Weekly Links: email archives,text expantion, planning on paper and coffee

Kicking off again with a weekly post were I share some interesting links from around the web on productivity, tools, creativity, email, GTD, projects.

How to Use Gmail Search to Clean up Your Email Archive

Lifehack.org has a very interesing post on cleaning up your email archive from unnecessary cruft of system notifications, twitter updates, comments notifications etc. Good read if you want clean up your archive.

Text Expander 4

Text expantion is fantastic way to save time in writing repetive things and speeding up filling forms and other documents. If you on Windows have a look at PhraseExpress. App with ton of potential.

Ten Ways To Get More Done At Work

A good reminder of simple strategies that can help you focus on your actual work.

What You Don’t Know About How To Use A Calendar

A list of ideas what calendar is for. My favorite –  if it has a date and time put it on calendar.

A Beginners Guide To Planning On Paper

Paper still have a place in productivity arsenal of even most die hard technology users. Michael share some very interesting observations on how paper assited him in planning.

The Search for The Ideal Coffeemaker

To many coffee is synonimous with productivity and getting a kick to get thigs done. Mike Vardy shares some thoughts on finding ideal device to make your coffee.

A guest post on technology connectedness and being alone

Today’s post is guest post from Magdalena.
Magdalena is my wife and an intuitive coach, helping people embrace their inner selves. She regularly writes about spirituality, personal growth and empowerment on her website Embracing your innerself

Promises of technology

Tech tool promises to help us do more.Whenever new technology is invented new social network is created, new productivity app is built we get the promise that it will help us do more, achieve bigger things etc. To an extend it does but there is a fine line which crossed means we are drowning in information, unfinished tasks which we never do.

For me one of the things that appeals in paper, is that it’s single focus “device” – it’s a page that can be filled with anything. It also forces you to limit the amount of stuff you take on and really decide what’s important. After all the principle less is more still holds true.

Hope you will enjoy this post and think how can you make better use of technology so that it really enhances rather than overburdens our life.

Over to Magdalena

This week’s inspiring video is by Sherry Turkle who talks about being connected yet being alone.

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Sherry is a psychologist who has spent over fifteen years studying the impact of the Internet on our lives. In this time her approach has changed from very optimistic to more concerned one. Sherry Turkle’s talk is a wakeup call for all of us. She says it’s not too late to change our way of relating with technological gadgets that became ever present in our lives.

We wake up and start the day by browsing Internet on our smart phones and check different apps. We go on to Facebook and Twitter, updating our status. Than we move on and check our emails. We spend our day glued to the smaller or bigger screens of various devices, and we end the day lying in bed holding the glowing in the darkness screen before we close our eyes. This is our reality. The more extreme vision of it was portrayed in a book called ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ by Gary Shteyngart. In Shteyngart’s world people don’t communicate anymore because they prefer to engage with their little pendant like devices, which stream constantly tons of data and images. This way of living was so sad, lonely and meaningless that it shook me to the core. You know what, we’re not far from it and if we keep on going like this, we’ll be there rather sooner than later. Sherry Turkle is already aware of that!

What is so appealing in technology that we became transfixed by it? Sherry answers:

  1. Those little devices are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.
  2. Technology gives us an illusion of being in control – we chose where we give our attention.
  3. It allows us to hide from one another as it provides us with an excuse that we’re busy as we sit and look into the screens – no one will interrupt us.
  4. It creates just enough of the distance between people so we are neither too close nor too far from each other.
  5. It provides us with time and space to edit and delete what we’re going to say, which helps us to create and maintain the image we want to project into the world.
  6. It creates an illusion that someone is listening to us.
  7. It gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship – it’s an easier option, less messy, more controllable.
  8. It makes us believe we’re never alone – to cover up our growing anxiety and discomfort about being on our own.
  9. It creates a compelling concept of ‘I share therefore I am’ – we think: I have to have feeling so I can share it.

We became so wrapped up and smitten by modern technology, we even haven’t noticed that the price we’re paying for using it is huge:

  1. We have removed ourselves from our emotions, bodies and essentially our lives.
  2. We deny attention to ourselves and others.
  3. We are losing an ability to really connect with others as well as our ability of self-reflection.
  4. We are less and less able to create and maintain face to face connection and have a conversation.
  5. We became to expect more from technology than from each other.
  6. We are losing our capacity for solitude and that prevents us from connecting with our own self and with others.

I’ve noticed that humanity has a tendency to get so excited with new inventions, those new shiny toys, that we get carried away and become out of touch with reality and consequences of using those toys. Let me give you an example. In the 50’s cigarettes were very popular and people were so excited about it that nearly everybody smoked at the time. Cigarettes were marketed in a way that when you picked up a cigarette it meant you’re an independent, strong man or an interesting, mysterious woman. The massage bypassed the mind and hit you in a soft spot and before you knew it, you were doing it. It was cool at the time to smoke. Now, over sixty years and tons of scientific studies later, we all know smoking is not good for your health and it’s uncool nowadays to smoke. Not to mention that millions of people also died of smoking-related diseases.

Same principle applies to technology. It is relatively new, so we again went for it without taking a breath and asking is it really beneficial for us? Thing is, we can learn from our earlier mistakes and wake up now, save what we can before it’s too late, like for many smokers.

Sherry Turkle doesn’t say technology is bad so let’s get rid of it. She simply urges us to approach technology in a spirit of self-reflection and to use it to learn more about ourselves. She also encourages us to develop more aware relationship with our devices, other people but most importantly with ourselves. She asks us to spend more time in solitude, connecting with our own self, so we know how we are and are more able to truly connect with others. Sherry also asks us to embrace the richness and messiness of human relations, the good and boring aspects of them. Talking and listening to others in the old fashioned conversation are the most effective way of learning and understanding each other.

Life is an art of staying in balance, so following that thought, we could start using technology to our advantage in more balanced and healthy manner.

Let’s put away all of the devices aside every day and connect in a deeper and more meaningful way and our efforts will be generously rewarded by the richness of the human experience.

As always I look forward to your comments.

 

Tasks Events and Android home screens

Not that long ago I used to use Filofax planner to keep tabs on calendar and tasks, now my android phone has replaced both. Although I still use paper notebook for capturing notes, ideas and general writing, I find that smartphone is much better for staying on top of my appointments and task list.
For any information to be useful it must be easily accessible and visible. If there are too many steps, clicks it will not be used. There will be too much friction. Some interesting thought about friction can be found on Michael’s blog.

As result this got me thinking on how to setup my phone, so that I can easily see what’s upcoming and what I need to do today.

A great feature of android phones is that they provide ability to create multiple homescreens which in turn can display widgets. In essence rather than refer to actual app on a phone or wait for it to remind you about something, I can quickly scan the latest information on my screen.

I created an addiotional homescreen completely dedicated to my calendar and task information.

For that purpose I decided to use Agenda Widget for Android to show my calendar information. It’s fairly chunky download but it provides very nice graphical representation of my calendars and appointments. It also has a tons of customisation so it should easily fit everyones needs.

As for the tasks, I’m using Remember the Milk which provides a number of wigdets to choose form. RTM has been my task manager of for a number of year so I really enjoy making the most of it. At the moment I’m using a widget to show me all tasks due today but I can swap it for any type of list.

On daily basis I refer to this screen to review what’s coming up next. I also at least try look at it every evening too so I can prepare for next day and see where I’m.

What do you use to stay on top of your daily agenda? Do you have any way of keeping your appointments and tasks visible?

Be BOLD to be productive

Nicholas Bate has a great little book on how to be bold called “Bold 101“. It contains 101 ideas on being bold, on taking the responsibility and make a change, on doing something that’s against status quo, on going the extra mile.
This little book got me to think about being bold in the context of staying productive and getting things done. And I think there is a very close correlation between the two. There is almost infinite amount of things that demand our attention so it’s up to us to fend of the unimportant and focus on what really matters.

There are couple ways you could practice being bold and increase your productivity:

Say “No”

Say “No” to your co-worker, to your boss, to your friends, to annoying sales guy. Say no to things that are not important.

Before taking on anything new qualify the priorities, think whether you can take another project and politely say “no, this isn’t the right moment”.

Some will be surprised, perhaps angry or hurt but it’s your time and attention that you need to manage and protect.

Delegate

Many of us love to be important, to be asked for advise and help, to be needed. It gives our ego this warm and fuzzy feeling. We also like to show off how productive, effective and organised we are, how we can handle dozen of projects and goals all at the same time. But all this is short lived, after a very short time we will get tired and burned out. There is only so much we can handle.

Rather than trying to do everything on your own, find other people that can do the same job better, cheaper and smarter. Perhaps they know a particular system better then you or they are more familiar with complexities of the process. Don’t take everything on your self.

Be BOLD and ask for HELP and pass work to others. I’m sure they will be more than happy to assist.

Remember different people have different talents, let them hone and practice them so they can grow too.

Delete

Each day there is a dozen, perhaps two or even a hundred of messeges land in everyone’s inboxes. How many of those messages are important?

Do you need to read everysingle message even if you’re only cc’d on it?

First of all it’s impossible to review every single one and second of all looking at email all day long is probobliy not on your job spec.

Be BOLD and start deleting stuff you don’t want to see, if it’s not important that don’t bother don’t waste your time.

Seize the project

Are you a member of project team that seems to stall and lost it’s impetus? For weeks noting has been going on with this project you’ve worked for months or even worse the person supposedly driving it is running around in circles and can’t decide what to do next.

It’s perfect opportunity to be BOLD and take the leadership.

Use the GTD’s 5 stages of planning a project to define the successful outcome, outline the plan and necessary actions. Then either present to project sponsor or simply start implementing.

Conclusion

Being BOLD sometimes  have negative association for being rude, obnoxious and totally out of line. You can see it that way but there are better ways too look at it too. Being BOLD is making a statement taking responsibility and doing what’s right and not what’s the easiest.

If you want to lear more about how to be bold definitely routinely visit Nicholas Bate blog. Highly recommended.

Avoiding time inflation

Lifestyle inflation is a concept whereby any increase in the income is spend on consumption rather than saved or invested for the future.
A very similar conclusion can be made to managing time. Something I call time inflation can be applied to your day. The main premise is that any extra time you get due to canceled meetings, calls etc is wasted on checking email or browsing the internet.

Continuing with such approach is not most effective way to use the time available. after all once it’s gone it’s gone.  There are three basic factors that contribute to such situation yet they can be easily overturned.

No plan

Very often we don’t plan our days so if we get unexpected window of time we don’t know what to do with it. If next meeting is in 2 hours and nothing interesting showed up to do it’s easy to quickly check the web, look at email, twitter etc.

To counter that make sure you have a list of small tasks you can accomplish in 15minutes or less. Any time something get canceled or delayed look at that list and see what you can do. Also make sure that your list is updated regularly.

No habit of checking master task list

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You can start thinking of all the different things you could do but that will waste more of your time. Rather than come up with different tasks, it’s best to refer to your master list and select something to complete.

If your don’t have a habit of looking at your list one way to develop one is to surround yourself with few different reminders. You can stick a not on your monitor saying “check master list”, you can also set up reoccuring appointments in your calendar prompting you to check the master list.

No master list to work from

Where do you keep your tasks are they scattered around on dozen sticky notes, different files or notebooks? How do you know which is the one most up to date?

In order to make your work easier create a single list of all your tasks. This way there is only one place to refer to and it’s always easy to find something to focus on. If you want more granularity categorize your tasks based on few criteria that fit your workflow. This may include time needed, energy, location etc. Once in place your master list will make it easy for you to get stuff done and not to lose any tasks.