How I Use Evernote for Balance in My Preaching


I recently told you about my process for writing sermon outlines in Evernote. It’s working so well for me that I have decided to go to the next level with my sermons in Evernote by using it to ensure balance in my preaching.

In episode 65 of the Preachers in Training podcast, I discussed how I used to keep track of balance in my preaching. I created a Pages document in which I listed 30-40 sermon categories in red. As I would preach sermons that fit in the different categories, I would type the date and the sermon title under the appropriate category. It looked like this:


I liked this for several reasons.

  • It provided a quick glance at the subjects I have covered well versus the ones to which I needed to devote more attention.
  • It was concise – only about 2-3 pages for an entire year, making it easy to quickly get a handle on the situation.
  • It was great for planning the upcoming year.

However, there were several negatives to this layout.

  • I often felt that I needed more categories, but I felt that adding more categories would defeat the conciseness.
  • Many sermons fit into more than one category, but repeating listings under different categories felt clunky. It was difficult to keep up with where the different sermons had been listed.
  • There was easy no way to link the sermon title to its corresponding sermon outline.

But one day, it hit me. Why not use Evernote tags to keep track of balance in my preaching?

Until recently, I have struggled to come up with a good system for tags in Evernote. I know some people who use the Getting Things Done strategies for tags. Michael Hyatt has an elaborate tagging system that even allows him to assign tasks to his different employees. Until reading his post, I had never thought about using symbols and punctuation to group tags together.

In the spirit of grouping like tags together, I decided to create an Evernote tag for each of my sermon categories. Since I use Evernote for much more than sermon writing and organization (I basically live in Evernote nowadays!), I decided to group my sermon tags together as follows: “SERMON – <Tag Name>.” I chose to simply use the word “sermon” to group the tags together instead of trying to remember some type of punctuation (it helps my simple mind).

This works amazingly for several reasons.

  • I was able to expand the number of sermon categories without losing my simple at-a-glance overview. (I now have over 90 categories!)
  • Evernote’s tag view has a search feature, making it easy to display only my sermon tags. I just type in “sermon” into the search field, and it will only displays my 95 sermon category tags.
  • In tag view, Evernote can display note counts for each tag, making it easy to see how many sermons are assigned to each tag.
  • Also, tag view gives you the option to organize your tags in order of the ones that have the most notes to the least notes.
  • In notebook view (all of my sermon outlines are in individual notes in one notebook called “Sermons 2014”), you can click the tag icon to see which tags have been used in that notebook. It looks likes this:


  • Obviously, I can tag my sermon outlines from within the outline note in Evernote, which is huge! Also, it’s really easy to give a sermon outline more than one tag right from within the note.
  • In tag view, it’s really easy to select one sermon tag and see all of the sermons within that category.

So you have some visuals, here’s how my Evernote looks in tag view:


Nice, huh?! Here’s how the tags look from the sermon outline (note) view:


There is one potential issue that I can already see. While my sermons outlines are all together in a notebook by year, I have no way of separating the tags by year. This means that, next year, I won’t be able to rely on the tag counts for a good visual representation of my balance in 2015. My current plan is to rely on the option to see which tags are used within a notebook from notebook view (as described above).

This is all a work in progress, but it’s working really well for me so far. Hopefully it can help you, too!

Question: How do you keep track of balancing your preaching? Let me know in the comments below.

How I write and organize sermons in Evernote


In episode 56 of Preachers in Training, I mentioned that I am now using Evernote to write my sermons. I’m not sure why I resisted going to a simpler application for creating a sermon outline. For whatever reason, I thought that I needed the power of Pages with it’s tab functions and whatnot. Until one day I found myself having written three or four outlines in Text Edit on my Mac, and I thought to myself “Why?!”

I have always wanted to get better at Evernote. My procrastination stems from the fact that I originally used it in ignorance. I would just dump tons of information into Evernote, thinking, “One day I’ll get in here and organize things. Plus, I can always just search for whatever I want.” But something felt empty with that type of Evernote experience. I would read the blog posts from all of the productivity and leadership experts and hear them sing Evernote’s praises.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally taken the plunge and begun my Evernote journey.


I gave my old Evernote a quick glance and mercilessly purged almost everything in it. Then, I began rebuilding. I created a notebook called “Sermons 2014” and created a template to use for each new outline. I placed that template into TextExpander for easy access. Now, all I have to do is create a new note in my “Sermons 2014” notebook, and simply type “ssermon” (see the extra s?). Immediately, my template is inserted. It’s even formatted and everything!

Here’s my blank template that I put into TextExpander:



What do I want them to know?
What do I want them to do?

Key Terms:








Contrary to popular belief, the Zzzzz’s are not indicative of when people to go sleep! I use the Zzzzz’s simply as placeholder text. It works for me because all I have to do is double-click the line of z’s to select them, then I start typing. It’s quick and easy for me.

Let’s talk about the title of the Evernote note for a minute. I wanted to structure it in a way that would automatically order itself in the order that the sermons were presented, January through December, AM and PM. First, I set my list preferences to list the notes by title. Then, I decided to use a format that would work well with that list setting. Here are a couple of examples:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]2014-08-17 AM: “Don’t Just Stand There, Say Something!”
2014-08-17 PM: “What Life is All About”[/box]

It’s simple, but it’s working for me right now. The best part is that Evernote is automatically syncing all of my sermons to the cloud, and they’re all searchable.

What program do you use for sermon writing? How do you back up your sermons and organize them for quick access later? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

[TECH] iPhone 5c and 5s Revealed Yesterday

The brand new iPhones have been unveiled, and those of us who are ready (and needing) to upgrade are anxiously awaiting their official arrival in stores and online. As the rumors speculated, we have two new models of iPhones: the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. Let’s highlight some features of each.

[highlight]iPhone 5c[/highlight]


Price: $99 (16GB) with contract // $199 (32GB) with contract

Unlocked (contract-free) price: $549 (16GB) // $649 (32GB)

Available for pre-order on Friday, September 13.


Apple calls the iPhone 5c the “most colorful iPhone yet.” It struts an all-new, redesigned body that is available in five colors: blue, green, pink, yellow and white. Many of the 5c features are carried over from the iPhone 5, such as …

  • … the four-inch retina display
  • … the A6 chip (processor)
  • …the 8 megapixel iSight camera

But there are several new features to the 5c that separate it from the iPhone 5. First, the obvious: the colors. Apple “unapologetically” fashioned the 5c out of plastic, which, they say, lends itself to an all-new feeling when you hold it in your hand. It has a smooth outer shell that is reinforced with a steel frame.

Also in the external category, Apple is really pushing their new cases for the 5c. Apple has designed six cases to fit the 5c in a variety of colors: black, white, pink, yellow, blue and green. The cases feature the Apple logo in its usual spot on the back of the iPhone. There are also little holes on the back (under the Apple logo) that show your iPhone 5c’s color through. They sell for $29 each.

Internally speaking, the 5c claims 10 hours of LTE browsing time, 10 hours of talk time, and 10 hours of video playback time on the battery. It also has up to 13 LTE bands, which Apple claims will increase download and upload speeds from the device. While the rear-facing camera on the 5c is the same as the one of the iPhone 5, Apple has included an HD front-facing camera on the 5c for Facetime calls.

The iPhone 5c ships with the new iOS 7, which is a total overhaul of all things iOS.


[highlight]iPhone 5s[/highlight]


Price: $199 (16GB) with contract // $299 (32GB) with contract // $399 (64GB) with contract

Unlocked (contract-free) price: $649 (16GB) // $749 (32GB) // $849 (64GB)

Available on Friday, September 20 online and in stores.


The iPhone 5s is the same physical size as the iPhone 5 (part of being in the “tock” cycle of the iPhone release this year). As of this model, it is available in three “expressions:” silver, space gray (previously known as black), and gold.

Here are the other features in a nutshell:

TouchID is fingerprint recognition software that allows you to use your fingerprint as your password on your iPhone 5s. You simply touch the home button (which is now equipped with censors) and your phone unlocks. Additionally, TouchID can be used when you’re downloading apps, books, videos, or music from Apple’s stores, which means you no longer have to enter your iTunes password every time! I’m super excited about this feature, provided it is reliable enough to count on. As a side note, Apple promises that your fingerprint information is never backed up to iCloud or sent to Apple’s servers. It remains safely on your iPhone and nowhere else.

The iPhone 5s touts the A7 chip. Apple claims that the A7 is up to two times faster than the A6 (which is the chip that’s still in the 5c). The A7 makes the iPhone 5s the first-ever 64 bit smartphone. The brand new iOS 7 is optimized for 64 bit processors, which should help the 5s to feel fast and smooth in rendering graphics. Apple introduced the new M7 coprocessor, which deals with things like the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. With the M7 handling these smaller tasks instead of the main processor, we should see improved battery life.

Apple improved the iSight camera (the rear-facing camera) in the 5s. It has a 15 percent larger sensor, a wider aperture (f2.2), a special flash that Apple calls the True Tone flash to better match skin tones in low light, burst mode (which snaps 10 photos per second), and even slo-mo video!

The 5s also has the 13 LTE bands (see above, under the 5c features) and ships with iOS 7.

Apple has also designed cases especially for the 5s. There are six (made of leather): brown, beige, black, yellow, blue and (PRODUCT) RED. They are $39.00 each.

A little one-more-thing added bonus for the iPhone 5s is that it ships with iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for free!


QUESTION: What do you think of the iPhone 5c and 5s? Are you getting one? Do you think Apple’s announcements are as exciting as they used to be? Why or why not?

[TECH] Should I Wait for the New iPhone?

We now know that Apple will make an announcement on [highlight]Tuesday, September 10, 2013[/highlight]. In recent years, Apple has held a fall announcement that is all primarily about iOS. The eyes of tech journalists are on Apple as everyone anticipates the latest evolution of the iPhone. Rumor mills are kicking into high gear with alleged “leaks” and other speculations. It’s an exciting time for a geek!

So you’re eligible for an upgrade and you love the iPhone. Should you wait or should you go ahead and buy the year-old iPhone 5? My personal opinion is to wait. You’re so close! Even if you’re not interested in the latest and greatest technology, the iPhone 5 will undoubtedly lower in price once the new phone is released, which would be an easy way to save $200.

What do we know about the next iPhone? Honestly, not a lot. Here are a few rumors that seem to be rising to the top.

1. It will probably be called the iPhone 5S. Apple has historically followed a “tick-tock” cycle in releasing new phones. That is, every other year brings a new form factor and new major features to the iPhone (iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5). I’m expecting this year’s model to be the iPhone 5S. I believe it will look almost identical (if not entirely identical) to the iPhone 5. Expect internal rather than obvious, external changes.

2. Maybe an iPhone 5c? I’m not sure about this one. The rumor mill reports that Apple is planning to unveil a cheaper line of iPhones next month, called the iPhone 5c. The folks over at report that the 5c would feature “colorful shells and price and design that’ll appeal to price-sensitive shoppers, differentiate from the premium models, and get Apple off the dock and 4-inch screen faster.” Makes sense to me. Evidently, Apple contemplated the idea two years ago, when the iPhone 4S was released, but decided not to ship it. More color options and a cheaper price would definitely appeal to the masses who have been on the fence about which smartphone to buy, and this translates into more iOS users for Apple. I’ll let you be the judge on the 5c. I guess we’ll see on September 10.

3. Golden iPhone? I’m seeing consistent reports that Apple may add a golden option to the black and white iPhone colors. Weird? Different? Yes and yes. But I guess anything is possible.

4. Fingerprint Censor. Some of the alleged leaks have shown parts that may be a fingerprint censor for the 5S. Perhaps this will be an additional secure unlock feature?? Some have even speculated that a fingerprint censor may be the only secure lock / unlock feature (instead of the four-digit password).

5. Miscellaneous improvements are for sure. Otherwise, what’s the point? Perhaps we’ll see an iPhone 5S model with more hard drive space (much like the quietly released 128GB iPad). I’m hoping for Siri improvements (something to give the new Moto X a run for its money). Finally, the iPhone 5S will definitely be the most suitable iOS device to run the brand new iOS 7, which is going to be a fun, new experience all the way around.

So, when can you expect the iPhone 5S (and maybe 5c) to be available? If Apple follows it’s patterns, we can look for the announcement Tuesday, September 10, followed by a launch that Friday, September 13. This would put the release of the new iPhone for Friday, September 20, 2013 (again, judging by previous year patterns).

Question: Are you waiting for the new iPhone? What other changes do you expect to see? What do you wish Apple would do to improve the iPhone /  iOS experience?

Blog Hop: Podcasts We Like

There are over 250,000 podcasts in iTunes. They’re from 155 countries and are in over 40 different languages! Clearly, there’s no shortage of material out there for you to tap into. How do you choose which podcast(s) are right for you? That’s where today’s post comes in.

Today is an especially exciting day here on the blog! I’m happy to be participating in a “blog hop.” Five bloggers have gotten together and decided to write on the same topic: podcasts.

We’re going to list the podcasts that we listen to by categories and point you to the places where you can go and listen (or even subscribe) for yourself. At the bottom, you’ll find the links to the other blogs. Hope this is helpful!

My Podcast List

I mainly listen to three categories of podcasts: brotherhood podcasts, tech podcasts (I’m kind of a geek), and leadership / self-help podcasts. While I have listed several podcasts under each category, I do not necessarily listen to every episode. Also, I cannot endorse everything that comes from the podcasters that I have listed below. However, all of the podcasts that I have listed keep a “family friendly” environment (which, to many, is relatively defined). Please use your discretion.

#1: Brotherhood Podcasts (produced by members of Churches of Christ)

I love it when lectureships have podcasts of their lectures. Here are a few lectureships that I subscribe to each year:

A growing amount of content is being produced for youth groups. I’m excited to see Horizons in iTunes!

Podcast networks by our brethren:

  • The Equip Network – The Equip Network has, in many respects, lead the way for podcasting in the Lord’s church. I love iPreach, MinistryGeek, and Equipped Today.
  • The Light Network – I’m privileged to be one of the directors and founders of TLN. We offer eight podcasts that I believe are worth your time. Check them out on the website and let us know what you think (including what we can do better).

#2: Tech News and Information

I listen each week to several tech shows from the  TWiT (This Week in Tech) Netcast Network. Here are some of my favorites (they have around 25 podcasts total).

Another techy network, the 5by5 network, offers some great content

  • Old Tech News with Andy Ihnatko (I love anything Andy Ihnatko produces. He’s been writing tech columns for years for the Chicago Sun-Times. On this show, he discusses some of the tech headlines that he has written about.)
  • The Ihnatko Almanac with Andy Ihnatko and Dan Benjamin
  • The Mixdown with Anthony Stauffer and Dan Benjamin (This is a show about how to podcast, hosted by the founder of 5by5. They have discontinued the podcast, but it is still available in archived form.)

Are you interested in starting a podcast of your own? Then you simply MUST listen to the Podcast Answer Man, Cliff Ravenscraft. Cliff has been podcasting since the early days. He loves it so much that it ultimately became his full-time job! He offers tons of free tips that are worth your while if you’re interested in the medium of podcasting.

#3: Leadership & Personal Development

  • This is Your Life: A Podcast by Michael Hyatt (Michael Hyatt is so practical and helpful. If you love his podcast as much as I do, then you’ll jump head over heels when you discover his website!)
  • The Accidental Creative (I’m relatively new to this show, but am enjoying what I’ve heard and the premise behind the show. Worth a glance.)
  • Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn (Pat Flynn’s name has become synonymous with how to make money online. He comes highly recommended by leadership experts like Michael Hyatt.)

Now that you have seen the podcasts that I like, take a few minutes to “hop” over to the other writers who are doing the same thing today:

Adam Faughn lists his favorite podcasts here.

Daniel Howell shows you his must-hear podcasts here.

Dale Jenkins joins in here.

Chad Landman shares his list here.

QUESTION: Do you like the “blog hop” idea? What other podcasts do you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments section.