In software engineering there is a principle known as DRY -- Don't Repeat Yourself. The idea is this: If you are going to solve a problem, do it only once. Don't solve the same problem again and again in different parts of your code. In software, this means that you take your solutions to these common problems and code them in a way so they can be used from wherever necessary. The DRY principle can also apply to your personal work habits as well. Over the course of a week, a good portion of our time can be taken up by unnecessary tasks or overly complicated processes. Proactively looking for areas where we are "repeating" ourselves can unearth these areas where we can … [Read more...] about Don’t Repeat Yourself
Archives for February 2009
Your Own Business
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...] about Your Own Business
5 Minute Outliner 2.0 Review
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...] about 5 Minute Outliner 2.0 Review
Collegiate Time Management
College is one of the most exciting and activity-filled times of a person's life. Making new friends, developing new skills, and shouldering many more responsibilities take up a lot of time, let alone the ever-present studying that needs to be done. Time management is so important for students that many Freshman Experience classes focus on the subject. Here are a few tips to help busy students make good use of their time. 1. Plan ahead Studying in college requires more preparation than one might think. With all of the other distractions that are available, it is important to plan out a study schedule and really stick with it. That way, you will already have your studying done when your … [Read more...] about Collegiate Time Management
I am really enjoying the Skydeck service on my Blackberry. It basically gives you an inbox for all your phone calls and gives you voice mail transcription that is quite a bit more accurate than Vonage. One of the best features is the way it adds contacts automatically. If I call a restuarant, Skydeck will notice, look the number up in a directory and add the information to my address book. So I can place a call and within a few minutes I have their name, number and address in my phone. … [Read more...] about Skydeck
Harvard and the Economy
You know there are significant economic problems when Harvard---an institution known for having the largest foundation endowment in the US world--starts looking for ways to cut back. I got an email from the president this morning outlining the ways they are trying to cut expenses. They plan to slow the construction on a science complex and possibly scale back their plans, offer early retirement options, look for ways to streamline operations, but still keep tuition increases in check. Most notable in the email was the closing paragraph--a reminder that we are defined by what is in our heads and hearts rather than our bank accounts: In a time of dramatic and often disquieting change, it … [Read more...] about Harvard and the Economy
Internet–Friend or Foe for Productivity?
The internet is a valuable tool that can let us do things faster than anything we imagined 20 years ago. But at the same time it can be a very big time waster. The internet is kind of like a dictionary with beautiful illustrated pictures. It is wonderful to look at, but it can take 10 times longer to actually do anything up because of all the amazing (and distracting) pictures: Lets see how do you spell "artichoke"....neat here is a nice little drawing of an airplane...wait what was I...oh yeah "artichoke" ok that will be a little further...what is that a picture of?....oh an anteater. I didn't realize their noses were so long. Ok now focus...."artichoke". Hm. How do they know what … [Read more...] about Internet–Friend or Foe for Productivity?
As a Child I was Conned
When I was in grade school, we talked about the future. We watched films about the huge technological advances that were just around the corner. I remember dreaming about the day we would have robots and devices to handle every mundane task in our lives. We would only spend our time on tasks that were either exceptionally important or remarkably enjoyable and fulfilling. Technology has made some very significant advances over the last 20 some years. We have miniature personal communication devices, powerful computers the size of a small book, video recorders that fit in your palm, a worldwide network that is virtually free to use, but I still feel like I was conned. Instead of … [Read more...] about As a Child I was Conned
This weekend I tried to help my grandmother with her new cell phone. She purchased a phone, bluetooth headset, and another bluetooth device that lets you talk in your car handsfree and broadcasts the callers voice over an FM channel that you can tune to with your radio. I got the handsfree device setup and showed her how to use it, but my final recommendation was to take it back to the store. While it was great in theory, in actually use I know it was far more complicated to be useful to me--even though I knew how to work it. It is easy to get enamored with how something is supposed to make your life simpler to the point that you overlook how it makes things more complicated. … [Read more...] about Return it!
What will Last?
A trip to the local library resulted in me spending most of my time browsing for older books--particularly the ones that were published before 1930. A few days later, I was listening to a lecture on Shakespeare and was struck by the fact that much of his greatness comes from the fact that we have so many of his works fully intact. In modern society, how much of what we produce will still be around 50 or 100 years after we die? The change to magnetic media as the primary means of storing data condemns most of what we work on to a much shorter existence than the printed material of previous centuries. Websites that represent a significant amount of one's life work will disappear … [Read more...] about What will Last?
Circuit City Deals
Circuit City is closing all of its stores and liquidating all of the inventory. Usually this means that they keep dropping the price until everything is sold. I visited a store on Friday and they said they were planning on wrapping everything up on Monday. This means that Monday will probably have some of the most discounted prices. When I was there the TVs were still overpriced: A floor display (missing remote, stand, instructions, etc.) Sony was going for $1100, but you could get it new for $1400. However, there were some reasonable deals on movies, cables, camera batteries and speakers. I was amazed at how little was left in the store. Oh and the water had been turned off so there … [Read more...] about Circuit City Deals
Five Simple Things I Like
When it comes to money, many people get into trouble because they haven't figured out what they really enjoy. I've seen people buying all kinds of things that others enjoy without taking anytime to think about what is important to them personally. Just because your neighbor enjoys playing the piano doesn't mean you will achieve the same happiness by dropping $8,000 on a nice instrument--especially if you don't know how to play. Sometimes it is the little things that really help make a difference in your happiness. I'm not trying to say that stuff=happiness, but it does make sense to at least think about the things you like. Here are five simple things I've discovered that I really … [Read more...] about Five Simple Things I Like
Sleep and Damaged Cognitive Performance
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...] about Sleep and Damaged Cognitive Performance
Is Stupidity Killing America’s Productivity?
When a society makes it a huge priority to protect people from their own stupidity, it will eventually grind to a slow, bureaucratic halt. I have to show my ID to buy Sudafed, spray paint or glue because someone has decided I might use these items to do something stupid. However, I can buy bullets without an ID. I was talking to a policeman the other day and discovered I could be thrown in jail for the amount of decongestant I had in my house. Seriously! When it comes to the safety of society as a whole, I'm much more concerned about a couple lunatics running around with an unlimited supply of bullets than teenagers armed with nasal decongestant and super glue. Yes, I know that … [Read more...] about Is Stupidity Killing America’s Productivity?
Attention Spans and the Internet
In classrooms and homes all across the nation, teachers and parents are sometimes left wondering what happened to their children's attention spans. We often hear older generations commenting disparagingly about the way younger people always seem to be hard to entertain. Some just call this phenomenon being "spoiled," but is it just the children that are losing their patience? The Internet One of the chief factors in the change of attention span and reading habits that we are seeing is being attributed to the internet. Specifically, the internet is being targeted because it encourages "skim reading" instead of the more old fashioned "in-depth" kind of study that our civilization is … [Read more...] about Attention Spans and the Internet
Amazon is showing the Kindle 2 right now. The two biggest advances are: 1. Syncing your current page across devices. So if you are reading on your phone and then pickup your Kindle you can start right where you left off. 2. Text to Speech. The book will read itself to you. So you can be reading your book and then have it read itself to you while you drive to the store. Those two features will make the device much closer to the dream device I previously described. … [Read more...] about Kindle 2
Though vacations are intended to be a time for creating a stress-free environment and enjoying some time off, they can quickly turn into another stressful situation. Most people will know what I mean when they remember the map shuffling, wrong turns and itinerary confusion. In other words, mass chaos! Though it is probably not possible to eliminate the stress of traveling, there are some effective tools that can help vacationers organize their travel information into a single, decidedly un-confusing plan. One such tool is a product called TripIt. This helpful web-based tool allows the user to integrate all of their travel plans for a trip into a central document. The program takes the … [Read more...] about TripIt Review
5 Exercise Tips for Busy People
A normal day for most busy people consists of a constant string of tasks: go to work, get the kids ready for school, unload the dishwasher, mow the lawn, etc. The problem is, there isn't any room in the day for exercise! At least, it seems so. Students in college, professors, businessmen and women, and others from all fields of work often confront this same dilemma. There are many pressures on how we spend our bit of free time. However, the quality of the exercise done often trumps the quantity of it. Here are some ways to get the most out of your few minutes of exercise time. 1. Take a walk If you have few options, taking a 10-15 minute walk over your lunch break is a nice way to … [Read more...] about 5 Exercise Tips for Busy People
We have been looking at several different types of file sharing and online storage tools here at Productivity 501. Each one has useful features that make it stand out. The same principle continues with this review of Dropbox, an online utility that works on computers running Mac OS, Windows or even Linux. Dropbox Features One of the neatest things Dropbox can do is that it will sync files from one platform to the next. For example, if the user wants files from his or her Mac synced with those of their PC, it is no problem for the product to move between operating systems. Any changes are synced with all enabled computers through the web. One neat thing is that the program shows the … [Read more...] about Dropbox Review
Virtual Assistance Companies
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...] about Virtual Assistance Companies