Reducing Stress and Anxiety – 3 Things That Work For Me

Over the years, probably brought on by being a startup junkie and always having poured myself unreservedly into work my entire professional life, I’ve developed several bad habits or things that are harmful to health, and perhaps also to relationships.

On the one hand, there is this insatiable passion and seemingly endless energy to take on challenges, get stuff done, being an engine that is always on. Sadly, on the other hand, there is fatigue, irritability, loss of focus, and low quality sleep. Undeniably, according to both ancient wisdom and modern medical know-how, the latter set of things affect one’s health dangerously. And with equal importance, the closest relationships are exposed to occasional bouts of irritability and other forms of negative energy. Broadly speaking, there is a general feeling of stress and anxiety as a result.

Three things I have either changed or started recently are personally helping me a lot without taking away from my productivity, and seem to be helping cut out the bad set of things.

RelaxPool

1. Turn off all audible alerts and lock-screen notifications on devices. (Except calendar reminders and text messages.)

This was a surprisingly welcome change. Sounds simple, but do you really need to be suddenly interrupted from your flow or zone, with a ding and a lock screen message that “Your Facebook friend so-and-so just joined Pinterest.” – and other irrelevant, unnecessary crap? I started going into my iPhone’s Notifications setup each time anything came up (Mail app alerts, Google alerts, Facebook, Twitter, CNBC alerts, and perhaps 10 others), and turning them off. I left Calendar and text message alerts on as I control the reminders I put on my calendar items, and also I am not a defocussed incessant texter – especially when I work, so most texts I get are important. On the same note, during work hours, I only make myself visible to the group of people I am working with on messaging apps. I still check my email and look at my agenda frequently, but on my own schedule, when I am in-between focussed tasks – kind of like waking up in sync with natural sleep cycles. Which leads me to my second thing – sleep.

2. Sleep well. Instead of an alarm clock, use an app like Sleep Cycle.

I started using this about a couple of months ago instead of using a regular alarm. It is ingeniously simple. You turn it on, put it next to your pillow facing down. It tracks your sleep cycles, duration and quality by tracking motion (whatever it detects from your tossing and turning, etc.), and perhaps from movement noise since it asks for access to the microphone. You can configure a window of time to wake up in, and it detects a stage when you are either awake or your sleep is in the waking part of the cycle during that time window, and wakes you up. Also, it measures your sleep quality and gives you a score and a graph of sleep level over time – that way you can correlate various pre-sleep activities with quality of sleep – for example, does sipping some tart cherry juice an hour before going to bed actually help with sleep, does deep breathing right before sleep give you some golden deep sleep cycles, etc. As my friend Chip had said 20 years ago: you should measure things that you care about. Inducing positive energy and a calm disengagement via pre-sleep deep breathing, and cutting out sources of negative energy seem to help in my case – which takes me to the third point.

3. Add positive energy (many choices). Cut out negative energy (namely TV news channels, and social media complainers).

Points 1 and 2 take zero time investment and give heavy positive returns. So that’s golden for the ROI (return-on-investment) fanatics. Point three is also a net positive – consuming about 30-60 minutes of time every day for adding positive energy (meditation / deep-breathing / quiet-time / simple yoga / reading / praying / reflecting / being grateful – look up Positive Psychology when you have a minute), but freeing up much more than that by subtracting sources of negative energy that steal time both directly and indirectly, and negatively affect every aspect of life. I am talking primarily about TV “news” folk, political talking-heads and other assorted villains – kings and queens of ignorance on TV and the internet constantly furthering their narrow agendas by stepping on your gentle minds. They come from the right and the left – ignore them, and instead look straight at what you value – there’s much better stuff there. The negative energy sources are plentiful in our social circles, in person, and more so on social media since it’s a much larger set. Cut. Them. Out. Hide them from your feeds, unfollow them, walk-away, change the topic, do whatever it takes to cleanly disengage. There are always tons of important things that require immense energy, constructive debate, championing ideas, defending values, and much effort without all the shallow and shrill things stealing our precious time. Any issue that is important to you can be engaged with constructively without subscribing to a buffet-line of fast-food class negative sentiments. That frees up more time to embrace positive things. Things you admire. Things you learn from. Things that leave you positive. Spend time with people that enrich you, and take a vacation every now and then!

What are some of your favorite positive energy sources? What kinds of negative energy sources have you successfully cut out? Please share.

How to Send an iPhone or iPad App as a Gift in iOS 7

Apps as GiftsThe holidays are right around the corner and as you know several of your family members, friends, and colleagues will be receiving new iPhones or iPads as gifts. If you want to send something special to your tech-loving friends and family members, apps are an excellent choice. Everyone knows that Apple devices are much more fun and useful when you load apps and games from the Apple App Store.

You might be new to iOS 7, which is the latest mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad. If so, we provided this short tutorial that describes how to send apps as gifts in iOS 7.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. The GTD method is an excellent method for organizing your schedule and getting things done for both life and business.LifeTopix GTD

At LightArrow, we’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix for the Doing Phase of GTD. Keep in mind that our starter app, My.Agenda, can include many of the features discussed by purchasing the Get Things Done Pack as an in-app purchase.

What is GTD?

If you’re not familiar with GTD, it’s “the groundbreaking work-life management system by David Allen that provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress-free productivity,” according to David Allen’s website. Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Doing. This post focuses on the Doing Phase of this workflow. In earlier blog posts, I’ve described the first four phases.

Refer to the following links to better understand how to use LightArrow apps for GTD.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

What is the Doing Phase of GTD?

No matter what system you’re using, it’s incredibly important to take action on your projects and units of work (tasks). In GTD, the Doing Phase is about making choices and taking action on items based on the context, time available, resources, and priorities. The types of items that you execute on are primarily tasks; however, in LifeTopix you might also be acting upon notes, appointments, trips, visits, events, gifts, and shopping lists. When using LifeTopix, we suggest that you review your action lists daily and choose the items for which you wish to act.

This post focuses primarily on tasks and appointments, but keep in mind the principles are similar for most actionable items. If you’ve properly executed the phases of Capturing, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing, then you should be able to easily proceed with the Doing Phase. When using LifeTopix for the Doing Phase, focus on the items described in the following sections.

Choosing Items from My Contexts

LifeTopix provides context tags for adding metadata to any type of object, no matter what system you use. Fundamentally, tags are used to describe the data for organizing purposes. In GTD, contexts are assigned to help you determine if you’re at the correct location and have the proper resources to complete a job. You can use LifeTopix’s context tags for GTD contexts.

The following four criteria are outlined in Allen’s book for setting contexts:

  1. Context (tools available, such as phone, internet, etc.)
  2. Time (the time at hand)
  3. Energy (your attention level)
  4. Priority (importance)

Take note that you’re more productive if you perform tasks, such as making phone calls during chunks of time, rather than switching to a different task — such as going to the grocery store to pick up milk and then finishing phone calls at a later time. Examples of GTD contexts are @office, @home, @grocery store, etc.

In LifeTopix, you can set any context you wish and you can assign multiple contexts to items. You access the My Contexts view by tapping the “tag” icon, as shown in the following image. The My Contexts view assists you in making choices about the jobs you wish to complete daily. This view shows all the contexts that you’ve set up.

LifeTopix Contexts
You can drill down into the contexts to see their tasks and other items by tapping the items in the list. In the My Contexts view, I’ve chosen the context of @home. The following image shows the tasks to which I’ve assigned to this context.

LifeTopix Contexts

Choosing and Viewing Daily Tasks from Contexts

Once you’ve selected a task from the My Contexts view, you can view the task detail to further determine if you have the time to complete the job. You can also determine if the item is a priority. The following image shows the fields that help you to decide on an action. The image below also shows how you can assign the action to the current date. Assigning a date allows you to easily locate and view the task in the Agenda view.

LifeTopix Tasks GTD

When you assign a due date to the current day, the task appears in the Agenda view, which makes it easy for you to view and edit your upcoming tasks from one screen, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix Agenda View GTD

In the above image, notice that the “Write 10 pages” task appears in light green, indicating it’s the next action to complete.

Choosing Items from Task Lists

Another method for choosing your daily tasks is to review your Task Lists in LifeTopix. In the Tasks + Projects topic of LifeTopix, you can access all your tasks in one view, which is the Task List view. You can drill down into each task to determine if you have enough time to complete the task and whether or not the task is flagged with a higher priority. This view is shown below.

Task List LifeTopix

We realize that it’s crucial to choose daily tasks based on many factors, and that priority and context are of upmost importance. Therefore, in our upcoming release of LifeTopix, we’ve made it easier to choose daily tasks by adding more choices for filtering task views. You will be able to view tasks by All, Category, Context Tag, Due Date, Last Updated, Status, Associated Item, Priority, and Task Owner. This allows you to better choose items based on context, time, resources, and priorities. These new choices are shown in the following image.

LifeTopix 8

(Pre-release image)

Utilizing Hot Lists

Hot Lists are exactly what the name implies — items that have a high degree of importance. Hence, we created the Hot List view for those “Hot” items. The Hot List gives you easy access to your favorite and most commonly used views and items by aggregating them into one place. This saves you time in navigating to frequently used views, items, and resources in LifeTopix.

At LightArrow, we realize that when following the GTD method, you might not want to set due dates for tasks that do not have hard deadlines. In LifeTopix, we recommend adding the due dates so you can easily view your items in one place (the Agenda view); however, if you prefer not to assign due dates to tasks, you can add these items to the Hot List.

To add tasks to your Hot List, in your Task List view, tap the “more info” icon to view the following options and then choose “Add to Hot List.”

Note: In many LifeTopix list views, you can tap and hold an item to add it to the Hot List.

Hot List GTD LifeTopix

Subsequently, you can view your chosen items directly from the Hot List, which you access from your Dashboard, as shown below.

Hot List

Using Your Calendar Views

Actions that must be completed at a certain date and time (with hard deadlines), such as classes, meetings, doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, etc. are handled easily by LifeTopix. Specifically, LifeTopix allows you to define these items by Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Dated Notes, Occasions, Medications, Activity/Wellness, and more. LifeTopix has a variety of choices for viewing the calendar. LifeTopix includes a main calendar that allows you to pick and choose the types of items that display on it. The app also includes specific calendars for tasks, events, and trips. You can view the calendar by Day, Week, Month, and Year. If you want to see these calendar views in detail, refer to Not Crazy About the iOS 7 Calendar App – Here’s the Answer.

In the Month and Day views, you can easily review the items that you scheduled for the day, which helps you to decide on the other tasks that you’ll work on daily. The following image shows an example of the Month view.

Month View LifeTopix

In this view, you can see all the dated items that you’ve assigned for the day — all in one place. Keep in mind that your dated items also appear in your Agenda view, which provides a good list of your jobs, events, and appointments for the current day and the upcoming week.

Completing Tasks

Of course, completing your important tasks is the ultimate goal when your intention is productivity and getting things done. Doing the work is up to you, but LifeTopix makes it easy to mark your tasks as complete. You simply set the Status to Completed and enter a Finished On date. This way, you have a record of when you complete the task and you feel a sense of accomplishment when you see your important items crossed off. The following screenshot shows the fields where you indicate status for a task.

LifeTopix Complete Tasks

Once you’ve completed your tasks, you can view the completed task list by filtering by all tasks, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix Completed Tasks

Take note, in our upcoming release, you’ll have the ability to view your tasks by status, as shown earlier in this post.

More Information

GTD is a great system for managing your busy home and work life. If you’d like to know more about best practices using LifeTopix for GTD, refer to the following posts:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

As I mentioned, if you’ve properly focused on the first four phases of GTD, then the Doing Phase should be a breeze. Please comment and let us know how you implement the Doing Phase and let us know if you have suggestions or questions.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

LightArrow Partners With Box to Turbocharge Your Personal Organization and Business Productivity

box_partnership_seal_blue(1)Organizing your life and business can be difficult, especially when there’s so many appointments, events, meetings, and projects that you’re juggling. And as a matter of course, you have supporting documents for many of your projects and meetings, and it’s always difficult to find those documents when you need them. You can print them and store them in file folders that clutter your office space or you can save them to your hard drive and risk the chance of hardware failure and losing them for good. So what’s the solution for keeping these documents stored safely, easily finding and retrieving them when you need them, and making them accessible wherever you go? LightArrow and Box have teamed up to solve these problems. Imagine you’ve started a new project and you have a weekly meeting to discuss all the logistics. Your boss calls you while you’re at the airport and needs to know the specific details about deadlines and the roadmap. You can pull up the project in LifeTopix then and there, and access all the supporting files containing the weekly meeting notes from the LifeTopix project. Or, perhaps you’ve moved to a new city and you need to start preventive care for your pets. Instantly access a Health project in LifeTopix and locate photos or scanned documents of your pets’ vaccination records. With LightArrow’s new integration with Box, you are now able to easily associate your files that are stored in the cloud with Box to LifeTopix projects, products, events, trips, visits, notes, services, service providers, metrics, subjects, and assets.

BoxImage.001

Imagine having the ability to link tasks, checklists, appointments, reminders, bookmarks, files, audio, photos, videos, notes, expenses, services, and shopping items to your projects. And picture how impressed your boss will be when you answer his or her questions on the spot, while on the go. And if you’re using more than one iOS device, you can also use Box for device-to-device sync — keep data on all your devices the same.

So how do you get started?

  1. Go to www.Box.com and set up an account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Create and store your important documents and files in Box.
  3. Go to the App Store and purchase LifeTopix.
  4. In LifeTopix, tap Settings and then Logins for Integrations.
  5. Under the Box section, add your Box account.
  6. In the LifeTopix Notes + Files topic, add your Folders and Files from Box by tapping the Folders and Files tiles.
  7. Associate your files with LifeTopix projects, products, events, trips, visits, notes, services, service providers, metrics, subjects, and assets.

Want to learn more?

Find detailed tutorials about our integration at the LightArrowInc YouTube page by following the links below. Associating Files and Folders | Device-to-Device Sync Find information about LightArrow Apps at the Box website by following the links below. LifeTopix | My.Agenda | Pro.Notes | My.Notes | My.Shopping

5 Popular Ways Mobile Devices Can Improve Your Life

With this week’s announcement of the iPhone 5c, purchasing an Apple smartphone is now more affordable than ever with prices ranging from $99 to $199 for first time smartphone buyers or for those who are eligible for an upgrade (plus the monthly fees).

According to a study by eMarketer, in 2012 there were 44.3 million Apple smartphone users in the US. This is nearly 14 percent of the US population. And overall, approximately 38 percent of the US population is using a smartphone. Are you one of the 62 percent who’s still on the fence about purchasing a smartphone?

Smartphone Use

What’s your reason for not jumping on the bandwagon? If you don’t believe a smartphone will enrich your life, keep reading to learn some popular ways that a smartphone can make you a more productive, healthier, and happier person.

1. Live a Healthier LifeStyle

According to the Food Information Council Foundation, “Nearly six in ten Americans believe that online and mobile tools can help them live healthier lifestyles.” This is a significant portion of Americans. So how do apps help? Consider the “Quantified Self” movement.

The Quantified Self is essentially tracking data about your life — daily. Keeping track of statistics about yourself, such as weight, heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure, fitness levels, measurements, etc. makes you aware of your progress or lack of progress.

There are several apps that help you keep track of statistics about your health and life, and as apps evolve, you’ll hear more and more about “wearables,” which will automatically track statistics simply by wearing the device. All of this data can be particularly eye opening, and the data will help you achieve health and fitness goals that you never thought were possible.

For example, take a look at the following log form that keeps track of weight and running. You’ll see for this app user, as the running log progresses over time (green line), the weight drops (orange line). When you see the progress in this visual format, you’re more likely to stick with a plan.

Smartphone Use

2. Don’t Get Lost, and Find Important Things On the Fly

mapupdate

When you ask most smartphone owners about the apps that have enriched their lives, many start discussing the map apps — especially if they travel a lot. Let’s face it – getting lost is no fun.

For those who own a smartphone, perhaps this is not too surprising, but your smartphone can replace your car’s navigation system. And if you’re anything like me, you never update your navigation system maps, and you see a sad message on your dash when you fire up your car’s navigation.

For me, up-to-date maps is enough to justify my smartphone purchase. No more expensive map updates, outdated data, and driving around aimlessly wasting gas and risking a car jacking.

The default maps app that’s loaded on your iPhone 5 and the Google maps app give you turn-by-turn directions with voice commands and up-to-date maps.

iosmaps

And other apps go even further with location services to make your life more convenient. You can find doctors, hotels, deals, taxis, restaurants, shopping list items, and more by using apps that take advantage of location services — such as the apps shown below.

locationservices

With livingsocial, you can find local deals and coupons; with My.Shopping you can create shopping lists, record coupons, and locate the items that you need to purchase on a map; and with Yelp you can find just about any place near you — and read the reviews.

3. Take Fabulous Photos and Store Them in the Cloud

Cameras can be expensive and difficult to carry around. And if you’re using an older camera phone, you probably don’t know what you’re missing when it comes to photo quality from the latest smartphones.

The iPhone 5 takes quality photos, but this week’s announcement from Apple details that the newer iPhone 5S has a five-element lens with f/2.2 aperture. Apple also explained that the sensor has a 15 percent larger area resulting in a better picture. The new camera also has a burst mode — allowing you to take 10 shots per second. While this new phone won’t replace your SLR camera, it might be comparable to your higher-end compact camera — eliminating the need to take the compact camera to your kids’ next soccer game.

Another problem that’s solved is getting photos off of your camera, which is usually a huge pain. What I love about taking photos with my smartphone is the ability to quickly upload them to the cloud. For example, with a Box or Dropbox account and the accompanying apps, you can easily upload your photos from your smartphone in a few simple taps, as shown below.

camerauplads

After setting up your Dropbox or Box account and installing the apps, you essentially tap the photos you wish to upload, choose a folder, and tap Upload. Very simple. Now the photos are accessible from your laptop, mobile device, or PC — and you can remove them from your device if you wish to free up space.

4. Don’t Let Tasks Fall Through the Cracks

Nobody can remember everything all the time. That’s why a to-do list is one of the most effective methods for preventing items from falling through the cracks, which can result in negative consequences. Forming a habit of keeping track of to-dos and other events can help you improve your work habits, form better relationships, and free up your time because you’re better organized. There are a variety of apps and ways to track to-dos and plan your days, such as the My.Agenda app, shown below.

myagenda

Some apps are as simple as the default Notes app on your device, and others are more sophisticated — allowing you to track everything from calendar events to shopping lists. Whatever apps you choose, make sure they’re flexible enough to grow with your organizational needs.

5. Keep in Touch with Friends and Family — Almost Face-to-Face

As of January 2012, Skype has over 31 million users, and 35 percent of small businesses use Skype as a primary communication service. While it’s difficult to take the place of true face-to-face communication, modern video conferencing options, such as Skype, can get you pretty close.

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you can easily use Skype or other conferencing options to read a bedtime story to your kids. Or perhaps you own a small business and you need to communicate with clients or agencies. You can easily save the travel costs and pop on a video call to better communicate with your clients, colleagues, and prospects. Choices for affordable video conferencing via your mobile device include Skype, Apple Facetime, or Google+ Hangouts.

 

Clearly, with nearly 2 million apps available at the Apple App Store and Google Play combined, there are several options for improving your life through technology. What apps have improved your life or helped you form good habits? Please share your favorites.

Sources

eMarketer. (Sept. 9, 2013). Android, Apple Continue to Consolidate US Smartphone Market. eMarketer.com. Retrieved from http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Android-Apple-Continue-Consolidate-US-Smartphone-Market/1010196

Food Information Council Foundation. (May, 2012). 2012 Food and Health Survey. Food Information Council Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/3840/2012%20IFIC%20Food%20and%20Health%20Survey%20Report%20of%20Findings%20%28for%20website%29.pdf, page 39

Statistic Brain. (2012). Skype Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/skype-statistics/

Your Family Calendar, All in One Place

Organizing your calendar and schedule is a big challenge when you have a lot going on — and most of us do. And if you’re a mom who’s organizing the whole family, it’s even more challenging. Learn how LifeTopix and our starter app, My.Agenda, come to the rescue.

Transcript

Organizing your calendar and schedule is a big challenge when you have a lot going on — and most of us do.

And if you’re a mom who’s organizing the whole family, it’s even more challenging.

Between Zumba, baseball games, meetings, carpools, and clubs, you feel like your drowning and it’s practically impossible to keep it all straight.

This is when LifeTopix and our starter app, My.Agenda, come to the rescue.

LifeTopix is a central hub for your tasks, projects, shopping, events, travel, and more. My.Agenda is a starter, more economical version of LifeTopix that enables you to start small and expand as your organizational needs grow.

As the central hub of your life, LifeTopix works with all your calendars, including Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, your device Calendar, and others. You just need to configure these items in your device’s Mail, Contacts, and Calendars Settings.

So Why LifeTopix?

You might be wondering why you would use LifeTopix instead of your standard device calendar or a free online calendar.

There’s lots of ways to justify it – with 12 big reasons. The 12 Life Topics, which are intelligently designed topics that manage more than just calendar events.

These topics are connected and in one place, which eliminates the app hopping that you do when you install a flock of apps to do many different, disconnected things.

For example, when your contacts and service providers are linked to your calendar events and other items, you can easily contact them if you’re running late in just a few simple taps. You never have to open your device’s contacts or search for an email address again.

And don’t worry about getting lost with LifeTopix’s location services, you can always view your destination on the map.

LifeTopix keeps the whole family on the same page because it uses cloud services such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive for device-to-device sync. Because of this, LifeTopix or My.Agenda becomes the perfect place to share your kids’ doctors appointments, playdates, sports, and other events with the whole family.

And LifeTopix gives you other options for sharing. You can share items via email, text, or social media with friends or family members.

Before you get started with Cloud Sync, all you need to do is go to www.dropbox.com and set up a free account for the family to share.

Once you’ve set it up, everyone in the family can point LifeTopix to the Dropbox folder using LifeTopix Settings.

Next, Voila, everyone can start using Dropbox sync.

You’ll find another video on our website or youTube channel that describes these steps in detail.

Now everyone can be on the same page about what’s going on from appointments, to checklists, to bill payments and more — we’ve got you covered.

Now that everyone’s sharing the same calendar, you can easily add all types of items to your family’s agenda without a lot of nagging.

And your weekly review is a piece of cake with this handy agenda view.

We know you have a lot going on, keep track of it and keep everyone in the loop while on the go with LifeTopix.

If you want to learn more go to www.lightarrow.com or find LifeTopix or MyAgenda at the Apple App Store in the Productivity section. Thanks for Watching.

More info at the Apple App Store:

LifeTopix

My.Agenda

Productivity Secrets from a Seasoned Mom

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, this special holiday reminded me of how overwhelming motherhood can be. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom taking care of children, a mom running a home business, or a mom who’s working outside of the home, the responsibilities can feel monumental. No matter what your situation might be, you can benefit from the tips I’ve included in this post to help you get things done and be productive.

Productive Mom

I consider myself somewhat of an authority on juggling multiple responsibilities. I can completely relate to stay-at-home moms and working moms alike, as I’ve been both — and now I’m the parent of a teenager who will soon be off to college. In my situation, I’ve taken on the majority of the parenting responsibility because my spouse’s career always required a great deal of travel. Consequently, I’ve picked up some wisdom over the years that I hope you will find useful — “things I wish I would have known when I was 20.”

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

The author, Charles Augustus Goodrich popularized the phrase, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The phrase was first published in an article called “Neatness” in 1827. Many years later, this phrase still stays true. Removing clutter and having a home for everything can drastically reduce stress and free your time. Essentially, this means that you should store similar items together and make sure frequently used items are stored in an accessible place.

According to an article from Psychology Today, there are many reasons that clutter causes stress, but the one that stands out the most to me is, “Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.” Another side effect of clutter is it’s difficult to quickly find the things that you need to use. From lost keys to misplaced bills — even your favorite jeans; it’s frustrating, time consuming, and it costs you money in late fees and buying duplicate items. And don’t be afraid to trash or donate the things you don’t use. You won’t miss that stuff. I promise.

There are several inspirational people and websites for learning about organizing and enjoying a clutter free environment. You can find great ideas from the popular de-clutter websites or by viewing organization and DIY examples on Pinterest. You can learn great ways from the community about processes and ideas to find your way to that blissful, organized haven that you deserve.

Make Time For Yourself

A happy mom is productive and stress-free mom. Consider this research taken from the workplace. According to “Happy Workers are More Productive” published in the Guardian, “Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.” The article continues to explain that economists have continuously overlooked that human emotion is a key component of productivity, rather than skill building or education.

The logical conclusion is if you schedule the time for yourself to include the hobbies and activities that make you happy, you will be a better you – less stressed, more productive, creative, and more motivated. If you’ve set your hobbies aside because you’ve been raising children, think about the activities that bring you joy, whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel, or knitting a scarf — and make some time in your schedule to pursue these activities. And if you’re concerned that you don’t have time due to your parenting responsibilities, exchange childcare with friends or family.

Plan Meals and Make them Simple

Our family has a weekly ritual of grocery shopping together every Sunday. First, we take into account our weekly activities, work-related dinner commitments, and travel schedule and make sure everything is on the family calendar. With our busy lives, it’s difficult to have a meal at home every night so we’ve learned not to be too ambitious and we plan when we’ll have dinner out.

I like to keep a collection of easy-to-make recipes that suit the entire family and recognize our food intolerances and allergies. Making a fancy meal on a weeknight is a difficult endeavor for me because I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Some moms swear by preparing meals ahead of time during the weekends. If this strategy works for you — go for it. It’s a great time management strategy to group similar tasks together. Personally, I prefer to prepare meals that take 30 minutes or less. I use a variety of meats, vegetables, beans, pasta, and rice and keep it super simple every night.

Apps are a great way to keep your grocery list organized, and you can find a variety of apps that can help you create your grocery lists. I recommend LifeTopix or My.Agenda as your shopping app because they allow you to keep a database of shopping items with their sellers, locations, and prices and you can re-use these lists and items time and time again. This takes the guesswork out of your weekly or bi-monthly shopping trips.

Too Much Stuff Wastes Your Time

If your family is anything like mine, you’re attracted to shiny objects and you’ve spent a lot of time accumulating stuff. And then something happens. You discover the costs of ownership (time and money!), and you find that these objects really don’t make you happy. We learned this lesson and made deliberate choices to reduce our material possessions. Now, we don’t make purchases without careful consideration of the costs and time involved in owning that object.

For example, it might seem like a great idea to purchase that pretty new boat, but before you know it you’re spending more time on the weekend caring for it then you are wakeboarding or swimming at the lake. Believe me — I’ve been there! Simplify. I can’t stress this lesson learned enough.

Delegate and Outsource

Delegate and outsource as much as you can. The most difficult part of delegating is letting go — especially when it comes to asking children to complete to-dos. Children of appropriate age are very capable of performing chores such as emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, cleaning their rooms, dusting, simple cooking, and other chores. They might not perform the chores up to your satisfaction, but in turn they’re learning important life skills and their ability to perform the chores will improve over time. And, of course, sharing responsibilities with your spouse and completing projects together is imperative.

If you have the means, hiring help to clean your house or take care of lawn maintenance will free your time so you can focus on enjoying family time, learning new skills, practicing your hobbies, or reaching fitness goals. It basically boils down to how valuable you believe your time is and your budget.

Schedule Appointments and Tasks on Your Calendar

When managing your time, you can learn a lot from the GTD (Getting Things Done®) method, which is a popular work-life management system from David Allen. According to the GTD method, actual appointments at their assigned time and tasks that have to be done on a specific day should be listed on your calendar. I can’t stress this enough.

Here’s an example. Like me, I’m sure you have many responsibilities for childcare that can be as simple as picking up a notebook for school to a repeating music lesson schedule. Everything that I need to remember, which must occur at or by a designated time, goes on my calendar or these items will simply fall through the cracks. And as your children mature and have their own smartphones, they can schedule tasks, appointments, and reminders on a family calendar via the tool that they use. I’m finding this process gets my son into the habit of scheduling everything on his calendar, which is helping him to develop good time management skills and habits. I recommend that you try using one of our apps, LifeTopix or My.Agenda, for recording appointments or tasks. They’re amazing for managing your family calendar.

Make Actionable and Realistic To-Do Lists

Did you know that there’s a specific psychology behind why to-do lists and task lists work? Surprisingly, our unconscious minds are wired to continuously nag us about items that we’ve left undone and goals we haven’t reached. This is referred to as the Zeigarnik Effect. Research indicates that once you’ve made an actionable and realistic plan, these nagging thoughts will soon come to an end.

To-do lists are quite useful tools for getting things done, but they can be counterproductive if done incorrectly. Consequently, to make them effective, to-dos in a list should be reserved for small, actionable items that you’re definitely planning to complete. An example of an actionable to-do is “schedule a personal training session,” rather than, “get in shape.” Tasks should be reserved for larger items that cannot be completed within a few minutes. If the deadline is unsure, place these tasks in a Soon or Someday holding area.

Don’t Over-schedule Activities

Parents understandably want to give their children all of the opportunities that life has to offer by providing activities such as sports, dance, education, music, etc.; however, finding a good balance is a challenge. When you find yourself driving from activity to activity and eating all your meals in the car; it’s time to re-evaluate the pros and cons of the activities. Make sure you’ve allowed some free time so your kids can just be kids.

Every child is different. Many are very motivated and love every minute of their extracurricular activities, while other children loathe going from activity to activity and long for free time. Pay attention to your children and their reactions and don’t be afraid to back off if the activities are affecting their ability to experience life in an unstructured way. Keep in mind that studies show that free play is very important for the development of social skills and emotional health.

Scheduling these activities on your calendar helps you to visually examine and evaluate how much time is involved. If you’re child is taking music class, make sure to schedule practice time on the calendar so you can see the entire scope of the commitment. I’m reminded of the quote by St. Francis de Sales, “It is far better to do a few things well than to undertake many good works and leave them half done.”

 

We’d love to hear how YOU stay productive and if you’ve learned any tips along the way that we can share with our readers. And, if you’re an organization or DIY expert, please feel free to share your website or Pinterest boards.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Introducing My.Agenda, and What’s Next for LightArrow

Dear Friends and Followers of Team LightArrow:

Today is an exciting day for us. Today we have expanded our app portfolio with My.Agenda — for users who desire an easy-to-use app for managing their busy lives, but want more than just a simple to-do list app. My.Agenda, a complete organizer and planner, lets users start small and add new productivity topics as their personal organization needs evolve.

Since 2010, LightAr­row has been providing users with one of the most comprehensive apps for managing all aspects of their lives and businesses. My.Agenda targets a new segment of users who want to start small without sacrificing power. If you already have LifeTopix, you do not need My.Agenda, since it is like a “starter edition” of LifeTopix.

If you are an avid user of LifeTopix, you have most likely been in active conversations with us regarding improvements that are coming soon and down the road. In our next update of LifeTopix in May, there are several significant improvements, specifically in the areas of Shopping, Notes, People, and also in the My Calendar views. There are many improvements in other areas as well, and we will continue to enhance LifeTopix frequently with updates over the next months and years.

We have been adding exceptional talent to our development team. We are planning to offer several new apps for personal organization and business, and expand our support of platforms to include Windows 8, Android, and also full app support on the Mac. We will also continue to improve our integrations with existing and new online services popular with our users.

Team LightArrow works tirelessly to support our users and improve our apps. We have been fortunate to have users we love – you inspire us every step of the way. We are very grateful. We do recognize that in several areas we have a long way to go. We are in it for the long haul. We love what we do, and we will continue execute fiercely on our great vision. We believe in it passionately.

Team LightArrow thanks you!

Best regards,

Adi

CEO, LightArrow Inc.

Austin, Texas

Earth Day – Eight Things You Can Do Today to Save the Planet

Earth Day 2013

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated to educate Americans about ecology and what they can do to reduce their environmental impact. Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day in 1970 and it’s still celebrated today to honor our planet. In this post, we’d like to do our part to educate you about a few simple things that you can do today that will protect and honor planet earth without drastically changing your lifestyle.

1. Set Auto Shutdown on Your Laptops

According to Casey Roe, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, Duke Sustainability Office [source], it takes 60 to 300 trees to absorb the annual impact of a computer that’s left on 24 hours a day, and only 60 percent of US adults turn their computer off during the night. A simple change that you can make today is shutting down your laptops and devices at night.

To make it super simple, in many cases you can set up your computers to shut down or use other energy-saving options (such as sleep or hibernate) automatically. Macs have options that enable you to automatically shut them down during times that you’re not using them.

Earth Day 2013

You can use the Energy Saver preferences in the System Preferences application. Just click the Schedule button, and you can set up the schedule that works for you.

2. Eliminate Junk Mail

According to 41Pounds.org, “more than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail. 42% of timber harvested nationwide becomes pulpwood for paper.” Furthermore, they state, “The world’s temperate forests absorb 2 billion tons of carbon annually. Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.”

So what can you do about it? There are services that allow you to stop the influx of junk mail that you receive at your home. And if you’re a marketer, consider more green (digital) options. I recently started using Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice unlists you from marketing lists for catalogs and allows you to search for and choose the catalogs that you no longer wish to receive. What’s neat about the site is you can also view the environmental benefits of your contribution and the contribution of others as a whole.

3. Buy Used or Borrow Things That You Only Use Once in a While

Many of us rush out to buy something new any time we need it. In fact, according to the The Daily Green, “studies have shown that the average power tool is used for only about half an hour it its lifetime.” If statistics are correct, you probably have some lonely and dusty power tools in your garage. Instead of rushing out to the nearest home improvement store, consider purchasing used items and borrowing tools and other items. 

Nowadays, there are many choices for borrowing items such as tools, and when you no longer need an item you can consider donating it. In the United States, a “Tool Library” movement has begun and continues to gain momentum, which allows you to borrow several type of home and garden tools. Just perform a local Google Search and you’ll find many options for lending and borrowing.

4. Use Cloud Services

Using Cloud Services is a popular trend, but it also can help you to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. According to Go Green, “large companies adopting the cloud can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 30 percent. The better news is, small businesses even save more energy than the larger counterparts – up to 90 percent.”

We often talk about cloud services and how you can use them to store your documents, photos, and other media to help you achieve your paperless goals (as opposed to printing these items and placing them in file folders). We also commonly talk about how our app, LifeTopix, allows you to access these documents in context with all the things you’re doing and planning in your life. Examples of cloud services that are popular and can be used for free include Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, Evernote, and Google Drive.

You can refer to their websites to sign up and learn more about these services.

5. Reduce Travel

Whether you’re traveling across town or traveling across the earth, consider video conferencing as an option to reduce your carbon footprint. An article published by Yale University by Elisabeth Rosenthal [source] states that, “According to various estimates, emissions from aviation currently represent 2 to 3 percent of CO2 emissions and are likely to double or triple by 2050.”

To reduce the number of trips that you take, consider video conferencing options. Lower cost and free options that are available include Skype, Google Hangouts, iChat on Apple Computers, or Adobe Connect Pro among many others. Refer to their websites for more information.

6. Cancel Paper Newspaper Subscriptions

Are you still receiving the daily newspaper? Have you ever wondered about the environment impact of that daily newspaper? According to the Daily Green, “The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector’s carbon emissions” and “Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).”

Understanding this, I investigated a local newspaper and found that there are several options for online, iPad, and various tablet subscriptions. I also found that the tablet choice was more economical than choosing the paper option with full online access. Consequently, there’s no need to give up the subscription altogether.

7. Use Reminders, Notes, Lists, and Calendar Applications

iOS reminders, calendar apps, shopping/to-do list and note apps, and personal organization apps such as LifeTopix are excellent for helping you incorporate green habits into your life, such as reducing the amount of paper that you use. For example, you can use a variety of apps or use LifeTopix to:

  • Set a reminder to carry your reusable shopping bags to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
  • Schedule times that local farmers sell at the markets.
  • Schedule recycling day.
  • Create digital shopping lists and ditch the paper lists.
  • Stop using paper notes and create digital to-do lists and notes.
  • Set reminders to turn off the lights in your house.

8. Better Plan Your Errands and Carpool

Near_MeOne great way to reduce emissions is to cut back on the amount of time you spend in your car commuting and running errands. According to the EPA, “Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by an average of two tons per year.”

Your built-in map app on your iOS device or Google maps can help you plan the most efficient route when running errands. And, if you use an app such as LifeTopix, you can use the handy Near Me feature to view shopping and other items on your map to ensure you’re taking advantage of the best route.

There are several websites and apps that can help you find ways to carpool. Social media is also a great way to arrange rides with friends.

Please comment and let us know your tips for reducing your carbon footprint. We love to hear from our readers. 

Celebrate Earth Month with LightArrow’s LifeTopix App Giveaways

Earth Day is April 22, 2013. LightArrow will be celebrating this month with promo code giveaways and by providing helpful earth-friendly LifeTopix tips and tricks on Twitter. Go Green LifeTopix

To get in on the Earth Month celebration, follow @LifeTopix on Twitter. Look for promo codes at 1:00 pm central every weekday from April 2 – April 22. Remember to use your code immediately before someone else grabs it. Please reply on Twitter to let us know you used one. Thanks!

If you’ve never used a promo code at the Apple App Store, on your device, from the App Store, tap Featured and there’s a Redeem button at the bottom. Tap it, and then enter the code. It will find the app based on the code.

LifeTopix is a great resource to help you achieve your paperless goals. With the Notes + Files topic, you can eliminate paper notes immediately. If you want to track receipts, invoices, bills, etc., LifeTopix is a great resource. And with LifeTopix, you can store all your paper resources in Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote — and you can find these stored items all within the context of everything that you do in your life. The possibilities are endless!

Download LifeTopix:

Please spread the word using the social media icons below! Thanks!