Category Archives: Productivity

My Morning Walk Productivity Dilemma

I hate to admit it, because I love my morning walks, but I’m having a productivity dilemma because of them.

I’ve discovered that early mornings are really good for both my creativity and my productivity. While I’m sitting there with my coffee, I’ve been getting so many ideas I have to keep my idea journal at hand. And a lot of the ideas I get make me want to go, go, go—get things done, tick things off the to-do list. That whole rah rah rah I’m productive thing that, frankly, I hardly ever felt until recently when I started getting up early to go for my walks.

So the problem? I finish up my coffee, and go for my walk. I have a great time while walking, and sometimes I even stop somewhere for fifteen minutes or so and get some meditation in. But when I get back, that whole productive feeling is gone. Pufffft. Nowhere in sight.

I figure there are a couple of solutions:

1. I should spend the first couple of hours after waking up sitting at my desk and writing and working, and then go for my walk.

2. I can try taking my walk at night instead.

The problem with solution #1 is, now that it’s summer, things start getting hot around nine o’clock, and I really really really don’t like walking outside when it’s hot.

The problem with solution #2 is I can have all the best intentions of walking later in the day, but the way things work around here is, stuff (as in the general “stuff” of life) always comes up and before I know it, it’s pretty late and I need to be heading to bed, not going out for an hour-long walk.

Sadly, there’s really only one solution, if I want to continue my morning walks and also make use of this newly found productive/creative time in the mornings.

I have to get up even earlier than I have been getting up. Somewhere in the vicinity of 6:00 a.m., which to me seems like quite an ungodly time of day. But if I can manage to do that, I can actually write/work for two whole hours, while also leisurely drinking my coffee, and still be out and about for my walk before it gets too hot.

Not sure if I can do it, though. But I’ll definitely give it a try!

Tracking my day vs. scheduling my day

planner

It appears I’m not yet ready to start scheduling my day, the way I had planned when I initially downloaded the Passion Planner pages.

I captured my first try at scheduling my day in my “A Day in the Life” post last week—a big fail on the one hand, because I was totally off my planned schedule, but on the other hand, a win in that I stayed aware of my time the entire day.

Staying aware of my time is something that tends to get away from me, especially now when I’m not plunged into back-to-back deadlines (well, this week I am, but not week by week by week like I am during my busy period).

Since that day, I’ve been religiously scheduling the following day—every night before I go to bed, I sit at my desk, armed with my highlighters and carefully charting out the next day in my planner. And every day, I fail to follow my careful schedule. Sigh.

I don’t think I’m planner-challenged (at least, the evidence isn’t all in yet!). But I do think I don’t know how long it takes me to do things, and that, perhaps, is a skill I should acquire. And once I’ve acquired that skill, I can maybe tackle the whole scheduling my day thing again and see how it goes.

I’d actually been planning to try a week of tracking my time after I read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours earlier this year. And then I never got around to it because January and part of February were so deadline-driven, my weekly schedule looked like this: WAKE UP. WORK. SLEEP. REPEAT. Nothing much to track, really.

So I’m going to spend this week tracking my time in my Passion Planner—so it will be a little like a diary of sorts. I have three more deadlines (one tomorrow, one on Thursday that looks like it might shift and one on Friday) so it’s not a normal non-busy week for me, but still, I’d like to see where I’m putting my time!

Have you ever tracked your time during your day? Any surprises? And are you a whiz at scheduling your days? Any tips would be appreciated!

Photo credit.

Maintaining Inbox Zero with the Mailbox app

Mailbox appYay! I’ve been doing it!

Ten days ago I used the Mailbox app to achieve Inbox Zero. It was as easy as taking care of the handful of emails that needed taking care of, and then hitting the handy “archive everything” button on the app.

But the thing is, I’ve done this before, not using an app but directly in Gmail. I’d “select all” and then “mark everything as read”. But that pleasant, empty mailbox state of affairs never lasted. Two or three days later, the emails would start piling up again, and within a week I’d be back where I’d started, with a gazillion unread emails waiting for me.

So the real question was, could I maintain Inbox Zero?

It’s been ten days, and I am pretty confident now that I can. See those pretty empty Mailbox pictures at the top of this post? The Mailbox app shows you a different one each day, but only if your inbox is empty. It actually makes my day to see each pretty new picture.

I’ve managed to empty mine out every day since I first got my inbox to zero, so lots of pretty little pictures!

I don’t think I could have done it without the Mailbox app, though. Here’s what I’m doing to maintain a clean inbox:

  • For the first couple of days, I unsubscribed to everything that landed in my inbox that I knew I would never get around to reading.
  • I now check each piece of email once and (this is the big thing) I do something with it right away.
  • Here are my options for each email: reply then archive, trash, archive or put in a folder. I also sometimes use the Mailbox app’s snooze function, which lets me put an email away for now but have it scheduled to show up again at a later time, like later today or tomorrow or after the weekend.
  • So far I have the following folders: To Do, To Listen, To Read, To Reply, Reference, Indexes and Writing. Every piece of mail that I don’t archive or trash goes into one of these folders.

The only downside is that I now prefer checking email on my phone – the Mailbox app just makes it so easy to go through my email. From the inbox screen, all it takes is a swipe. For an opened email, it just requires a tap.  If your inbox doesn’t have a lot of email in it, there’s even a way to batch sort the emails – you can swipe from the bottom and send all the emails to your archive, to the trash, or to a folder.

So I’ve taken to checking my email on my phone rather than on my computer, even if I’m actually sitting in front of my laptop. Then I’ll go to Gmail on my laptop and deal with anything I’ve put in “To Reply”, because I much prefer typing on my keyboard rather than on my phone.

Maintaining Inbox Zero has been quite effortless. I do need to set aside time every day or so to go through everything in the to-do folder, but that’s about it.

In the past, I’ve had times when I’ve had over a thousand emails in each of my two Gmail accounts. I’d trained myself to tune out the little red alert on the mail app on my phone, until I discovered I could just go into settings and turn the alert off. Even though I didn’t realize it, having all those unread emails sitting in my inbox was draining – I knew eventually I’d have to deal with it all. Not only that, I’d gotten to the point where important emails from clients would sometimes get buried in that big mess of unread emails.

I feel so much more productive these days, simply because I’ve got a good handle on my email. The best part? Nothing slips through the cracks any more!

Dealing with Digital Clutter

 

Dealing with digital clutterPhoto credit: Pixabay

I spent so much of December thinking about my goals and decluttering so many aspects of my life. But I realized today, there’s one area of my life I hadn’t given much thought to: digital clutter.

I came to this realization this morning when I looked at my phone and saw this:

Mail icon

The thing is, you see, I’d cleared out my inbox maybe four or five days ago (confession: I used the handy dandy “mark all as read” button). So how did the number of unread emails climb back into the three-digit territory?

Actually, I do know how. Now it’s really just a matter of dealing with it.

Anyway, it got me thinking about all of the other digital collections I have, and the rather messy state most of them are in.

Email

Decluttering my email will be my top priority, as I use it all the time. It’s going to be a hefty job, though, because in the past I’ve often decided to “get organized” and as a result have a gazillion labels which I probably don’t need, plus a ton of filters that are fine, only I’m probably better off unsubscribing to things rather than filtering them. I found this system particularly interesting, and will probably be incorporating some form of it with my email.

Evernote

My Evernote account is another disaster area. I started off with too many notebooks, and then I read about a system that used only a few notebooks and lots of different tags, which I decided to implement. And then a little down the road I read of a different system which said to use one main notebook, the “inbox” and I thought, oh, what a truly splendid idea, so I implemented that system instead. Of course, the crux of that system is that you need to go into Evernote regularly and sort through all the stuff you’ve added. Which I obviously have not been doing. And the situation now? Everything is in my Inbox notebook but hardly anything is tagged. Plus I have tags like “book” and “books” and need to sort that kind of thing out.

Pocket

I love my Pocket app. I use it all the time, so much so that Pocket sent me a nice little email at the end of the year letting me know I’d won the honour of being in their Top 5% of Pocket readers. And they even did up a nice Webpage of my stats here. But the thing about all my activity on Pocket? I have a wonderful archive of articles I’ve read – and nothing is tagged! I typically just send stuff to Pocket, and then when I’m reading, I kind of read from newest to oldest of the unread, and that’s about it. It would be nice if I at least tagged the articles in my archive …

Google Drive

The main Google Drive account I use actually isn’t so bad, mainly because I don’t have that many things in it. But I have another account which has used up almost all the space Google’s given me, probably because I used to use it to store my old iPhone photos. I’d upload them without much thought, either, so there are photos being stored that shouldn’t even be stored, such as blurred patches of ground and other camera mishaps. And I didn’t know then what I know now, that you can upload your photos to your Google+ account, and as long as they’re under a certain size, they don’t count against any of your Google Drive storage space!

Dropbox

I started backing up work files to Dropbox for “just in case”, but until recently I didn’t really have any particular system. I did the same with my writing files – but not all my writing files – and again, I kind of just uploaded rather haphazardly rather than using a particular, well-thought-out folder system. I have no clue why I did this, as I’m pretty good with the file system on my hard drive. But anyway, things are a real mess here. Luckily, organizing Dropbox is something that can be done through Windows Explorer, so I don’t anticipate things being too difficult. And I don’t have to tag anything, which is very nice. One very odd thing, though – I use the Carousel app to automatically save my iPhone photos to Dropbox (a necessity, because I only have 16G on my phone) but sometimes, I can’t find them on Dropbox. I’m hoping decluttering will help me solve that particular problem.

So these are my digital “problem areas” when it comes to decluttering.  How organized are you, digitally? Do you have some digital decluttering to do this year?