Google Productivity Pad: December 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preparing for New Year's Resolutions

We are now quickly approaching that time of the year where we will need to set our New Year's resolutions.

Make an idea list now
As soon as you read to post you should begin to make an idea list of the goals you may want to accomplish next year. If you wait until New Year's Eve or Day when you have sat down to actually commit to those goals then you are going to have a heap of trouble coming up with them. Great ideas seldom come to us when we force them. So have some way of keeping track of ideas as they come to you so that when you do sit down to set goals you will have a list of options in front of you to choose from.
In my series on goals and iPads I have a post dedicated to writing goals down: click here to read it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

App Review: Relax

Name: Relax -- Stress and Anxiety Relief
Price: 4.99 or Free
Stars: 3
Type: Stress Relief

The Relax app has one purpose in mind: to help you reduce stress through breathing exercises. It is a simple app that allows you to select your level and time duration based on your ability and current situation.

The app works well for the most part, but occasionally it does crash in the middle of an exercise. Other than that one problem I do not have any complaints after using it for a couple months.

The app gives you both auditory and visual pacers for your breathing. It will play one tone for your inhale and another for your exhale, if you are an advanced breather it will also play one for retention. You also watch a corresponding segment of the circle fill. One time around the circle is one complete exercise.

The concept is that you will become more relaxed as you breathe with a regular pattern, clearing you mind, and getting the proper amount of oxygen to your body. I have found this to be a very useful way to relieve stress. I use the Relax app twice a day, once right after exercising to prepare my mind to write, and right before I go to sleep to help me fall asleep faster.

And there you have it folks, the Relax app is a great little app that can train you in relaxive breathing. I think reducing stress can make you a more effective and productive person. Have you ever used this app or know of one like it? Share it with us in the comments below. Have a fantastic day, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Yeah, your web browser is not a todo list either

Quick, how many browser tabs do you have open? Have any of them been open to the same page for days? How about weeks?
If you have a lot of browser tabs open, and they have been open for a long time, you may be falling into the common trap of the "browser todo list" of which the mental process goes something like this:

"Oh, I need to research that thing,or I need to figure out that event,or I need to find out more about this person,let me just open a browser tab with that websitethen I will remember TODO it"

Oh No! You just asked the browser for something not in its job description!
Sorry, but the web browser, like your email, was built for a certain task, and letting you know what to do and when to do it, was not it.

These are not ToDo lists

Now I will admit that I am guilty of this very often, that's why I am writing a post on it, as part of my recovery therapy. It's an easy trap to fall into, but here are the problems with it.
  1. It increases your subconscious load and makes you feel guilty
  2. It hampers the two minute rule
  3. It is unreliable
Lets talk about these, and then we will look at some solutions to help with the problem.

First, It increases your subconscious load and makes you feel guilty

Here's what happens, you open up a browser tab and go to a website so you can remember where to go. Now every time you are working in the browser there is that nagging little tab open, saying, "you haven't done this yet, you haven't done this yet" it's annoying and you can't get it off your mind because you didn't unloaded it into a system you trusted for a time that was appropriate. You don't need that kind of mental baggage dragging down your productivity, so don't do it.

Second, It hampers the two minute rule

Most of those things that you open a browser tab for a simple information tasks that could be completed in two minutes or less, so you should just do them and not try to remember to do them at all. Thinking your browser is your todo list and will remind you to do them encourages you to put them off when you really shouldn't.

Third, It is unreliable

Ever had a browser crash? How about your computer? Yeah, I figured you had. Or how about just leaving something in the browser tab so long that it became irrelevant? The browser is not a good system because it to easily loses information, and it is to easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of the day. Let's face it, you have a lot going on in that web browser.

So now that you know there is a problem, what can you do about it? Well fortunately for you I have the same problem, so I have been coming up with a few solutions. But I still have a long way to come so please also leave you suggestions in the comments below.
  1. Copy and Paste
  2. Reliable information storage (ie Evernote)
  3. Read it later 
This first one, Copy and Paste, sounds simple, and it is. Cntrl-C and Cntrl-V are probably the two most commonly used commands in all of computing. So here is the secret, you can copy and paste URLs, into the notes of your ToDo list,

Why would this be a useful thing? Well it gets the task where it belongs, on the ToDo list, while allowing you still feel confident you will be able to access the resourse when you need it. So copy and paste away.

You may not always need to access the whole web page, there may just be some information you were looking for that you know you will need later on. This is where number two, Reliable information storage, comes in.  

Instead of leaving the whole page open in your browser you can just take the information you need and put it into your information system so that you can find it later. In the old days this was called a filing cabinet, now it is called Evernote. There are other services you could use, but Evernote is the one I think is the best.

To make the system reliable you will need to develop a system of organization that allows you to find the information you have stored in the future when you need it. If the system is not reliable, you will not want to close out the web browser because you won't know if you will find the information again.

The other reason people leave pages open in their browser is because they find an interesting article and the simply want to Read it later. That's good, while browsing social media or news sites we often find articles we want to read, but don't have time to right then.
Leaving those articles open in the web browser is not the best option. A much better choice is to put them some place that is designed for reading later. It is especially useful if it can be stored for offline reading.

There are many programs that let you do this. If you want the simplest one you can use the one built into the Safari browser, called Reading List. I prefer to use the application Pocket because it integrates with both twitter and flipboard, and you can also email article you find elsewhere to your Pocket for later viewing. If it is an article you need to read for something make sure it also makes it onto you todo list.

There you have it folks, 3 problems with the web browser being a todo list and three solutions you can implement today so you won't do it anymore. It is not easy to break out of this habit; I've been notorious for doing this for years. I still struggle with it. If you have any tips that could help or questions about anything I have said please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.