April 22, 2013, 8:00 am
Do you ever promise yourself that you’ll do something, only to let it slide?
Many of us have good intentions that we don’t act upon.
One way to clarify your commitments and to take action towards your important goals is to involve other people.
Find an Accountability Partner or Community
A good accountability partner should be able to ask you clarifying questions, offer you encouragement and support, and hold you to your commitments. Depending on your personality type and the kinds of goals you want to work towards, you may want a partner who is primarily supportive or one who will be more firm with you if you start to back away from your commitments.
Several online communities exist to help motivate and track personal goals. 43 Things has been active for several years and allows you to see the goals that others have set and comment on them to provide support and advice….
April 15, 2013, 8:00 am
When Brian wrote about the new Gmail Compose back in November, it was an optional interface. At the end of March, it became the new default compose behavior for Gmail users.
The new interface is deliberately minimal, according to Jason Cornwell, a lead designer at Google. By making the window smaller and hiding the text formatting options that used to make your email compose screen resemble word processing software, Cornwell suggests that the new interface will “give you permission to write shorter messages.” (To access the text formatting options in the new interface, click on the underlined capital A next to the Send button.)
Many productivity experts like Leo Baubauta of Zen Habits and the crew at five.sentenc.es have been arguing that overly long emails larded with quoted replies deter good communication and often languish unread.
But even for writers of pithy emails,…
April 2, 2013, 8:00 am
As Jason recently explained in What We Talk About When We Talk About Productivity, here at ProfHacker, “We’re less interested in helping you be more productive in the abstract than in solving specific productivity-related problems, especially the crippling self-punishment associated with anxieties about productivity.”
In that spirit, here are a few questions that can increase your awareness about how you’re spending your time and energy.
What are you doing right now? The first step in cultivating mindful awareness is just to pause and notice something. If you want to begin doing something differently, you have to first understand what it is you are currently doing. Simply pausing a few times a day to take an inventory of how you’re spending your time can teach you about your own habits, energy levels, and current priorities. (To help with this, you can set a recurring alarm on…
March 25, 2013, 11:00 am
It can happen to anyone. You’ve been extra busy, or a family member was sick, or you just had your mind on other things. You thought you were dealing with your email, but you were just reading the urgent items.
Suddenly, your email inbox is filling up: the count of unread messages (or, perhaps even worse, messages that have been read but not actually dealt with) has crept into the triple digits. (Maybe even the quadruple digits.)
You vow to sit down and clean it out. But you only get through a screenful or two at a time and you can’t imagine how you will ever handle this backlog.
Here’s a simple tip that really helps. Sort your inbox by the name of the sender. This will allow you to quickly see groups of messages that you can delete without reading. Some of these include:
- outdated announcements of events
- old newsletters or bulletins
- notifications from online services
March 18, 2013, 11:00 am
One of the keys to personal behavior change is understanding what you’re actually doing. In order to understand what you’re doing, you have to track those specific behaviors or facets of your behavior that you’re interested in changing. (Benjamin Franklin is often hailed as a pioneer in this area.)
Tracking your behavior helps in two key ways: by creating awareness of your actions, which can help you further adjust them, and by giving you concrete evidence of the success or failure of your choices. Without some form of tracking, most people find it difficult to remember day to day actions with any clarity or specificity.
For example, if my goal were to eat more vegetables, tracking what I eat over a span of a few days or weeks would help me discover how many different vegetables I’m actually eating, and where I might easily make some changes. Keeping a food log has been shown to …
March 4, 2013, 11:00 am
During the first months of ProfHacker, in 2009, Julie wrote a post introducing us all to Using Super Smartphones for Productivity.
Given how fast technology changes, and how nearly ubiquitous smartphones are today, that post has already acquired a kind of antique charm.
Over the subsequent years we’ve written quite a bit about using your phone productively, as you’ll see in this Archive collection.
February 25, 2013, 11:00 am
Is there something you know you want to start doing, but you just can’t seem to begin? Whether it’s beginning a new piece of writing or establishing a daily workout routine, sometimes all the rational plans, checklists, and arguments in the world won’t be enough to get you going.
Maybe you know you need to go to the gym, but you never seem to make the time for it. Or you tell yourself that you will start writing that article when you have three hours free, or when your desk is organized, or after you’ve read just one more source. You fully intend to make a big effort, but then you don’t follow through.
Behavioral psychologist Robert Maurer suggests that when we find ourselves stuck, sometimes taking a teeny, tiny step is the best strategy. In One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, he applies the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement initially developed in the …
February 5, 2013, 8:00 am
How much time do spend in your inbox? Do you check email on your phone, in odd bits of time throughout the day? Is your inbox always open in a browser tab? How much email do you have piling up that you’ve glanced at but not responded to or deleted?
If you have difficulty focusing on your priority projects because you spend much of your day responding to email, one of the best strategies to improve your processing of email and your focus on other things is to limit your handling of email to set times during the day. Batching your email processing allows you to better assess what is truly urgent, what is truly important, and what can be quickly deleted or archived.
Several years ago, I read Tim Ferriss’s post How to Check E-mail Twice a Day, in which he suggested that in addition to retraining your own work habits, you should add an autoresponder to your email that lets people know…
January 30, 2013, 8:00 am
Not surprisingly, the writers at ProfHacker have thought quite a bit about the software tools they use to write.
Here’s a collection of posts from the archives that focus on the use of plain text editors and alternative word processors.
Lincoln describes text editors like Vim, Notepad++, and TextWrangler as Writing Power Tools that are stable, efficient, and promote good writing habits.
Jason discusses Notational Velocity, a Mac plain-text note app that is can be used for idea capturing through to full drafting.
Jason recently reviewed TextDrop, which combines a browser-based text editor (with Markdown support) with Dropbox synchronization.
Alex likes JDarkRoom, a cross-platform java-based text editor, which he combines with Dropbox to gain cloud functionality.
In Using Invert Bookmarks in Your Text Editor I explain a useful tip about how to delete…
January 29, 2013, 8:00 am
About 18 years ago, when I bought my first scanner, I had a vision of keeping paperless research files. But it wasn’t really feasible then, given the hardware I had to work with and the time it would have taken me to scan documents.
Today, the hardware and software for scanning, archiving, and OCRing paper documents has dramatically improved. I’m still not living a paper-free life, but I’m able to archive and use items in PDF format much more easily than even a couple of years ago. I’ve written before here at ProfHacker of my favorite sheet-fed scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, which is the workhorse of my home office. At the university, I can use a photocopier to scan bound items like books. But it’s not always convenient to carry items back and forth, and I sometimes work at other locations altogether.
I have sometimes used my phone to photograph documents when working in…