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Tools for Breakthrough

In my last post I talked about breakthrough. In this post I simply want to share some tools and how they have helped me with breakthrough. Here are the top software resources that have proven useful to me in a major way:

Evernote—I started using Evernote as soon as it was released. Now that I’m several years in, there are some critical ways I find it helpful and useful—and some ways I find it unhelpful.

It’s a great catch-all—I can place anything and everything into evernote. Then I can forget about until I really need it. When I do, it’s there! And it’s easy to find because of the search features. I have a single folder designated as the landing place for everything, and then later I go back through and sort/file all the things in that folder to place it where it belongs in Evernote.

It’s a great file cabinet—from the “junk drawer” everything either gets tossed or filed eventually. Evernote is a great digital file cabinet of all those things I want to save, reference, or somehow use later. Setting up a simple file structure, moving things from one folder to another, and generally navigating a large amount of reference material is really easy with Evernote.

It’s NOT a great workspace—I tried. I really did. I wanted Evernote to be a writing space, a study space, a general one-stop shop for my files and work. I’m sure this works for some, but it didn’t for me—and the first law of every organizational system is “IT MUST WORK FOR YOU!” It doesn’t matter if it works for other people. You are the one using it. If it doesn’t work for you, abandon it and find something that does. For my brain, Evernote was too clunky and limited for writing space, and too cluttered for workspace. It was like working in my junk drawer or in my file cabinet. Personally, I can’t work well unless I’m in clutter-free space.

My biggest beef with Evernote is this—it’s too easy to accidentally delete a file. Imagine if your computer hard drive was set up so that every time you accidentally hit the “delete” button, it trashed whatever happened to be selected at the moment. This is what Evernote does. And several times I’ve emptied the trash only to later find something was in there that I DIDN’T delete.  (I realize I could have avoided this by reviewing all the trash before I emptied it…) But there are better ways to protect the user on this and I hope that evernote creates a “command-delete” option or something more deliberate for deleting notes. It needs to be a bit more intentional and not so easily accidental.

Scrivener—This past month, I found my workspace! And wow, does it work well. It’s called Scrivener, and as soon as I heard about it, I quickly found about 10 other writers and leaders who quickly chimed in on how much they loved Scrivener. I downloaded the trial, spent about two hours learning the software, and have now used it with great fluidity and ease for several weeks. It’s designed for the creation of written content. It’s a super easy to organize, super clean, responsive workspace for writing, outlining, scripting or anything you are doing with words on a regular basis. Here is why I’m finding Scrivener really great.

It’s easy to organize and navigate—For short-term word-based files that need to be accessed with speed and ease, Scrivener can’t be beat. It has lots of viewing options, formatting options, and ways to see what you want to see. It allows you to jump around, work on multiple files easily, and quickly move your structure and file order by just dragging. It’s incredibly intuitive.

It’s a word-processor on steroids—no opening and closing files. They all reside in your open Scrivener file. Spell-check, basic formatting, importing, exporting, compiling, outlining, planning, researching, and much more can all be easily and quickly managed in Scrivener.

It’s a one-stop shop for content production—This is what I like most. Before Scrivener I had sermon series ideas, books ideas, blog ideas in lots of different places—my document folders, in Evernote, on the blog, and a few other random locations. Scrivener gives me one landing place for everything I may want to use in any kind of content development—sermons, articles, blog posts, emails, books, etc. And it makes all that content easily accessed for a variety of purposes.

It’s sync-able—It’s easy to sync to an external folder from within the program, which means your files are backed up and accessible on other devices if you want them to be.

In short—Evernote is my storage space (file cabinet) and Scrivener is my worskpace (desktop)—and for me it works well. Maybe it will for you.

Things – You have probably worked through your options of to-do lists managers. I chose to use “Things”—a basic task or project list manager. Here’s why I use it.

It helps me leave nothing behind—the first priority of a task list is to keep you from forgetting stuff. This is why you write things down. Whatever task management resource you use, it MUST keep you reminded. In order to remind you, two simple functions are required. This list must be easy to add stuff to, and easy to access and view on a daily basis. Things does this. It leaves nothing behind. It’s all staring me in the face until it’s done or forwarded to another day.

It works well—It’s quick. It’s reliable. It’s easy to navigate and quickly sort through. It’s simple to set up and learn. It’s well designed.

It syncs for free—I have a hard time paying a monthly fee for a task manager. When Things developed free sync to all devices, that was AWESOME! And I have yet to see it not work perfectly. This reliability makes entering or changing tasks “on the go” a lot less stressful.

Sugarsync – This is a free file-sync software that competes with dropbox and others. I researched them all, and landed on this one for a few reasons. Honestly, I’ve had a mixed experience with Sugarsync. It has not been a worry-free service. But my experience with the most recent version has definitely been more predictable and stable.

Sugarsync is where I store all of my active files—things I need to access on more than one computer. Installing and setting up the service is easy and free. Telling what to sync and where to sync it is also relatively simple. Having access to all the same files on three difference computers, or in the cloud is a great advantage. And knowing that those critical files are backed up regularly also gives great peace of mind.

It works well between multiple machines—the newest version made some definite improvements in this regard.

It sometimes doesn’t launch. What is supposed to automatically run, sometimes isn’t for some reason. It’s annoying, but is easily rectified by just launching the program. But this glitch makes it easy to “think” your files are synced when they really aren’t.

It is sometimes slow. I’m not sure which link in the chain slows the process, but sometimes sugarsync just seems to be sluggish in updating rather small files. Again, annoying, but not a deal-breaker.

Online Bible – If you study the Bible or access a lot of scripture on a regular basis, there is no better solution… period! Online Bible is the worlds most awesome, understated Bible study software. And the best part—it’s free. The name kills it. It’s NOT really an “online experience” but the name makes you think it is… or it’s going to be. So as a user, you would probably rule this tool out unless you’re desperate to save money. The idea of your bible study being tied to your internet access speed is rather unattractive. Online Bible resides completely and entirely on your local drive. Here’s what I love about it.

It’s super fast and reliable—there is no easier, faster way to access scriptures, view cross references, reference lexicons, search, etc. This software is instantaneous in its search functions. Cross references are as quickly instant. Use the lexicons of your choice. Cut and paste easily. Set your own style preferences. If you’re just looking for really great access to scripture, this one is simple and incredibly fast. The key is, learn the short-cuts and read the user guide. It can do a lot more than at first glance. And once you learn the short-cuts you can really reference a lot of scripture quickly.

It’s not pretty or beefy—If you’re looking for a huge library of books, commentaries, online resources, and beautiful graphical interface, this software is not the answer.

It’s free (for the most part)—much of online Bible can be downloaded and installed for free.  For some features you must order a CD to be shipped to you for a minimal cost. It’s well worth it.

Logos—Pastor Chappell gave me a gift ownership of Logos as I entered the pastorate—and what a GREAT investment that was into my life and library. This is a massive, powerful software. It’s almost overwhelming. I love logos for the massive amount of reference material that it makes easily accessible. I use it for research.

It is very comprehensive—Logos brings a massive amount of information and research support to just about any topic or passage I would want to study. And it links me to a universe of outside support—even media, videos, pics, etc.

It is a great library across devices—I love having a huge study library that I can reference (like Kindle) on iPad and other devices, or on multiple computers. My logos account keeps the whole library accessible on all devices.

It’s sluggish and complicated if I’m just studying the Bible. Logos presents me with so much material, and so many options—it makes simple Bible study sort of complicated and almost overwhelming. When I need lots of research support, I go to Logos. When I need quick access to scripture with a streamlined and focused interface, I go to Online Bible.

Now it’s your turn! What software or other resources have helped you “breakthrough” in your workflow?


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  • Great help brother. Question, can you take the applications / software that you have mentioned and tell us which ones are for which device? I know some are for iPad and some are for Mac. Could you also elaborate on the best ways you have found to tie the two together?

    Thanks for all you do for our Lord,
    Bro. Whitfield

  • Duey

    Great question. These software programs are for both desktop and iPad or iPhone—EXCEPT Scrivener and Online Bible. For the iPad I use Olive Tree Bible for reading. Love it!

    For writing on the iPad—which I try not to do… I use an app called iA Writer. It’s a plain jane writing app that provides an easy to use keyboard and the ability to sync to drop box. That way your text files can be accessible to your lap top.

    Also, if you use Scrivener, it’s not hard to set it up so that you can access your files and edit them on the iPad through any text edit type of app.

    I hope this helps!


  • Great article! I’ve never heard of scrivener or online Bible. I’ll definitely check those out.

    My recent ‘breakthrough’ was Copy. I used Dropbox for years, but I was constantly running out of space because of all the media i had to sync between my home computer and laptop. (I design the media for our church). Copy is like dropbox, just with a lot more space. And I haven’t had any problems with it.

    Thanks again for the article. Your blog challenges me in a lot of ways. So glad you’ve been able to keep up with it through your transition!

  • Thanks for the list of tools in the article.

    I would love to get more information on how you structure your workflow in Scrivener. Do you place all of your various types of documents (blog posts, sermons, etc.) in the same project in Scrivener? Or do you use separate projects for separate purposes?

    Would love to maybe see an in-depth post sometime on your workflow in Scrivener. Thanks again for the article.

    • Thanks for reading the blog… regarding Scrivener…

      I have only one file open in Scrivener and I work on everything in that one file.

      I called the first, top folder “Workspace” — that’s where I’m working on anything in the present, or where I open new work sheets to write…

      I called the second folder “Platforms”—and in that folder there are subfolders

      Sunday AM
      Sunday PM
      Wednesday PM
      Raw Message Ideas
      Blog Posts
      EBC Email
      Staff Development
      Guest Speaking
      Future Sermon Series
      Books or Book Ideas

      The most critical thing is to make sure that this file is backed up regularly because it holds a lot of stuff in one single file.

      I hope this helps!



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