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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LifeTopix 8, My.Agenda 3 Guided Tour

Team LightArrow is excited about the new updates of LifeTopix 8 and My.Agenda 3. Our new updates include several new features to maximize your productivity at home, at work, and while you’re on the go. Keep reading to learn how you can take advantage of the latest features.

New Look

All Lightarrow apps have been redesigned with a new look and a new app icon. LifeTopix has already been updated, and the other apps in the LightArrow family will be released over the next few weeks with the new look. The most significant change is the new flat look of the 12 topics view, as represented by the following image.

LifeTopix 12 Topics

Another significant improvement is the new expanding cell. With this change, when you tap on a cell, you’re instantly given options for common functions for the item you’re managing. For example, as shown in the following image, you’re now able to easily access common features for a task, as shown in the  “Maintenance” task.

LifeTopix Expanding Cell

You’ll also notice new colors and icons throughout the app, and topic items now inherit topic colors. In addition, lists have been replaced with tiles to make it easier to find and edit information.

Revamped People + Services with New In-App Purchase: Pro Contacts Pack

The Pro.Contacts Pack takes customer relationship management to a new level. This pack adds new functionality to the People + Services topic in LifeTopix and My.Agenda, which allows you to better manage your personal and customer relationships. In addition, we’ll soon be introducing this functionality as a stand-alone app, for those who only wish to manage their contacts.

Custom Forms / Fields for Contacts

The following image represents a contact showing custom form fields for Alex Cooper. In this example, the user has added custom fields for her personal training clients. This gives her the ability to record their weight and BMI and to track these statistics over time to measure how her clients are progressing.

contactrecord

The next image shows an example of the custom log form and a list of entries for the Personal Training log form. Keep in mind; these forms are completely user configurable, allowing you to track any stats for friends, customers, prospects, family or other contacts. You can view the stats individually for the contact, by type of stat, or by all contacts.

Custom Fields

Associate Tasks, Appointments, Reminders, Notes, and More with Contacts

The Pro.Contacts Pack also allows you to associate tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, files, bookmarks, and expenses with contacts, which makes it easier to manage multiple personal or business relationships. An example is shown below:

LifeTopix Contact Details

Manage Contacts in a Spreadsheet-like Grid View

With the addition of the Pro.Contacts Pack, you can manage multiple attributes for contacts at once with the grid view. You can decide which fields to show and in your specified order via the filter. In addition, you can contact your friends, family, and colleagues directly from this view via phone (iPhone only), email, or text. An example is shown below for a personal trainer who is managing her clients.

LifeTopix Pro Contacts Grid

Import Multiple Contacts

With the addition of the Pro.Contacts Pack, you can import contacts through a comma separated values (CSV) file. You can email this .csv file to an email address that is accessible from your device and open it directly in your LightArrow app. Specific directions are available in your online help.

Manage Additional Contacts with Extra Contacts Packs

If you wish to manage additional contacts above the default of 100, you can purchase more contacts via the Extra Contacts packs.

Improved iOS Contacts Integrations

The integration with your iOS Contacts has been improved in this version of your LightArrow app. You can now easily import contacts from your iOS contacts or easily link a contact in your app to an iOS contact. Information imported from the iOS contact includes first and last name, Facebook profile info and Twitter handle, birthday, anniversary, email, company, phone numbers, email, company, notes, and address. The following example represents a contact and shows the options for linking/importing from iOS contacts.

Linking Contacts LifeTopix

Revamped My Inboxes with New In-App Purchase: Pro Inbox Pack

In the 8.0 version of the LightArrow app engine, we’ve revamped “My Inboxes” to act as a place to harvest information from multiple sources, including Twitter, Facebook, Email, and the Web. This is excellent for researchers and anyone else who wishes to gather information from multiple sources all in one place.

Custom Rules

Through inbox rules, you can create custom rules, which gives you the ability to focus on the information you really want to see. Enter hashtags or keywords for Twitter and narrow the results down to your own tweets, your lists, a particular person, public lists, or all of Twitter. For Facebook, enter keywords and hashtags and narrow the results down to your own timeline, your news feed, a user timeline, or all of Facebook. For the web, enter a search term and narrow the search to a specific URL or website or search the entire web. All of the rules can be saved in a view with easily-accessible tiles, as shown below:

My Inboxes

Convert Feed Items With Pro.Inbox In-App Purchase

Whether you’re a business person, parent, or student, you’re inundated with information from many sources — including email, social media, and the web. Most likely, you’re hopping between Twitter, Email, Facebook, and the web to keep up with all of this information. In the new version of your LightArrow app, as you discover and harvest this information from these multiple sources, you can make this information actionable. For example, your supervisor might request that you create a report via email or you might find a webinar mentioned on Twitter that you want to attend. You can convert these actionable items from web, email, or social channels into items you can take action on such as: tasks, notes, events, projects, trips, visitors, or products. For example, you can convert the webinar invitation found on Twitter into an event in just a few simple taps – no app switching is required.

In addition, if you’re a follower of the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) method, My Inboxes assists you in your implementation of the inbox. In GTD, an inbox is “simply the place where all the incoming things land.” Being able to record your ideas easily in a reliable system for later analysis represents the Collections phase of the GTD methodology. Converting these items to actionable items also helps you to achieve “inbox zero.” The following image shows an example of an email converted to a task:

LifeTopix Convert Items

Save Links from Email or Social Media to Bookmarks

While you’re in the process of converting your email or social media messages to actionable items, you have the choice to convert the links in those messages to bookmarks. Bookmarks can be managed in the Bookmarks + Lockers topic and associated with many items in your LightArrow app. An example is shown below.

Bookmarks

Manage More Rules with Rule Packs

If you wish to manage more than the default 10 rules, you can purchase Extra Inbox rules, up to 100.

Goal Management

The Health + Goals topic (previously Health + Activity) now has the addition of goal management. Goals are items you wish to reach, such as buying a new house, losing 10 pounds, getting in shape, or learning a new skill. You can log metrics for goals and view your progress in a graphical format.

From the Health + Goals topic, there are several aspects of goals that you can manage. You can log your goal progress and show totals or averages for designated time periods and subsequently view the progress in a list or graph. Several values are provided, such as units (pounds, minutes, day, %, and more); target values; and default values. In addition, you can associate items such as tasks, reminders, appointments, etc. to goal metrics for reminders or other reference materials.

The following example shows a goal of going on vacation. This user wishes to include a workout routine to get in shape for the trip and a log of saved money to reach her goal. Both of these aspects of the goal can be measured in one log form.

LifeTopix Goal Management

Lockers

The Bookmarks + Lockers topic now has lockers for securely storing secret information, such as text, photos, and audio. Lockers allow you to save secret information for any information you wish to secure. Lockers support securing of text, photos, and audio. Common uses include storing photos of credit cards, photos of passports, photos of secret receipts, sensitive audio files, and PINs. You must enter a PIN to reveal your secret data. You can feel secure because your LightArrow app uses military grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption. The following image shows a list of Lockers and the resulting view after you’ve entered the PIN to reveal a group of Locker Items inside a locker.

LifeTopix Lockers

AES 256-bit Encryption Added to Sensitive Data Fields

Military Grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption has been added to sensitive data fields. This applies to PINs and account numbers in bank account detail, as well as for storing the password lock and secret question answers.

Near Me Improvements

The Near Me view gives you one-tap access to a view of your LightArrow app items that are in the vicinity of your current location. In other words, if you set a location for assets, appointments, audio, contacts, events, notes, photos, shopping items, service providers, tasks, trips, or video you can view these items on the map in the Near Me view, which helps you plan your day — especially if you’re running errands or visiting clients. You’ll notice that the Near Me view has a new look, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix Near Me

The Near Me view is now powered by foursquare®, which allows you to search for arts & entertainment, events, food, shops, and other types of business near you. If these businesses are businesses that you frequently use, you can convert them to Places, Sellers, Banks, or Service Providers in your LightArrow app directly from the Near Me view. In addition, you can now relocate the area you wish to view by simply dragging the pin to the new area. The following image shows an example of this view, with the pin moved to Yosemite.

LifeTopix Near Me foursquare

Simplified and Merged Search + Quick View Interface

The Quick View interface and the Search interface have now been combined to allow you to quickly and easily find and view items. You can search for an item by typing any text (all text blocks are searched) in the Search bar or you can view items by their type of topic or by data item, simply by tapping an item type in the Data Items section or a topic item in the Topic Items section. The following image shows an example of the new combined view.

LifeTopix Near Me foursquare

Color Support by Context Tag

Context Tags Now include color support to help you better identify items that are tagged. The following image shows an example of tasks that are flagged with context tags and the view which allows you to set context tags.

LifeTopix Context Tags

Copy to Folder for Files

You’re now able to copy files and move them from local folders to online services or from one online service to another. The following image shows an example:

Copy to Folder

Copying Projects Now Includes Tasks

Previously, when you copied a project, only the project was duplicated (without the associated tasks). Now when you copy a project, it includes all associated tasks.

Managing Prescriptions for Medications

In the Health + Goals topic, you can now manage prescriptions for medications. You can record the prescription number, expiration date, count, remaining pills or other unit, pharmacist, and doctor. For these prescriptions, you can log when the medication is administered. The following screenshots show an example of prescription management.

LifeTopix Prescriptions

Optionally Specify iOS Calendar by Item

You can now optionally specify the calendar where you wish to push a specific LightArrow app item for many types of items. For example, if you want “work items” to appear on a work calendar, “home items” to appear on a home calendar, or certain items to appear on a shared calendar, you can specify this by item. The following image shows where you can take advantage of this option for a task.

LifeTopix iOS Contacts

Print Improvements

When you print items, a print time is now included in the footer and the LightArrow logo has been omitted.

New Default Date Types

You can specify the default date type (Date+Time or Date Only) for many types of objects. For example, when you create an object, such as a bill payment, you can specify date only to be indicated as opposed to a date and time. The types of objects that support this setting are appointments, bills, events, notes, projects, checklists, inbox items, services, shopping items, shopping lists, trips, tasks, and visitors.

Online Help

New, contextual online help has been added for your LightArrow app.

Additional Improvements

This post focuses on the most significant changes. You will notice smaller additions and defect fixes throughout the app.

Questions?

Please feel free to reach out with any questions.

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A Mom’s Guide to Making Brilliant To-do Lists and Getting Stuff Done

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In our modern world, we’re busier than ever — especially when raising children and running a household. We’re rushing from one activity to another, and we struggle to find the time to get everything done that we plan to do. Important tasks fall through the cracks leading to embarrassment and other consequences, such as an unpleasant phone call from a teacher. Sound familiar?

I fully relate to how crazy life can be for parents. I have the unique and fortunate experience of working outside of the home and being a stay-at-home mom. For five years, I focused on parenting — juggling school-related activities, volunteer work, household chores, and equestrian hobbies. Outside of those five years, I’ve worked in the technology industry on teams using cutting-edge project management and software development techniques.

Over the years, I’ve gained invaluable experience in several project management methodologies that you can easily apply to running a household. I’m never a purist – I choose techniques from various methodologies to develop my own time management style.

Specifically, I learned techniques for managing my to-dos in smarter ways, which I’m excited to share to help parents who might be struggling with managing their busy lives and schedules.

The Basics: Why Keep a To-do List?

Studies show that most people can only remember 3 to 9 items at a time. If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you have more than 9 items to do. If not, I’m jealous. Trying to keep all those items in your head consumes energy that you can put to better use.

David Allen, the founder of the Getting Things Done® (GTD) method for managing life and business suggests that you capture anything and everything that has your attention. Why? Because your head is not a calendar, whiteboard, computer, or notebook — it just can’t hold all of this information efficiently. Capturing everything you need to do will free your mind of trying to remember to pick up snacks for baseball practice or preparing for a PTA meeting.

Studies also show that keeping a to-do list can lead to high self-esteem. Crossing off your to-dos gives you a sense of accomplishment and gratification. If you don’t complete everything, you’re still seeing progress. My mantra is — “progress, not perfection.”

The Basics: What’s a To-do?

When you first make to-do lists, you might blend goals, projects, tasks, and events/appointments — consider they’re all different, which I explain below.

Goals – Big things that you want to accomplish, such as “Have an efficient cooking environment before the holidays“ or “Lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks.”

Projects – Large undertakings that you can break down into tasks, such as “Organized Kitchen” or “Triathlon Training.”

Tasks/To-dos – Smaller items that help you to achieve goals and/or complete projects, such as “Remove expired food from refrigerator” or “Run three miles.” In this post, I’m using the terms “to-dos” and “tasks” interchangeably.

Events/Appointments – Things you must perform at a designated time and/or place, such as a parent-teacher conference. Events can result from goals, projects, or tasks — such as an appointment with a professional organizer.

When making to-do lists, focus on tasks — not projects, goals, and events. Ensure they’re actionable things that you can accomplish in a session. Don’t be afraid to break tasks up into smaller tasks. With practice, you’ll understand how large or small your tasks should be.

You Have a Colossal To-do List. What Now?

You’ve captured actionable things that you can accomplish in a session, and now you have a monster to-do list and you’re more stressed than ever. This is when you tame the beast by putting prioritization into play.

Consider that your to-do list is essentially a list of requirements and think of your family as a high-performing team who prioritizes and delivers various things — homework, shopping, meals, balanced budgets, etc.

In business, the Product Manager of a team typically prioritizes requirements into scales, such as “Critical,” “Important,” and “Desirable.” For example, in the case of a household, “Schedule Carpool” and “Feed the Dog” might fall into “Critical,” while “Vacuum the Office” might fall into “Important.” Also, consider using a “To-Don’t” list for anything you’ve decided is just not important or do-able.

Instead, you might choose to prioritize using the Covey Quadrant, which is described in depth in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey. The quadrant identifies four categories for prioritization, Quadrant 1 (Important and Urgent), Quadrant 2 (Important and Not Urgent), Quadrant 3 (Not Important and Urgent), and Quadrant 4 (Not Important and Not Urgent).

Choose a tool for categorizing your to-dos — paper, whiteboard, mobile app, or other software. Divide your to-dos into the above categories or sections of your quadrant.

Help! What Do You Do Next?

Figuring out the jobs that you work on each day or week is unique to you. It hinges on the type of work you do, your family’s priorities, your available time, and special needs that your family might have. When you choose your family’s to-dos, evaluate the time and resources you have available, and the priority of the tasks.

For me, my work and life is very deadline driven. When I don’t have a hard deadline, I establish one for myself, and this method prompts me to get things done. I schedule hard commitments and deadlines on my calendar and fit the other items into the gaps in-between.

I suggest that you trust your intuition. Be fearless about breaking your rules if things aren’t working for you and your family.

How Can Your Family Help?

Sharing is caring. Getting the family to share household priorities can have a profound effect on success. To accomplish this, I look to Agile software development.

Agile software development is one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. It was developed by a group of software developers about a decade ago. And it’s become one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. Applying this methodology to family life has become a popular trend.

One of the principles of agile is a “self-organizing” team. In a self-organizing team, a group works together to accomplish a goal — and they choose their tasks — instead of waiting to take orders from “the boss.” Yeah, that’s right. You have to relinquish some of your control.

In Agile, the team attends a planning meeting at regular intervals. For families, I recommend the same technique. At this meeting, the family reviews the tasks in the “backlog” (the items you captured and collected) and decides what to do in the next “sprint,” which is a period of time determined by the team. This technique empowers the family to agree on the goals and tasks, and it encourages the family to participate.

Another method to adopt from Agile is the “daily standup.” This is a short session where each family member communicates 1) What I accomplished yesterday, 2) What I will do today, and 3) Is anything blocking me from getting stuff done. A quick, casual “daily standup” gets the family on track and identifies any issues, such as unfinished homework.

What’s the Right Tool for the Job?

For families with children who are old enough to use computers, tablets, and smartphones, I suggest finding technology, such as a personal organization application, that works for your family.

Encourage family members to add commitments, such as travel plans, homework that’s due, carpools, soccer practices, piano lessons, etc. to the calendar so the entire family understands when and where these items are taking place. Find a personal information organizer that enables you to manage the family calendar and task lists in one place. Take advantage of audible and visible notifications to make sure you never miss an important meeting, task, or appointment.

With a mobile personal organizer, your family has access to a shared calendar and task lists at any place or time. For example, when you’re at baseball practice and you’re assigned snack duty; you can instantly add this commitment to your calendar and the items to buy to your shopping list. This way, there’s no excuse for showing up empty handed.

Your Turn

Please comment and share your ideas for organizing your families’ crazy schedules and commitments. Thanks!

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!