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 “”. This is an online service. You register for it and then connect it with your email account. 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 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 from their video from 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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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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Near-perfect performance

What would you say if someone told you to stop focusing on your weaknesses and instead work on your strengths? What would you say if someone showed you what your potential is and helped you to find out how to invest in it? I heard about that concept a couple of years ago and I have to admit it was a shock for me. I was used to working on the areas that I needed to improve or fix. Then one day I was told that it is far better to focus on what I do well and build on that.

“You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

You have talents which are a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving. You can invest in your talents by practicing and developing your skills, and building your knowledge base. This is how you build a Strength. What is a Strength? According to Gallup, it is “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance.” How can you achieve near-perfect performance? Invest in your talents by adding knowledge and skills to amplify them. Why should you do this? For better performance, and to achieve better results. You can benefit from investing in your talents both in your personal and professional life.

Strength-based development is the result of more than 50 years of Dr. Clifton’s work and research. He and his team, based on years of studies, identified 34 Strengths. Each theme comprises many talents. Below, I listed a few sample descriptions of Strengths (these are my top three Strengths):

  • Individualization: People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
  • Arranger: People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources of a project can be arranged for maximum productivity.
  • Learner: People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

You can find the full list under this link.

Gallup has prepared an assessment which consists of 177 sets of paired statements. After taking it, you will get a list of your top five or a full list of 34 strengths (there is a difference in price between these assessments).

My ambition is to write more about Strengths here. I will describe them and explain how they can play together. Some time ago, I decided to participate in a week-long training where I learned how to work with Gallup Strengths. Along with more than 20 other people from all over the world, I listened to experienced Gallup coaches and practiced  helping others discover their strengths. We learned how to show other people which strengths they have and how those strengths can help them in everyday life. There are tons of things I want to share with you about what I’ve learned. I’ll do that in the coming blog posts. I want to leave you with one thought, though: There aren’t better or worse combinations of strengths. Don’t focus on your lesser strengths. The most important thing to do is to invest in your top strengths. This is where your potential is, and this is where you will have the most opportunities for success!

If you are interested in more details, please contact me. I’m passionate about this! I can help you discover your strengths and figure out how to work with them in order to grow. You can also expect many more posts about Gallup Strengths right here on this blog. So stay tuned!

Photo by  Bogdan SudituCC BY

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Everything has its place

Inspired by David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done,” for the last couple of months I’ve been trying to put everything back in its place. And to be honest, I am shocked that this has had such a positive result. Suddenly it is easier to find everything; I know where to look for whatever I’m looking for. I feel better with cleaner space that isn’t cluttered with stuff, both at work and at home.

The rule is as simple as this: put what you have in your hands in the place where it belongs. If I follow this rule strictly, it pays off immediately. Below you can find a few examples:

  • Instead of just putting documents on my desk or in a drawer, I put them where they belong. That means I either put them in a folder (financial documents to the folder titled “Financial,” contracts to the folder called “Contracts,” etc.), or I give them to the right person (invoices to the finance department, receipts to reception, etc.). Recently, I’ve been scanning and filing the documents that I don’t need in paper form into the right folder on the computer, and then I just throw away the paper copy.
  • I try to put all clothes that I take from the drier or that I take off after coming back home in the right cabinet, on the right shelf, etc. The feeling of order on my shelf and in my apartment is priceless! Not to mention that I know where to look for my stuff.
  • I put all sorts of keys in a designated box, whether for the car, or for home, or anything else. I don’t have those stressful moments of searching for the keys just before leaving home anymore – I just know where they are! Because they’re always in the same place.
  • Computer files are moved to the correct folder. I move miscellaneous allowance from business travel to the folder with all other files of that type, and project-related files to the “Projects” folder. It is so much easier to find them when they are in the correct and predictable location.
  • Notes in OneNote are stored in the correct Notebooks and Sections. If notes from meetings with my boss are in the Notebook called “Notes/Meeting with my manager,” I can find them in seconds.
  • I put all of my spices in small jars and put those jars on one shelf. When I cook, I now know where to reach for them and I put them back in their place just after I use them. Next time I need them, they’re there.
  • I file all pictures I take in a well-defined structure. For the few last years, I’ve organized photos according to this template: year/month/date+title of the event. Thanks to this, I’m able to locate pictures from our holidays that we had in June 2014 in a blast. I just know where they are.

I could give you many more examples, but I think you get an idea. As with many things I write about in this blog, this requires a habit to be formed. If you try this approach for a week, or maybe a month, you will see how dramatically it changes your life. It is so much easier when everything has its place and is always where you expect it to be!

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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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