Do Loads! Productivity Links and Tips

I really enjoyed making the recent package for BBC Click all about productivity  – and I got to meet some real masters of the art, which was eye-opening and rather inspiring!

click the pic to go to the BBC's site and watch the feature

click the pic to go to the BBC's site and watch the feature

RSS Readers /can’t see the link? If you want to watch it, click here.

This blog has links to everyone featured in the segment, and below that some hints and tips, both from the feature and also stuff that I couldn’t fit in. Between them, this lot shamed me into going through my inbox and sorting through all my stuff.

Featured Interviews

Professor Richard Wiseman, Psychologist, University of Hertfordshire

David Allen, Author, Getting Things Done

Michael Sliwinski, Founder, Nozbe task manager

Websites mentioned in the feature

Productivity Blogs

Goal sharing

Task services

Processes I use to keep my inbox empty and my tasks under control

NB these are not compulsory – I’m a big fan of whatever works.

General tips

  • As mentioned in the package, it’s impossible to respond to every single email you’ve been sent. But mark it as read or add it to a task, and your brain will know you’ve processed it.
  • Spend a day clearing your backlog, or process 100 emails a day if you have huge amounts, then you’re treated to a lovely clean inbox.
  • Close down your distractions – If I’m working on a script, then email and twitter have to be closed down – sadly they won’t help with the task at hand. Every now and again, I’ll take a physical break from my work area to refresh my brain. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t…
  • Rediscover the telephone as a means to get things done quickly – instead of 5 or 6 emails back and forth over 20 minutes, try a 5 minute phone conversation which gets it done in one go.

Finding stuff on your computer

Folders are useful for grouping similar files together in one place to copy, share and store, but not so much for finding stuff. I use my computer’s inbuilt search function instead, and name my files by thinking “What would I type in to search for this file?” – so far this has worked quite well.

Multiple inbox set up for Gmail:

A feature in google labs called multiple inboxes can be configured to send unread items to the top of your inbox. If I mark an item as “read” it means I’ve read it, dealt with it, replied to it or processed it in some way, like adding a Star or a label. Starred email is stuff I know will take more than a couple of minutes to deal with. I find it makes my inbox a lot more manageable.

  • Enable labs in the top right hand corner of the screen, then scroll down to Multiple Inboxes. Click Enable and then Save changes at the bottom of the screen.
  • Go to settings in the top right hand corner of Gmail
  • Click on Multiple Inboxes
  • Set up by typing the following into each pane to set it up to send Unread and Starred emails to the top of your browser screen.

Pane 0

is:Unread under Search Query, and Unread under Panel Title

Pane 1

is:Starred under Search Query, and Starred under Panel Title

  • Select number of conversations to display – mine is set to 30
  • And set the inboxes to “Above the inbox”
  • Save Changes and go back to see your starred and unread messages above your normal inbox.

TASKS: Any emails that require doing something move to tasks by clicking on More Actions

MARK AS READ KEYBOARD SHORTCUT: Mark an item as read by hitting Shift+i

Note on labels in Gmail: Increasingly, I use the very powerful search function over the folder structure. However, I still label a few emails to make them more search-friendly, such as “internet registrations”, “receipts” and “travel tickets”. This is so that if (for example) an internet registration email doesn’t have the word “user ID” in the body of the email, I can still find it.

Viewing Unread items in one place in Microsoft Outlook

Seeing all your unread items in one place in MS Outlook is easy.

Look in the Search folders under your folder list – one will be named “unread“.

TASKS: Drag an email to the task icon to turn an email into a task, and then you can set due dates and more options.

MARK AS READ KEYBOARD SHORTCUT: Mark an item as read by hitting Control+Q.

Note on folders in Outlook: I have only a few folders in my work outlook system, one is called “Important Reference” for stuff I keep having to refer back to, one is called “Current Ideas”, and one is “Personal” – I use the search function to find everything else.

Let me know…

  • if you have some hints and tips you’d like to share, favourite keyboard shortcuts or productivity tips on these or other software
  • if any of these tips helped!

Good luck 🙂

New Year, Different Difference?

A slightly belated “Happy New Year” to you, Chinese and/or otherwise. The picture on the left is Twilight on Gerrard St, London, which is the main drag of Central London’s Chinatown area. The place looks magical, with lanterns swaying in the breeze attached to absolutely every possible stationary object. New Year fills us with optimism, that this time, things will be different; we will be different.
On my way to the gym this morning, I remember reading a statistic saying 97 % of all people who make New Years resolutions break them – 8 % of the total actually break those resolutions in the first 10 seconds, and it is with this thought in mind that I’m feeling pretty proud of myself about making my way to the gym on this freezing occasion, a full 1 months and 11 days into the UK’s new year. But this was not a new year’s resolution – I decided to join a gym in September.
Why did I not pressurise myself with a New Year Resolution this year? Because with an NYR, I’ll get 364 chances to fail – guaranteeing that every time I don’t reach my expected goal, it’s time to resign myself to endless telly, feeling dejected about the sheer mountain of unfinished business shouting for attention, and hoping that next year will be different.
So today, I’m going to challenge the popular assumption that an arbitrary day, zero hour, “wipe the slate clean on Day 1” mentality is the only way to get back on the self improvement train, and say instead that any day, at any time, when we make a conscious decision to do something different, that’s when persistence, determination, and that elusive, sparkly feeling that we’re “on our way” is a great and just reward.
Like many people, I’m interested in goal-setting, personal development and self-improvement, and writing down my goals and aims helps me to focus more. (If you’re looking for a goodie, I humbly suggest Getting Things Done, which I overhauled my life with a year or two ago). Last time I did this was in November – not conventionally a month for that sort of thing, unless it’s your birthday, perhaps.
Be Excellent to Each other!
Anyhow, this week I received some interesting emails, including one from the BBC, one from a short film producer, and the continuation of an exciting music project I’m currently sworn to secrecy about. All of these emails represent a move in the right direction – and I have to confess it’s all a little bit scary. I know I’m on TV already, which is a massive achievement, but these projects represent quite a big leap and I wonder why taking that step into the unknown brings up such feelings of vulnerability, even though what I want most in the world is to be knee deep in Music, TV and technology for the rest of my days.

I’m beginning to realise that the big change for me this day, 15th February, is that it’s time to be ready for the next level, which I’ve spent my whole life preparing for, so this year is as good as any. It’s time for all that hard work to be translated into amazing opportunity, and although it’s a petrifying concept, I think I can handle it. So Happy New Day to you, dear reader, and wherever we go, let us go boldly, as a certain Starship Captain or two might say. Live long, and Prosper.

lots of love, LJ x
spoken through SpinVox tweaked by LJ

Reality TV and Poptarts

“I had an amazingly strange night last night starting at BAFTA where I attended an event called “Truth or Dare: The Reality of Television” which pitted a selection of imaginary reality TV scenarios to the likes of Greg Dyke, Kelvin MacKenzie and a host of other high-up TV producer types. After being exposed to what *really* goes on behind the scenes in a Reality TV show (there will be a follow up blog on this I think), I then went off to actually appear on live TV (QVC UK in this case) at 1:00 in the morning – which was a very surreal thing to be doing, especially after the televisual wool had been firmly pulled from my bleary, overtired eyes.

… so I got back to the house at 3.00 am and woke up at around 1100 – (it’s OK, any self-respecting technology journalist is allowed to wake up whenever they want, after all, “online” is a 24-hour city) … and here is where you join me, speaking this blog whilst trying to work out how to optimally toast a chocolate pop tart that my friend Ivy sent me from me from Seattle, USA. In case you’re interested, my aim is to warm it through, but not burn it, and (geek that I am) I’m trying to calibrate the exact number at which to set the toaster. In case you’re still interested, it appears to be 2.5.

In case you haven’t realised from the (undeniably) creative procrastination above, I’ve got a few days to myself this week and I don’t have to be on TV until Friday night. Today I’ll be talking to a journalist from The Times (UK) about mobile blogging and technology in general (I’ll link to this in my next blog), then after a spot of Facebooking (is that a word?), I’ll probably beach myself in front of some reality TV after all, as there’s no Stargate Atlantis.

Speak to you soon, it was lovely to check in.”
spoken through SpinVox, tweaked by LJ

I wish I was Hiro from "Heroes"…

… because if I just concentrated really hard, I’d suddenly have a whole glut of time – then there’d be half a chance of completing the gargantuan schedule of errands, documents, and general odds and ends well before this weekend – you see, on Sunday I’ll be on the telly for around 24 hours and therefore unable to do anything apart from drinking copious amounts of coffee and wrestling with AV cables, which is why the sudden rush.


So, I’ve decided (in the time-honoured “Let’s play Minesweeper” tradition) to post a little bloggette (is that how you spell it?) on the art of procrastination instead. In honour of this, I will now decide exactly what font to use for this article.
Right, After a few minutes of deliberation, I have decided to use the same font anyway.
I am, as you possibly know, a fully paid up geek -I actually had a conversation on the phone this morning with a business colleague about the fact that the number “42” was mentioned in Stargate Atlantis the other night – they agreed it was a humorous reference – we both snorted appreciatively.
Apart from the encyclopaedic knowledge of sci-fi and pointless but amazing trivia, my geekiness is displayed with superhuman skills when it comes to organisation and recall… although this streak comes in useful when I’m reviewing technology (I actually do read the manual – and enjoy it), I also get far too much enjoyment from colouring in the cells in Excel, so it’s a constant left-brain/right-brain battle for me.
This week I amazed some people at work because I have absolutely NO desktop icons OF ANY KIND on my laptop’s Desktop display, as I like things to look neat and tidy.
On the other hand, at the moment (this is where the title of today’s blog comes in) my Real World Desktop is currently invisible under 25 items inventoried below for your “pleasure”:
  1. many DVDs of varying importance
  2. promo bags from CES (Alienware, UA, Panasonic)
  3. contact lenses (unused)
  4. Sharpie Markers (wide, black)
  5. keyboards (Creative Prodikeys music keyboard)
  6. microphones (one for Skyping, one for Singing Vocals)
  7. business cards (copious quantities from CES, mostly entered into my system)
  8. handbag (why??)
  9. dri-wipe marker (there’s a bit of velcro on its side -probably from before it emigrated…)
  10. Belkin USB hub (rotating 4-port)
  11. some post-it notes (these appear to be from an infinite source, I can’t remember buying this many)
  12. a 15cm ruler (blue, transparent)
  13. Wacom Graphics Tablet (pen resting on groove)
  14. Galileo thermometer (showing 25 degrees Celsius)
  15. Musician’s Union Newsletter (unread)
  16. Ergostation and Laptop (this bit looks quite organised)
  17. Receipts (Marks and Spencer, Muji, Borders)
  18. Nokia phone for review (with box)
  19. indeterminate USB cables (who knows what the other end fits into?)
  20. JVC Everio Camcorder (on telly with this over the weekend)
  21. PDA cover (I was looking for this)
  22. phone bill (laughable)
  23. notepad (inedible, medical-style scrawl)
  24. towering pile of paperwork (terrifying)
    and of course,
  25. nice cup of tea that I’m drinking (now lukewarm and therefore undrinkable)
Let’s keep the RW desktop a secret, boys and girls. It’ll all be back to normal next week, once I’ve completed the editing for two videos – one for Virgin Media about the future of gaming (I’ll post a link here when it’s done) and one for this weekend (which I’ll upload to Youtube in advance of the airing for anyone who wants a sneak preview). Meanwhile, if you need any post-it notes, just let me know 🙂