Category : Productivity

Productivity

What is your favorite keyboard shortcut?

A long time ago when I was studying and writing a lot of documents with math formulas, I loved the ctrl+= and ctrl+shift+= keyboard shortcuts. Do you know what these do? They change your entering mode to subscript and supercript in Microsoft Word. When I had to write a document that had math formulas, it was so much easier to use the keyboard shortcut than to use a mouse to select the correct icon in the menu. Since then I’ve learned new keyboard shortcuts, especially when I have to repeat the same action multiple times. I want to share with you some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts.

Each shortcut is described below, including information about which application it is used for and what it does.

  • ctrl+shift+l – starts a bulleted list. It works in all applications that are part of Microsoft Office. I write a lot of emails and I use OneNote a lot. I use bulleted lists very often.
  • ctrl+shift+n – creates a new folder in Windows Explorer. It is so much easier to type these keys than it is to find this option in the context menu.
  • F2 – enables editing in the currently selected cell in Microsoft Excel; also allows you to edit the name of the currently selected file/folder in Windows Explorer.
  • Alt+Enter – goes to the next line in the currently selected and edited cell in Microsoft Excel.
  • Shift+Enter – goes to the next line without starting a new bullet point or without sending the content to the server. It works in most Microsoft applications and also in most of the forms on websites.
  • J, K – moves you to the next or previous element. Works in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and feedly (and probably in many more apps). Those two keys save a lot of time!
  • ctrl+shift+2 – archives a message in Outlook. This one is defined by me. It allows me to quickly mark a message as read and move it to the archive folder. It supports my inbox zero system.
  • ctrl+shift+3 – reply and archive a message in Outlook. This one is also defined by me. It is a very similar shortcut to the previous one. It also opens a reply dialog, so I can archive a message and answer it with one shortcut.

The above shortcuts are just a few that I use. Keyboard shortcuts are one of the most important elements of efficient computer work. I want to learn more of them! I will create a static page on this blog dedicated only to shortcuts. I will add the ones listed in this blog, as well as any useful ones that you send me! I would love for you to share your keyboard shortcuts with me. Thanks in advance!

Photo by photosteve101CC BY

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Productivity

Your goals can be SMARTER

I’ve read about S.M.A.R.T. goals hundreds of times, and I’ve set my goals in this way for many years. I used to think that everyone did the same. But recently I found out that that’s not true! I learned this firsthand when I ran a workshop about productivity a couple of weeks ago. I planned to spend only a couple of minutes on the subject of goals, but we ended up working on this topic for much longer. Goals are often mistaken with ambitions, vague ideas, or visions. These are a great base for a goal, but they are not goals in themselves!

What is a goal? A goal is something that you want to achieve in a given time. When do you reach a goal? Have you already reached it? If you set a goal and want to know the answers to these questions, you may consider using the S.M.A.R.T. method for defining a goal.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific – your goal has to be defined in a way that describes exactly what you want to achieve. Einstein used to say that if you can’t explain something to a six-year-old kid, then you don’t understand it. I think that the same approach can be applied in this case – can you explain it to a kid so that he/she would know what you want to do?
  • Measurable – a well-defined goal includes metrics that you can use in future to measure if you’ve done what you intended to do. Do you want to read a book every day? Put in the description of your goal how many pages a day you want to read. That way, you will know if you did what you wanted to do.
  • Ambitious – it can’t be too easy to reach. You have to exert some effort to complete it. If you love to walk to work, it doesn’t make sense to set a goal for walking to work every day. You’ll do it anyway!
  • Realistic – a goal has to be ambitious, but at the same time, you have to feel that you are able to do it. You have to know whether or not you have everything that is needed to reach that goal (time, resources, materials, knowledge, friends, etc.). It would be difficult, to say the least, to attain the goal of flying to Mars. This would be (very) ambitious, but not realistic. But a goal such as “Visit NASA and see firsthand how they work with missions to Mars” is both realistic and ambitious!
  • Time-bound – there has to be a defined deadline for a goal. You have to know when you are supposed to finish what you’ve committed to doing. This deadline has to be a very specific point in time. The best deadline is a date or something like “by the end of this month.” A goal with a deadline like “sometime during the summer” isn’t time-bound.

Some people add two more letters to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym and make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

  • Exciting – to make your goal easier to work towards, try to make it exciting. We all love to work on exciting projects, don’t we?
  • Recorded – your goal has to be written down. There is no other option. You’ll want to review it from time to time. And you’ll want to have a complete list of all your goals in written form. This is a very important part of the definition of a goal.

When you define a goal using the S.M.A.R.T. method, you make sure that you actually accomplish it. That’s because you know exactly what you’re aiming for, how to know when you’ve reached it, the deadline for when it must be reached, and that it can be reached at all!
Below you can find a few examples of how the definition of a goal can be phrased.

  1. A sentence “I will save money” can become a goal when you phrase it as ”Every month, until the end of 2015, I will transfer 100PLN to a dedicated account.”
  2. An ambition “I will exercise more” can become a goal when it is phrased as: ”For the next 6 months, I will exercise 4 times a week. Each workout will be 1 hour long and will be done according to the plan described at www.xyz.com”

Can you see the difference between the vague sentences and these more concrete ones? Which one is easier to follow up with? Which one is easier to evaluate?
I strongly recommend that you state your goals in this way. Every time you think ”I will do something…,” try to rephrase it according to the S.M.A.R.T. definition. You will be surprised at how many more goals you will reach!

Photo by  Frits Ahlefeldt-LaurvigCC BY

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Productivity Technology

Clean up your inbox

I used to be subscribed to more than 100 mailing lists. My inbox was constantly bombarded with newsletters, updates, and offers. I tried to filter these emails, but it was a very cumbersome process. I didn’t want to just delete them or move them to spam, because I knew that something interesting might be in them. So I would save them, thinking I would read them later. Of course, this “later” never came. Luckily, I can say that I used to do this, and that I don’t do it anymore. Do you want to know my solution to this challenge? Of course you do!

The solution is called “Unroll.me”. This is an online service. You register for it and then connect it with your email account. Unroll.me scans your emails, looking for any sign of newsletters, subscription lists, or any other emails of this type. After scanning your emails, it gives you a list of all of your subscriptions. I’m warning you, this list is surprisingly long. You can decide what to do with each item on the list. And you have three options to choose from:

  • Unsubscribe – you will be removed from a given subscription list,
  • Add to rollup – the chosen subscription list will be added to your daily email with a summary of all new releases you are subscribed to and want to be updated with,
  • Keep in inbox – nothing will be changed, and your emails will stay in the inbox.

You should go through the list and decide what to do with each newsletter. It is a very simple process. What do you end up with? A much cleaner inbox and one single email with a summary of all new newsletters you are subscribed to. If you are one of those people who is subscribed to multiple subscription lists, you will love this service ——which, by the way, is free to use.I checked the stats on my Unroll.me account today. I was very surprised when I saw them.

  • so far, I’ve unsubscribed from 326 subscription lists. 326!
  • I still keep 46 subscriptions in my inbox
  • my every day rollup includes emails from 33 subscribed sources

Can you imagine receiving hundreds of more emails? That would require you to make so many more decisions every day! I’m very happy with this service. If you subscribe to a lot of newsletters like I do, I strongly recommend that you use this service. If you are striving to reach inbox zero, this is a solution that may help you reach that goal.

You can learn more about Unroll.me from their video

Unroll.me from Unroll.me on Vimeo.

How do you clean up your inbox? How do you manage these kinds of emails? Do you treat them as spam? What is your system?

Photo by  Sebastian WiertzCC BY

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Personal development Productivity

The miracle morning

I know what my miracle morning is. I would love to have this kind of morning every day. I bet you would like to experience it, too. But do you know what the miracle morning looks like? If not, I can give you a couple of hints.

Every morning, I try to get up earlier than I have to. I’ve had this habit for many years. I know that I need no more than 30 minutes to prepare for work and I deliberately wake up at least one hour earlier. Am I crazy? I know a few people who think so. But I have several reasons for putting myself through an early morning wake-up call every day.miraclemorning

I really like to run in the morning. It energizes me for the whole day, giving me the ability to do more. For a couple of years, this used to be my only reason for getting up earlier. But recently I read a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The concepts presented in this book were revolutionary for me. After reading it, I decided to expand my morning routine. It helped me understand why I felt so good after my morning runs and made me decide to accomplish even more before moving forward with the rest of the day.

In the book, Hal explains that by doing something for your personal development, you give yourself a huge boost for the whole day. He suggests doing this as early in the day as possible, preferably first thing in the morning. Before you go to work or before your family wakes up, you can do something for your personal growth. Isn’t it tempting? Before everyone is awake, you can exercise, read, meditate, and much more. The author proposes a structure for each morning and explains it using the acronym Life S.A.V.E.R.S.

  • Silence – meditation, prayer, etc.;
  • Affirmation – affirmation,  sentences you read to yourself about your commitment to do everything that is needed to achieve your goals;
  • Visualization – imagining yourself in a situation you would like to be in, such as doing something you want to achieve;
  • Exercise – running, push-ups, sit-ups, anything to get your blood flowing;
  • Read – reading something—a book, an article, etc.;
  • Scribe – writing an entry in your journal about what happened the day before, what you want to remember, repeat, do differently, etc.

This is what is described in the book. The author writes that these activities can be spread out over one hour or as short as 6 minutes. This depends on your personal schedule and on how much time you have. The most important thing is simply to do it every day. Even if you spend 1 minute on each element, you will still benefit from this process. Just focus on doing it every day.

This is a beautifully simple idea. By doing these six things, you can help yourself grow, develop, and improve. No matter what the rest of your day looks like, you’ll know that you’ve already done something positive for yourself. I love that concept!

After reading The Miracle Morning, I immediately knew that I had to implement these six routines. When I thought about all of the things that I could accomplish before starting the day, I wanted to implement this routine immediately. Then I remembered one crucial rule I try to live by – only one change at a time. I remembered that it’s simply impossible to build more than one habit at a time. I was already running in the morning. And suddenly I wanted to add 5 more habits to that time! I decided that I would change one thing at a time in my mornings. So I started with reading. I’ve always wanted to read more, but I constantly have too little time for it. Since the beginning of January, I’ve read 15 minutes almost every morning. So far, I’ve already completed four books only by reading for 15 minutes each morning! How awesome is that? Now I am ready to add one more thing to my miracle morning. I think it will be journaling. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you think about the concept of the miracle morning? Can you get up a few minutes earlier tomorrow and do something for yourself? Let me know how works for you!

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Productivity

The helping hand of an accountability partner

Not all habits will stick. Not all resolutions are successful. If you want to start doing something regularly, or if you have tried different methods of building a habit and are still failing, this is a blog post for you!

Let’s begin with a story. Sometime ago, I decided to start strength training . I’ve tried to do this many times in the past, and I’ve failed almost as many times as I’ve tried. This time, I wanted to do quick workouts based on the concept of the . The key idea behind this is to exercise at a high intensity for a short period of time (7 minutes), and to do it regularly. I wanted to do it every day. I tried a few times to build this habit, but I was never able to do so. I knew that it would be good for my body but I didn’t like it all that much… Once I started talking about this with my friend. He also aimed to do strength training every day, and he was doing it successfully. I envied him a lot. I thought that if I told him that I would exercise every day, I would have an external incentive to do so. So I asked him if I could send him a text message every day after my workouts. I knew that if I didn’t send that message, he would ask me about it the next day. I really didn’t want to have to tell him that I skipped a workout. This resulted in a 69 day long streak! I have never exercised so many days in a row!

That’s the end of the story. What did I learn from this? And what lesson can you take away from it?

  • ­­It is very hard to form a habit of doing something that you don’t like to do. I don’t like to do strength training. I know that it’s good for my body. Still, I just don’t like it. I can run for 2-3 hours and I love it. Doing strength training every day is a very different story. Some time ago I described some methods for building habits (for example, Seinfield’s method.) I tried this method with this habit, but it didn’t work. My dislike of strength training was much stronger than the pleasure of building a long chain.
  • Telling someone that you’ve committed to doing something will give you an additional push to do it. When I had doubts or when I heard a little voice in my head telling me it was ok to skip a day, I knew that someone would ask me if I’d failed in my commitment. That made me exercise even when I didn’t want to.
  • The person you choose to tell about your commitment has to be a person you respect a lot. This can’t be just any person. It has to be very hard for you to tell them that you failed to fulfill your commitment!
  • It is important to have a way to “report” that you did what you promised to do. I used to send a text message after each workout. If my partner didn’t receive a text message from me at the usual time, he would text me and ask why I hadn’t exercised yet.

This concept is called accountability partnership. An accountability partner is a person that helps you fulfill your commitments because he/she cares.  You don’t want to have to tell that person that you didn’t do what you promised. You respect that person and you care what they think about you.

The concept of an accountability partner is also used in many support groups. It may be called by a different name, but the idea is usually the same – to have someone who is the last resort when your willpower is low. An accountability partner is a kind of an extension of your willpower.

Use this concept wisely and only for the real challenges, those that you can’t solve using other methods. And when you are asked to be an accountability partner, treat that as an enormous sign of trust and respect. Remember, it’s an honor!

Have you ever had an accountability partner? Have you ever been one?

Photo by  Leo GrüblerCC BY

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Productivity

The longer the better

I have to admit that I didn’t know who Jerry Seinfeld was for a long time. I didn’t know that he is one of the most well-known and successful comics in the USA and the star of the the popular TV show called “Seinfield.” And the first time I heard about him was when I learned about Seinfield’s method. What is it? This is a method, described by and popularized by Seinfield,  that helps you reach your goals by forming habits with building chains.

Seinfield’s method is about doing small things that bring you closer to your goal every day. Seinfield advises putting a calendar in a visible place and every time you do something toward reaching your goal, marking it on the calendar. That way, you’ll form a chain of the days you did something to reach your goal. After some time, that chain will be so long that it’ll be hard to break. You’ll think “I’ve worked so many days in a row, it would be a pity to break it now.” Not breaking the chain will become your only task. Even when you have very little time, you’ll do whatever it takes to add another part to the chain. Doing so, you form a new habit which brings you closer and closer toward your goal.

The key to success with this method is visualization of the chain. It can be done in many ways, for example by using Don’t Break the Chain service. When you’ve managed to work on your goal, mark a day there. However, for me personally, a much better option is to put the chain somewhere in a visible place. Somewhere where I can see it very often. That is why I hang it on a wall. It can be also a hand drawn calendar. Do whatever works for you and is visible in your space.

Marking a day when you have done something toward your goal is a very pleasant feeling. And when it is the 10th, 30th, or 100th day in a row, then doing whatever it takes to put the next link on the chain is quite easy. You don’t want to break the chain!

I’ve used this method to form a few habits. On the pictures below, you can see my calendars. One of them is drawn on a piece of paper and the other one is drawn on a wall covered with chalkboard paint. It’s just a pleasure to see the progress.

Seinfield’s method is really simple to implement. The only rule is to do something that brings you closer to your goal every day and mark it on your calendar. Then do the same the next day. And the next one. Take small steps toward your goal. Just don’t break the chain!

Good luck with building a long chain and reaching your goals!

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Productivity

Tame your recurring meetings

We all have them – recurring meetings. They are in your calendar. Someone invited you to these meetings a long time ago and they just repeat every day, week, or month. Very often they do not have any meaning, yet they are in your calendar so you attend them. And you usually waste your time. What can you do about it? You can tame such meetings! How? Start by reading this post.

There are a few things you can do to make the most of of such meetings. And it does not matter if you are the organizer of a meeting or an attendee. Stop wasting your time in meetings that have no added value for you. How can you do this? You can find a few tips below:

  • Challenge the agenda of the meeting – A day or two before the next recurrence of the meeting, check if there is an agenda defined for it. Send a short e-mail to the organizer with the question “What will the topic of the meeting be?” If you don’t receive an answer or the answer is “There is no agenda,” politely but firmly say that you won’t attend it. You can do the same as an organizer. Contact all invited people and ask if they have anything for a meeting. Unless you have an agenda prepared, tell them that if you don’t receive an answer by the given time you will cancel the meeting.
  • Challenge the frequency of the meeting – Do you have a meeting that recurs every week, but there are rarely enough topics to talk about, so you keep canceling the meeting? Change the frequency of the meeting. For example, do a biweekly one. Suggest this to the person that created that meeting.
  • Suggest a main topic for each meeting and a person responsible for preparing it – If the meeting ends up with just talking about random things and the group still insists on meeting regularly, you can propose to have a main focus for each gathering. That way, there will be at least one subject to talk about and your time won’t be wasted. Always ask to nominate one person to prepare the main topic. Then everyone will be engaged from time to time.
  • Challenge the length of a meeting – What you do usually takes as much time as you plan for it. That means that even if you have a defined agenda that could be done in 30 minutes and the meeting is scheduled for 60 minutes, you’ll fill the whole 60 minutes.. If your observation is that the meetings are planned for a longer time than you really need, ask to make them shorter. You will manage to finish everything you need to, and you won’t waste any extra time.

I did the above things and changed a few of the recurring meetings I usually organize. Now we spend less time stuck in meetings, and these meetings are more to the point. We know why we meet and what we want to discuss. And now I try to ask the same of organizers of other meetings.

Can you share how you deal with recurring meetings? Do you attend them?

 

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