9 Alternatives to Mindless Television

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Even if you can find something you want to watch, television is generally a waste of time. Approximately 20 minutes out of every hour is commercials, so when you watch 3 hours of television, you actually are watching 2 hours of your show and 1 hour of commercials. Here are a few ideas to make watching television more productive. (It sounds funny reading that.) Don't Channel Surf If there is a show you want to watch, then watch that show. Jumping from channel to channel can eat up huge amounts of time without actually watching anything. Think in terms of having a complete experience: a start, a middle, and an end. If you simply jump from channel to channel you aren't really having … [Read more...]

Iron Chef – A Productivity Fable

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Tortoise and Hare were both known for their culinary expertise and were invited to a face-off in the Iron Chef. Soon after the competition began, it was clear that the Hare was significantly ahead of the Tortoise. The audience was amazed at the speed with which Hare mixed ingredients, poured them into another container and tossed the mixing bowl aside to move on to the next step in preparation. Tortoise, on the other hand, seemed to be well behind. It wasn't that he was going slower than Hare, but the audience agonizingly watched as he carefully cleaned each bowl, pan and utensil and put them back in their place after use. Tortoise was making progress, but was well behind the Hare in … [Read more...]

Perception of Authority

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Back in the 60s, there were some experiments done to see how likely people were to obey an authority figure, even if they were doing something they felt was wrong.  The results were scary.  Most people would continue to administer lethal electric shocks to another human if someone in a lab coat told them they had to. In the book Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) the author talks about the different ways we perceive someone as being an authority.  This perception causes you to obey them more than would be expected. The book lists three things that cause people to identify someone as an authority: Impressive Title Their Clothes Driving an Expensive Car On one … [Read more...]

Hawthorne Effect

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The Hawthorne effect refers to some studies that were done on how training impacts employees' productivity at work (edit: this statement is a little misleading, please see the note at the bottom of the article). The studies found that sending someone to training produces employees that work harder. The funny part about it is that you still get the productivity increase even if the training doesn't teach them how to be better at their jobs. Sending someone to training helps them feel like they are important, like the company is investing in them and they are valuable. Because of this, they work harder. Obviously, if you send them to training that helps them do their jobs better, you … [Read more...]

Nine Ways to Devastate Productivity

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We talk a lot here about how to increase your productivity, get more done, and be more effective. But what if that isn't your goal?  What if you really just want to completely obliterate the productivity of your co-worker? In this unusual post, we are going to look at nine ways to wreak havoc on someone's ability to get work done. Of course, none of the readers of this blog are that evil. Anyway, for the vast majority of our readers, I figured this list would provide some useful thoughts on how to spot people who are wasting your time.  And who knows. It might be useful someday if you decide to let your Dark Side take over for a while. Here are the nine tips (if you can call them … [Read more...]

Cutting Out Distractions

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I once heard a story about an author who had designed a house especially to be used for writing.  The house was built on a mountain and had an impressive view of the valley and mountains beyond. The author had designed an office especially for writing.  It  had large windows overlooking the gorgeous view.  Facing the windows was an expansive desk where the author planned to write many books.  However, there was just one problem. After moving into the house, the author discovered that he couldn't get any work done.  He would sit at his desk overlooking the gorgeous view, but he just couldn't concentrate.  It turned out that the view wasn't inspiring him.  It was just a … [Read more...]

Scientists and Magicians

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In an interesting experiment, scientists showed individuals photos of two female faces and asked them to pick which one was more attractive.  Then using a slight of hand trick learned from magicians, the scientist replaced the chosen photo with the one that was not chosen.  So, the individual was handed the photo that they had decided was less attractive. Only 26% noticed the switch.  The other 74% accepted the rejected picture as the one that they had chosen.  Now possibly that could be explained by saying that they just weren't paying attention to the photo once it was handed to them, but the scientists went one step further.  After handing over the photo, they asked the individual … [Read more...]

Your Own Business

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In a previous post I mentioned that if you are the type of person who focuses on personal productivity, you probably shouldn't be working for someone else.  I wanted to explain why. Many people focus on being highly productive, but no one seems to talk about how to actually benefit from being more productive.  Sure you can make your boss really like you, but just because you are helping your employer be more efficient doesn't mean you are going to see any personal benefit--other than being well liked. How Businesses Make Money Businesses make money by selling items or services for more than it costs them to produce those items or services.  The dry cleaner may charge you $2.00 per … [Read more...]

5 Minute Outliner 2.0 Review

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Sometimes compatibility issues between technological devices leave us scratching our heads and disheartened at the loss of productivity that results. One such frequent frustrate-or is programs for mobile devices. Few truly helpful organizational programs are available for use with a wide range of cell phones or PDA's. However, the developers at 5 Minute Downloads have created software that allows a user to effectively  visualize and organize ideas, create outlines for projects, import information from a personal computer, and to top it all off, stay compatible with other team members in the work place and with their mobile devices. The product in question is the 5 Minute Outliner, which … [Read more...]

Sleep and Damaged Cognitive Performance

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In a society where success is often associated with long hours of work, some things that were never considered by previous generations of Americans are now becoming very prominent. One of these is time management. While working longer hours and weekends is something that most of us consider relatively normal, scientists have taken a look at the effects of sleep on cognitive ability. In the New York Magazine article "Snooze or Lose," researchers have discovered something rather alarming about the sleep patterns of adults and children, alike. Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University conducted a study on the effects of sleep deprivation in grade schoolers. In short, what he found was that a … [Read more...]

Virtual Assistance Companies

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In light of the recent rise in popularity of virtual assistants, we thought that our readers would find a listing of virtual assistance providers to be useful. Executive Secretarial Services This company provides expert virtual assistance in paralegal matters, freelance office management and secretarial services. Kim Hughes and Company Kim Hughes and Company gives expert advice and assistance in real estate. They specialize in assisting real estate professionals attain their goals. Loose Ends Loose Ends is a VA company that provides a wide variety of services, a few of which are graphic design services, project management services and blog support services. Business … [Read more...]

Boxing Things Up

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I've previously talked about how the size of your blocks determines how productive you are. In a nutshell, someone who builds a shed by planting trees to grow into lumber and mining the ore to make nails is going to be much less efficient than the person who buys a kit and assembles it from Home Depot. In this piece, I want to look at the size of blocks from a process design or work-flow standpoint.  This is probably going to be a little abstract because it can apply to a number of different areas on many different levels.  Regardless of what you do, you are responsible for creating processes and work-flows.  These may be as simple as working out the process for cooking dinner or as … [Read more...]

Gifts for Getting Things Done

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A relative of mine had been trying unsuccessfully to get a letter from a doctor.  The letter was important for part of an insurance settlement, but the doctor was always busy or gone and the letter just never seemed to get written.  I offered to help, so I called and talked to one of the nurses.  She was sympathetic and said she would try to help, but the doctor was, after all, a doctor and it was really up to him.  I thanked her and got off the phone. My wife pointed out that when she worked as a nurse, food was often a very big motivator.  An hour or so later, my assistant had located a bakery nearby and ordered them a batch of cookies along with a note thanking them for their … [Read more...]

Productivity and Values

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The concept of being productive is meaningless without a good understanding of your values or what is important to you personally.  Being productive isn't just a matter of being busy.  It isn't a matter of doing a lot of things.  Productivity is accomplishing important things. Many people try to get organized so they can do more, but really they are just trying to fit a bunch more unimportant things into their day.  Until they define what is really important to them, just scheduling a bunch of tasks won't help them really accomplish more. Sometimes being productive doesn't mean doing more.  In fact, sometimes it can mean doing fewer tasks each day.  When these tasks are carefully … [Read more...]

Top 5 Time Savers

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Yesterday we looked at my list of top 5 time wasters, so today it seemed appropriate to look at the top 5 time savers.  It is hard to measure the value of something that saves you time, so these may seem fairly random.  Your suggestions for top time savers are welcomed in the comment section below. Podcasts in the Car - I have a system that allows me to subscribe to podcasts, transfer them to an iPod that hooks directly to my car stereo (when I turn off the car the iPod is paused until I start it back up again), and delete podcasts once I've listened to them. This allows me to keep informed on many topics with very little effort on my part and very little wasted time.  I generally go … [Read more...]

Little by Little

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Often one of the biggest road blocks to our personal growth is that we feel we can't take on a new project until we have vast amounts of free time. The reality is that we will probably never have a couple hours of free time each day. However, if we can set aside just 15 minutes each day to dedicate to doing something we've been putting off for a better period of our life, these small investments will add up and go a long ways toward achieving our goals. For example if you want to learn a foreign language, practice a neglected musical instrument, read through the works of Shakespeare, or any number of enriching activities you probably don't feel you have enough time to start.  Most … [Read more...]

Productivity In Other Countries

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My wife and I lived in Mexico for awhile.  This post was a look at how people approach productivity differently in different countries. I am currently living in Mexico for a year. It is amazing how much our productivity is based on being familiar with our culture.  It has taken a while to get into "the groove" of things here, but I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like I'm starting to be productive again.  Here are a few things that are different in Mexico: Time - There is a different view of time here.  In the USA if a bus says it is leaving at 9pm, you plan to be there by 8:45pm. Here in Mexico if the bus leaves around 10:30pm or 11pm it is considered to be leaving pretty … [Read more...]

10 Steps Toward Safely Relying on Technology

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I know many people who have easily lost a week of their valuable time because of a technology glitch.  If you are willing to invest time and money on technology to make  you more productive, you need to make sure you don't wipe out all of the productivity gains through an unexpected failure of your equipment. The following list covers 10 things you can do to minimize the impact of of Murphy's Law on your productivity: Expect things to go wrong. This seems simple, but most people are far too optimistic about technology.  You need to assume that, at some point, your hard drive is going to crash, your cell phone will be stolen, your PDA will lose all of its information, etc.  Now, maybe … [Read more...]

Dealing with Clutter

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Everyone seems to have some degree of clutter in their lives.  The paperless office is still a dream, so we still have to deal with many pieces of "stuff" all around us.  This stuff can be paper, equipment, books, printouts, electronics, or any number of things. A certian amount of clutter may be productive.  Some people just function better when things are in site.  However when clutter gets to the point that it slows you down, you need to do something about it.  If you find yourself spending time looking for things, that is a good indication that clutter is controlling you. Here are several tips for reducing clutter in your life: Open your mail over the trash can. This will help … [Read more...]

Procrastinating in Sheeps Clothing

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Most of the time, procrastination is easy to spot.  However, there is a subtle and very dangerous type of procrastination everyone should be on the lookout for.  It looks like productive work, but the result is the same...it keeps you from accomplishing the things you need to accomplish. This type of procrastination can take several forms, but in the most dangerous one, the victim appears to be involved in good habits of organizing and planning their work.  In reality, they are being lured into doing nothing that will actually move them closer to their goals. To avoid this type of procrastination, you must be alert. When you get the urge to suddenly rearrange your office from … [Read more...]

Choosing a PDA

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Personal digital organizers can be a a great tool for your productivity when used correctly.  They can also be huge time wasters.  I've used a number of digital hand-held devices over the last few years.  Some were great time savers and others cost me more in productivity.  Here are some tips on choosing a device that will help you save time and be more organized. Make sure you'll actually use it.  For example, if the device requires you to select letters one by one using a stylus, be honest about whether or not you'll have the patience to actually type anything that way. Will you carry the device with you? If you are already toting a cell phone, wallet, pager, etc. are you going to … [Read more...]

Streamlining your business

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Owners of small businesses are particularly concerned about productivity.  For a small company the difference between being highly efficient and moderately efficient can be the difference between profit and going out of business. Most efficient  practices are also applicable to personal productivity as well. However, with businesses, small productivity gains can be replicated over many people multiplying the  gains well beyond the benefits you'd get just for yourself. A focus on productivity can let you cut your costs so you can make a profit even when your competitors are losing money. Here are eight key points to consider when establishing productive practices for your … [Read more...]

Make Decisions in Advance

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A good portion of our time goes into make decisions.  Sometimes these decisions are big, important things, but often they are mundane simple things.  Most decisions require some type of investment in time.  Let's look at an example: If I'm in a video store trying to pick out a movie to watch that evening, there is a certain amount of time that will go into evaluating the options and selecting a video.  From personal experience, this process can take 10 to 20 minutes, easily. For most people, this 10 to 20 minutes is completely wasted time because at some point in the last 6 months they have already made a decision about a movie they would like to see, but they just don't remember.  … [Read more...]

Your Not to Do list

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Everyone is familiar with having a "To Do List".  But for many individuals the bottleneck to their productivity isn't the lack of knowing what to do.  Just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do.  That is where a "Not To Do List" comes in. Your not to do list should contain the activities that you consistently find yourself doing that don't contribute to your life in a productive way.  For example, most people would have "check email" as an item on their To Do list.  But if you find yourself consistently distracted by incoming messages, you might want to put checking email every 5 minutes on your Not to Do List.  Other things that might make their way to a Not To … [Read more...]

Productivity at the Fringes

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The physics most of us are familiar with is called Newtonian physics.  You can use it to calculate how fast a ball will fall when dropped from the Eiffel tower, where a canon ball will land when shot at a particular angle and all kinds of other useful things.  However, if you start dealing with things that are very small or very large, Newtonian physics is no longer accurate. When dealing with very small things like computer processors, individual photos and other partials, you have to use Quantum Theory to produce meaningful results.  When dealing with very large things, distances and objects, you have to use Einstein's Theory of Relativity. With Newtonian physics, the GPS in your … [Read more...]

Failing Quickly

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Failing can be one of the most productive things you can do.  Most people try to avoid failure. I'm not saying that this is bad, but in many cases they are just delaying failure to a later point in time.  If something you are doing is going to result in failure you should do your best to make sure it happens sooner rather than later.  With few exceptions, failing now is going to be less expensive (in time, money, mental stress) than failing one year from now. As an example, think about a relationship.  If two people are dating and they discover a particular area where they aren't compatible at all, they can avoid that area.  However, this may extend their relationship and just cause it … [Read more...]

How big are your blocks?

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The ability to be productive is not something that is evenly distributed to each human.  Take five random people and give them all the assignment to create a storage shed and a week to work on it.  At the end of a week, how much variance would you expect to find?  Some individuals wouldn't have started while others would be completely finished. There are several reasons for this.  If one of your subjects happens to be a carpenter, it makes sense that he would make more headway than the Wal-mart clerk.  So skill and past experience definitely have an impact.  However, there is another difference that is even more important that has to do with how different people see a problem and what … [Read more...]

Chimps and Children

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Psychologists have been doing some experiments with chimps and young children looking for differences in the way they solve problems.  In one of the experiments, they gave chimps a clear box containing food.  The scientists showed the chimp how to open the box, but included several steps that were obviously unnecessary.  When the chimps were left alone with the box, they retrieved the food imitating the method they had been shown.  However, the chimps eliminated the unnecessary steps. The scientists then tried the same experiment with 3 and 4 year olds.  Unlike the chimps, children imitated the entire sequence of actions they had been shown, including the unnecessary steps. This is an … [Read more...]

Relaxing on Purpose

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Over the last holiday, I spent some time thinking about how we relax. Personally, I find that there are two ways achieve "down time".  The first way is when I intentionally plan to take some time relaxing.  This occurs when my wife and I decide to watch a movie, go on a walk, take some vacation and visit family, or go to the lake.  The second way is when I have a list of things that I need to work on, but I really want to take a break.  In this situation, I intend to do work, but instead I find myself fiddling with some gadget, browsing the web, etc. The first way of getting down time is relaxing, fun and refreshing. The second is frustrating and makes me feel worn out and like I need to … [Read more...]

Don’t try to Catch a Pizza Thief using Email

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Like most technological advances, email can help productivity, but it can also hurt it.  It takes intentional effort to reap the benefits of advances without suffering from their negative side effects. Easy communication is good when you have something that needs to be communicated.  Easy communication is bad when it means you are saying things that just waste everyone's time. I ran across an article titled "Efficiency Experts" that talked about how Joe Phelps (CEO of the Phelps Group Inc.) explained proper use of email to his staff using a recent example of an employee who had used email to try to track down who stole his piece of pizza. With technology revolutionizing … [Read more...]

Working Effectively with a New Assistant

Most successful and efficient people will eventually come to a point where they at least consider hiring an assistant.  It seems like a very logical step.  If some of your work can be handed off to someone else, then you can concentrate on the things that can only be done by you which will increase your personal productivity.  Unfortunately many people hire assistants and end up in this type of situation: Lets say you are a mad scientist out to destroy the world.  You can spend more time thinking up doomsday scenarios if you had an assistant to study gauges and push the buttons that simply must be studied and pushed to keep your diabolical lab running smoothly.  So after a careful search … [Read more...]

Language and Learning

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For my freshman English class in college, I wrote a paper looking at the correlation between language and thought. My premise was that certain thought capabilities would be impossible without having a language in order to express those thoughts. There has been some recent research looking at how language can help with learning. The experiment was designed to see if people could learn information more quickly if there was a word associated with it. They were shown a series of "aliens". These were clay sculptures some had roughly shaped heads and others had smoother heads. The subjects of the experiments were told to tell if each alien was friendly or not. The smooth head aliens … [Read more...]

Reader Question: Why isn’t my assistant saving me time?

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I just got a personal assistant, but they aren't saving me any time. What am I doing wrong? Several people have asked me about this. There are many different issues that could be involved, but I see a lot of people who hire an assistant and then can't think of what they wanted them to do. Either that, or it turns out their original ideas are all things that really can't be handed off to someone else. Here are some of the things I have had assistants do for me. Some of these tasks can be done virtually, but many of them require physical presence. I'm leaving out most of the things my assistant helps me do for clients and trying to primarily give you some ideas of how your assistant … [Read more...]

Benefits of a Large Monitors

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If you are thinking about adding a larger monitor to your workspace, you might want to checkout these articles: Large Monitors for Productivity - Jason Calacanis The Large Display Paradox - Jeff Atwood Increase Your Productivity - Buy a Large Monitor! - Andrew Mason Dual Monitor Display Increases Productivity - Chris A Large Monitor Makes You More Productive - Jeremy Zawodny Big Monitors Can Increase Productivity? - DanB Enhance Your Productivity with Multiple Monitors - Mike Gunderloy Multiple-Monitor Productivity: Fact or Fiction? - Patrick Dubroy … [Read more...]

No Flotation Devices

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We signed our 15 month old daughter up for swimming lessons at the city pool. Arriving early, I read the pool rules for the regular swim periods. I hadn't been to the pool in about 14 years and was suprised to see that they didn't allow any type of flotation devices. No rafts, life jackets or arm "floaties". I asked one of the lifeguards why, and discovered that the city pool puts some real thought into their policies--much more than the local library. The lifeguard explained that when people have a flotation device, they tend to rely on it instead of their swimming skills. A child with a life raft is more likely to get into water that is too deep than one without. Worse still, … [Read more...]

Productive Sonic Environment

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It is easy to focus on how the things we see contribute or detract from our productivity and overlook the impact of what we hear. I started experimenting with creating audio environments using ambient nature sounds when my daughter was born. Back in April, I published a short, lower quality version of what I was using. The idea is that distractions cause you to lose focus and it takes awhile to get back into what you are doing. A 30 second distraction may take 5 to 15 minutes to recover from If you can eliminate even just a two of these distractions it can easily give you an extra 30 minutes per day. The feedback I got from the low quality versions was positive, but most people … [Read more...]

DevonTHINK’s Classify Feature

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As part of my paperless office experiment I'm finding that scanning is actually the easiest part of the whole setup. A lot of what is difficult is finding a workflow that makes sense.  For example, if your assistant scans in 250 documents from your file cabinet, you need some way to classify and organize those into your system.  Obviously you can look at each one and figure out where it goes, but this is very slow. DevonTHINK has a feature that helps with this.  It looks at the text in the document you want to classify and then looks at the text of documents already in the system. Then it suggests a location that puts it with similar documents.  This is extremely useful--especially when … [Read more...]

Fear of Interruption

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I have a phobia that prevents me from operating at my full potential. It isn't athazagoraphobia (the fear of forgetting) or atelophobia (the fear of imperfection). I also have no fear of looking up (anablephobia) or of peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth (arachibutyrophobia). My Phobia In fact, I haven't been able to find a name for my phobia and as you can tell I started with the A's and worked my way down. My phobia is fear of being interrupted. Obviously this hasn't crippled me in any significant way, but I consistently find myself not working on my most important task because I'm afraid I'll be interrupted. I put them off until I feel like I won't get interrupted. In … [Read more...]

Offending the Entire VA Industry

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Let me start off by saying that this is a long post, but I wanted to share the story of my experience interacting with virtual assistants other than India over one of my previous posts. If you are an easily offended virtual assistant, you might want to skip this. If you think you might ever want to use a virtual assistant, read on. Ok, so I haven't offended the entire industry--just a subset of the people on the Virtual Assistant International Group. My Ultimate Guide to Virtual Assistants generated a lot of input from virtual assistants. Most of them were telling me that I could get much higher quality help if I was willing to pay more money. The idea that paying someone four times as … [Read more...]

Batch Processing

Darren at Problogger has written a great post on Batch Processing. Basically he has found that he can get more done by batching similar tasks together. I generally set aside Monday mornings (and usually Wednesdays also) for writing posts. I take my laptop - camp out in a cafe - spend most of the morning off-line (so there are no other distractions) and just write. My goal is to write at least 5 posts that I can then use later in the week. Quite often I’ll write as many as 10 posts in a 5-6 hour period. About twice each year I do something similar for Productivity501. I'll spend about a week writing posts for the next 6 months. I'll spend 3 or 4 hours a day for 4 or 5 days just writing … [Read more...]

Ultimate Virtual Assistant Guide

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I have been experimenting with using virtual assistants. I've worked with two, one in the US for about two weeks and one in India for two months. It has been an excellent learning experience and I wanted to share it with everyone in the form of this guide. My goal is to give readers a good idea of how a remote assistant can help them, along with an idea of the benefits and drawbacks. This guide should give you a pretty good idea of what you need to get started working with a virtual assistant and should help you avoid some of the errors I made in the process. I am also going to look at the idea of having a local assistant and how that compares to working with their virtual counterpart. … [Read more...]

Reader Question – Hanging Folders

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How do you use hanging folders? I use hanging folders to hold regular manilla folders. So I may have a hanging folder for "Personal Taxes" and another for "Business Taxes". Then within each of those folders, I'll have one for each year "2004 Personal Taxes", "2005 Personal Taxes", etc. (I talked about this in a previous Tuesday's Tip.) Many people organize their files alphabetically. This isn't a bad idea, but if you have a few files, it may be slower than some of the alternatives. For example: Every time you use a hanging folder put it in the front of the drawer. That way the most frequently used folders are always in the front and the less frequently used folders slowly make their way … [Read more...]

Links On Remote Assistants

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I asked my remote executive assistant to put together a list of a few posts that discuss working with a remote/virtual assistant. Below are the results: The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant? - Tim Ferriss Very appealing but informative article on the latest trend of entrepreneurs - Outsourcing. Having had a positive experience on all the jobs assigned to a virtual assistant, the author invites others to give their comments through this article. For a novice at outsourcing, he has chalked names of reputed companies in this field. How to get your virtual assistant to schedule your doctor’s appointments - Ramit Sethi Should you have problems … [Read more...]

Excellence – Perfection vs. Efficiency

I use to work for an organization that put a lot of emphasis on "excellence". This sounds like a good thing, but it was very poorly defined and tended to become an excuse for wreaking mayhem with the budget. Spending 100% more for a 10% gain toward perfection didn't seem like what I would define as excellence. As I thought I about it, I realized the the problem  stemmed from equating excellence with perfection. Excellence is actually made up of more than one dimension. Perfection is one of those dimensions, but you must have another dimension that recognizes we are dealing with finite resources. Usually this is best represented as cost in monetary terms, but it could also represent … [Read more...]

Ambient Sound Download – The Brook

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Have you ever wished you could tune out background noise--maybe to drown out an annoying co-worker or just to stay focused? I know a lot of people use music for this, but personally I find music divides my concentration (a possible side effect of my training in music theory and composition). To help concentrate I need something that will stay in the background. Trying a bunch of sounds, I've found that water seems to be the most effective. Someday I'll probably get a fountain for my office, but until then I've created an MP3 file to help me concentrate. I'm making the file available as a special bonus to RSS and Email subscribers. If you'd like to download it, just subscribe to the … [Read more...]

Group Interview – Productive Software

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If you made a list of the software that helps you stay productive, what do you think people would be most surprised to find on that list? That is the question Productivity501 asked a number of productivity experts. Below are their responses. A little program called On The Job from Stunt Software. It's a simple time tracker and invoice generator for projects. But here's how I also use it: I have entered what would be my hourly rate based on my projects and income. Then, as I field phone calls, do tasks, and muck around, I click the starter button on the timer, the "Stop" at the end. The value of what I just did immediately appears on the screen. Wow. After one day of seeing how I was using … [Read more...]

Reader Question – Working from Home

Why would it be valuable to work from home? Lets say you commute 30 minutes to work each day. Working from home will save you at least 5 hours per week of drive time. If you apply this time to your job, you should be able to pull ahead of people who have to invest those 5 hours in driving to work. You can also choose to invest those extra 5 hours in sleep, your family, a hobby or whatever you like. Sometimes working from home can help you focus. Being out of the office means it is more difficult for people to distract you--they can't just pop into your office or cubicle. Of course if your home work environment is distracting, you may not see much benefit. If you want to know more … [Read more...]

When to Buy a Faster Computer

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Computers are so closely tied to our efforts to be productive that it is valuable to take some time to think about how to maximize our use of these complex devices. There are many factors that impact one's productivity with these machines: The speed of the computer. (the raw ability of a computer to do tasks) The configuration of the computer. (settings, memory, physical placement, etc.) The software being used. (wordprocessor, spreadsheet, email, etc.) The training of the user. (informal, formal, software training, etc.) The maintenance performed by the user. (removing spyware, keeping things organized, doing backups, etc.) Each of these areas deserves their own post or … [Read more...]

Optimal Time for Productivity

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Often times our productivity on a given task is very much tied to the time of day.  For example, I find that exercising in the afternoon seems to work best for me because it lets me unwind from the day.  I've always found it odd that my most productive times for programming are after 10pm.  There are obviously advantages to doing things late in the evening--fewer distractions, etc.  However, even when I'm not going to be interrupted during the day, I still can't seem to get into the "zone" as much as I can late at night. I think I've finally solved the mystery.  When I'm working on a task that where I don't know how long it will take, I generally do better when I don't have any hard and … [Read more...]

Writing Down Goals

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Marston online has some comments on research related to productivity. The most interesting comment was: The researchers wanted to know what accounted for the dramatic difference between that top 3 percent and the others. They found that of all the possible variables, the only difference between the top performers and the rest was the the top 3% wrote down their goals. The research was done by the Ford Foundation, but I haven't been able to locate that particular study. … [Read more...]