All posts tagged productivity

Study Hall


Could you describe the ruckus, sir?

Yes, I know they’re in detention above, not study hall, but stay with me.

I’m working on a few projects outside of my job. I’ve got Home Work, Board Games Weekly and ideas for other stuff that’s still in the spitball stage. I’ve got goals and hurdles for each, some bigger than others. The cool part of creating side projects is that you’ve got full control over the thing. The trouble is that there’s no one to bounce ideas off of when you get stuck. So, let’s to go Study Hall.

My idea for Study Hall is a way to gather people with outstanding projects that need a little attention. A real-time sounding board comprised of like-minded self-starters who want to discuss their project(s) out loud. If you’re not “stuck” but want to join a conversation with people who are, you’d be welcome to do so.

Interested? Then let’s do it. Leave a comment on this post and I’ll schedule a Google Hangout. Bring your ideas and your experience. Or I’ll tape all your buns together.

The Productivityist Workbook

My Internet buddy Mike Vardy has written The Productivityist Workbook, and it’s available for pre-order now. Mike is one of those guys I think of as “the real deal.” He’s super smart and actually cares about being productive. Not in a jargon-y kind of way, but in the way that produces results.

I’m quite looking forward to reading the book, which Mike describes thusly:

“The Productivityist Workbook is designed to help you learn valuable strategies and explore tools that will allow you to attack your work and life with a more balanced, efficient, and effective approach.”

Sounds good to me.

Email apps


There’s been a surge in iOS apps that attempt to “fix” the way we work with email and they have me thinking, “Look what we’ve done to ourselves.”

In 2013 we’re so inundated with email that a lucrative cottage industry has been constructed around dealing with it. I can remember being excited to receive my very first email messages in 1992. Now I dread that damn “ping!”. It sucks, and we’ve done it to ourselves.

Merlin Mann recently had a lot to say on this topic. My favorite bit is the following:

“Put to best use, Inbox Zero is merely a philosophical practice of learning to be parsimonious about which and how many inputs we allow into into our lives—and, then, to responsibly but mindfully tend to those inputs in a way that is never allowed to hinder our personal commitment to doing the work that really matters to us.

Once you’ve dedicated yourself to making the things you love, every inbox can and should become a well-monitored servant rather than a merciless master.”

Sweet Mary in Heaven, yes. I check mail 3-4 times during the day. Once 5:00 PM hits, I don’t look at it. Not once. Look, I’m going to die someday. I don’t want my epitaph to read “He was REALLY good at email.” There are so many things that are more important. Like, everything.

In the meantime, good luck to all the developers and thinkers who are tying to figure out how to loose the email chain. You’ve got your work cut out for you.

Aiming high in 2013: V-Day resolution review


Last February, I was significantly inspired by David Seah. David creates “Ground Hog Day Resolutions,” which are a set of goals that he revisits monthly. The goals and the monthly check-ins are meant to provide a tangible means of fostering success throughout the year. 1 I came across this practice on Valentine’s Day, so my list of Valentine’s Day resolutions (VDR) was born.

Defining a VDR

A Valentine’s Day resolution is a monthly goal. I’m working on professional resolutions, not personal (like lose 20 lbs.). To be considered, a goal must meet certain criteria. Specifically, a VDR must (again, I borrowed this list from Seah, as it’s perfect):

  1. Make me more visible.
  2. Build a product inventory.
  3. Create a reason for people to visit the site.
  4. Build a new habit.
  5. Build excellence (practice makes perfect).

Valentine’s Day Resolution Review Days

A goal that meets all five criteria will be considered. Once a goal is set, it requires a monthly check-in, so that progress/success/failure can be determined. To make things easy, I’ve made the check-in date for each month equal to that month’s number on the calendar. For example, in April, my VDR review day (VDRR) is on the 4th. In May, the 5th and so on. Therefore, my schedule looks like this:

March 3 — VDRR #1
April 4 — VDRR #2
May 5 — VDRR #3
June 6  — VDRR #4
July 7  — VDRR #5
August 8  — VDRR #6
September 9  — VDRR #7
October 10  — VDRR #8
November 11  — VDRR #9
December 12  — VDRR #10

There are no goals set for January, as the beginning of the new year is set aside for reflection and relaxation.

March Resolution Review

In March, I resolved to write one tip per day for 31 days. It was a good idea that satisfied all of my criteria: it increased visibility, built a product inventory, created a reason for you to visit the site, built a new habit for me and built excellence on my part. How did it go?

Success was moderate. After a few weeks, I found it hard to come up with new tips. So I fell short of my goal.

Lessons learned

First, I learned that I need to realistically address my ability to complete a task before agreeing to it. I have this habit of saying, “Yeah, I’ll do that!” and then walking away thinking, “I hope I can figure out how to do that.” Over promise and under deliver is not a good business plan.

Second, I have an Olympic-class case of self-sabotage. I don’t know why, but my system wants to reject success like a mismatched kidney. It’s a real problem and one I’m not sure how to address. One part of me says I’m not qualified to do X, Y and Z, while another puts obstacles in the way, just incase I should stumble upon the answer.

Which leads me to lesson number three: It’s OK not to have every answer. When you present yourself as knowledgeable in a certain area or even an expert in a field, I feel you should have all the answers, all the time. That is, I should have all the answers. Well, no one does, and I guess it’s OK to 1.) admit that publicly and 2.) lean on others for help. When asked, “How does [X] work?”, I should change my internal dialog from “I’m about to be exposed as a fraud for not knowing the answer” to something like, “Admit you don’t know and offer to research the answer and get back when you’re done.”

I also learned about my writing process, and this was the most helpful lesson of all. Because I have the attention span of a tsetse fly, 2 I often put off writing a tip until 10:00 PM or so. Wait, did I say writing? I should have said considering. This resulted in much stress, frustration and a real temptation to say, “Screw it.”

However, breaking the process down to very small steps over several days was helpful. Day one, simply brainstorm ideas on paper. That’s it. That’s all that needs to be done. Day two, draw an outline. Day three, write a rough first draft. After that, re-write and publish.

I’ve adopted this process for my larger projects, too, like my weekly posts on Unclutterer. It’s time-consuming and I’ll bet much slower than many writers work, but it’s working for me. No more late-nice stress tests.

April Resolution

April’s resolution is two-fold. The first is to publish great photos with almost every post. I’ll admit I’ve been inspired by the gorgeous photography on iMore. I can’t compete on that scale, as I’m not a pro, but I also think it’s time to move beyond screenshots and Photoshop hack jobs. So, I will use a nice, custom photo with most posts on 52 Tiger throughout April.

Also, I’ve created a magazine in Flipboard. 52 Weekly will be a round-up of the best posts from 52 Tiger during the previous week. I’ll update it each Friday. The nice photos should also serve to make 52 Weekly even more appealing. Go and subscribe (I’ll have a more detailed post about it up tomorrow).

So here we go! I’m aiming high in 2013. By December I should have accomplished 10 awesome monthly goals and moved my dream of running 52T full-time that much closer.

  1. At least that’s my interpretation. Let me know if I’m wrong, David.
  2. Squirrel!

My work day


Minus Automator, which I used to grab the screenshot. What does yours look like?

Daily Tip: Find draft emails quickly on iPhone

Here’s a trick I found quite by accident. You can jump directly to a list of your draft emails in Mail for iPhone by pressing and holding the compose button:


Jus hold your finger down and this list pops up. Tap any one to jump right to it. I just happend to press and hold the compose button and up popped the drafts list. Excellent.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Mail photos to groups easily with Launch Center Pro

I picked up Launch Center Pro 1.1 this week (here’s my full review of Launch Center 1.0 at TUAW), and it’s a nice improvement over the original version. One feature I really like is the ability to mail a photo to a pre-defined group of recipients with a tap, all from within the app. This is so much easier than adding recipient addresses one after the other in Mail. To set it up, tap the pencil icon in the upper right-hand corner, tap a “+”, select Action and then follow these steps:

  1. The Action Composer appears. Tap System Actions.
  2. Tap In-App Email.
  3. Tap Email With Last Photo Taken.


The Options screen appears. There are a few variables here we’ll fill in. Note that there are several options for each, including a contact, a prompt for input or whatever is on your clipboard. Here’s how I’ve set it up.

  • Name. Pick something descriptive. I’m using “Last Pic to Family.”
  • Recipients. This is the good part. Add as many as you like. Mine sends an email to my mother, father, sisters and their husbands and various aunts and uncles.
  • Subject. I added “Check out this picture” so I don’t have to type a subject every time.
  • Body. I’ve left this blank, but again you can add what you like.


Now it gets great. Take a photo with the iPhone’s Camera then open Launch Center Pro and tap your new action. It composes an email with your list of recipients in the “To” field, subject intact and photo attached. Tap Send and it’s gone. It’s so much faster than adding addresses by hand. Have fun!

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Search notes with Siri

sirinotesLast year I explained how to create and edit notes with Siri on the iPhone. To create a new note, tell Siri, “Create a new note,” “Make a new note” or something similar. You can give a note a title at the same time, for instance, “Make a new note packing list” or “Create a new note places to visit.” That becomes the first line of the note. To update a note say, for example, “Update my note toothbrush, deodorant, book, tickets, camera.” If you’ve got more than one note, Siri will ask which note you’d like updated by providing a list.

That’s great, but you can also search notes just as easily. Here’s how.

1. Search by date. Activate Siri and say, “Find notes from March, 2013” or “Find notes from March 7, 2013.” You can also ask, “Find notes from yesterday.”
2. Search by keyword. You can have Siri search your notes for a specific word by saying, “Search notes for ‘x'”, where “x” is the term you’re looking for. Siri returns the results as a tap-able list.

You can also ask Siri to list all your notes. This is much faster than using Apple’s Notes app manually.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Get your work down to cranking widgets

This week on Unclutterer, I describe how to get almost any job down to the simplicity of cranking widgets, and share a few mobile apps to help along the way:

“Today, I write and edit articles. I produce one podcast and participate in another. I’m working on a book. I’ve also got the responsibilities of a husband, father, brother, and son. In comparison, my job requires more attention than driving a van around town while listening to music and drinking a soda.

A good number of jobs can be overwhelming. The good news is that any job can be a widget-cranking job. The trick is identifying the widgets and getting them in front of yourself in a timely manner and on a friendly, non-intimidating list.”

I’ve also listed five simple t0-do management apps for iPhone and Android.

CARROT for iPhone makes productivity a game

carrot_sizedCARROT for iPhone ($0.99) will rub a lot of people the wrong way. If “gamification” makes you feel as uncomfortable as a virgin at a prison rodeo, this is not the app for you. Others who aren’t put off by a sense of fun will delight in CARROT’s jabs, goading and unstable personality. Part to-do list manager, part game and part unstable task master, CARROT offers a unique means to getting things done.

CARROT manages your to-do list. There’s no project management, tags or categories. Simply enter a list of tasks for the day and get to it. It makes good use of gestures. Swipe down to add an event, left to reveal the options menu and across an item to mark it as done. Almost every action has an accompanying sound effect, but you can switch those off.

As you work, CARROT offers either words of encouragement or discouragement, depending on its mood. You alter CARROT’s mood by working often, which cheers it up, or remaining idle for a long time, which ticks it off. To piss CARROT off real good, tap its “oculus” a few times. It really hates that.

As you complete tasks you level up, unlocking new features. Some are fun, like mini games, and others useful, the the ability to re-order or edit tasks. Again, that will annoy some people, while others will find it delightfully fun.

I’m not using CARROT every day, but I will admit that it’s been amusing company as I work through my “honey-do” weekend list. No, it’s not a powerful project manager. But, CARROT is a fun way to knock tasks off your to-do list. Give it a try and have a good time. Just, you know, try to keep it happy.