts that will be involved.

Example of Sub-branches

By clicking on the circles next to a branch, you can open sub-branches. The arrows next to sub-branches are web links I’ve created to other sources.

Mind-map Meets Samurai Mind Notebook


I was at a conference and didn’t have a notebook so I bought a fancy one and put on a cool Libraries Transform sticker.

Of course, now you are impressed.  I am so organized and everything runs so smoothly.   I click around my mind-map, clicking branches, collaborating with teachers, aligning standards, getting grants while forging new community partnerships.

Ummm, no.   Sometimes, I’m a hot mess.   I know that I really want to follow up on a grant but the dust in the library is driving me crazy.   Sometimes I don’t know what I want to do next.   Sometimes I don’t even want to look at the dang mind-map because I “don’t have time” or because it will just remind me of so many conflicting concerns.

Mindmap to Notebook

Moving an online mindmap to a physical bullet point list firms up priorities while at the same time creating opportunities for new ideas and action plans.

One of the latest samurai “hacks” I’ve discovered to deal with this sense of overload, is to simply move around the online mindmap and transfer the ideas into a real, physical notebook in the form of a bullet-list.   Physically writing down ideas, plans, and brainstorms from the mind-map is a good way to “do” something and silence the monkey-mind chatter of self-doubt.   Even if I’m not dusting or collaborating, I’m getting my mind organized.   Also, since I periodically review the notebook through the Samurai Mind Notebook method, I know that I’m going to run across these ideas strategically over time.

A physical notebook also has some of the following advantages:

  • the physical act of writing may actually trigger memory and thinking better than looking at a screen
  • text messages and notifications don’t come up while you are using a physical notebook (please let me know if they do)
  • if you get ideas while you are writing down ideas from the  mindmap on an app, it is often quicker to write down new ideas in the notebook
  • you can look retro on the subway while everyone is staring at their phones

If you get a chance, play around with mind maps.   They can be fun ways to restructure your brain and activities.   Mash it up with your physical journal and supersize (samurize?) your experience.




Evernote: the Mirror on the Wall

Hey I’m back. I’m on summer vacation and I’m in a Japanese cafe overlooking a fish market.


The 2016-2017 school year was my first year as a librarian and I did not make time to write. I’m hoping to change that.

This summer I’m free from graduate studies but I’m still planning for school and how to continue building out the library program. Part of that involves playing around with digital tools including:

  • MindMeister
  • Google Keep
  • Flipgrid

I will write more about MindMeister and Google Keep because I think they are the most applicable productivity tools. However, for now I’d like to go back to one of my favorites, Evernote.

Evernote as a mirror

Just I case you don’t know Evernote is a service that allows you to create online “cards” to help you remember all kinds of information. You can create online “card” where you write or copy content, do checklists or clip content from online articles.  You can also save photos, audio recordings, pdfs and so much more to store in your memory.


The only problem is that if you get the premium version it really becomes easy to stack up so many materials that it mirrors your information overloaded brain. If you are not careful, this tool becomes like an unpolished mirror–annoying and potentially useless.

Polishing the Mirror

When I started to notice the overwhelming amount of material, I tried to treat it my physical notebook and tried to review entries in algorithmic way. Looking at the dates, I would look at entries that were one day, three days, one week, two weeks and one month old. But because I could store so much material and because Evernote is not as easy to move through backwards, it simply became too much work. Evernote can be a great source of inspiration but if becomes frustrating to use it ruins its effectiveness.

Here are some steps I’ve taken to make reviewing Evernote more fun and smooth:

  • Start with your latest entries and treat it like a Facebook or Twitter wall. My problem was that when I looked at my Evernote “feed” I felt obligated to “study.”  Obligation is a buzzkill that hinders my creativity and flow.   It’s still important to look over the latest information for inspirationand also to stem information overload.   Obviously, if you are involved in some kind of pending project, you need to look at the most pertinent notes.  However, Evernote displays notes and links nicely and makes it easy to scroll through when you are looking for entertainment or inspiration.  Let the fun factor work for you.
  • Delete, delete, delete.   Evernote is a great tool but it is way too easy to add notes.   A garden needs weeding to grow.   Your notes need culling.   Are they uninspiring?  Have they been replaced my something better?  Do they make you resist looking at your Evernote?   Delete, delete, delete.
  • Make a Change and Let the Good Stuff Rise to the Top.  The way my Evernote is configured, the cards with the latest changes rise to the top.    Make a little comment and the card rises back to the top of your pile.   This means that this inspirational or fun idea gets the chance to rejoin your memory loop.   So, when I find inspirational articles from my graduate program, those ideas get to get back in the hopper.   The boring or useless ones get deleted and the others are saved for future review.
  • Create a “This is Where I Stopped Reviewing Card.”   Once you reach a stopping point on your card reviews, create an Evernote where you write down the date of the card you will bring to the light next.   On the next session, you will spend some time gelling your latest inspirations and digging further back for more gold.   Change the date when you are finished and this card will also float to the top so you can remember  where to start reviewing again.  Change the date on the card and will “float” to the top to remind you of where to start digging again.

Review your type cards with a fun and productive mindset, delete old cards, add to your older content and let it rise to the the top, and create a card to remind yourself where to start with older cards.   These steps will help you to polish your mirror so Evernote becomes a shinier and truer reflection of your ever improving self.   Try it and let me know how it goes.

If you’d like to try Evernote premium for one free month, message me here or visit the samuraimindonline.com page on Facebook.   I’ll get credits to keep using Evernote for free and you’ll get to see whether you can use this tool.

I hope to be posting more often so stay tuned and thanks for visiting!




Less Can Be More:  Why Mini Habits Can Lead to more Than Minimal Practice

I play more guitar by committing to playing two minutes every day

In my last post I discussed how mini-habits can help maintain skills rather than letting them stagnate.   This is an important phenomenon but it’s also true that mini habits can help you exceed your practice goals.

Because of my mini habit,  I am just there with a tuned guitar in my hands or a laptop in front of me.  Though I might only be committed to two minutes of effort, everything is there for the possibility of more.

I owe a lot of my recent progress in this are to Stephen Guise,  creator of the “Mini Habit Mastery” course on Udemy. I am totally paraphrasing him here but what he is says is that you have to keep your commitment to the mini habit small.   Feel free to exceed the mini habit target but don’t make that the new and hard to reach expectation.

Lowering my expectations has helped me to exceed my goals for a few reasons:

  • It puts the tools right in my hands so I can keep on learning or creating if I want to
  • The minimal commitment gets me over the perfectionist death knell that keeps me from starting in the first place
  • Once I start it’s just plain fun to play or challenge myself more

My language inspiration site AJATT shares a similar message:

Starting is more important than finishing. If you just start — show up — every day; finishing will take care of itself. In exercise terms, the trick is not to go to the gym, the trick is to get outside with your shoes on.

A mini habit is a way to get outside with your shoes on.   Do more by lowering the stakes but practicing consistently.

Keep it On Hold, Not on Mold:  the Advantage of Mini-Habit Practice

“Motivation is what gets you started.   Habit is what keeps you going.” –Jim Ryuun

Picking a doable minimum keeps dreams and skills in play

Doing a little every day keeps a skill on hold rather than let it mold.   Playing at least two minutes of guitar every day has not turned me into Jimi Hendrix but it also hasn’t let the possibility of playing guitar slip further and further away.

Doing at least five minutes of exercise hasn’t turned me into an Adonis but at least I have a base of strength and flexibility to work with.   Sometimes I do 200 push up and sometimes I just do five minutes of stretching.   It beats what I was “doing” before.   Nothing.

Reducing your practice to a doable minimum insures that you will have a base no matter how small.  Playing two minutes every day makes me at least keep my guitar tuned.

Mini-habit practice is like a vitamin for your skills. This is a card from Terre Roche’s Fretboard Vitamins. She asks aspiring guitarists to use these cards a little bit at a time to get to know the fretboard better. A little a day is the way to play.

Last week I practiced fretboard vitamins.   This is a card system to remember different positions on the guitar.   Even with a few late nights when I couldn’t get to the guitar at least I looked at these cards for two minutes of mental practice. Terre Roche,  accomplished musician and designer of these cards, encourages all who undertake her system to, “practice with no hope of fruition.”

Mini habits are a great way to hold on in the midst of many conflicting concerns.   I don’t study German any more than about seven minutes a day.  I’m nowhere near fluent but I “own” a lot more words than if I didn’t.   When I can spend more time with German or in Germany at least I will have a base of vocabulary to build on.  Keeping it small for now keeps German do-able and fun.

A little a day is the way to play.  Keep it on hold.  Don’t let it mold.   Do your mini habits.

Don’t Forget to Habit

When you mark a habit as finished the app makes a great tone and celebrates the number if your streak!

Sometimes I feel like my life is the movie “Memento.”  The character had a memory problem so everyday he tattooed notes all over himself as he searched for his wife’s killer.  It’s a strange movie but it might as well be a document drama about my life.

As an educator and parent,  I often feel like the man from Memento.   I’m responding to a hundred requests in a day and by the end of the day I can’t even remember my own name.   

I know I keep harping about the Chains.cc app.  I promise you that I’m not receiving kickbacks.  (Though I would love it if this blog was self-sustaining.). 

Chains.cc just works because I need something to remind myself of the things I want to accomplish for myself:  learn to play guitar, write, speak or understand a few languages, be semi-physically and financially fit, and become a better librarian.   

After 69 days I can honestly say the chain apps is starting to work for me.   The way it works is simple.   If I perform a mini habit I check the habit off on the app.   When I do this it tells me how long my chain is.  

 If I turn my phone on it’s side the app gives me a visual of how long I’ve sustained each habit.   Practiticing guitar at least two minutes a day extends my fretboard.  Writing at least five minutes a day extends an ongoing bookshelf.  At least five minutes a day extends my running track.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel so rewarded by extending my streak that I dread having a gap in my picture.  So sometimes I find myself doing five minutes of stretching rather than having a gap in exercise streak.   Because I keep my tracked habits to a minimum. There is no forgetting.

The great thing is that I am getting results.   I am not ripped but my muscles are more toned.   Every other day I use the Zen Challenge app to do more push ups.   Currently I am up to 200.   I’m learning more guitar and I’m blogging on a more consistent basis.

I’m also using the Chain.cc app to work on a negative habit.   I was finding that my craft beer hobby left me a little sluggish and also a little fat.   I decided to create a “Buzz Free and Positive” habit where I give myself credit for not having a beer.   After thirty days,  I will celebrate with a craft beer. Or two.

I think the Chains.cc app works for me for a few reasons:

  • The choice is binary.  Either I did the habit that day or I didn’t.
  • The simple visuals make it hard to forget and fun to accomplish mini habits
  • The habits are in so small doses that it’s not impossible to accomplish small but consistent wins every day

But in the end I think the biggest benefit of a simple but colorful app like Chains is that it helps me fight against forgetting.  The responsibilities and craziness of the day may threaten to erase good habit building but the app keeps me building every day.  Don’t forget to habit.

The Compound Effect:   Get a Habit


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For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

I’ve  let library books pile up again.   I finished a nice graphic novel memoir called “Relish” that was recommended by the podcast Librarians Assemble.

But I also have a small little pile of books recommended by online business folks on Patrick Flynn’s program,  “15 Entrepreneurs Answer:  ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started My Own Business.'”  These books must be pretty popular because they are all on hold and I can’t renew them.

“The Compound Effect” is the most accesible.    Though I’ve skimmed rather than read each sentence carefully, this book hits home the message of the power of habits.

Though I found some of his metaphors and examples tiring,  Darren Hardy’s message of the power of daily habits and decisions  affirms what I’m trying to do with habits lately.   Continue reading »

Let’s Get Physical:  Put a Bullet Through Your Journal

Great podcast with great resource lists on their blog.Librarians rock!

Great podcast with great resource lists on their blog.  Librarians rock!

I was stumbling through the Internet and landed on Bellwether Friends, a fun podcast with two librarians who also discuss pop culture.   After twenty eight minutes of  the various versions of Strek Trek,  Bellwether friends discussed bullet journaling.
Bullet journaling is an increasingly popular way of keeping a notebook that emphasizes writing in bullets instead of complete sentences and combines to-do lists, calendar planning, or whatever you want to plan out in your life.  Take a listen to the podcast.  Start at minute 29 if you want to skip the Star Trek material.

Bellwether Friends offers some really valuable links that explain bullet journaling:

Getting Started
Mental Health

Bullet journals are great ways to be creative about your life. This is a sample from http://www.bohoberry.com/bullet-journal-update/

Bullet journals are great ways to be creative about your life. This is a sample from Boho Berry.

Bookish Ideas
Staples Arc/Levenger Circa

Some takeaways that I found valuable:

  • A physical journal offers a tactile experience that some people find key to retaining  memories.
  • Even though there are many ways to gather notes, images and data digitally, putting it on paper means you have to make a commitment to decide what is important.
  • Physical journaling offers a great excuse to use paper notebooks that might have piled up in your life recently.

My journal is not a bullet journal. Even though it is messy the physical act of makibg decisions of ehat to write has really helped me.

If you take a look at the bullet journal articles dont be worried about how pretty everything looks.   Look at the rules but forget them too.    I would tell you the same thing about my Samurai Mind Notebook too.   I don’t review my notebook every day but when I do it is good.

Physical notebooks are some of the best way to capture your dreams, hopes, ideas and practical information.  Make your own rules and get physical.   Get outlaw.   Put a bullet through your journal.

Podcast Your Samurai Mind

cultivate your life with great podcasts

This summer I’ve learned to use podcasts as an extension of my mind.  I’ve gotten podcast recommendations from friends and professional journals.  I pop in a podcast and give two to three minutes.   If I am not inspired, I click and move on to something that does.

Let Podcasts Be Your Mentors

Podcasts can be a great way to tap the language and knowledge of your current or future career.  Listen to experts who interest you within the field.  For example, I don’t know much about graphic novels and comics but I think they have a lot of great potential for making libraries accessible to more people.   I’ve started listening to two great programs on comics and libraries called “Librarians Assemble” and “Secret Stacks.”

If You Aren’t Feeling It, Move On or Delete

I listen to podcasts while walking, commuting, or cleaning.  Your mind is valuable real estate.   Don’t clutter it with podcasts that don’t stimulate you or make you laugh.  Move on until you are ready to hear it or delete the whole program from your line-up. Continue reading »

Success and Motivation at Your Fingertips:   Put Your Library on Speed-dial

Use e-bookss to power your life

It’s been a great summer.   I finished graduate school in Library Science in May.  Though this summer “vacation” I’ve been busy training for my new job as a high school librarian,  I’ve also had more time to listen to informative and fun podcasts, read for pleasure and establish the mini-habits I want in my life.   There’s a little more guitar, writing, exercise and joy in my life.

Part of what has made my summer more interesting is putting the library at my fingertips by putting books on hold and through various e-reader apps that allow me to tap into the library.

i have a regular card and an educator card through a program called MyLibraryNYC. My “keys” to success.

It’s not that I am just checking out more materials.   Getting more books and materials is part of being more excited about constant learning. I’m at the edge of jumping into a new career,  I’m listening to great podcasts that lead me to great books and resources.  Through the library I can have that extra information and inspiration within days or seconds.

The best learning happens when you can have a resource “just in time.” I have a growing but temporary collection of distraction free physical books and also a small collection of powerful books that I can read from my phone or tablet.

The library is an often untapped resource that can help you transform your business or skills.  September is Library Card Sign Up Month but it’s always a great and convenient time to get a library card.  If you are not a big library user here’s a couple of pointers: Continue reading »

Streak Your Way to Success

You don’t have to be a super hero.  Just try a little bit every day.

Touch it everyday

Touch it.  I want to touch it every day.   This is my new winning strategy to skill acquisition.  In previous posts I’ve been examining how I’ve been using the “Mini Habits Mastery” course in combination with the Chains.cc app to keep track of the new habits I want to make.

However, what I want to focus here is a little digital tool that can make a big difference–the streak.  If you are going to win, you’ve got to make daily contact with your skill.  Maintain a streak of “touching” your skill every day and make a big difference.

Feed the slow steady fire

If you can’t study a lot, at least maintain your streak of making contact with the skill.   Duolingo, the language learning app boldly reminds you, “Learning a language requires practice every day.”  Michael Palmisano, my guitar teacher at Udemy says in his video courses that it is better to do a little bit every day than to try to tackle it all and not build the muscle memory that daily practice takes.

If you can’t do five minutes a day go for a streak Continue reading »

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