12 Apps for a Better Life

The following applications and websites can be used to make your job and life better. These are just a few of the applications in the marketplace. I’ve used most of the services listed and may be contacted if you want more information.

Time Management

Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique is a time management method. The technique uses a timer to break down work into an interval of 25 minutes then take short breaks. This method is based on the idea that a frequent break improves mental agility.

RescueTime

RescueTime is a time tracking application that gives you an accurate picture of how you spend your time on your devices. This application highlights poor usage of your time. It can also set alarms to tell you how much time you spent on Facebook.

Doodle

Doodle is a cloud-based calendar tool for coordinating meetings. Users are surveyed to determine the best date and time to meet.

Remember the Milk (RTM)

RTM is a cloud-based task and time management. Some of the features are emailing your task to RTM. Also, it can be used to setup tags, locations and integrates with Outlook and Gmail.

IQTell

IQTell is a cloud-based task and time management application. It utilizes the concepts and techniques designed in GTD by David Allen. This application will sync with emails, Evernote and ICloud.

Collaboration

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based team collaboration tool. Slack allows a team or group to communicate on one platform. This platform allows communication without email or group texting.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a file hosting service. Dropbox can be used as a collaboration of files with other users. It’s a good application for sharing large files or photos with others.

Organization

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a diagram used to visually organize information. This method is used in brainstorming, memory, visual thinking and problem solving. You can use paper or software to mind map.

IFTTT

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Slack, Twitter, and Evernote. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”. Here are some of my recipes:

  • If new SMS received from [Phone Number], then post a message to a Slack channel.
  • Email me when the president signs a new law.
  • If the new final score for the Clemson Tigers, then send me an email at [Email].

Evernote

Evernote is an application that can be used to organize data and list by using notebooks and tags. The application allows users to create text, web pages, photographs, voice memos, or handwritten notes. Also, Evernote has a good search engine inside the application.

Trello

Trello is a cloud-based project management system. This uses boards (Projects) and cards (tasks). You can also set up teams for your projects.

Focus@Will

Focus@Will is a music based on human neuroscience. It helps you focus, reduce distractions maintaining your productivity, and retaining information when working, writing and reading. This is a paid subscriptions service, but other music services might offer Focus@Will playlists.

HBR: How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

How can you help your employees cope with stress and boost performance?  Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Nancy Rothbard.

How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

Have you ever thought about what happens to your employees right before they get to work? Sometimes we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just find it hard to get our bearings. At other times, we might start out fine, but have a horrible commute or a screaming match with a teenager just before going to work. Paying attention to the morning moods of your employees can pay dividends. In my research with Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, we found that this start-of-the-day mood can last longer than you might think—and have an important effect on job performance.

In our study, “Waking Up On The Right Or Wrong Side Of The Bed: Start-Of-Workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, And Performance,” we examined customer service representatives (CSRs) in an insurance company’s call center over several weeks. We sent CSRs periodic short surveys throughout the day. We studied their mood as they started the day, how they viewed work events such as customer interactions throughout the day, and their mood during the day after these customer interactions. We used the company’s detailed performance metrics to investigate how their mood at work related to their performance.

We found that CSRs varied from day to day in their start-of-day mood, but that those who started out each day happy or calm usually stayed that way throughout the day, and interacting with customers tended to further enhance their mood. By contrast, for the most part, people who started the day in a terrible mood didn’t really climb out of it, and felt even worse by the end of the day — even after interacting with positive customers.

One interesting (and counterintuitive) finding was something we called “misery loves company.” Some CSRs who felt badly as they started the day actually felt less badly after interacting with customers who were themselves in a bad mood. Perhaps this was because, by taking their customers’ perspectives, these CSRs realized their own lives were not so terrible.

Most importantly, we discovered strong performance effects when it came to quality of work and productivity. Employees who were in a positive mood provided higher-quality service: they were more articulate on the phone with fewer “ums” and verbal tics, and used more proper grammar. Employees who were in a negative mood tended to take more frequent breaks from their duties to cope with the stress and get themselves through the day. These small breaks piled up, leading to a greater than 10% loss of productivity.

How can managers use these findings to help employees cope with stress and boost performance? While it can be difficult, it is not impossible to hit the reset button and try to help employees shake a negative morning mood. For example, managers might send out morale-boosting messages in the morning, or hold a regular team huddle to help people transition and experience positive mood as they start their workday. Feeding people and celebrating accomplishments is always a morale booster as well. Alternatively, managers can allow employees a little space first thing in the morning, for example to chat with colleagues before an early meeting. People also need time to “recover” from the night before so managers may want to think twice before launching a late-night barrage of emails as this might set employees up for a bad start to the next day. And if an employee arrives a few minutes late, confronting him or her about it later on instead of immediately may yield a more productive conversation and a more productive workday.

Employees, for their part, may want to take steps to lose their own negativity before arriving at work, creating their own “intentional transition”. This might involve taking a different route to work, giving themselves a pep talk, stopping for coffee, or listening to inspiring music. Finally, the best thing they can do is take a deep breath before walking in the door, to focus on making the most of the new day.

 

Inbox to Zero

Inbox to Zero

An email is a form of communication meant to pass information efficiently. However, it often becomes a productivity killer, if not properly managed. Below are ways to manage and reduce your inbox:

Turn Off Notifications / Work Offline

Email notices are often a major big focus drain. Turn off desktop pop-ups or chimes on your phone and computer.  Try Scheduling three fifteen or one thirty minute slot per day to check email.

When processing your email, you have three decisions to make: do it, delegate, or defer it.

Do it: If you can do the action in less than two minutes then do it. For example, reading an information only email, emails that can just be deleted, or those that require only a quick response.

Delegate: If appropriate delegate the task to an employee and move the email to a folder called @waiting_for. This folder can be used to store emails with a task that requires a follow-up.

Defer it: If this action or email requires more than two minutes then move this email to a folder called @action. The task required should be noted separately in order to avoid using this folder as a task list.

 

Unsubscribing to newsletters

If you are not reading an email newsletter, it’s best to unsubscribe since deleting these emails take valuable time. Almost all newsletters have an unsubscribe link. The links are at the bottom of most newsletters. Industry related newsletters that are important for you to read can be put into a folder labeled “Newsletter” or reading. These can be read while waiting for Dr.’s appointment, etc.

CC’s

If you’re the person in the CC’s part of the email, there shouldn’t be an action or response required on your part. The CC’s means for your information only.

To help with ““CC’ing, setup a rule in your email application to color code or move all the email that you’re CC’d on. This way you can reduce or manage your inbox.

Thanks

Unless the recipient requests you acknowledge the receipt, you don’t have to say “thanks” every time. Make that clear to your recipients, so there are proper expectations and no hurt feelings.

 

Email if used efficiently, is probably one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past twenty years. However, it’s important to recognize when emails shouldn’t substitute for a live conversation. Digital communication has accelerated the speed at which people form and broaden relationships, but is also decreasing the rate at which people are willing to resolve issues either professionally or directly in-person. The next time you receive an email from someone trying to resolve an issue ask yourself; is this something that would be better served by conversation? Then have the courage pick up the phone or have a face to face meeting.

 

 

Creating Boundaries for Growth and Success

You're Not the Boss of Me

In life and work, there are many boundaries, personal ones,interpersonal ones and systemic ones.  And there are also organizational boundaries.  These are the ones that intrigue me most because they are the most difficult to manage and yet can be just the thing that makes growth and success possible.

The trouble with organizational boundaries though, is that so often they are defined by rules and procedures that have a tendency to limit creative ability and collaborative effort.  That can be very stifling for both the organization and most certainly for the people who work in it.  In my mind, boundaries built on rules and procedures alone make an organization look a bit like this:

It has a rather claustrophobic feeling about it, doesn’t it? And, its walls are solid and unbending.  In an atmosphere like this, I can imagine how hard it must be to engage people in creative…

View original post 527 more words

Give and Take

I’ve read good book called Give and Take by Adam Grant. The book’s website has this to say: “Give and Take changes drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured our fundamental ideas about how to succeed—at work and in life. For generations, we have focused on the individual world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. Give and Take illuminates what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common.” Below is an excerpt from the book which you might find useful:

ACTIONS FOR IMPACTGive and Take

If you’re interested in applying the principles in this book to your work or your life, I’ve compiled a set of practical actions that you can take. Many of these actions are based on the strategies and habits of successful givers, and in each case, I’ve provided resources and tools for evaluating, organizing, or expanding giving. Some of the steps focus on incorporating more giving into your daily behaviors; others emphasize ways that you can fine-tune your giving, locate fellow givers, or engage others in giving.

  1. Test Your Giver Quotient
  2. Run a Reciprocity Ring
  3. Help Other People Craft Their Jobs-or Craft Yours to Incorporate More Giving
  4. Start a Love Machine.
  5. Embrace the Five-Minute Favor.
  6. Practice Powerless Communication
  7. Join a Community of Givers
  8. Launch a Personal Generosity Experiment
  9. Help Fund a Project
  10. Seek Help More Often

Embrace Work-Life Imbalance

Below is a blog post from the Harvard Business Review by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. Are you following your passion? Are you embracing your work-life imbalance?

Embrace Work-Life Imbalancework life balance circle

Why is everybody so concerned about work-life balance?

According to one urban legend, based on 1950s pop psychology*, workaholics are greedy and selfish people who are bound to die from a heart attack.

Not really. As the great David Ogilvy once said: “Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They do not die of hard work.” This is especially true if your work is meaningful.

Most of the studies on the harmful effects of excessive work rely on subjective evaluations of work “overload.” They fail to disentangle respondents’ beliefs and emotions about work. If something bores you, it will surely seem tedious. When you hate your job, you will register any amount of work as excessive — it’s like forcing someone to eat a big plate of food they dislike, then asking if they had enough of it.

Overworking is really only possible if you are not having fun at work. By the same token, any amount of work will be dull if you are not engaged, or if you find your work unfulfilling.

Maybe it’s time to redefine the work-life balance — or at least stop thinking about it. Here are some considerations:

Hard work may be your most important career weapon. Indeed, once you are smart-enough or qualified to do a job, only hard work will distinguish you from everyone else. Workaholics tend to have higher social status in every society, including laidback cultures like those found in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or South America. Every significant achievement in civilization (from art to science to sport) is the result of people who worked a lot harder than everyone else, and also happened to be utterly unconcerned about maintaining work-life balance. Exceptional achievers live longer, and they pretty much work until their death. Unsurprisingly, the 10 most workaholic nations in the world account for most of the world’s GDP.

Engagement is the difference between the bright and the dark side of workaholism. Put simply, a little bit of meaningless work is a lot worse for you than a great deal of meaningful work. Work is just like a relationship: Spending one week on a job you hate is as dreadful as spending a week with a person you don’t like. But when you find the right job, or the right person, no amount of time is enough. Do what you love and you will love what you do, which will also make you love working harder and longer. And if you don’t love what you are doing right now, you should try something else — it is never too late for a career change.


Technology has not ruined your work-life balance, it has simply exposed how boring your work and your life used to be. Did you ever try to figure out why it is so hard to stop checking your smartphone, even when you are having dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, celebrating your anniversary, watching a movie, or out on a first date? It’s really quite simple: None of those things are as interesting as the constant hum of your e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter account. Reality is over-rated, especially compared to cyberspace. Technology has not only eliminated the boundaries between work and life, but also improved both areas.

People who have jobs, rather than careers, worry about work-life balance because they are unable to have fun at work. If you are lucky enough to have a career — as opposed to a job — then you should embrace the work-life imbalance. A career provides a higher sense of purpose; a job provides an income. A job pays for what you do; a career pays for what you love. If you are always counting the number of hours you work (e.g., in a day, week, or month) you probably have a job rather than a career. Conversely, the more elusive the boundaries between your work and life, the more successful you probably are in both. A true career isn’t a 9-5 endeavor. If you are having fun working, you will almost certainly keep working. Your career success depends on eliminating the division between work and play. Who cares about work-life balance when you can have work-life fusion?

Complaining about your poor work-life balance is a self-indulgent act. The belief that our ultimate aim in life is to feel good makes no evolutionary sense. It stems from a distorted interpretation of positive psychology, which, in fact, foments self-improvement and growth rather than narcissistic self-indulgence. This misinterpretation explains why so many people in the industrialized Western world seek attention by complaining about their poor work-life balance. It may also explain the recent rise of the East vis-à-vis the West — you will not see many people in Japan, China, or Singapore complain about their poor work-life, even though they often work a lot harder. Unemployment and stagnation are in part the result of prioritizing leisure and pleasure over work.

In short, the problem is not your inability to switch off, but to switch on. This is rooted in the fact that too few people work in careers they enjoy. The only way to be truly successful is to follow your passions, find your mission, and learn how to embrace the work-life imbalance.

*Friedman, M.; Rosenman, R. (1959). “Association of specific overt behaviour pattern with blood and cardiovascular findings.” Journal of the American Medical Association (169): 1286-1296]

The post Embrace Work-Life Imbalance appeared first on Harvard Business Review.