Google Productivity Pad: August 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

iPad for college Part 1: How to set it up

Here we are quickly approaching the start of another school year. Many people are returning to college, many are starting for the first time. The question always arises this time of year, what do I need to do to set up my iPad for college? Are there special apps or accessories that I need?

Among those headed to the ivory towers of knowledge for the first time is one of my own little brothers. And he is the first among the Nielsen siblings to go without a laptop. He is going to be primarily using his iPad 2 as his main computing device. Naturally, I took some time a few weeks ago to help him get it set up for this new experience. It was time to unload some games and movies and free up some space for more educational pursuits.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Internet: The Black Hole of Time

My father is a research agronomist, he studies soil and plants. One thing he has taught me is that sunflowers and teenage boys have a commonality. This is that sunflowers will always consume as much water as they have available to them, teenage boys are the same way with food.
I have found that the Internet is the same way with time. Whatever amount of time you have, the Internet will consume it if it is allowed to. This can be a drain on productivity if we allow it to be.

I have recently been brought to consider this effect on my own life by the disappearance of the Internet from my current apartment. I have been bound to using public wifi at school and the library, or using my karma hotspot. This is the reason you have not seen me post anything in the last week.

Needless to say I have not been much of a happy camper about this situation. It has however forced me to realize how much of my time at home I tend to spend on the Internet. I can measure this by the amount of time I spend wandering aimlessly around the house doing nothing. Most of this aimless time would normally be spent doing nothing anyway, only in front of a screen if I had Internet.

Now this is not to say that the Internet is always a waste of time. There are many productive things I normally do, like blogging and learning to code, that I am not able to do without the Internet. But it is to say that I am realizing that the Internet probably sucks away more of my free time than it needs to and even more than I want it to.

In many ways because I only have limited amounts of Internet at defined times and places right now I feel as thought I am back in the age of dial up Internet. Now some of you may not remember those early days of the web, but we were not always connected back then. We bought Internet time in hour packages and had to tie up our phone lines to use it. So we planned out what we would do on the Internet and trie to accomplish as much as possible with each connection.

This what I am struggling to do again. I am so use to having the web available to me every moment of everyday that I don't really plan out my use of it. And because I don't plan and so many of the things I do are dependent on the Internet I have found myself to be quite lost lately. I have to relearn to plan out what I will use the Internet for when I do have it in order to be able to do what I need to offline.

This is not a fun experience for me. It is not one that I like, but since it upon me I believe I can learn something from it. The internet like everything is a tool, it is up to me how I use it. If I am intentional about it, then it can be a great blessing. If I am not intentional it can end up sucking away all the time available to it, like a black hole does to light.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Early Bird vs. Night Owl: the Death of the Avian Myth

You've heard it, probably thought it, maybe even said it,

"I wish I could get up early and be productive, but, YAWN, I am such a night owl,

I just can't. You early birds are so lucky."

Well I'm here to tell you that is a myth, and its dead. I killed it, countless others have killed it, and you can kill it too.

Now, I have heard a lot of people talk about this recently, and I am not just jumping on the band wagon. I have something specific to say; many of those who have spoken on learning to get up early have attempted to soften their message by saying something along the lines that it isn't for everybody. Well I am here to take no prisoners.

It is for everybody.

You will find out why, but only if you try. 

The myth of "I'm more productive at night"

Sorry, but you're not, you may really, really, really, and I mean REALLY want to believe that, but it is not true. Why do I know this? Because I did it for years.

Both before and after my LDS mission, I was known to say, "I'm a night person, I work best at night." During my mission, however, I was on a schedule that forced me into being a morning person, and after a few months back home and trying my old scheme of being a night owl I figure out I would be more productive back on the early bird routine.

The problem with the prowl

If you are a self defined "night owl" then you know what I am talking about. Just like real owls they prowl. They think they are being productive but in fact they wanderer from task to task doing a few things here and a few things there; none of them well. At night you are always looking for an excuse to do something different than what you are suppose to be doing. You eat something, you call a friend, you just play a "couple minutes" of a video game.

Get the worm

The early bird really does get the worm. Maybe you think you'd rather have a mouse. That's fine, but just acknowledge that in the morning worms are sitting at the top of the soil and at night mice are hiding. Hunting mice will never be as productive as scratching for worms.

People who wake up early get things done, in the morning the things that need to be done are sitting on the surface, at night they are buried under the day.

The myth of "I'm born that way"

Maybe you are, but guess what, nobody cares. The "fair" fairy isn't going to come along, wave her wand and make it so everything is even and square, you've got to do that yourself.

And besides, you weren't actually born that way. Humans, by nature, are not nocturnal. They had no reason to be so until the industrial revolution and the invention of the night shift. You actually can and should wake up early and be productive. That is actually the way nature has wired you.

The power of changing today

You could wait till tomorrow, but you won't get the worm today. Why miss out on that? You can choose to change today and live better now.

How can you change today when the morning is already gone? A good morning begins the night before. I'll be talking more about this in a later post when I explain how I changed and am changing.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to get special characters on an iPhone or iPad

This is a simple tip for a feature that has been around for a while now, but the question still come up from time to time: How can I get accented or special characters on my iPhone or iPad keyboard?

Do you ever need these?
Hold down
The answer is simple enough once you know it; hold down on any vowel while typing and a full range of accented characters for that letter will appear, simply slide your finger along the list to the one you want and let go, and presto! you've got the character. You can now impress you friends with fancy names by spelling them correctly.

Note that this tip also works when typing on a Mac, pretty cool.

More than vowels!
There are a whole range of special characters you can access this way. For example, ever wonder where the ¢ sign is? If you guessed under the C you would be wrong, but if you guessed under the $ you are right, there are a bunch of currency signs under there.

I could tell you where all the characters are, but that would take away a lot of the fun of finding them. So here is a list of some fun characters to look for:
  • Ż
  • ¿
  • §
  • Ł
  • Æ
You may never need them, but then again you never know…

Beyond the keyboard
If for some reason you need more special characters than you can get on the onscreen keyboard the app Character Pad can help you, it as over 250 special characters.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

You got an iPad, so why aren't you more productive?

You did it. Everybody said an iPad would change your life and the way you worked. At first you thought that was ridiculous. After all, you already had a laptop and a smartphone; what could this tablet thing possible do for you? But then everybody started getting one: your boss, your friend, even your grandpa.

So, you hopped on board, got yourself and slick new iPad, and... nothing. I mean, its cool and all, but you aren't getting anything more done than you use to. It certainly hasn't changed your life, nothing has happened to your productivity. What is the deal?

Do you feel like Bill?

Productivity is a mindset
The truth is, as much as tech nerds like me hate to admit it, productivity is not about your tools nearly as much as it is about you. As tough as that may sound through never will be the "perfect" device or program that will make you more productive.

The first thing you have to change is YOU. You need to decide what is holding you back, causing you distractions, or making you lazy. Then bulldoze those things out of the way, decided to live a productive life, and DO IT!

Easier said then done, I know, but more on that in a later post. Let continue talking about the iPad. Perhaps you already are a productively minded person and you got the iPad to become even better; there are several things that could still be derailing you.

What did you want it to do?
You got the iPad because everybody else seemed to have so much success with it, but YOU never decided what you wanted it to do for YOU. The iPad can do many things very well, but if you don't decide which of those things you want it to do than it wont help you. So, set some goals for your iPad.

You aren't set up correctly
Perhaps know what you want to do with your iPad, you may want to manage your email to save time, or create music while your away from the studio, or a be able to study better. The problem is you lack the knowledge of how to get your iPad set up to do these things. You don't know what settings to turn on or what apps to download.

If this is the case, then the good news is you are on this blog, so you must be looking for the answers. Reading blogs like this one is a great way to find them. If you know what you want to do with your iPad, but aren't set up correctly or don't have the write apps please leave me a comment below or , I would love to help.

You found some great apps...called Angry Birds and Temple Run
Maybe in your hunt to find apps to help you, you stumped across these two best sellers, or others like them. Games on the iPhone aren't bad or evil; they just don't help you be more productive. Many people have gotten iPads to help them only to find that they have actually lost time to gaming and social networking.

The most important things
Remember the iPad is tool, in and of itself it is not a good or a bad thing, just like a hammer, a piano, a gun, or a toothbrush is not a good or a bad thing. It cannot make you more productive. YOU have to make yourself more productive, and you can use the iPad to reach those ends if:

  • YOU choose to have a productive mindset
  • YOU decide what it is you want the iPad to do
  • YOU set it up to achieve what you want
  • YOU intentionally use your time on it
The truth is: it is not about the iPad, it is about YOU!

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.