Balance, Design, Trends
December 6, 2012
When it comes to taking down notes throughout the work day, are you a single-notebook type, who prefers everything in one place? Are you a user of scrap-paper lists or post-it notes or reminders quickly inked on the back of your hand? Are you a doodler or a sketcher (for fun or for profit) — or have you eschewed paper completely and prefer to simply take it all down digitally? Tell us what works for you and why in the comments section below, then take note of what we found in a few of the offices we’ve featured here on Lifework. Read more
March 26, 2012
Smartphones are many things: useful, intuitive, flexible, fun, and, sometimes, a deterrent for work. It’s easier to check up on your Twitter feed than clean out your inbox, or play another round of Angry Birds than organize next week’s calendar. Luckily, there are plenty of effective apps to help bring order to chaos. Here are some smart solutions at even smarter prices. Read more
March 13, 2012
Are you on email overload? Apartment Therapy Tech just offered up advice from tech and culture blogger Sean Bonner on making email communications better for everyone involved. Sean advocates keeping the message short and to the point using acronyms that indicate whether or not a recipient needs to respond. Would you welcome these in your office in-box? Read more
March 22, 2011
I bet you’re busy. Do you own your own business or work from home? Maybe you have a family or volunteer in your community. How’s that work-life balance coming along?
If you are like most of the people I know then you’d probably like to have more time for yourself in your busy life. I call this “Me Time” – you know, that time that replenishes you – that time that you carve out just for yourself to slow down or do something exciting and fun.
How much time do you spend on yourself each day? Where do you fall on your to-do list – at the top, in the middle or dead-last? Most people put themselves last and think that they can’t afford to make time for themselves. They think their work or family will suffer if they take time out of their busy schedules for themselves.
Actually it is just the opposite. The more rejuvenating time you carve out for yourself the more energy you’ll have to give to your work, family and anything else you choose. When you fill yourself up first you have exponentially more to give. Here are some Me Time tips to slip into your work-day.
1. Date. Make a date with yourself at least once a day. Go for a walk around the block, go for tea/coffee, sit on your front or back stoop for 5 minutes and watch the world go by. Get creative.
2. Connect. Call one friend/family member that you like to talk to during your drive home from work each day (or during your lunch break if you work from home – have a lunch date over the phone). This can be a great, structured way to stay connected. Or, email a friend/family member just for fun each day.
December 16, 2010
No, it’s not an Italian pasta cooking technique, but in fact a time management system created in the 80′s by one Francesco Cirililo that helps people stay focused at an optimal length of time (about the length of a sitcom). A friend of ours mentioned he’s currently using an app version of the system to help him focus, which utilizes 25 minute intervals (the “pomodoros”) for task completion. There is of course now a high tech version of what was once accomplished using a mechanical timer…
There are 5 steps to the Pomodoro technique:
1. Choose a task to be accomplished
2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
Our friend is using an app called Focus Booster, now in beta mode and a free download. We like that the productivity app is minimal, and it’s also available for both Windows and OS X users (an online version is also available). There’s also an iPhone app for those who need to focus on the go for $1.00.
We’re giving it a try all today to see if the Pomodoro Technique helps us wrangle in the stress of trying to manage the myriad of stress inducing tasks we juggle each day, since the idea of short bursts of complete focus makes a whole lot of sense than meandering throughout the day. We might also make every longer break, after the 4th Pomodoro, be designated as a moment to do an exercise, utilizing the technique to improve both body and mind at once!
Learn more about the Pomodoro Technique at the official site, where you can also download the free eBook explaining the full time management system.
Other time management solutions from the Unplggd archives:
Cutting Down Online Stresses With Time Management
Mac Applications to Increase Productivity
5 Tips for Productivity: Improving the Daily Desk Flow
Minimalist iPhone Productivity App
By Gregory Han
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
October 19, 2010
“For the last few months, I’ve been extremely busy. I’ve got a full teaching schedule, I’m a graduate student in mathematics, I run my own business, and I do freelance writing. My day usually starts at 7AM and ends at 11PM. Being able to schedule my day is really important and I use a variety of high-tech and low-tech solutions to get me through the week.
For a few months, I didn’t check my email in the mornings. One of the reasons why was that I had to immediately start replying to emails and get tasks done. This took time and would derail my morning routine. Instead, I sat on the sofa, drank my tea and took time to wake up. I’ve been using Inbox Zero for most of this year and I’ve recently actually managed to check my emails in the mornings without hampering my schedule. I don’t do it every morning, but from time to time, I manage to check my email in a few minutes.
Any task that I need to accomplish, I’ll usually write it down somewhere. I’ve got a stack of papers from my daily Moleskine calendar that I use for this. Making lists is a really good way to do so. You can also send yourself emails. Since I use Inbox Zero with Gmail, these tasks will get done very quickly. Google Calendar is also a great tool. If your schedule is pretty loaded, then using Google Calendar will makes things clearer for you.
I also use a daily planner to jot down stuff as well as a paper-based calendar, in which I like to cross out the days. Why do I use paper alternatives instead of just using electronic versions? It’s because that every time that I open up Gmail, I end up doing more work. So when I don’t have time for this, I can easily reference a paper calendar or a daily planner to see what’s up. It’s also easier to carry and modify on the fly.
When you are busy, you need naps in order to get through the day. I like to take daily naps, which vary from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how much time I have. This usually happens during my lunch break. It’s a perfect way to recharge your batteries. After a nap, I like drinking a cup of coffee to fully wake me up.
If you are very busy, the trick is to find some time to relax, no matter what. For example, I tend to sleep in late on the weekends and I usually don’t do much on Saturdays. It’s the day that I recuperate from the week, taking a long afternoon nap and taking it easy. It gets me ready for the week to come.
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
Balance, Products, Technology
April 21, 2010
[Discover just ran this fascinating piece by Christine and I couldn't resist it for Lifework. I'd love to know if any of you try this software. You'll have to read to the end to see why I've included a photo of Jim and Pam's wedding from The Office, courtesy of NBC's official site. Cerentha]
It started where it always does, with me wishing for more time. Since 24 hours a day is all any of us get, I’d need to be more efficient. Enter RescueTime, software that records, in a very Big Brotherish way, where you spend your time on your computer. As you use Word or Excel, shop at zappos.com, or play Farmville on Facebook, RescueTime is running in the background, mercilessly recording ever minute of it.
Initially I thought it was cool. The very first day, RescueTime awarded me a blue ribbon and told me I was in the top two percent of users—oh, the rush! But it turned out I hadn’t properly launched the program the day before, and those stellar results were only for the previous five minutes.
I have several computers I use throughout the day for different projects. Every time I returned to the computer on which I’d installed the software, RescueTime demanded to know where I’d been. The default responses include “Leisure” and “Other work” and the program allows you to customize. (I created a category called “Doggy management,” since I have a high maintenance dog.)
Often it was tough to be accurate. On a normal day, I might be away from my main computer for four hours, during which I’ve worked on a client’s project, thrown meat in the crock pot, and played tennis. There’s no way to log those activities individually, unless you remember to return to your computer between each one.
Furthermore, I sometimes found myself responding to the constant “where have you been, young lady?” like a recalcitrant teenager, clicking on the “None of your business (don’t log this time)” button, even when the time had been spent productively. While this tactic was personally gratifying, it did not help my productivity score.
To its credit, RescueTime did curtail my Facebook habit. I work alone and Facebook is to me what the water cooler is to office workers. RescueTime noticed when I lingered there too long (something you can set in the preferences) and notified me. I learned how to go to Facebook, skim my friends’ status updates, comment on a few, and leave. No more disappearing down the rabbit hole!
That worked great until a friend emailed me a link to Superwolf Ogles, a Facebook page written by a cat who is in an open relationship and has political leanings (Meo-ism).
Impossible to resist, right? I took a quick peek. Soon I was looking at a picture of a young woman named Steffani sitting on the Great Wall of China, and then at wedding photos of another complete stranger.
RescueTime waggled its Big Brother finger at me, but, already on my way to the video clip of Jim and Pam’s wedding dance (on “The Office”), I just sneered. The only one who can rescue my time is still me.
January 20, 2010
Of all the popular new year’s resolutions, the one that gets overlooked most often, yet has the potential to turn all the other resolutions into realities, is time management. Figuring out your priorities, the steps necessary to achieve them, and sticking to tasks or appointments, can mean the difference between wants and reality.
Here are a few simple things that you can do to make the most of the time you have:
1. Watch Professor Randy Pausch’s lecture on time management video
(or read the lecture notes). The late instructor was a big fan of not wasting time. In this lecture, one of the last public talks he gave before succumbing to pancreatic cancer, he outlines the importance of planning and to-do lists and what to tackle first; how to prioritize what’s important to you; and how to take better care of yourself so you can get more done.
2. Figure out what you’re really doing on your computer.
RescueTime tracks the time you spend on individual applications. The downloadable software not only monitors your computer activity, it can also remind you to spend more or less time doing one type of activity and it can block distracting websites. The Mac & PC-compatible app is free. Paid options give you more features and data storage.
3. Get to work. Or read about others getting to work.
No amount of advice can take the place of real work. But if you need a mental break, or you’re looking for ideas on how to streamline your workflow or tame your propensity for procrastination check out these blogs:
43 Folders: Lecturer, writer and designer Merlin Mann shares thoughts and tips on how to make time for creative work.
Lifehacker: While not all of the tips on Lifehacker have to do with office work, each one can help you save time.
Zen Habits: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the advice imparted on Zen Habits can bring the calm back into your crazy work and home life.
Do you have a favorite time management tip, trick or blog?