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Take 5 with Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill

About the Expert:

 Chris O’Neill serves as CEO of Evernote — a wildly popular note-taking and organizational app. Under his leadership, Evernote has achieved incredible growth, more than doubling users in the past two years — without a sales team. Currently 220 million people around the globe use Evernote, over half of whom work in a language other than English. Prior to Evernote, O’Neill was managing director of Google Canada.

 1. Spend precious time and attention — in business and in life — on things you feel passionate about

O’Neill admits that his move to Evernote was, at first, “intellectual.” He saw a great product with tremendous potential to scale.

“But two and a half years in, it’s really the emotional connection I have to this brand, to our users,” Chris O’Neill explains. “I get stories almost every day of how people use Evernote.” O’Neill himself relied on Evernote for his family’s “chaotic” move from the US to Canada.

When you’re working for something you feel passionate about, it’s easier, more automatic, seamless. “There’s an emotional connection to the brand and the content that people trust that really fuels the team,” O’Neill continues. “The mission for us is, how do we help people remember things, how do we help them turn an idea into action?”

O’Neill urges people to seek that emotional connection, whether at work or in their lives in general. “I think about it the way sailors used to think about the North Star — you look up and say, ‘That’s where I’m going,’ because you are going to get buffeted by the winds of life. Resilience comes from a connection that’s bigger than yourself.”

2. Focus, focus, focus

Chris O’Neill disparages multitasking: “It’s a myth. You try to do two things at once, it halves your IQ,” he quips. To be successful in business requires maintaining a singular focus. “Do one thing and do it better than anyone else,” he suggests, rather than getting sidetracked by tangent goals or features.

This path has served Evernote well, helping the leadership team view decisions “through a very clear lens.” O’Neill also points out that using Evernote can also help other companies (or individuals) retain their focus.

Consider the day-to-day life of a typical C-suite user: constantly switching context from a board meeting to one-on-one meetings to reviewing product information. “Our minds are overloaded,” O’Neill asserts. “Anything you can do to offload the things on your mind [will help you] focus on the things at hand.”

Evernote gives you a ready home for capturing your thoughts in the moment so they don’t get lost, without disturbing the rhythm of your day. And later, you can go back and review them or follow up. 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 697)


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