Want to change people’s lives for the better so they could pursue their dreams and attain them? This has always been what Charles Byrd, Evernote guru, wanted to do in life. It led him to create a course that teaches entrepreneurs and professionals how to apply Evernote to their businesses and lives so they can have less stress and find what they need within seconds. Since doing so, things have snowballed in a beautiful way to where he reaches over a million people a year with his message and builds relationships that have been fundamental to his strategy.
How To Apply Evernote In Business And Life with Charles Byrd
Our guest started life in Silicon Valley and generates webinar sign-ups by the thousand. He is promoted by some of the biggest names in our industry like Brian Tracy and Mike Filsaime, all while giving back to other entrepreneurs with his incredible productivity products and events. Charles Byrd, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much, Mitch. It’s a pleasure to be here.
My pleasure to have you, Charles and I so much enjoy our conversations. Charles and I have been friends for some time now and he is one of the smartest guys I know who is in the sticks of it and building his business every single day. Charles, can you give us a beginning? How did you get started in business? Can you tell us the story?
I guess going way back, it started with not being able to pick a degree to chase, so I got a business degree. It started in school and learning that and then I went from school. I got a Master’s in Information Technology. I worked in Silicon Valley for fifteen years. Interestingly enough, I had a few friends who started their own businesses. It was the first time it dawned on me that my peer group could be successful entrepreneurs. About the time they were buying their second homes in San Francisco, I thought, ” If they can do it, I can do it.” I decided to leave the Silicon Valley. I really wanted to change more people’s lives for the better so that they can pursue their dreams and actually attain them. Chasing their goals and working in a very structured way to attain them and also have a higher quality of life while they do it. I dove in and decided to create my first product, a course that teaches entrepreneurs and professionals how to apply Evernote to their businesses and their lives. Since doing that, things have snowballed in a beautiful way to where we reach over a million people a year with our message. We do that primarily through joint ventures with other leaders in the industry.
Charles, that’s a fairly incredible story. Someone to create their first course and to make it as successful as you did, that’s no accident. That takes some skill and it takes some work. I know that you’re here to share some of that with us. What did you do to start to get the type of popularity that you are receiving and the type of promotions that you are able to achieve with others?
Even before my Evernote course was completed, I figured out that building quality relationships with other entrepreneurs and professionals would get me further down the path. I started going to events and finding Facebook groups where my new peer group we’re hanging out and exchanging information and ideas. Basically, looking for the movers and shakers, people who are actually getting traction, sharing really valuable content and reaching out and connecting with them. If you’re online and doing that, it’s simply a matter of identifying which places online these folks are hanging out, liking and commenting back on their posts. One of the biggest tricks of all here is listening. You listen to what people are trying to accomplish and then you find ways to support them to meet their goals. By doing so, for one, it feels good because you’re helping people and two, it builds a lot of goodwill. People liked being helped. Relationship building has been fundamental to my strategy. The overused, but very true saying, “It’s who you know, not what you know,” is a massive boon to growing a business quickly. Basically, by listening and connecting with people, showing up at events, putting the effort in to fly around the country or the world to learn and to share and speak, it opens all kinds of doors. We can dig into that as deep as you’d like.
Here’s the thing that I wanted to ask you about the course. You said it was your first course, how did you decide that that was the first course you’re going to build?
Whether scientific or not, this was the process. I listed out all the things that I’d be capable of creating a course on, things that were already proficiencies. Then I narrowed it down to the things I felt actually very strong at. Ultimately, I just reflected on what tool or system has personally enabled my success both in the Silicon Valley as a director of a billion-dollar software company to starting my own business. At the top of the list was Evernote. I have very specific ways I use it and teach it beyond just simply how the tool works, but workflows that allow you to apply it to your business and your life so that you can have less stress, find what you need within five seconds. I call it your five-second superpower. Just reflecting on my own productivity, I thought, “This works so well for me. I want to enable other people that have this super power.” I had this list of things. I started crossing off the ones below and I’m like, “I’ve got to start somewhere and this is a beautiful way to help people.” I dove in on that. I got certified by Evernote. I’m an Evernote Certified Consultant. Evernote invited me to their campus. I met with their CEO, again. They had me do a Facebook live for their audience and we had thousands of people around the globe tuning in. It’s really morphed into pretty much beyond what I ever expected when I headed down the path.
It seems in a sense you become the spokesperson for Evernote in productivity, which is an amazing place to be. Wouldn’t you agree?
Definitely, and to be able to build a course that’s impacted so many lives to the point as you mentioned, working with people like Brian Tracy. I used to read his books and learn so much from him and it’s such an honor to have him share this message with his audience. Even his courses are linked to my courses inside and working with partners like Eben Pagan, and real tightens in the productivity and business-building space. It’s really based on passion and actually helping people along with just being the person you’d like to be when you work with others. It goes a long ways.
Again, these are things that people really need to hear. It’s so important that you be the people that others want to work with. I love the way you said that, Charles and it’s true. I know that in my case, if I’m going to be a good partner, I need to make sure that I am just like the type of partner I would like to work with. I have pretty high standards. I know what that feels like. The interesting thing to me and I keep dwelling on this, is that you made a choice, you chose a course, you built a course and you evolved it in the way that you have. Many other people choose courses to build and this doesn’t happen. There might have been a point where you have done some market research, where you thought about this in a way and did you check in with other groups online or how did you decide at the very end that, “I think there’s a market for this,” or was it literally a shot in the dark?
It was actually somewhat of a hybrid. In one sense, it was a shot in the dark because I just reflected on what helps me the most. Another thing I noticed when I would go to conferences and places and people ask what you do. I’d explain my Evernote course and their eyes light up for a minute because they’ve at least heard of Evernote instead of some people’s 30-second intros and you have no idea what they’re talking about. Their eyes light up for a second and then the next thing out of their mouth unequivocally is, “I have it. I know I could be using it more.”That happens consistently and universally, which really clued me into the fact, people know this is a valuable tool. They also know they’re not harnessing it or embracing it because they haven’t actually been given the workflows to evolve it.
My workflows were created from suffering. I was in a high-pressure corporate situation where I needed information very quickly and it induced enough stress that I decided to fix it. I created some really streamlined systems. Another thing that I don’t know if I realized it up front per se, per your question, but a neat thing about a product like this or a course like this, is it compliments what everyone else is trying to do. If you have an audience of up and coming authors or you have an audience course builders or bloggers or whatever the topic, if they’re more organized and they can find what they need, when they need it, they know how to manage information, they’re going to be better at doing those things. It doesn’t compete with other things that compliment them. That’s also been a part of the success of being able to build partnerships across many different markets. It’s nice to not be competing with people when you’re approaching them. You’re actually helping them.
Here’s the thing that I heard and I don’t know how much emphasis you placed on it, but to me it was like a brilliant thought that you had. You basically said the thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands already have this tool and you noticed that not many people use it very well. That’s to me a sign that number one, there’s a very large available market and at the same time, there’s not a competitor that would teach these people how to do what you already know how to do. To me, that was a huge thing. The fact that you caught that and you then decide that you were going to address it directly. That is, it seemed like the factor that may have been, in my mind, the way that you were able to get out of the gate so quickly with a successful product.
I think so because we always hear about these cool apps and then we’ll go over and download them. If we don’t get traction with them quickly, they sit on your phone collecting virtual pixel dust and you don’t actually have Evernote on your phone, what you have is #NeverNote. I want to help people move from that and actually get traction and get used out of the tool. Sharing the system, truly it was fully invented for my own purposes to organize my life. As it turns out, it’s helped thousands of other people because it’s a pretty bullet proof way to manage information and find what you need. Trying to look for something that has a user-base and there’s an open need there, it did indeed turn out to be a good product to pick.
This conversation is about productivity and his success by carefully picking the right market and pursuing it. Charles, I would like for you at this point to tell us what we could do on a daily basis to be more productive. What are we missing?
There are a few elements that people don’t think about when they think of productivity or cool apps, this or that. It’s actually what I call the power trifecta at play. This is the combination of tools, workflows, and habits. You can have the best tool in the world, but if you don’t know how to apply it to your life or your business, again, you’re not getting the value from it. Let’s say you do have the best tool in the world and some beautiful workflows, but if you don’t have the habit structures in place to capture information when it comes by your awareness or your inbox or your web browser, that awareness to kicking the habits or last piece of the power trifecta. I call them the legs of the milk stool. You take one away, you won’t be sitting very evenly. Having those in place and being aware of them. You have triggers where if you sit down for a meeting with someone, the first thing you do is make a new note, tag it with that person’s name. That way later, you’ll be able to pull that up and have no issue.
The other part is having systems and routines for your day. I’ve developed a template that I call Planning Your Perfect Today. I use it every day whenever I’m starting to feel like there are too many thoughts rattling around in my head, that’s my cue. I’m like, “I need to go to my today template,” and I have a shortcut to it in Evernote. I will click on it, copy it, paste it to a new note. It’s got an area to get things off your brain. This is a getting things done concept where we have for these ideas rattling around. We want to get them out so we can think clearly, analyze them, prioritize them. Then the template also has your top three goals for that day. You can look at what’s going on, put the top three in there and then set what’s called the Pomodoro timer, a 25-minute timer where you work solely on your most important items. First, so you can get traction in the day with that satisfaction that you accomplish of what you set out for versus that feeling like I’ve been busy all day, but I didn’t touch my top priorities. It’s a very empty feeling. Designing that into your daily planning and workflow can alleviate that stress and give you traction and build your momentum.
It sounds like a very well-organized system in the sense the way you use it is again, perfect for the way you do it. We have heard the term multitasking all of our lives. People used to brag, “I’m a great multitasker.” I’m wondering where you come down on the side of focus versus multitasking?
I come down pretty hard on. Basically, multitasking is nothing but task switching. Scientific studies show that when you do switch tasks for one, the odds of you getting back to the original task go way down, your throughput overall goes way down. You’ll always get further by blocking off time, turning off your phone, turning off notifications on your computer, and basically picking that top priority and just focusing on it. A study was done actually many years ago of how long executives focus on any particular topic. The most they’d work on anything throughout a day is six minutes. It’s like, “How are you going to get traction on anything when you’re moving between topics every minute and a half?”It’s pretty much impossible. Task switching, we live in a world where sometimes that is necessary. When we design our days and our tools and our workflows and communicate with our teams, our customers or employees, when you’re available and when you’re not, and block off time on the calendar so you can get those deeper working sessions in, that is where you really get traction and can move ahead.
I happen to agree with you. For years I prided myself on being a multitasker, but in the last several years, I have tried to stay focused on single things, like you said, for six minutes or more, in this case sometimes for hours at a time, particularly when I’m writing. I’d like to go back to your power trifecta for a moment. You talked about tools, workflows, and habits. In terms of tools we have Evernote, of course. What other tools are in your toolbox?
Being a technology and gadget nerd, there are plenty but to streamline our workflow, with my team, we use a few very core fundamental tools to keep us on track. We use of course, Evernote. We use Slack, which Evernote and Slack now natively integrate. We also use Asana for team project management. That’s a task management tool where you can prioritize and put things in different projects. Throughout a day, we’re working with those tools and different ones depending on what we’re trying to accomplish. Those are the fundamentals. Another great app for personal tasks management is Todoist. Another app I highly recommend, it’s a subscription-based email app called Newton and the reason Newton is so cool, for one, it’s very clean interface. It’s just designed to feel nice to use, but it natively talks to Evernote, it natively talks Todoist, Asana, and these other tools. If an important email comes in with your flight confirmation, straight from that tool, you can simply click on the Evernote icon and tag it flight, tag it trip to Toronto or whatever it is. Then that way, when you need that information, you can pull it up in five seconds because you have it tagged. Those are some of the core systems that go together. I’m actually more than halfway done building a new membership site that is going to focus on the workflows between these core tools. I consider Evernote to be the foundation of productivity and information management and then we can build on it with a few streamline tools that work together natively.
If someone here have Evernote and Slack, and are thinking about adding Asana after hearing you speak about it, but there are other team project management systems that are may be a little simpler to use or less overwhelming in terms of learnings. One of them I like is called Trello. Do you like Trello?
Trello came out at a similar time as Asana. They’re actually very similar in their features and abilities. I have many friends who like Trello and many friends who like Asana. Actually, I was just communicating with a friend of mine who just became the Director of Community over at Asana. We were chatting back and forth on LinkedIn. Trello is great and basically, they were just bought by the company Atlassian. They also have Jira and other tools. I’m actually partial to Asana simply the way it works, but both are awesome tools and their feature sets are actually remarkably similar.
I happen to gravitate towards Trello because we’ve used it several times for different projects and clients. When I bring a new client onboard, the first thing we do is we put together a Slack channel for every client and we put together a Trello board. The Trello board is great for me because I’m just basically getting people to post their homework in cards, in Swimlanes on Trello. Then all I have to do is check them out and then move them to the completed lane. It just seems so easy. It seems so friendly and intuitive to me. Asana, again, I just never got into it. I know it’s a great tool and I know a lot of people that use it. Let’s go to the third element of the trifecta and that’s habits. You started saying earlier that one of the things that you are very focused on is focus. Making sure that you don’t multitask or making sure that you spend enough time on each task. What other habits do you recommend for people who are looking to become more productive?
Focus is paramount and one of the key elements of managing focus is actually managing energy. When you make choices that give you more energy, that will support you achieving your goals. Also, being aware when you don’t have a lot of energy. Sometimes in the afternoon, I know I’m not going to be particularly productive, so I will go on a walk. I might take a cat nap and then I can come back recharged. Trying to use energy as a decision filter can help you in many ways. I’ll just give you some examples and some ways to help automate this, to simplify it. We want to remove as much thinking as possible because most of the decisions we make are actually on autopilot. We like to think that we are the rider on the elephant as a think one of the Jim Rohn books referred to, the elephant and the rider. The truth is we actually respond to our environment. For example, I’ll give a fun automation tip that I use and that is my house has many Amazon Alexas. At 7:15 at night, they make an announcement to the house that it’s time for the kids to start getting ready for bed. These are cues. I also have a Philips Hue lights in my house and I have it set up with an automation through if this and that. The lights all blink.
My house reminds both the parents and the kids, it’s time to slip into the evening routine. The kids would get ready and go brush their teeth and all of that. You can build in cues that empower you to get enough sleep. When you’re choosing your food, choose the food that’s actually going to give you the most energy, not necessarily the one that you may think will taste the best, because those little habits throughout parts of your life will enable you for success. Also stuff you’ve probably heard many times. If you want to go on a run in the morning, lay out your running clothes so you’re not hunting around. Even for me, the smallest thing can throw me off. If there’s something sitting on my treadmill, I might not get on it. I have a treadmill desk and I walk five miles a day. If something’s on there, I might use that as a mental excuse not to get on there or before bed, I meditate for five minutes as part of my evening routine. If there’s clothes on the chair, I might not do it. Clearing the path to just make things easy. If that chair is open and inviting, I’m going to sit down and do it. If the treadmill is clean and ready when I walked in my office in the morning, I’ll just jump on there for my first meeting. It’s designing an environment that builds towards your success.
It’s something we both have in common. We both use those types of habits to keep our life regulated. I’ll tell you some of mine, Charles. I actually get up every morning at 6 AM or 6:10 and I immediately jump online with my development team in India. They are the folks who built the ResultsBreakthrough.com system. Every day, I check to see what progress has been made. At that point, I have a cup of Bulletproof coffee to get started. Then I go sit down in a quiet place with my coffee and I read different texts from different eras of time. This latest texts I’m reading is the Dao De Jing I’m making notes everyday from the Dao and I’m putting it in the notebook and I ask myself a critical question every morning, and that question is something that I can remember to focus on throughout the day. I write what I’m grateful for. I write a quote from what I’m reading, no matter what that is, and I write my question. That’s how I start my day.
Then I get into the car and I drive to the gym. I have a machine in the house, but I never used it. It’s just impossible for me to say, “It’s right there. I could use it any time.” I need to literally take the step of getting in the car, driving fifteen minutes, going into the gym, getting my workout done. Then I come home and I am set to begin my day. My day starts at between 10:30 and 11 AM Eastern time and I usually work till about 8:00 at night, 7:00 to 8:00 where I am able to take care of all my friends on the West Coast and most of my client appointments are in the afternoons as well. That’s the basis for my habits. You said something about food and you said choose food that gives you more energy. That’s a very controversial statement. I mean we have people listening who are Paleo, who are Vegan, vegetarian, who are McDonald-an. What type of foods do you guys choose?
I’m mostly Vegan, although we do make an organic pizza from time-to-time. I know not everyone thinks this way or will agree with it, that’s fine with me. In the morning, I want a health shake. We have this organic food box that gets delivered and I want Kale, collard greens, whatever. The greener and healthier, the better. Then throw in some blueberries. We have a Vitamix shake blender. Throw that stuff in and your body just sings when you do that. I always default to the healthiest food I can find. This is not meant to brag. It’s meant to make a point. I basically weight what I did in high school. I never have to struggle with certain things where someone might say, “I want to lose ten or fifteen pounds and that’s great.”If you have a diet that makes it so you never have to try, because it’s just part of how you live, life is easier. It’s about the little choices and the routines on the way that become normal for you. So many of us struggle with influxes and then they’re doing cleanses or this or that. My opinion is, instead of setting a goal and then dropping down and hitting it, and then you go back to “normal,” which evolves to the same problem that happened the first time, why not design a lifestyle that omits you from those problems and you can just not even think about it anymore. You have a way to maintain your ideal.
It sounds like the power trifecta here is the way to go. I love the habits that you’ve developed and I’m a big believer in all three of your trifecta items. We’re definitely on target with that. Let’s switch gears for a second, Charles. I have a couple of questions I want to ask you and these are the questions that I believe really helped everyone get to know you better. Here’s the first question. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
That’s a big question when you add in all of space and time. It would be fun to meet Einstein. It’d be fun to have a beer with Obama, I am sure. Elon Musk would be awesome to chat with for awhile. That guy is fascinating.
He sure is. Did you get flamethrowers? Elon is now selling flamethrowers to his fans. I think I saw this somewhere on Instagram. I think he sold 20,000 flamethrowers to people that know him through The Boring Company. He is one interesting guy. He is someone who literally is in a place today where I don’t think any entrepreneur has been in a long time. Steve Jobs, I think is the person who’s compared the most that Elon Musk.
The thing I just respect so much about him, there are a few things I can see how they’ve provided value but I don’t particularly respect in the sense that working ourselves to death without having a life is probably a missed opportunity considering you only get one. That said, the way that he can disrupt industries and fight back against old arguments by designing technology that makes the old arguments a joke, by making the fastest sports cars in the world that have no electric motor in them or making rockets that land and cut the cost down, that innovative approach. The Gigafactory, one of my former colleagues is the Chief Technology Officer at Tesla and one of my good friends, Brian, is a project manager over in the Sparks Facility at the Gigafactory. I watched those rocket launches on YouTube live streams. You can see the future right in front of you and it’s exhilarating.
I’m a big fan of Elon as well. Here’s the grand finale question. This is the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
I chased the concept of bringing productivity to people because of a personal story about my mom. I’ll keep it brief, but basically she’s a busy professional in the healthcare industry as an OB nurse. One day, she called and said she’d been in a minor car accident the day before because she thought she was pressing the brake, but she wasn’t. Then that day, she was reaching for a fork and kept physically missing it by six inches. They took her to the hospital and found she had two Stage 4 brain tumors and was going into brain surgery that night. The process of going through that which was very surreal, it really solidified to me that if we have things we want to accomplish in life, this is our time to do it. There’s no time for the sidelines. There’s time to regroup and recharge, but this is our time to accomplish what we’re here to accomplish. We want a high quality of life while we do it. I think by empowering people to be more productive in meeting their goals, for one, it will make the world a better place, two, it will give them more life satisfaction, three, it will provide a better life for their family. In caring for my mom for the last year of her life, it really crystallized for me and that was one of the reasons I decided to instead of reach 6,000 people at a billion-dollar software company with my training, now I reach over a million people a year and I can make a lot bigger impact. I think streamlining a path to people’s success with productivity tools and concepts will make the world a better place and it already has.
I think the message here is very clear. If you are here and you’ve been on the fence about really moving forward and starting a business or taking your business to the next level, my suggestion and Charles’ suggestion is do it now. Don’t wait. The time is now. You never know what tomorrow brings and no matter what tomorrow brings, never be in a place of regret about how you spend now. Charles Byrd, you have been such a great guest and you’ve shared so much incredible wisdom with us. I want to thank you for being here. It’s been a pleasure.
Thanks so much for having me, Mitch. I always enjoy our time together.
I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon, Charles.
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