Interruption Prevention Strategies

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If you work in an office, you probably deal with interruptions. Now, not all interruptions are bad--the whole point of working in an office with other people is so that interactions can occur. However, it is possible to get into a situation where your entire day is spent dealing with interruptions. If you need to cut down on the interruptions in your life, consider some of these methods. 1. No seating If you have your own office, you might consider getting rid of the extra chairs. People are less likely to come in and stay for a long period of time if you don't have a place to sit. You can keep a fold-up chair in a closet or behind your desk for situations where it is needed. 2. … [Read more...]

Simple Time Savings Investments

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Poor organization is one of the biggest productivity killers. When you can't find a tool you need or have to sort through a pile of outdated papers to find the one you are looking for, it slows you down and eats up valuable minutes that could be spent on something more important. In this post, we are going to look at some simple things you can do to help make your life more productive by organizing specific areas. Most of these are things where 15 minutes of focused effort will go a long way toward saving you hours in the future. 1. Clean out your closet You've probably heard the saying, "You can't see the forest for all of the trees." A similar, but less popular quotation is "You … [Read more...]

Going Back to College

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Summer is ending and students are headed back to school. But what if you are past college age, replete with family responsibilities, holding down a full time job, and still feel like some additional training would improve your career? Thanks to the Internet, there are all kinds of options for getting a degree while keeping your current job and still making it to your kid's baseball games. I recently completed an online master's degree in software engineering through Harvard's Extension School, and I can definitely say that in a world where you have to constantly retrain yourself with new skills, online education is the future. Most online degrees give you some flexibility regarding … [Read more...]

Getting the Most out of College

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With students all headed back to school, it is a good time to look at some ways to get the most out of college. College is a fascinating place and most people won't fully appreciate all the opportunities they were given until years later. With that in mind, here are some tips for students wanting to get the most out of their college experience. 1. Networking A large part of the value of a college education is the people you meet, but to really take advantage of that you are going to have to intentionally network with people. Don't be the person who sees every person as a potential "networking" opportunity, but do be someone who is friendly and keeps in touch. Facebook and LinkedIn … [Read more...]

Becoming Selective

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Back in Mozart's day, music was a rare thing. If you had an opportunity to hear good music, it was a special treat and something you'd definitely want to take advantage of. Now days, music can be found everywhere. People listen to it while working, while driving, while exercising. Music can put you to sleep at night and wake you up in the morning. With access to music everywhere, the hard part is deciding what you are not going to listen to because there are just so many options. It wasn't that long ago that books were a rare treasure. They were difficult and expensive to produce. Even after the invention of the printing press, there was limited choice on what was available to read. … [Read more...]

Making Yourself Indispensable

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Since the economy is now in recession, the current state of affairs is causing many people rethink how they view their job security. Those life-long  jobs we hear our grandparents speak of, unfortunately, do not exist in the numbers they once did. For most people, their best option is to make themselves one of the employees that stands out from the others in terms of willingness to work, enthusiasm and dedication to the business. Here are a few suggestions to help "recession-proof" your job. 1. Keep a positive attitude I once heard a story about a person in nursing school that was considered for a job over others, simply because of their good attitude. While many other students were … [Read more...]

Reader Question – Smarter People

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What makes some people smarter than others? How smart someone is can be measured in many different ways. The most common standard way of measuring intelligence is an IQ test. If you have an IQ of 100 then you are a completely average person. If you IQ is above 100 you are above average. A raw IQ score measures on type of intelligence. However there are many people with modest IQs who have amassed an extremely large amount of knowledge. This pool of knowledge makes them extremely intelligent. Often they will outperform someone with a higher IQ simply because they know so much. In theory, there is very little you can do to improve your raw IQ. However you can very easily expand your … [Read more...]

Father’s Day iPad Giveaway

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I've been writing some posts for Manilla and they asked me if I'd be interested in working with them on an iPad contest giveaway for Father's day. The long legal rules are here, but here is how it works in a nutshell. Once a day from now until the day after Father's Day I'm going to tweet a question from @Productivity501 tagged with #manilladad. Tweet back an answer (also tagged with #manilladad, so we can track the answers) and you will be entered in the contest. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Manilla is going to handle contacting the winner, etc. If you want all the legal details, check them out here. Hope to see  your answers on Twitter! … [Read more...]

Christmas Gift Ideas

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Christmas is coming soon so I thought I'd do a few posts with gift ideas based on things I've used this year and found to be exceptionally useful and or fun. Here is the first post and I'll try to do a few more as I think of ideas and have time to write about them. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments. You might be able to suggest the perfect gift that another reader hadn't though of. Fingerless Gloves Fingerless Gloves ~ $3.50  My office is in the walk-out basement of our home. It is typically 60 to 65 degrees in the winter, but when there is a strong wind on the walk out portion of the house, it can get a lot colder. This isn't to big of deal because I can … [Read more...]

LifeRemix Announcements

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Productivity501 is a member of LifeRemix--a network of bloggers who are all focused on enriching people's lives in one way or another. Everyone has been pretty busy writing books, starting podcasts, and creating courses. Here are four of those projects ranging from a free manifesto PDF to a paid course on living without clutter. The Tower Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Non-Conformity has released a new manifesto called The Tower. You might be familiar with his previous Brief Guide To World Domination. The Tower is a beautiful PDF that is designed to be viewed on an iPad. (But in my experience looks very nice on a normal computer screen.) There is also a Kindle version available. It … [Read more...]

Shopping Challenge Wrap Up

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Thank you to everyone who participated in the Holiday Shopping Challenge. We had a lot of great Christmas shopping tips and suggestions. The winner of the $250 gift card is Jennifer Marie. She was chosen based on a random number from www.random.org. So how did my shopping, turn out? You can read about it below. My Dad The local hardware store was offering a sale on "gear wrench" sets. These are wrenches with the normal open end on one side, but the closed end has a gear mechanism in it that allows it to turn the bolt in one direction, but it "slips" when you push it the other. So it lets you ratchet the wrench back and forth to turn the bolt without needing to take the wrench off and … [Read more...]

Announcements

Here is a collection of products, events and applications that people have sent in over the past few weeks that might be of interest to readers. If you try any of these things out, please take a few minutes to leave a comment on your experience for others. Manvotionals The Art of Manliness has launched their second book, this one is called Manvotionals. Christmas is coming and it might be the perfect gift for a man in your life. Executive MBA Online Fair The Economist is holding an Executive MBA online fair.  Executive MBAs are generally aimed at people who are mid career and follow a schedule that allows busy professionals to complete their MBA degree while working full time. They … [Read more...]

End Malaria Book

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The Domino Project has released a new book called End Malaria. The book is available for the Kindle and in paperback. It is a great idea! They got a bunch of authors together and put together a book where $20 from every sale goes to help end malaria. The contents are short essays by many famous business authors. There are three sections: Focus, Courage, Resilience. The contents of the book are great. They are all short and you can pick it up and randomly read any page to get something out of it. What most impressed me though was just the idea for the project. It is a great example of how creative thinking and a little organization (ok maybe a LOT of organization) can bring people … [Read more...]

Productivity501 Community Links

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A week or so ago I asked what Productivity501 readers had been writing. This post highlights some articles written by our readers. I encourage you to check them out. If you see something that you like, be sure to let the author know in their comments or in the comments here. As someone who does a lot of writing, I know first hand how encouraging it is to hear from a reader. Managing Expectations Begins with your Members and Clients - William Biggs works as a communications consultant and has been a long time reader of Productivity501. This is an article he wrote about working with donors for non-profits. Much of it is relevant to the for profit sector as well. Don't Focus on … [Read more...]

Do Airlines Need a CLO – Chief Lying Officer?

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My wife, two kids and I had a trip planned to Florida to spend a week with her family on the beach. Originally we were going to drive, but at the last minute decided that was a bad idea and bought plane tickets on Delta. My parents graciously drove us to the airport in Kansas City. We checked our luggage and paid the $50 to take the pack and play and our suitcase. The fee was expected, but it still amazes me how much airlines can get by with. Oh well, at least Delta doesn't charge for using the restrooms like some airlines are trying. We went through security, found we had drastically over-estimated how long that would take, and settled in to wait for a few hours watching the planes with our … [Read more...]

News, Quotes, Thought & Misc

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Google Plus & Google Apps Google Plus is starting to offer games on their new entry to social networking. However, they still haven't figured out how to let Google App users (you know, the people who pay google to use Gmail on their own domain) join the service. It seems odd to roll things out to you paying customers last. Are Ebooks a Good Deal? I've seen from several sources that students are buying ebooks in record numbers.  I can understand the advantage of ebooks, but the economics are usually pretty poor. If you buy a real book, take care of it and sell it to someone taking the class next semester, I think you'll have a hard time justifying the cost of ebooks. Of course if … [Read more...]

Links of Interest

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Here is a short collection of very random links that may or may not be of interest. They are just various things that I've found interesting and wanted to share. Non-Profit Donations - Most people are involved in some type of non-profit organization.  This post lists some of the options available for accepting donations online.  The good news is that it is a lot easier than it used to be. The Thin Home - I'm not sure I'd want to live in a house this thin, but it sure makes efficient use of the space between two buildings. Throwing a tomahawk - I spent many hours trying to figure out how to do this with hatchets growing up. First and last shuttle launch - This is a picture of a … [Read more...]

Gojee Recipes

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Gojee is a web application that helps you find recipes. You can kind of think of it as a recipe search engine. You tell it what you crave, what you have and what you dislike. I told it I have peanut butter and meat. The results included several Asian recipes with different types of peanut sauces and a bunch of different types of deserts (without meat). When you find  a recipe you like, Gojee gives you a link to the original recipe site.  It is a nicely designed site and each recipe has a picture for people like me who have a hard time visualizing from a recipe. If you avoid trying new exotic recipes because you don't like buying a bunch of ingredients you don't already have, this is the … [Read more...]

Joplin After Tornado

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A few weeks ago my wife and I went to Joplin to help with the cleanup.  The the pictures and videos you see don't really convey the level of devastation.  Last I heard there were around 150 people who died.  Just looking at the destruction, you'd assume that thousands died. From what I understand, FEMA is going to pay for 90% of the cleanup if it is done by early August. The city will be responsible for the remaining 10%.  However, volunteer hours count toward the city's portion.  So if you are in a position to go help, you'll be helping in more than one way. We spent half our day clearing a bunch of trees from a neighborhood near the hospital that was … [Read more...]

Self-Reliance by Emerson – Review and Free eBook

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Self-Reliance is an essay that was first published by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1841. Emerson's didn't always write in the most accessible prose, but the essay is short enough that it should be within the reach of most readers. In Self-Reliance Emerson is issuing a call to avoid conformity--without worrying about what other's think. This essay contains the following quote which you may have heard before: To be great is to be misunderstood. Since Self-Reliance is old enough to be out of copyright, you can easily find a copy from Project Gutenberg or other online resources. The Domino Project has printed a nice hardback edition that they were kind enough to send me.  The right hand pages … [Read more...]

Aging – Your Auto Self-Destruction Timebomb

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Everyone gets older, but have you ever wondered why? Our bodies heal themselves, so why do organs eventually fail? The answer is fascinating. Our cells divide and make duplicates of themselves, but each time this occurs there is a section of the DNA that gets a little bit shorter.  DNA replication starts at the middle and a bit of the ends don't get copied. These sections are called telomeres. Telomeres are basically end caps to the information in our DNA.  If this was important information for creating a new cell, then the duplicate cell would be incomplete. The telomere data is not necessary data for the creation of a new cell.  However each time the DNA is duplicated the telomere region … [Read more...]

Should he drop out of college?

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In a recent conversation, I had a friend explain how he was trying to talk someone out of going to college. The young man he was referring to was going to a community college to appease his mother who wanted him to go to a university. He was talented at computer repair and my friend thought he should drop out and focus on acquiring more computer troubleshooting skills. I disagree with my friend's assessment, but it made me wonder why I value college education so much. Surely there is something to be said for someone who enters the workforce and learns everything then need to know through on the job experience. Is my belief that getting a degree is better rational or is it just … [Read more...]

Questions and Answers

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Looking at my web stats, here are some of the frequent questions people end up coming to Productivity501 searching for.  In this post, I simply wanted to list them in one place to make it easier for people to find the answers to frequently asked questions. What is a professional email address? A professional email address is something that you feel comfortable giving out to someone who might want to offer you a job.  1hotgirl@hotmail.com is NOT a professional email address.  A professional email address looks best when it is from your own domain.  So sue@suesmith.com looks very professional.  However, using gmail or another service can look professional as well.  Something like … [Read more...]

iPod Giveaway

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Congratulations to Violeta on winning the iPod. If you are interested in other contests, go ahead and enter so you'll be notified when they run. We should be doing another one in the next few weeks. We haven't given anything away for awhile, so I thought it is about time we did another contest. Here are the details: The iPod is going to be given away to one person who likes both Productivity501 and Mark Shead's page on Facebook. If you have already liked both pages, you are already entered in the contest. If either page gets over  750 "likes" we'll give away two iPods to two different people. (So sharing the contest with your friends may double the number of prizes given out … [Read more...]

Beware of False Praise

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Every one likes to hear how awesome they are.  I like it.  You like it.  One of the best things you can do to advance your career is to sincerely compliment the things you admire in the people around you.  The key here is the word sincerely. However, you need to be very aware of praise that is being given to you with ulterior motives.  Some people will try to flatter you just to get on your good side. Others will outright lie in hopes of getting you to make a mistake or look foolish. In 2003 there was a singing competition held in several major cities around the US.  Contestants were selected, flown to Hollywood to take part in a competition.  They were given vocal coaching, makeovers … [Read more...]

Useful Links

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Here are a few things I've run across that I thought might be worth sharing.  If you find these types of things useful, you might want to subscribe to my personal blog at http://blog.markwshead.com. These are some of the types of things I usually post over there that may or may not eventually make it to Productivity501. Look for the red button on the right hand side to subscribe by email, or use an RSS reader. Charcoal Bob Charcoal Bob is a website designed to help you grill food.  The main feature is a grilling calculator.  You tell it everything you want to grill, what the temperature is outside, what type of grill you have, and when you want to eat and it will give you a minute by … [Read more...]

Reader Questions

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Here are some random question we've had from visitors to this site along with some attempts at answers: How does a paperless office work? A paperless office means different things to different people. Some people consider themselves paperless if they aren't storing any paper.  Other people are trying to keep from producing or consuming paper. I once worked at a hospital that switched to a paperless system in order to save a couple million dollars in medical records storage space.  They still produced and consumed paper, but the eliminated the storage part. Most people who want to move to a paperless office are going to try to find some way to scan in their existing documents so storage … [Read more...]

My Company Newsletter

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My company spends about 25% of our effort doing consulting with other businesses to help them become more productive and efficient. If your job encompasses any type of business responsibility, you'll probably benefit by signing up for my monthly business newsletter. The content covers a wide range of business and technology information that will help you make better decisions, avoid dangerous technology mistakes and make your business operations more efficient. You can sign up using the form below (you may need to click through to the website if viewing in RSS or email) or go to my company site and sign up in the right sidebar: Xeric Corporation Xeric Corporation … [Read more...]

Productivity501 Design Update

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I've updated the design of Productivity501, please check it out and let me know what you think.  In particular, let me know if you see anything that looks wrong or needs fixed. The design is similar to the original so you may not notice too many changes.  The biggest differences are in the ways the site deals with images--it will now autosize images so we don't have to do quite as much work in an image editor. Let me know what you think!  Also if anyone has suggestions for improvement, please let me know. I can't change to match every suggestion I get, but I'd appreciate any feedback about any aspect of the site.  It helps me plan ahead for the next time we revamp the design. For anyone … [Read more...]

Circles, Amex, Passwords and Public Relations

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I got an interesting call last week. The vice president in charge of public relations from Circles gave me a call. Circles is the company that provides concierge services for American Express. A number of their current and former employees have commented here at Productivity501 and one revealed what Circles considered to be proprietary confidential password from their client, American Express. The VP of PR asked that I remove the password. Me: I vaguely remember a comment that had some type of access code in it, but it just looked like a telephone number. Is that what we are talking about? Circles Public Relations: It has the same number of digits as a telephone number, but it is … [Read more...]

Power of Physical Mail

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In a world where many of us send off over 100 emails each day, it is easy to overlook the power of a physical letter delivered by the mail man. With so much information coming by email, sending a physical letter can help make your message special and more memorable. Here are some thoughts for making the most of sending physical letters. Real stamps Don't go to all the trouble of making something personal and special and then ruin it with an ugly postage meter. Use real stamps. In many cases, you can match the purpose of your letter to a specific stamp design. Forever stamps will let you mail a First Class letter, even if the cost of sending letters goes up in the future. You buy … [Read more...]

Messy Desks

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One of the greatest hindrances to productivity isn't particularly technical or complex in nature. It isn't something that's usually difficult to solve, but it takes time and effort. Messy desks are responsible for some of the most frustrating (and sometimes, humorous) incidents throughout a workday. That contract you can't find? The glasses that always seem to walk away? Clutter on a desk tends to conceal things when you most need them. However, there is a humorous side to this issue. Here are some funny stories a few people agreed to share with us. My ex-husband and I both officed out of the house. As a former marine officer, he always kept his desktop completely clear of papers. My … [Read more...]

9 Tips for Effective Online Meetings

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Recently we wrote a popular article on how to have effective meetings. Some people pointed out that online meetings require a special set of skills, and it can be difficult to follow the same advice that we gave for in-person meetings. With so many people working from home, it seemed like a good idea to address these types of meetings. Since I primarily work from home, a good percentage of my meetings are done using video conferencing and screen sharing. After doing this for several years, here are some of the top tips I'd offer for people who are starting to do online meetings. 1. Stay focused It is easy to get distracted or try to multi-task when you are in an online meeting. Don't … [Read more...]

Community Links

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Many Productivity501 readers also have their own blogs. In this post we wanted to feature some of the top content from you---people who leave comments on this website.  So read on to discover some great posts from the Productivity501 community. 30 Days Habit Change: Waking up at 5 AM-Freestyle Mind In this post, Oscar from Freestyle Mind writes about his plan to see if getting up at 5 AM will increase his productivity. DIY Common Sense Search Optimization-Monday Morning VA Search engine optimization can seem like a daunting task, but this article gives 4 rules for optimization that can prime your web page for optimal placement page rank. Are You a Human Decision Making … [Read more...]

How I Learned Racial Discrimination

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Footsteps pounded the sidewalk behind us.  We turned as a young man careened around the corner and headed down the narrow Boston side street toward us. My wife and I stepped out of the way.  At 25 feet, I noticed he was clutching a woman's purse to his chest.  His quick glances over his shoulder made it obvious that he was being pursued.  At 20 feet, I realized that everything I was seeing was telling me he had stolen the purse and someone was coming running after him.  At 15 feet, I sized him up to determine if I could stop him.  He didn't have a weapon, wasn't any bigger than me, and his haste would make him easy to delay.  At 10 feet, I decided I could easily stop him by tripping him to … [Read more...]

The Happiness Project Book

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The Happiness Project : Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun chronicles Gretchen Rubin's year long project to see if she could increase the amount of happiness in her life. The book blends her personal narrative with facts from her research into a wonderfully fulfilling read. The book is truly brilliant and I highly recommend it. At the beginning of the book, Gretchen formulates her "Secrets of Adulthood" that she uses to help ground her project.  Here are a few: People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think. It's important to be nice to everyone. If you're not failing, you're not … [Read more...]

A Culture of Obesity

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I hadn't heard of Kevin Smith until reading in the news that he had been asked to deplane a Southwest flight because he was too big.  Evidently, he directed and acted in some movies I haven't seen. For those of you who missed all the "excitement," here is what happened. Due to his ample girth, Mr. Smith buys two Southwest tickets when he flies. (Correction: Kevin says this is the first week he bought two tickets and he does it because he is shy.  Southwest says he routinely buys two tickets. Doesn't matter for the point of this article, but I thought I'd be clear.) That way, it guarantees him an open adjacent seat.  If the flight sells out, Southwest keeps the price of the empty seat … [Read more...]

Friendly Space

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I've heard a lot of people say that people on the East coast are less friendly than the people they meet in the Midwest.  One of my professors at Harvard who grew up in Kansas said that he didn't think Wal-Mart would do well in the Cambridge area because they wouldn't be able to find anyone who could cheerfully say "Welcome to Wal-Mart!" at the front door. So what might account for the difference in friendliness between people in rural Kansas and Harvard Square?  I think there is a simple explanation, and it is the same reason people don't talk on elevators. When you get on the elevator with a bunch of people you don't know, it is rare for anyone to talk, even if they are people you … [Read more...]

Links from Comments

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In this post we wanted to highlight the websites from a few members of the Productivity501 community who have left comments recently. Thank you to everyone for reading and to comment leavers for taking part in the discussion. Enlightr We hear a lot of talk today about how the internet can bring about information overload to those who use it. Enlightr is a product that summarizes important information so that you don't have to wade through irrelevant information. MikeKey.com Michael Key writes about lifestyle design and entrepreneurship at this site. He offers bits of wisdom concerning finances, learning and other topics. The Paper Tiger The Paper Tiger is a product that is a hybrid … [Read more...]

Random Stuff

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Here is a bunch of random information I've discovered over the last few months.  I figured it might be interesting for someone, so I thought I'd post it all together.  If you see anything that you think would be interesting to see a full post about, please leave a comment and we'll try to write about it in more detail. Overdrive Digital Library Many state libraries have digital books, audio books and movies that can be checked out electronically from a company called Overdrive.  Most of the time, all you need for access is a card from a local library or your state library.  The checkout process works like it does for physical books.  If the library has only purchased one copy, only one … [Read more...]

Tuesday’s Tip: Dressed for Productivity

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You've heard of "Dressed for Success." Well, what about "Dressed for Productivity?" I think that the way we dress can have a big impact on our performance. Where I went to college required that all the guys wear ties and all the gals wear dresses to class. There was quite a bit of debate among the students about whether this was really beneficial or not. Many students met the dress code to the letter, but were extremely sloppy in the way that the were dressed. Overall, it would probably be impossible to tell if having a dress code helped make anyone a better student (although it helped guarantee that all the guys knew how to tie a tie by the time they graduated.) Personally … [Read more...]

Borders

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My wife and I moved to Mexico for a few months in 2006. I've been struck by how different people perceive the US Southern border. To some it is a definite line, something you don't cross without much fear and trembling. Other people see the border as a soft separation.  It is the crossing point to another culture, but something that you can easily cross and return. Generally, the people who see the border as a barrier are the ones who don't really understand much about Mexico and haven't made many trips out of the United States.  People with more knowledge and experience in international travel don't see the border as a barrier. As I noticed this great divide in how people perceive … [Read more...]

Chandler Review

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Throughout the past few years, open source applications have been rapidly increasing in popularity. Venerable products such as Firefox, Thunderbird and Linux are widely used by the public, and Firefox, especially, has become a success. A group of developers called OSAF (Open Source Applications Foundation) has created a personal information management product called Chandler. Chandler is based on some of the principles of GTD, much like OmniFocus. However, Chandler also shares some characteristics with Evernote, such as the fact that both products have a web version and desktop version that sync with each other, providing automatic back-up. Chandler is free, runs on Mac, Windows and … [Read more...]

Other’s Perceptions – Are You a Threat?

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Often others' perceptions of our actions are often more important that our intentions. One of the questions to ask yourself is: "Does this person see me or my actions as a threat?" Years ago, I was a young manager at a large, non-profit organization. About two years into my job, I started noticing an unusual amount of resistance from one of the vice presidents. It got to the point where it seemed as if any decision I made would result in his expending a great amount of effort to get it overturned. It got to the point where it almost seemed silly. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Eventually, I spoke with a much wiser retiree who was familiar with the organizational … [Read more...]

Links of Interest from LifeRemix

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Eight Tactics for Dealing with Professional Burnout-The Simple Dollar This article gives helpful advice about dealing with the feelings that often come with working at the same vocation for many years. Some of the author's tips include learning new things, forging new friendships and sharing the knowledge that you have gained over the years. How to Make the Most of Your 401K-Wisebread Most of those in the work force have 401K's or have heard of them. However, the in's and out's of accounts and investments are often overlooked and/or misunderstood. This article from Wisebread provides beneficial information to those that are interested in getting the maximum benefit from their … [Read more...]

50 Ways to Winterize Your Home

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As we enter the cold part of the year in the Northern hemisphere, here are 50 tips for how to winterize your home.  If you have a suggestion that isn't in the list be sure to add it in the comments. Replace any old or inefficient windows. Windows are one of the major ways heat leaks out of your house. Seal off drafty windows and patio doors with clear plastic. If you have a lot of outside doors that leak air, you can seal a few off using plastic or caulk putty. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, there's a good chance that it wastes a lot of fuel. Consider upgrading to a newer one. Insulate the hot water lines around your hot water heater and turn down the temperature … [Read more...]

Treating Employees Right

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I have seen some employers who figure that a down economy means they can treat employees poorly.  I suppose the logic is "they should be happy to have any job at all".  Since the employer figures their workers can't really leave, the employers make demands that they would never make in a normal economy. This approach is very short-sighted.  First, the very top employees are always going to be in demand.  I'm not talking about good, solid employees. I'm talking about the star performers--the top 5%.  These types of people are always in demand, simply because they are rare.  When an employer treats people poorly, the best people are the first to leave because they have other options.  … [Read more...]

Tuesday’s Tip: Stop Communication You Don’t Need

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Most everyone gets a barrage of emails, telephone calls, and physical mail that they don't really need. I'm not necessarily talking about spam. I'm talking about newsletters from organizations in which you are no longer active, donation requests from non-profits that you gave to years ago, etc. Most people just accept the interruption and toss these items into the trash, but a better option is to try to stop them altogether. Taking a few minutes to send a note asking to be taken off their mailing list can save you a tremendous amount of time in the future. If you get a monthly newsletter in the mail that you identify, consider opening and then toss in the trash, it can easily take … [Read more...]

TIP: Wake Up Right

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Imagine waking up to your alarm clock. Now imagine gently waking up as the sunlight fills your room with light. Which one seems like a better recipe for having a wonderful, high performance day? Alarm clocks are designed to wake you up, so they make annoying and jarring sounds to jerk you right out of your peaceful sleep. You have to wonder if this is really a good way to start your day. I mean, really, do you want the first few seconds of each day to be associated with something containing the word "alarm"? When I was a kid, my brother and a friend decided we wanted to see what the early morning cartoons were like. I constructed a device with a small fire alarm style bell, … [Read more...]

Tuesday’s Tip: Removing Superglue

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Have you ever gotten superglue all over your fingers and had to live with it for two weeks as it wore off? There is a simple way to take it off, but first, let me tell you a story. When my wife worked in the ER of a large county hospital in Dallas, she saw a lot of very strange cases. One of the most interesting was the guy who came in with his eyes closed. Evidently, his wife had accused him of looking at other women and they got into a fight. Somehow, he decided that he could prove that he wasn't looking at other women by super-gluing his eyes closed. (I am not making this up.) After the glue dried, he began to think it wasn't such a great idea and got some people to drive him … [Read more...]