All posts by Natalie Houston


3 Ways to Makeover Your To-Do List


When you look at your to-do list for the day, week, or month (or lists of projects and actions if you follow David Allen’s GTD distinction), do you feel a sense of clarity and direction? Or do you feel confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated?

If you feel overwhelmed, it may not just be the quantity of the work you plan to do. It may also be due to a lack of clarity about the work you plan to do.

Taking a little time to clean up your to-do list with one or more of the following steps can offer huge…


Share URLs Quickly with ShoutKey


Imagine you’re in a meeting, seated around a table with eight other people. You want to share a URL with them, but it’s several levels down in the hierarachy of the particular website. What do you do?

If you’re all already connected online via a shared document or text messaging, then you could just drop the URL into a message for them to click on.

But what if you’re not all connected, or you don’t know the names and email addresses of all the people you want to share the URL with? ShoutKey is …


From the Archives: Mid-Semester


Because academic calendars vary so widely, some readers are coming back from spring break now, while others are enjoying a few days away from regular schedules. Some readers are wrapping up winter quarters or have started spring terms; others are somewhere in the middle of a spring semester.

The middle of an academic term can be a tricky time: the first flush of student and instructor enthusiasm for a particular topic or course may have waned a little. Students are feeling the burden of multipl…


Ten Things to Do Instead of Checking Email

steaming pot

So, let’s imagine that you’re in your office, and have about 15 minutes before you need to walk out of your building to get to a meeting. What do you do in those 15 minutes?

Many readers probably answered “check email.” Checking email has become the default work-ish activity for many professionals. I said work-ish because while checking email may be work-related, for most people it is not a central activity of their work.

In fact, checking email can easily become a kind of distraction, keeping …


Stay Focused with the Momentum Extension

2015-03-08 14_38_06-Program Manager

One of the most important things you can do to enhance your productivity is to keep focusing on your highest priorities, the big important things, which can easily be obscured by the rush of urgent demands and everyday maintenance tasks. Even when you’ve taken the time to reflect on your roles and define your priorities, it’s easy to lose sight of them during the day.

The Momentum personal dashboard extension for the Chrome browser offers an appealing way to set a clear focus for the day and be…


Updates to Noisli

One of the most powerful things you can do to improve your focus and productivity is to adjust your working environment. We each have different preferences for things like soft or hard furniture, room temperature, and background noise. Figuring out what works best for you in your environment can help you make the most out of your work time.

I’ve written before about Noisli, an online tool that combines a highly customizable background noise generator with a distraction-free writing environment….


Pause, Clarify, Decide

Bucket of rocks

Professionals in every field today often find themselves overwhelmed by the flood of incoming information, opportunities, and tasks. Most of us want to do more than just keep up with the inbox — we have larger projects and goals we want to pursue, which sometimes get pushed to the side when we’re under the pressure of urgent deadlines and requests.

Stephen Covey’s classic productivity tool, the Urgent/Important matrix can be helpful in distinguishing between those activities that are urgent and…


Creating Color-Blind Accessible Figures

Colored pencils, 2 views: full color spectrum + limited color spectrum simulating color-blind view

Today marks the start of the #1ineveryclassroom public awareness campaign by the UK-based Colour Blind Awareness organization to point out the prevalence of colorblindness and the need for greater awareness on the part of educators.

There is tremendous variation in how individuals perceive and distinguish colors. These differences can be due to color vision deficiency or color blindness, as well as other medical conditions affecting the eyes or brain. Other factors such as device display settin…


25 Verbs to Use Instead of Email


Many people talk to me about the stress that email causes them. Often we think about email stress as caused by sheer quantity: many professionals receive 50–200 emails a day which can easily pile up and cause stress if they’re not efficiently handled.

But email itself is not the problem.  Email is just the communication tool we happen to currently use.

A powerful way to remind yourself of the deeper purpose behind your communications is to stop using email as a verb, when you’re writing somet…


Are those files really final?


A recent post by Charlie Harvey, titled The word final should never appear in filenames points out that when you’re sharing files with colleagues,creating a clear system for filenames reduces a lot of potential frustration:

There is a file you need to read. Maybe it has some important stuff in it. A contract that went through a bunch of revisions. That sort of thing. Only, when you go to the directory on your company samba share there are 30 files that it could be.

Inevitably at least 3 of thes…