10 Unexpected Ways to be the Most Productive Person You Know

Productive-People

At LightArrow, we’re all about productivity. Getting things done is embedded in everything we do. We often share productivity tips on our blog, Twitter and Facebook. Today, we compiled a collection of our favorite, counter-intuitive tips. Enjoy!

1. Ditch the Late Night Emails

Does your boss send you late night emails? Studies show that answering email outside of work on your smartphone or tablet, especially late at night, makes you less productive. Here’s the science involved. The pineal gland, which is located in the brain, releases melatonin a few hours before you go to sleep. However, if you’re playing games or using tablets and smartphones, the blue light that these devices emit can prevent the gland from releasing the melatonin you need to get to sleep.

But before you completely unplug, ensure you understand your boss’s expectations and that you know when immediate responses are necessary. Or perhaps, you’re the boss. Keep in mind that your employees feel obligated to respond, which sets them up for poor sleep and less productivity. Keep your employees happy and healthy by reserving the late night emails for emergencies.

2. Smile More

Have you ever spent a day dwelling on a negative event? Do you remember the impact it had on your overall productivity? Examine the things that make you happy and learn to gravitate to those places, people and things. When you’re happy, you’re naturally more productive and creative. Numerous studies have been conducted that link improved job performance and productivity with overall happiness. So don’t be a “Debbie Downer” and be afraid to share your happiness with everyone around you. Your smile will certainly be contagious!

3. Put a Plant on Your Desk

A little greenery can go a long way. Adding a plant to a sparse office space can surprisingly increase your productivity. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, plants can increase productivity up to 15 percent!

In addition, plants can remove air pollution from your environment that negatively affects productivity. According to NASA Clean Air Study, a variety of plants can reduce benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and/or ammonia. I personally prefer Boston Ferns because they’re relatively easy to take care of and they’re not toxic to animals according to Mother Nature Network. Whatever plant you choose, it will beautify your surroundings, clean the air and make you more productive. It’s a gift to yourself that doesn’t stop giving!

4. Take Restorative Breaks

After working several hours on a difficult task, you can feel drained and lose concentration. Recharging is necessary to regain your energy and concentration. You’ve probably heard that taking breaks increases productivity. However, when you take a break, ensure that the activity you choose during that break does not impact your concentration. Playing a game on your smartphone is not the best choice when recharging. Instead, take a walk, stretch, do some yoga poses, eat a healthy snack or talk to a friend. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all you need to recharge.

5. Eat Dark Chocolate

Now this is a tip you can sink your teeth into. Eat Dark Chocolate! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and caffeine, which are proven to improve mental focus and alertness. In fact, according to WebMD, researchers believe that chocolate can enhance neurotransmitters which can help with sleep and mood.

6. Just Say No

Don’t try to do too much. Ruthlessly prioritizing is the key to achieving your goals and dreams – with the key word being “YOUR.” When you’re pulled in multiple directions and have conflicting priorities, you never achieve the things you really want to achieve. Just say no to someone else who’s trying to push his or her agenda onto you. Decide what’s important and urgent. Record your goals and build a tangible plan with broken-down tasks to get there. Check in with yourself. Review these goals often. Always clearly explain to others why their agenda is not your priority.

7. Don’t Work So Much

Have you ever noticed that your productivity declines on Friday afternoon? You’re gearing up for the weekend, losing focus, and burned out from a long week. According to Hudson Research, employees who have a relaxed Friday environment “go into the weekend feeling positive about their working environment.” A flexible schedule goes a long way with most employees. Researchers from this study believe that the “feel good factor” can have beneficial effects.

Don’t feel guilty. If your employer allows it, work when your energy is at its best. Take advantage of the times when you feel focused and take some time off when you believe you’re not doing your best work. The result will be better output and a recharged mind and body. It’s a win-win.

8. Exercise

Time and time again I hear, “I don’t have time for exercise” or “I’m too tired to exercise.” I believe most of us don’t have time to NOT exercise. Exercise supplies more energy to your brain, and it also enhances mental capabilities.

Whether you have a busy work schedule, small children or school is taking over your life, there’s always a way to make time to be healthy. You don’t have to join a gym or jump onto the latest hardcore workout trend. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. That’s only 30 minutes five days a week. Worried about childcare? Take a walk with your kids so they can also enjoy the benefits of movement and activity.

9. Write More

Writing can have many benefits. Writing helps you organize your thoughts, stay on schedule and release feelings onto paper. In fact, just the act of writing helps us to remember things. Do you make to-do lists? Just the process of making a to-do list helps you to remember all the tasks that you need to complete. Writing lists makes everything more manageable and makes you feel less out of control.

10. Focus on the Moment

How often do you try to plow through your to-do list and thoughts start creeping into your head about the test you need to study for or phone calls you need to make? To get things done quickly and efficiently, focus on one task at a time before moving onto the next task. For example, imagine you’re writing a term paper, but you know you have six loads of laundry waiting. Instead of breaking up your thought process, focus on your term paper for 90 minutes before shifting to another task, such as your laundry. You can easily set a timer with your smartphone or alarm clock to keep you focused.

Your Turn

What is your favorite unexpected life hack for making you more productive? Please share!

The Power of All in One Tools and Why We Love Them

LifeTopix Swiss Army Knife of AppsIn the 1800s, Victorinox® introduced the Swiss Army Knife® as an all-in-one tool to aid the Swiss Army. If you’re not familiar with the Swiss Army Knife, it’s essentially a single instrument that can include several different tool combinations such as a blade, screwdriver, can opener, bottle opener, nail file and a host of other tools. The Swiss Army Knife is known for its multi-tool design, red color and white cross logo. It’s an excellent example of smart and versatile design that eliminates unnecessary bulk in your backpack or pocket.

LightArrow Apps – Swiss Army Knives of the App World

Some things never change. In the 1880s, it was important to keep essential tools in one place. These days, many of us keep a variety of tools (apps) for managing our work and life on our smartphones and tablets. Imagine your device is like a pocket or backpack – you don’t want 24 different apps weighing down your device when you can use just one. And just like your pocket, you don’t want to keep reaching into it to find a different tool to do the job when one tool can do it all.

At LightArrow, we believe that versatility and all-in-one design is essential for optimizing productivity, and that’s why we love this type of smart design. For example, if I’m at a conference and I meet new connections, I want to save the information about those connections in notes, but I don’t want those notes to be separate from contacts on my device. Or, if I create a shopping list for a home project, I want that shopping list to be associated with that project. That’s why it’s great when my data is connected and inside one app. I also don’t want to search for a different app every time I want to create a reminder or make a to-do list. For the sake of efficiency, it’s important to have a “go-to” app for this information.

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Many of our apps are packaged much like Swiss Army Knives. You can choose LifeTopix, which includes the most functionality in our product line right out of the box, or you can pick the features you want by downloading one of our other products. These apps: Pro.Calendar, My.Agenda and Pro.Inbox allow feature set flexibility through in-app purchases. Hence, it’s much like picking the tools that you need on your Swiss Army Knife. You can learn more about the features included in each app by visiting our Compare Page.

Your Turn

Have you discovered the power and versatility of all-on-one design? Let us know about your experiences with our products or others.

5 Ways to Transform Your Small Business with LightArrow Mobile Apps

LightArrow Apps for Small BizStaying productive and focused when running a small business or microbusiness is difficult. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, small business owner or freelancer, the challenges are the same. It’s imperative to stay on top of your game and laser focused on your goals to attain the success you set out to achieve.

As you know, these days it’s important to understand new technologies and new media in order to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. And now, more than ever before, mobile technologies have changed the ways we get things done every day.

This week, we’ve compiled a list of five technologies and systems that you must have in your repertoire in order to achieve success in our modern world of small business. Enjoy!

1. Nurture Small Business Sales Leads and Build Customer Relationships

A CRM application is a great tool for simplifying the management of your small business contacts. It integrates a variety of different information about your leads, prospects and customers all into one place. An ideal CRM also includes project and task management, allowing you to assign sales and marketing tasks that impact your sales revenue. Typically, a cloud-based CRM will cost anywhere from US $12 monthly/person to US $125 monthly/person, not including professional services and ongoing support.

LightArrow apps include many customer relationship management features that web-based CRM systems have, without the monthly subscription fees. Our apps organize a variety of customers’ data that originated from multiple places into one mobile app.

For example, our apps allow you to organize leads, track, and manage leads. You can also interact with contacts through email or social media handles, directly from their contact record in your LightArrow App. In addition, LightArrow apps include powerful project and task management features, which allow you to assign tasks to yourself or others to nurture prospects and move them down the sales funnel.

In the following diagram you see LifeTopix’s spreadsheet-like view for managing contacts. Within this view, you can access and manage all the information about your leads, prospects or clients. Specifically, you can manage all the tasks that are required to advance to a successful sale. Once the lead becomes a customer, you can manage and organize any information for this client through the 12 life topics, included with the LifeTopix app; of course, keeping track of customer details is vital for customer retention.

SmallBizCRM

2. Manage Small Business Assets and Finances Wisely

Accurately managing the assets that your company owns and leases is key for the success of your small business. It’s important to track IT assets, furniture, vehicles and other items.  Asset Management software can come in many shapes and forms. You can choose simple mobile asset management or an expensive enterprise asset management system. It’s also important to manage your financial assets and finances. There are several options for managing finances from simple software to more complex accounting software. Some of the features that financial software solutions offer are expense and payment tracking, receipt scanning, invoicing, etc. Foremost, remember to use the software solutions that fit the needs of your small business.

These days, using a mobile solution for asset management is an important factor because it allows you to manage and update assets easily while on the go. LightArrow mobile solutions are a great choice for the small business, entrepreneur or solopreneur. Imagine your business includes a fleet of automobiles. LifeTopix is an ideal app for managing the details for each automobile asset. You can keep track of purchase dates, cost, current value, manufacturer, model serial numbers, SKUs, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), locations (map included), and categories. In addition, you can associate tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, checklists, online/local files, bookmarks, expenses, services, audio, photos or videos with each vehicle (or other asset). An example of how you might use LightArrow apps for asset management is shown below:

SmallBizAsset

If you’re a business owner who’s often on the go, LightArrow apps also offer solutions for managing finances while mobile. LightArrow mobile apps include tracking of financial information including expenses, payments, accounts, banking information, service payment templates, charitable donations, financial asset management and financial notes. With LightArrow apps, you can associate financial information with other items you manage in your app, such as assets. For example, in the graphic below, you will see that an expense is associated with an asset, which is a vehicle. Another popular feature for small business owners is the ability to set up Payment Templates with recurring payments; an example is also shown below.

SmallBizFinances

3. Make Social Media a Habit in Small Business

In today’s changing world, social media is vital for small business success. In fact, according to a study conducted by LinkedIn, 3 in 5 SMBs have acquired new customers via social media. There are a variety of ways to manage and monitor social media. You can use the free tools from the social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the way to using a full-fledged social media management tool.

Social media management tools provide features such as keyword monitoring and listening, all-in-one views of social media accounts, scheduling, ways to engage with others, and in some cases, further analysis and recommendations. If you want all of this functionality and more from a hosted social media management system, it will cost you a monthly subscription fee that is typically charged by the number of users.

Social media is a commitment that will reap rewards over time. Before jumping into using an expensive social media management tool, I recommend that small businesses use free and inexpensive apps and web applications to manage their social media profiles and engagement.

At LightArrow, our apps include a social media dashboard and listening via keywords through Feed Accounts. You can set up feed accounts for Facebook and Twitter; and also for Email and Evernote®. You can listen for product or company mentions, and you can stay on top of your industry by creating streams with the keywords in which you’re interested.

SmallBizSocialMedia

Our Pro.Inbox app, shown above, has this keyword listening functionality built in. With My.Agenda, LifeTopix and Pro.Calendar, you can purchase this option via in-app purchase.

What makes our apps unique over the typical Social Media Management tool is you can convert the tweets and posts that you find into actionable items such as tasks, notes, events, appointments and more. For example, you might see an industry article that you believe is important to read in a Twitter feed. You can convert this item to a note and add a date tag to schedule it on your calendar. These items can be pushed to your iOS calendar, which in turn propagates to all the calendars that you’ve associated with your iOS calendar, which takes small business productivity to a new level. It’s important to note that this feature also applies to email and Evernote feeds, which allows you to accomplish “Inbox Zero” easily.

4. Unify Small Business Calendars, Reminders, Tasks and Checklists

Keeping a master schedule is important for your small business. It’s difficult to choose the right calendar app for your business schedule because there are so many choices available. All of these calendars and to-do list apps have their own unique bells and whistles. The apps you choose depend on your personal preference and business needs.

At LightArrow, we focus on productivity. That’s why we combined tasks, reminders, to-dos and eight calendar styles into one app view – with fast switching and beautiful styling. We’ve made our calendar views easy to read and they’re very simple to set up. As soon as you grant access to your iOS calendars that you use on your iPhone or iPad, your LightArrow app shows the events from those calendars. And as a bonus, your LightArrow calendar also includes your iOS reminders.

SmallBizCalendar In the graphic above, you will notice Overdue, Undated and Checklist sections shown in the Agenda view. These sections include everything from overdue tasks, undated tasks; open shopping items; iOS reminders; and checklists/to-do lists. Combining these items prevents you from hopping from app to app. You will also notice the comprehensive Month view, which enables you to see all your calendar items easily.

5. Manage Small Business Projects Like a Pro

Managing your projects without the right tools is like fixing a clogged drain with a Q-tip. The more and more you push; you’re never going to get anywhere. There are a lot of options for managing projects and tasks. Some cloud applications are free for a limited number of users and others require subscription fees.

LightArrow apps are excellent for individual and small team project and task management. The advantage of using LightArrow apps for project and task management is because the projects are integrated with the features discussed in this post, as well as other items, such as appointments, reminders, expenses, services, online notes and files and more. This prevents you from hopping from app to app to find the information that you need. Small business owners appreciate the ease of creating tasks and easily emailing them to a project participant, which allows delegation or task sharing. The recipient can easily open the email message; tap on the message and save the project and tasks in their instance of LifeTopix, as shown in the following example:

In addition, if you use Asana for project management (which is free for up to 15 users), LightArrow Apps include task integration with this popular tool.

Your Turn

Please let us know in the comments how you’re using your LightArrow app in your small business or if you have any questions or comments.

8 Common Myths and Fallacies About Productivity

LightArrow Questions

What if I told you that the things you think are true about productivity are actually detrimental to getting things done? Let me guess. You’re doing all the right things that you believe will help you get the stuff done that you really want to do, but it’s not happening. You’re frustrated, burned out and simply tired.

If you’ve been following the rules outlined below, consider shifting your perceptions and adjusting your work habits. These different ideas might enhance your productivity in ways you never thought were possible.

1. Myth – It Pays to Work Hard – Keep Your Head Down

Do you believe that working harder, better and faster is the Holy Grail for getting things done? Do you think that if you could just focus better, keep your head down and “push through” then you’ll magically produce more and more each day? If you believe that you’ll be an instant success when you eliminate breaks, get to work earlier and stay later, you’re fooling yourself.

Are you the person who realizes that after a long day at work you sat at your desk or in meetings all day and never took a bathroom break? Admit it, we’ve all done it. If this is you, keep reading. Working harder and “pushing through” is a vicious cycle that leads to burnout. It takes a toll on you emotionally, psychologically and physically. Recently, a tweet caught my eye that compared prolonged sitting to cigarette smoking, stating, “Sitting is the new cigarette.” This is a powerful statement that led me to research how prolonged sitting affects the body and mind.

An article from the Mayo Clinic indicates that adults in a study that spent more than four hours a day sitting while watching a screen, had a 50 percent increased risk of death from multiple causes and a 125 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If this doesn’t convince you to get up and moving, then my message isn’t compelling enough. Keep reading.

Earlier I wrote a post about Ultradian Rhythms and the science of why taking breaks enhances productivity. Taking breaks is truly a little known and surprising method for boosting problem solving, creativity and productivity. Set a timer for 90 – 120 minutes. Then, take a 20-minute break after that time period ends. Experiment with this method and observe if you’re achieving the productivity benefits you’re hoping for.

2. Myth – Procrastination is Bad

I’m certain that during your life, you’ve come to the conclusion that procrastination is a trait that’s considered undesirable – an unwelcome guest that sneaks up and steals your productivity right out from under you. Change your perception about procrastination. Make it your friend, but not your BFF.

The key to making procrastination work for you is to first recognize it for what it is. Is there a task that needs to be done, but you’re dreading it so it’s been put on the back burner? Is there a daunting project looming that you don’t have the time or energy to complete? Consider how important and urgent this task or project really is. Rank it in importance of all the other projects and tasks that are present in your work and life. How will avoiding this task or project affect you?

Align your goals, tasks and priorities. If the task you’re putting off isn’t going to move the needle toward your most important goals, then put it aside – go ahead and procrastinate and stop feeling guilty. It’s not worth your energy. If you simply don’t have time given the other priorities in your work or life, set this task aside, outsource it or delegate it. As long as your making progress on what YOU believe are the most important or urgent tasks, then you’ve mastered the art of procrastination.

3. Myth – All Multi-tasking is Harmful

In the recent past, multi-tasking was considered a trait of highly effective people. It was a characteristic to brag about to friends and coworkers. Recently, productivity experts and researchers have flagged multi-tasking as a habit that reduces productivity and impairs intellectual ability. I agree, rapid multi-tasking is detrimental to productivity. If you’re shifting back and forth from many tasks or getting frequently interrupted, you lose focus and ultimately efficiency suffers.

On the other hand, I never believe in extremes. A limited amount of multi-tasking can make you more efficient, depending on the type of tasks you’re executing. For example, imagine you’re a teacher and you also have children who play baseball or soccer. While you’re waiting at their practice, spend time grading papers and you’ll have more quality 1-on-1 time with your kids when you return home. Discover which tasks don’t require a lot of thought and those are the tasks that can be done in the background. Think of your brain like a computer. If you have too many processes going, it will eventually impair the performance and sometimes it shuts down. You know your limits; use common sense when it comes to multi-tasking.

4. Myth – Paper Lists Work Better Than Digital Lists

LifeTopix ToDo List

LifeTopix App

I’ve heard time and time again that many of you are unconvinced that a digital to-do list has its productivity advantages over old-fashioned sticky notes or a moleskin day planner.

With an old-fashioned paper to-do list you’re required to erase items when you re-prioritize or make errors, which is arduous. With a digital list, re-prioritization is usually as quick and easy as a tap and drag action. It’s nearly impossible to share a paper list with someone who’s not at the same location when you’re delegating or sharing tasks. It’s challenging to save and reuse a paper list; these lists inevitably get thrown away or lost. Completed tasks or to-dos that are written on paper or whiteboards cannot be searched for history purposes. Your smartphone is compact, always with you — and ready while on the go. Save your time and some trees; a digital productivity app can boost efficiency and productivity with several benefits over paper methods.

5. Myth – You Must Get Up Early to be Productive

Most of us have heard the old idiom, “the early bird gets the worm” – meaning those who rise early reap the benefits. Do you believe if you rose earlier you would accomplish much more? This is another myth that needs busting.

Everyone is different. Some of us do our best work in the morning, while others flourish at night. In fact, researchers at Germany’s Aachen University determined that early birds and night owls may have structural differences of their brains.

Don’t focus on switching your natural rhythms. Learn your natural tendencies by listening to what your body is telling you. Log the times that you get the most done and feel you have the best focus. If getting up early depletes your energy and your schedule allows the flexibility of starting your day later, then go with the flow. Take advantage of when your energy is at its best and schedule your most difficult tasks during those times.

6. Myth – Caffeine Makes You Productive

It’s a proven fact that caffeine increases your alertness and may help you focus. However, becoming reliant on a caffeine boost to increase your productivity might be a crutch worth kicking.

Ultimately, caffeine can affect your wellness in ways that can be detrimental to productivity. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. In fact, it increases catecholamines, which trigger changes in our bodies that allow us to prepare for flight or fight responses. Catecholamines increase our heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Have you ever consumed too much caffeine to keep you awake so you can study for a final or finish a big project and it left you with a sleepless night? The result – you’re too tired to perform at your best. Or have you ever stopped drinking caffeine for a few days and felt the pain of a headache resulting from withdrawal? Caffeine withdrawal can include other symptoms as well, such as lack of concentration, depression and muscle pain. These withdrawal symptoms can result in days of lost productivity.

A great strategy for caffeine use is to limit it to the times you really need it, instead of making it a habit. And consider your caffeine source. Green tea is a great source because it also contains EGCG, which researchers believe can improve cognitive function. If you’re thinking about kicking your caffeine to the curb, there are many brain foods you can try to boost concentration. Blueberries, avocados, fatty fishes such as salmon, flax seeds, nuts and foods rich in B12 are good choices to boost energy and/or concentration.

7. Myth – Social Media is Killing Your Productivity

Pro.Inbox App

Pro.Inbox App

Social Media can destroy your productivity. However, it depends on how you use it. Do you check social media several times a day? Do you spend endless hours looking at your friends’ photos on Instagram or Facebook? Do you read every article that pops up on Twitter? If this sounds familiar, you might rethink how you’re consuming social media information. Scheduling a few minutes each day on your calendar to check social media during breaks can actually be a great way to recharge. You just need to use an ounce of self discipline.

Social media is valuable for finding information that you’re researching. It’s also valuable for keeping up with friends and business associates in one central location. For example, consider LinkedIn. Before LinkedIn, you might have spent endless hours collecting business cards and putting information into a Rolodex. Now, all your business contacts are found in one central location – just a few clicks away, which is an amazing productivity booster.

Social media is incredible for locating and collecting information when researching any subject. There are several apps and applications that help you locate and curate this information. For example, our app Pro.Inbox is a great app for this use.

With Pro.Inbox, you can create information feeds from Twitter and Facebook and customize these feeds with keywords for any subject for which you’re interested. For example, imagine you’re focused on finding information about Clutter, CRM, Goals, GTD and other subjects. You can simply create feeds for all of these subjects and find all relevant information quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, you can convert the tweets or posts you discover to notes or calendar items to ensure that you have a record of an article or other information for your research. Converting posts and tweets to calendar items is an excellent time-saving method. When you’re ready to follow up, you’ll easily be able to find the saved information. And, in fact, if you schedule these items on your calendar, you certainly won’t forget about them.

8. Myth – Socializing at the Office is a Waste of Time

Have you ever got the stink eye from your boss when you were discussing important things at the office such as the latest episode of “Game of Thrones?” Many managers believe that socializing and laughing at the office is a huge time waster. In some cases, your boss is right; socializing can be a time suck.

But, with a little common sense, socializing can also build friendships, which can lead to better team relationships. When you have good relationships with co-workers, they’ll enjoy working with you. And perhaps, help you out when you need it. We spend 40 or more hours a week at our jobs. A happy worker is a productive worker. Go ahead, find some friends and laugh a little. Just properly manage your priorities and don’t overdo it.

Your Turn

What common productivity myths would you like to bust? Please share in the comments below.

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.

Springpad Shutting Down: LightArrow Has A Top Personal Organizer as Alternative

If you’ve been one of the faithful users of the Springpad note-taking and bookmarking app, you’ve probably heard by now that the service is shutting down on June 25th. This might leave you scrambling to find a new personal assistant to help you with organizing bookmarks, notes, and lists. If the functionality you need is the ability to create notebooks, create notes, store lists, and create bookmarks, LightArrow has you covered via its mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Our apps, LifeTopix, Pro.Inbox or Pro.Notes are excellent alternatives to Springpad for personal and business organization. LifeTopix is our flagship app, which we’ve been developing since 2010. It’s a top app that’s found in the Productivity section of the Apple App Store. LifeTopix is based on 12 life topics, which include Notes + Files, Lists, Bookmarks + Lockers, Tasks + Projects, Shopping + Gifts, Events + Appointments, Travel + Places, People + Services, Health + Goals, Finances, Home + Assets, Education, and Media.

LifeTopix’s Comparable Features to Springpad

Below is a quick overview of the features that will be most valuable for the former Springpad user:

  • Integration with Evernote Notes
  • Tagging
  • Email integration
  • Social integration
  • Notebook and note organization
  • Bookmarking
  • Quick notes and checklists
  • Tasks and reminders
  • Calendars
  • Collaboration via social, SMS, and email
  • Organization and sorting of notes by category, notebook, context tag, date tag, and last updated

If you’re a former Springpad user, you’ll be especially interested in the Notes + Files, Lists topic of LifeTopix, which enables management of local notes, online notes (Evernote and Toodledo), checklists and to-dos, and online and local files (Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive). You can create and organize notes, checklists and to-dos; make drawings and hand-written notes; and add video and audio files to notes. You can create notebooks and easily organize and sort your notes.

For items created or synced via the 12 topics, a robust tagging capability is included through “My Contexts.” Categorization is available through tags with tagging permitted for the following types of objects: Appointments, Assets, Audio, Bookmarks, Checklists, Events, Expenses, Files, Gifts, Goals, Metrics, Notes, Persons, Photos, Projects, Reminders, Service Providers, Services, Education Subjects, Shopping Lists, Tasks, Trips, Video, and Visits.

Additionally, LifeTopix includes features for managing bookmarks in the Bookmarks + Lockers topic. Specifically, the app includes management of all your web bookmarks, credentials for online services, and other secret data such as PIN numbers, credit card numbers, photos of personal information, and recordings of personal information. Secret data is secure with military-grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.

LifeTopix and Evernote Integration

It’s important to note that our personal productivity apps work with Evernote. If you export your Springpad data to Evernote through Springpad’s exporter, you’ll have access to that data through the LifeTopix Notes + Files, Lists topic. You’re currently able to sync Evernote notes with LifeTopix (2-way) and associate your notes that were originally created with Springpad with objects in LifeTopix, such as tasks, appointments, reminders, checklists, files, and bookmarks. For example, notice in the following image that you can view a list of Evernote notes in LifeTopix, locate a note (such as a clipped recipe) and associate it with a project, such as “Meal Planning.”

Evernotediagram

Enhanced Evernote Integration Coming Soon

Our next update of LifeTopix (8.1), which is due to release in just a few weeks, will make it even easier to work with Evernote. We’ve added the ability to create Evernote feeds. Using an Evernote feed enables you to access your Evernote notes (originally created in Springpad or Evernote) in a list view. Once you access a note, you’ll be able to convert the notes to LifeTopix tasks, projects, products, appointments, hosting events, attending events, notes, checklists, trips, visitors, and inbox items. Once these items are converted, you’ll be able to associate them with LifeTopix objects and schedule the items on your calendar, which works seamlessly with your iOS calendar and all the calendars that your iOS device supports.

For example, as shown below; you’ll be able to (1) choose Evernote from among your email, web, and social feeds; (2) convert a note from a variety of types (including checklists); (3) choose a type of object to convert to; and (4) create an object (e.g. checklist), which can be published on your calendar and agenda (automatically).

Evernote Feeds

As you would expect from any excellent personal assistant or organizer, the items that you convert or access through the Notes + Files, Lists topic automatically appear on your calendar (if you wish), as shown below.

calendarCSV Import

We currently do not have plans to build an importer for Springpad data; however, you can format your data into a CSV file and import it directly into LifeTopix. This post, Migrate Bento or Other App’s Data to LifeTopix, includes the information you need to know if you plan to import data into LifeTopix from other apps through CSV.

Your Turn

Please let us know if you’re a former Springpad user and if you plan to take advantage of LifeTopix to help you manage and organize your personal and work life. We’re happy to offer assistance in your transition. Please comment below. We respond to all submissions.

This post includes pre-release images; new features and functionality are subject to change.

Introducing Pro.Inbox: Create Actionable Data from Email, Web and Social Streams

In today’s world we’re overloaded with information from multiple places. It’s delivered to us every day through social streams, email messages, and the web. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily harvest, filter, and view this information from these multiple channels, and then find the data nuggets and ideas that are important to you? This is exactly why we created Pro.Inbox. Pro.Inbox boosts your productivity by gathering the information that you care about from social, email, and the web and presenting it to you all in one app. In fact, it’s the first mobile app to make email, web and social streams actionable from one place.

Watch the video below to see how Pro.Inbox can boost your productivity — starting today!

Watch Pro.Inbox in Action

Do you like this video? Please share it with your friends and followers on Twitter -> Tweet: Harvest, filter & view information from email, social & the web — and easily make this information actionable. http://ctt.ec/bnQoZ+

Get Pro.Inbox at the Apple App Store

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5 Things You Can Learn about Productivity from Olympic Athletes

http://marketplace.veer.com/stock-photo/Succesful-businessman-with-gold-medals-5086860?slot=81&pg=5&skeywords=olympics&stermids=7278With the 2014 Winter Olympics starting today in Sochi, Russia, I’ve been reminded of the motivation and determination that these remarkable athletes possess in order to train to be the best in their sports. I began to wonder about their secrets to productivity, motivation, and their unique perspectives on their passion to win. I concluded that there’s a lot that we can learn from these athletes. Through these athletes’ inspirational words and accomplishments, I believe everyone can learn a little something about reaching his or her fullest potential. Keep reading to learn more about their inspirational and motivational words and wisdom.

Find Your Confidence

If you’re a fan of track and field, then you’re probably familiar with Carl Lewis who was an American track and field athlete who won 8 Olympic gold medals. It’s been said that some might consider Lewis arrogant, but you have to admire the fact that he’s used his ample confidence to his advantage. He’s been quoted as saying,

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.

Self-confidence is one of the most significant traits to lead to success in life and business. A positive outlook and the ability to perform any type of task without second-guessing whether your work or the decisions that you make are satisfactory, is key to being productive and successful.

To become more self confident, visualize positive outcomes. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Seek out new experiences to promote growth in yourself. And most importantly, don’t rely on the opinions of others – accurately judge your own work and behaviors.

Be a Doer

Many of you might be familiar with Bruce Jenner because he’s become famous from the popular television series, “Keeping up with the Khardashians.” What you might not know is Bruce Jenner is one of the most successful Olympians in history. In Montreal in 1976, he won gold and set a world record for the decathlon, which consists of ten different track and field events and is considered one of the most difficult of all events.Bruce Jenner

In Jenner’s book, “Finding the Champion Within: A Step-by-Step Plan for Reaching Your Full Potential,” he tells a story of watching a winner’s ceremony and examining what sets apart losers from winners. Jenner says,

The difference, I decided, was total, undiluted focus on a singular goal. As soon as I realized this, I went from being a “dreamer” to a man obsessed with “doing.”

Bruce Jenner” by jla0379 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s a “Doer?” A Doer is someone who actively gets things done instead of just thinking about or discussing them. A Doer takes a dream and strategically makes a plan to convert the dream into reality. Anyone can be a dreamer, but it takes commitment, drive, and initiative to develop into a doer.

Make Your Colleagues Look Good

Mia Hamm cornerThose who make others look bad are usually lacking in self-confidence. This is a way to elevate their feelings about themselves or to deflect their inferior work or behaviors onto others.

Mia Hamm is considered one of the best women soccer players in history. She won the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 1999, and took Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004. In her book, “Go For the Goal: A Champion’s Guide To Winning In Soccer And Life” Mia Hamm devotes an entire chapter to “Making Your Teammates Look Good.” In the book, she says,

An average team that passes well will often beat a physical stronger opponent that doesn’t.

Can you imagine the disaster that would result from poor teamwork in a soccer team? Consider this – good teamwork is essential for the success of business people, families, and Olympians. Teamwork and team rapport is imperative for success. When people work together efficiently, passing tasks to one another when needed, projects are seen through and completed on time. Working together to solve problems; constructing interpersonal relationships; and building trust results in highly effective teams and positive outcomes.

Don’t Be Afraid to “Flop”

Dick Fosbury, Olympian from the United States, dared to be different by inventing the “Fosbury Flop.” In Mexico in 1968, Fosbury was the first to high jump backwards (instead of forward).

At first, Fosbury was “seen as a novelty” and there were safety concerns around the new jumping technique. However, now we can’t imagine high jumping in any other way. There’s a lesson to be learned – just because something has been done a certain way, year after year, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve or change the technique.

So, what’s the lesson? Find new ways to be better, stronger, and more efficient. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Creativity is crucial.

Remove Your Fears When Presented with Challenges

I recently watched a video of an interview from JoAnn Dahlkoetter with Melissa Hoar on the Sports Psychology Network, and something Hoar said caught my attention. Hoar is an Australian Skeleton Racer who’s competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics and will also be competing in the 2014 Olympics.

In the interview, Hoar explained how she changes her perception when she comes into a difficult curve. She said she changes her perception by changing her thinking from…

Oh no here comes this curve [to] but here I come to the curve.

The takeaway here is when you have trials and tribulations – those challenges that are presented to you – if you change your perception of them and remove your fears, you can tackle them with more ease.

Your Turn

Do you find inspiration from Olympic athletes? Please share your stories.

 

 

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Peak Productivity

Happy, Productive, WomanAre you having an unproductive day, week, or perhaps – life? I’m guessing you’re looking for some quick ideas or a no-nonsense plan to help you get back on track. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, right? You’ve come to the right place. Weekly, we share tips to help everyone, from the productivity novice to the productivity expert, to explore new and sensible ways to get things done so they can do the things they really want to do with their free time.

Busyness does not equal productivity. Are you the first one into work every day and the last one to leave? Are you rewarded for this behavior? That’s just plain nonsense. Working smarter, not harder is the key to a balanced, happy, productive life. Keep reading to find out how you can amaze your boss and family with your productivity brilliance.

Cheat 1: Fill in Time Gaps with Tasks and To-dos

The Getting Things Done® (GTD) method from David Allen outlines countless ideas for time management. One of those ideas is “contexts.” In GTD, contexts are used to tag your tasks and to-dos so you can better choose what to do and when to do it. Using contexts is a great way to find tasks to do when you’re in between meetings, waiting for kids during their activities, or during other time gaps.

Contexts are typically based on a physical location, resource, or the equipment that’s necessary to complete a task. For example, in your to-do or task list, you could assign a context of @office and @phone for phone calls to complete at the office. Another way to use contexts is to tag those tasks with contexts such as 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, and so on. This way, you can pick up tasks (such as paying bills or answering email) during these time gaps and get more done throughout the day. Consequently, you can go home from work at a reasonable hour and have more time to spend with your friends or family.

Cheat 2: Reclaim Your Schedule

What are some of your biggest time wasters? Discover and identify the black holes of where your time is going. Are you getting lost in news articles online when you should be finishing your TPS reports? Are business trips out of hand? Are you wasting your time in unproductive meetings? Do you have chatty coworkers who don’t respect your time?

Your time is one of your most important assets. Guard it like a mama bear guards its cubs. Block time on your calendar for “Focus Time.” Limit the time you spend on online shopping sites, social media, and news sites – put “Internet Time” on your schedule to remind yourself to limit it. Don’t attend conferences that won’t be beneficial for you during busy periods – send an employee, or request that a peer attend, instead. Request an agenda before all meetings to ensure that the meeting will be beneficial for you. Ensure the people who need to make the final decisions attend your meetings; otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Use body language to communicate to overly-chatty and gossipy coworkers that you don’t have time to talk – walk to the bathroom, avoid eye contact, or pick up your cell phone.


Cheat 3: Don’t Use Email

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What? Don’t use email? I can see the baby boomers and gen-Xers snickering as they read this line. Unfortunately, email is a necessary tool of life and business. In fact, it’s one of the most important instruments in business communication.

The problem with email is it takes personal interaction out of the equation, and the quality of relationships, communication, and team comradery suffer as a result. In fact, some large companies are attempting to eradicate internal email altogether, such as the French information technology company, Atos.

It’s a fact of life that we cannot completely eliminate the use of email, but we can certainly explore other, more efficient ways of communicating. Face-to-face is always the best form of communication; however, in our connected world it’s not always easy to be in the same room with the person to whom we’re communicating, which forces us to use other forms of communication.

After email, the next best form of communication is the phone or a video conference (such as Skype); however, in our modern world, phone conversations are becoming old-fashioned. Consider using instant messaging and text messaging (when appropriate) to get answers quickly or to communicate important information.

If you’re required to use email due to company culture or the nature of your work, eliminate compulsively checking it. Turn off the instant notifications, and check email in blocks of time to avoid context switching, which kills productivity. Reserve email for times that you need a paper trail of conversations or when you’re sending large documents or reports. Foster an open-door policy and open workspaces in your business or organization to encourage face-to-face communication.

Cheat 4: Simplify Your Choices

Being required to make too many choices and decisions burns away at your time. For example, I canceled memberships to warehouse stores years ago because it simply takes too long to shop there with the multitude of choices – and not to mention the unreasonable crowds. There are too many selections, and I spend more time looking at things that I don’t need, like a six-pack of 44 ounce bottles of barbeque sauce, instead of buying the essentials. Farmers markets and smaller grocery stores are better choices when you’re trying to maximize your efficiency.

Another way to limit your choices is to simplify your wardrobe. Consider basing your wardrobe around a few basic, neutral colors like black and white so everything goes together. Downsize your wardrobe or put pieces away that you’re not using in the current season – stick to a few favorites. What haven’t you worn in the last year? Will you need to lose or gain more than 10 pounds to wear those items? If you don’t like something you bought and you’ve never worn it, give it to charity or sell it through a consignment store. Fewer clothing choices result in less time getting ready for your day.

Cheat 5: Chill Out

By lululemon athletica (Flickr: Balance!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By lululemon athletica (Flickr: Balance!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t have the time to take a break? Keep in mind that those who take regular breaks are more productive because these breaks allow them to recharge in order to have the energy to get things done. Have you ever been working on a difficult task and you take a break from it or sleep on it – and magically the answer comes to you? This is a great example of why breaks are important.

Don’t try to do everything – you’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. Review your schedule and prioritize. Find tasks and to-dos that can slide so you can give that time back to yourself to nurture your health and wellness.

Feeling stressed? Focus on meditation or practice yoga to reduce stress and anxiety. Numerous studies show that yoga and meditation can help you to manage your stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve chronic health conditions.

Your Turn

What’s on your Productivity Cheat Sheet? Let us know in the comments below!

Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Apps for New Year's ResolutionsTo achieve your wishes and dreams, setting goals is an important step. Goals fuel your motivation and as you make progress, seeing the results boosts your self esteem and encourages you to work even harder. The key to success is to make a plan and take action, and eventually you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Great news. Whether you want to get fit, lose 10 pounds, improve your health or help others in 2014, the Life­Topix personal organization app includes what you need to set goals, make plans and track your progress. It’s simple. Below you’ll find a slideshow that provides tips for achieving your New Year’s resolutions.

Good Luck!

Please comment and let us know how your goals are progressing!