Tag Archives: life hack

TE-I (Loving Messages) Follow-Up

Last week I wrote this thought experiment on Loving Messages. It didn’t take long before I had the opportunity to put the thought experiment into action. In most cases I will probably not name the cast of characters involved, for pretty obvious reasons; and I still want to share my results.

Within two hours of writing that post I passed something on, which I considered to be rather considerate. In return I got something akin to a lecture about the concerns of sharing what I did. There was no thank-you for the action, just what could be perceived as criticism.
As the communication started, I had full awareness that this was the perfect opportunity! I was aware that an initial reaction of frustration was welling up. I took a deep breath, and listened for the loving message. The concerns were valid, and the love was found in the very fact of the concerns being expressed–if there weren’t caring, there would be no need for the expression of concern. Where in the past I might have gotten very frustrated by the conversation, I listened for the love, and ended up fairly neutral. This was a success.
The next opportunity came that evening. I was driving Josh and myself home after dark. I was about to turn left onto our street, and there was a car waiting at the stop sign there; I was going to be turning in front of them. As I started the turn, they starting into the intersection! I quickly steered away from them, toward the curb, to give them as much room as possible to stop. I was sure that there would be impact, and there wasn’t. I sat for a moment and took a breath, then continued on down the road.
It’s a bit harder to find the loving message in this “communication.” The easy way out would be to look at the fact that they didn’t hit me, and that’s too easy–I would want to be able to find the loving message even if they had. My tactic, then, is to simply let go of the judgment about what happened: instead of thinking they are a dumb $@#$% for not looking where they’re going, I just let that thought go. I have no idea what was going on in the person’s head: maybe they were rushing somewhere in an emergency, or to someone they love. Or, perhaps they simply weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t matter to me. I chose to simply take a breath and let it go. As a result, I had a peaceful time getting ready for bed (while the adrenaline dump subsided), and falling right to sleep.
As if to test my resolve, the near-identical thing happened the next day: I was turning left in front of someone at a stop sign, and they nearly drove into me again! It wasn’t quite as close a call as the previous night, and I wondered what I was doing that was attracting this. I’m still working on that one.
The results, so far, from my thought experiment are very good. I continue to incorporate the process into my life. I’ll give more updates as I believe they are pertinent/interesting.

It’s All About the Heart

Literally.

Last night I took my third annual CPR refresher. The protocol has gotten even simpler to remember, and the teaching style has been greatly improved to be much more hands-on than the previous more-informational style.
If you haven’t yet gotten your CPR training, I highly encourage you to do so. Keeping someone’s blood moving through their body is absolutely crucial in case of a heart attack. Our blood has enough oxygen for 10 minutes, yet it won’t do any good if it’s not moving. When CPR is rendered, it’s quite possible that there will be no neurological damage due to hypoxia.
We also learned (again) how to help someone who’s choking, whether they be an adult or a 2-month-old.
In the Taking It Lightly weekend I do a lot of “heart work.” I’m very happy that I know how to do this kind of “heart work” as well.
For information on CPR training, visit www.redcross.org.

Dealing with Bacon Part II

In a previous post I discussed bacon–emails that I’ve signed up for, yet aren’t a high priority. I’ve been fine-tuning my bacon-wrangling, and thought I’d share my progress in case others would find it useful.

In that past post I discussed the special Bacon folder I created, and how I created rules in Outlook to look for specific senders and move those emails directly into that folder.
Now I have a much simpler method that doesn’t require my adding email addresses to my Outlook rule every time a new sender shows up in my inbox.
Because I use Gmail, there’s a little trick I can use when signing up for things. With Gmail, it’s possible to create on-the-fly email addresses. Let’s say my email address is fantasticness@gmail.com (which it isn’t). You can create an unlimited number of email addresses by adding + after the username and anything you want, and they will all be delivered to you!
So let’s say I sign up for something, and want the emails they send me to go into my bacon folder. Starting with my fictitious email above, I’d sign up with the email fantasticness+bacon@gmail.com. Then, with the rule I have in Outlook that puts all emails sent to that address in my bacon folder, I’m all set! (Other email providers may have similar services–YMMV.)
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have only important emails in my inbox!
I also use a number of Outlook rules to intelligently put emails into folders based on project or group. I can see them all using the Unread Mail folder, and when I’m done reading them, they are already filed!
This combination of systems has helped me to automate a great deal of my inbox cleanup, meaning I have time for other things. I can’t recommend these types of automation highly enough.

The Strangest Thing I’ve Done (Naked) In Quite Some Time

[Oh, do you think you know where this is going? I’ll bet you don’t.]

It’s not my fault. It’s the cats’ fault. [How about now?] This story requires some background:
Josh moved in at the beginning of August, and brought his (cat) girls, Maggie and Feliz, with him. We followed the proper protocol: lock them in a room for a month, and never let them or Raja (my boy) see each other. They can smell one another under the door, etc. At the same time, we locked Raja in our bedroom to minimize his anxiety with all of the noise going on during renovations.
Starting in September we would let everyone out for an hour or so, then back in the room. We gradually increased the time until finally after about two months, I think, the doors were opened for good.
Obviously if a cat is locked in a room a litter box is required, so Maggie & Feliz had theirs, and Raja had his in the master bedroom. I didn’t really enjoy this–litter in the bed is a result, both carried by his paws as well as our feet from the litter that was perpetually on the bedroom floor (hardwoods–bamboo–I installed it myself). I find litter in the bed quite annoying.
Even after the doors were open, we often shut the doors during construction to keep the cats contained, which reduces their stress. Once the house was on the market at the beginning of the year, we moved Raja’s litter box downstairs to the office. That’s when the trouble began.
Maggie and Feliz would chase Raja through the house. We didn’t realize the dynamic we had set up: Raja is a very timid cat, and Josh’s girls are both much more social and assertive. Raja was spending all of his time on our bed, even after the doors were open, so as to avoid the girls. Thus, they reached a detente that they didn’t publish anywhere: Raja may be in the bedroom (actually, on the bed), and Maggie and Feliz may be everywhere else. When he had his space in the office they deigned to let him have that space as well. So, he can be in the bedroom on the main floor, where we fed him, or in the office where his litter box and water were. Do you see a logistical problem here?
Every time he wanted to go to the bathroom he had to run the gauntlet, as well as when returning to the bedroom. the would literally chase him back to his room (sometimes he wasn’t allowed to go downstairs) and onto the bed, even jumping on the bed to intimidate him, if I may anthropomorphize a bit.
Josh, ever thoughtful as he is, began getting concerned last week that Raja wasn’t getting enough water. So we decided to put a bowl of water in the bedroom.
[Are you wondering what the heck this has to do with my being naked? I’ll get there shortly.]
Josh was right: Raja wasn’t getting enough water. He was drinking lots of water, so it was good we had the water up there. Lots and lots of water. Water, water, water. It occurred to me to possibly be nervous, but Raja has always been so faithful with his litter box that I considered the risk to be quite low.
Until last Thursday.
Last week Monday through Wednesday Josh took Raja down to his office when he (Josh, not Raja) was working. Raja would use the litter box and hang out for a while, sometimes running the gauntlet to get back to home base.
Thursday Josh didn’t go down to his office. I know you see it coming.
As we were getting ready for bed, I walked into the bedroom and saw a LARGE wet stain on the comforter. “Oh, he didn’t pee,” I thought, “he just threw up.” No he didn’t–he peed.
On my bed.
On my down comforter.
I’m quite happy to state that I almost never get frustrated with cats, and never when a ‘misbehavior’ is caused by their stress. I was nowhere near angry with him; indeed, I felt sorry that I had put him in this position. Knowing how faithful he has always been with his littler box, I was quite sure he held it as long as he could, stressed out, and then lost the battle.
I feel like a bit of a bad cat-daddy as a result, but 1) I’ll get over it; and 2) that’s not pertinent to the story.
I soaked up everything I could with paper towels, then we stripped off the duvet and put the comforter in a large trash bag, in the garage where it would stay cool (we left the following morning for the farm–no time to wash it). I washed the duvet in enzymes, which solved that problem completely. However, an industrial washer and dryer are required to wash a down comforter.
[We’re almost there; do you have any guesses yet?]
I intended to leave work by 4 today to get time after work and before a call at 7 tonight to wash and dry it. I checked the instructions of the enzymes and realized I didn’t have enough time: the comforter needs to soak for an hour in the enzymes, then finish the cycle, then wash again, then dry. No small project.
[Here it comes; are you ready?]
There’s no way to start a Laundromat washer, cycle until wet, then turn it off for an hour. First of all, there’s no way to shut one off (that I know of); second, others would need it more than likely, so I couldn’t waste the time. So I made an alternate plan.
I mixed the enzymes, waited a few minutes for them to activate, then put warm water in the tub (between 75 and 110°). I’d soak the comforter there for an hour, squeeze it then go to the laundromat.
Have you ever tried to soak a down comforter in a bathtub? I’ll bet not. Because the better question is: have you ever tried to submerge a down comforter in water? Or a related question: have you ever tried to hold a beach ball under water? It ain’t easy.
If you’re a scout and have received your swimming merit badge, or whatever the analog is for girl scouts, or ever taken a water survival course, you learn that blue jeans (without holes) make nice floatation devices: take them off, tie the ends of the legs together, put them over your head with the knot behind your neck, then holding the waistline below the water, “splash” air under water until it fills with air. The water causes the threads of the fabric to expand, as well as adding water tension to the surface. As long as the pants are kept wet, they hold air pretty well.
Now imagine that same phenomenon with a queen-sized down comforter. (No jokes, please. Oh what the heck: jokes, please.) It’s actually more challenging than a beach ball, because you push down here and it pops up there.
Being a thinking man, I went to the kitchen and got several cooking screens and racks. I thought I could use them to push down on the comforter. It didn’t work–the air kept moving away from where I pushed down.
[ok, you see it coming now, don’t you?]
I decided the only way to soak the entire comforter all the way through was the man-handle the thing. I took off my clothes and got in the tub. Even that didn’t work at first: I’d kneel here and push there with my hands, and the bubbles would simply move. So I hearkened back to my four months in Asia living with a Thermarest and sleeping bag with stuffsack: I started at one end, squeezed all the air out, then rolled it. Kneel on it. Roll, kneel, roll, kneel, until I got all the way through. It got even more challenging at the end, and I finally did it. I then spread out the comforter and agitated it. I looked a bit like Lucille Ball stomping grapes, except that I’m a man, not a woman; I’m stomping on a comforter not grapes, and I’m naked. Other than that, I’m sure we looked a lot alike. I could make more comparisons, but this is a family show.
Then it’s time to get out of the tub. I turn on the water and use the hand-shower to shower off my legs and arms. Then dry and get out.
I mentioned the enzymes: the product is called Odor-Mute, and it works AMAZINGLY well on cat urine: it gets rid of the odor completely and passes the black light test (urine–including human urine–phosphoresces under black light). Curiously, it’s the exact same enzyme that’s in Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. So not only have I been removing the urine smell from the comforter, I’ve been tenderizing myself. I must be very tender by now. Throw me on the grill.
Well, I have my clothes back on by now, and it’s been almost an hour since I set it to soaking. It’s time to go squeeze the water out, and go to the Laudromat. Hm. I’ll probably have to get naked again.
Wonder whether it will come out all right? Wonder whether I’ll make my phone call at 7? Wonder whether I’ll die of boredom at the Laundromat? or get mugged? or meet an angel or something?
Check back later to find out. This is my cliff-hanger.

MasterMind Program – Starting Soon in Madison!

On March 24 a group is going to be starting an exciting adventure in Madison. We’re going to be holding a MasterMind program. For those not familiar, a MasterMind program is a monthly meeting of individuals who are focused on making their goals into reality. We start the group by defining our goals, and meet the 4th Tuesday of every month (Except December 29) for a couple of hours in the evening. Between these meetings participants have a weekly meeting with their coaching partner that lasts about an hour.

I’ve really been looking forward to this group, which I’m facilitating. It’s a great opportunity to get serious about what I want to accomplish! This program was designed by Patricia Clason, the co-owner and director of the Center for Creative Learning in Milwaukee. We’ll also be including a slew of valuable resources designed and gathered by Patricia as part of the course.
If you are interested in participating, please download the flyer and registration form. And you can let me know if you have questions.
We can’t wait to start!

Take Care of the Bacon, Y’All!

I think I got this from Merlin Mann. It works.

You already know what spam is–it’s the stuff you don’t want. Well, there are less-important emails you also received from organizations and other stuff you signed up for, but you don’t really want to read it often. This stuff is called bacon.
Bacon is really annoying in the inbox. I really just want to see email I’m interested in reading in my inbox. So I decided to do something about it. Since I use Outlook, I created a rule that puts emails from certain email addresses into a special folder called “Bacon” (oddly enough). I’ve placed this folder beneath my JunkMail folder. As new bacon arrives in my inbox, I add the new email to the rule I created.
Now when I check email, I see the emails I’m most interested in when looking at my Inbox. I then use the Unread Mail filter (saved to favorites) to quickly review all my Bacon and see if I want to read any of it. Otherwise, I can quickly delete.
I also have emails filing themselves upon arrival, and read them all in the Unread Mail filter. This is especially handy if you can predict the subject line (especially from mailing lists that put a prefix in the subject), or if the email is always from or sent to a specific email address.
This all makes email much more painless!
What other tricks do you use to help with your influx of emails? Please share in the comments!

Zero Inbox

In a previous post I described the trials and tribulations of floods of email and living in that lake for way too long. I also described slashing and burning and emptying my inbox.

After that entry I was minimally successful at keeping my inbox empty. And I still had one very bad habit: if something arrived in my inbox that needed to be done but couldn’t happen right away, I left it there until I did it. When would I ever learn?
Well, the answer to that is August 22, 2008. I don’t remember where I got the link, and I found this page with a video by Merlin Mann talking about his Zero Inbox philosophy. None of the concepts were rocket science: there are 5 actions you can take on incoming emails:
  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Respond
  • Defer
  • Do
Delete: I wasn’t deleting enough. Does everything really require a response? No. Delete.
Delegate: I’m a very compliant person. I’m very quick to take on too many responsibilities and say yes. I’m working on this (no, I didn’t buy any magazines for candles to the kid who came to my door yesterday, and I thanked him for offering). So for me, delegation starts with saying, NO I WILL NOT DO THIS–at least internally. Then ASK someone else to do it. I’ve been working on this one over the years and am getting better and better at it.
Respond: This one is not a challenge–I’m pretty quick to respond to people.
Defer: This one I was doing all wrong. I was deferring by letting it sit in my inbox. NO NO NO! I’ll get back to this in a second.
Do: I probably do too much of this. Just take the action now. Touch it once. The problem is that I can so easily get distracted by doing requests that come in that are of low importance or urgency, when there’s other more important and urgent things to do. So don’t do too much doing.
In Mann’s words, the most important thing to do when having an over-full inbox is to “simply stop sucking.” I love this! He suggested creating a DMZ folder (Google DMZ if you don’t know it) and putting all inbox contents there. Deal with that as you go, but don’t leave it in the inbox. Start fresh with the inbox and stop letting them pile up. This works! I stopped sucking immediately, and it felt great.
Getting back to the deferring, the inbox is NOT a successful way to defer. I now spend a bit more energy identifying the things I really want to do and saying no to those that I don’t or won’t. I then defer by putting the item in my calendar on the date I will do it.
If I take an action on an email by sending an inquiry, thus needing to wait for a response before more action, I flag the email as a task to complete, and put it in a new folder I created called “Waiting.”
If something is just kind of there–not really significant but I don’t want to lose it–I’ll flag it and add a reminder date, and stick it in the DMZ folder. Maybe not the best strategy, and at least it’s out of my inbox.
None of these concepts are new or earth-shattering–indeed, I learned most of these concepts from Patricia Clason years ago when I took her time management course. It simply took a decision to be really conscious and disciplined about it. Both of these ingredients are crucial to keeping an empty inbox, which for me means having a much more relaxed and orderly life. I continue to whittle down on the DMZ folder, and will one day perhaps delete it altogether (hopefully it will be empty. ;o}).
I’m practicing the same discipline on my desktop: nothing remains on it for more than a day. The receipts I put on from Home Depot last night I entered into Quicken this morning and filed, except for the return I have to make, so that is going out to be rubber-banded on the item and put into my trunk on the next visit.
I find as I follow these practices life is a lot more enjoyable. While I have experienced many long periods of having a buried desk and a flooded inbox, I know very viscerally that these things drain my energy and put me in a funk. Having clear space helps me feel like I can breathe.
How’s your breathing?

Find it Now – Google Desktop

Part 3 of a 10-part series on spending LESS time administrating your life and more time LIVING it!

The Challenge

I’m sure you’ve had this experience just like I have: I got an email… about that thing… from that guy… where is it? Is it in the marketing folder? Nope. Events? Nope. Where IS it?

It can be very frustrating to not be able to find things on the computer: an email, a link to a website, a document. Have you ever thought, “When I look for something on the internet, I use Google. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do that on my own computer?”

Guess what: You can.

The Solution: Google Desktop

What Google search does on the web, Google Desktop does on your computer: it goes through all the files on your computer (you can customize the directories) and emails on your system, as well as pages you view on the internet, and indexes them.

The next time you want to find something, you hit ctrl-ctrl, and a “Quick Search Box” appears in the middle of your screen. Type the words you’re looking for, and as you type a dropdown list dynamically updates with each new word you type. Hit the button, and a browser window opens and shows you the results of the search, just look Google for the web.

An example of the Quick Search Box (click on it for a larger view).

You can also refine the search: emails only, graphics, documents, and within each of these, even finer granularity. For emails, all those TO me, FROM me, or to or from any of the individuals who are listed with any of the emails that match your search.


An example of results in the browser (click on it for a larger view).

There is even more to Google Desktop, including Google Gadgets and Sidebar. I don’t use these much, although others might find them enjoyable.

I do have one warning: If you have a HUGE amount of emails and documents (and I mean huge: I have 700 MB of emails), Google Desktop may slow down computer performance. So, YMMV (your mileage may vary) and proceed at your own risk.

That said, I’ve never had problems with Google Desktop. Google makes great products—easy to install, intuitive to use. And yes, it’s available for Mac and Linux.

I no longer worry about not being able to find things, as long as I can remember a fairly unique combination of words contained in the document, email or web page. This is a great way to turbo-boost your tech life!

Your Next Steps

Next issue: A truly amazing way to organize specific information on your computer, even words in graphic images, to quickly find it, then share it on the web with others!

Free Your Mind – Jott

This is a copy of a blog I keep on BigLife.

Part 2 of a 10-part series on spending LESS time administrating your life and more time LIVING it!

The quote “Free your mind” comes from the movie The Matrix, when Morpheus wants Neo to let go of the limitations of his beliefs to see new possibilities.

While this column may not allow you to stop bullets or leap hundreds of yards, I believe it will show you new possibilities that you can attain quickly to spend less time adminstrating and more time living your life.

The Challenge

The title of this entry is quite literal. I used to carry so much junk around in my head: groceries I needed, errands to run, dates to remember, and a bunch of other to-dos. Given that my memory isn’t all that great to begin with, it took a lot of energy, and wasted a bunch of “RAM” that I could be using for more creative endeavors.

So I started using systems: I started keeping a calendar in Outlook, grocery lists and to-do lists on paper. That helped. And there were still way too many things I kept in my head.

Or, worse yet, I’d be driving my 17- to 20-minute commute to work and remember, “oh yeah, gotta get the car serviced… oh yeah, gotta email Beth… Oh yeah, I need milk…” and a thousand other oh-yeahs.

Listen, the RAM comment may seem like hyperbole, but I mean it. Do you know how much creative energy you spend remembering stuff? I’d be willing to bet it weighs you down more than you think.

What do you do with your oh-yeahs, especially when you’re driving? Simply attempt to remember it better—maybe use a mnemonic device? Write it down on one of those pads that’s sunction-cupped to your windshield (yikes!)? Leave yourself a voicemail? Record a voice memo on your cell phone?

The Solution: Jott

I no longer do any of those things. I use a free service called Jott to put the information right where it belongs. This is an ultimate “touch it once” method: no longer will you have to write down or record something so that you later have to transfer it to your schedule, to do list, etc. Jott it and be done!

Jott receives your phone call, converts your words into text, and then sends the words where they need to go. No training of the system is required to recognize your voice. Some examples:

  • Email: Above I remembered I needed to send an email to Beth. I would call her, but I need to make two other calls while I drive, and Beth likes to talk (I do, too; just not right now!) I call Jott via the speed dial on my cell phone (using my Bluetooth headset for safety!), say Beth’s name, confirm, then speak what I want her to read: “Hi Beth. Would you like to meet at Monty’s—M-O-N-T-Y-apostrophe-S—Blue Plate for lunch on Thursday at noon? Let me know. Thanks!” Beth gets an email with these words, and Monty’s will be spelled correctly. If the transcription wasn’t perfect, she can click the link to listen to my original audio message.
  • Email a Group! On the Jott site you upload all of your contacts, or define them on the site. You can then arrange them into as many different groups as you like, each with as many members as you want. When Josh and I went on vacation to Palm Springs in February, I remembered on the way to the airport that I had forgotten to email everyone when I was leaving and returning, which is my custom. I called Jott: “Family members… Yes… Hi all: Josh and I are getting on a plane in an hour for Palm Springs. We’ll be gone until the twenty-sixth. I’ll post some blog entries of the fun stuff while we’re there. Enjoy the snow!” An email was sent to all of my siblings (I’m the youngest of seven) and my parents.
  • Update your schedule: In Part 1 of this series. I talked about keeping a schedule in Google Calendar. Check this out: I call my mechanic to make an appointment for maintenance on Thursday at 8 am. I don’t want to simply remember this, so I call Jott: “Google Calendar… Car maintenance Thursday at 8 am.” That’s it! Jott allows links to more than 20 different online services, including Google Calendar. When I go to look at my calendar, there will be a one-hour appointment Thursday at 8 with “Car maintenance” as the subject. How cool is that!
  • Other Online Services: of the 20+ services to which Jott connects, there are several online to-do lists, including Remember the Milk. So I Jott: “Remember the milk… yes… Buy a gallon of milk.” and it appears on my to-do list.
  • Blog! This one may seem silly, yet it actually works well: I have Jott hooked up to my Blogger account. Officially you can record up to a 30-second Jott, although i’ve gone for up to a minute and not be cut off (yet I have been cut off before). When in Palm Springs I used Jott twice to make blog entries. See the last three entries on the bottom of this page. Once again, Jott puts a link in the blog entry so that readers can hear the initial recording if something is unclear.
  • Remind yourself: I’m going through my day and I want to remember before leaving work to run an errand on my way home. I don’t want to put it in a to-do list, I just want a reminder. Jott to the rescue: “MYSELF… Stop at Home Depot and get more varnish… [do you want a reminder?] Yes [what date?] today [what time?] 4:50 [am or pm?] pm [setting reminder for today at 4:50 pm. Is this correct] Yes… [Jott sent]” Between 4:35 and 4:50, Jott will send a text message to my cell phone with the reminder. It’s like having my own secretary!

Every time you Jott, Jott sends you an email to confirm the Jott. This gives you an opportunity to confirm the transcription, and the email even contains a confidence level of the transcription (high, medium or low). If it got something wrong (and it does sometimes; it’s not perfect), you can then correct it if necessary by sending another email, etc. And I almost never need to do this.
I’ve covered the highlights of Jott, and there’s more. Go to www.jott.com to learn more and sign up for your free account. Oh yeah, free? Yes, they are officially in Beta. I’m guessing at some point there will be a fee, and for now, I’m lovin’ it for free.

Once you use Jott, email me and I’ll send you my trick for Jotting in loud places like restaurants with 95% accuracy!

Your Next Steps

  • Learn more about Jott and how it works.
  • Go to http://www.jott.com/ and sign up for a free account.
  • Have questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them in a future blog entry.
  • Have other technology that makes your life easier? Please leave me a comment—I’d love to learn more tips and tricks, and may share it here in the future.

Next issue: find that one email from that one guy about that one thing…

Quit Slaving Away—Master Some New Technology!

This is a copy of a blog I keep on BigLife.

Part 1 of at least a 10-part series on spending LESS time administrating your life and more time LIVING it!

After listening to Victory’s interview of Melissa this morning, I was inspired to do some blogging in here to share some of the tools I’ve used to turbo-charge my own life.

You know, to be honest, I haven’t been doing coaching in the strict sense of the word in several years, although I do lots of informal coaching of folks. And I’ll tell you why I do it: with anyone I have in my life personally or professionally of any significance, I want them to share some of the systems I use so that I/we don’t have to muck around on mundane tasks, and can instead get on with spending time together! Since I’m a geek who enjoys camping out on the leading edge of software products, I can sometimes push right past people’s comfort zones with technology. I’ve since learned to tone it down and get more buy in. Anyway–enough about me; you are likely more interested in the technology.

Are you the Master of the Slave?

Right now I have at least 10 ideas of things you may or may not use already, but I’d be willing to bet you don’t use most of these things! How would you like to turbo-charge your life in these areas?

  • Do you waste time scheduling with the people close to you, or do the back and forth of setting meetings with clients or associates?
  • Would you like greater mastery of all of the valuable information that you are flooded with on a daily basis? Do you ever waste time looking for that one email from that one guy about that one thing?
  • Do you have a great EASY way to organize and clean up pictures?
  • Are you a blog master? Have you dabbled? Do you not know what I’m talking about?
  • Do you have a lot of documentation (fancy word for information, procedures or instructions) that you’d like to keep organized for your own use and perhaps share with others?
  • Would you like to have a greater number of quick, easy, “soft” connections with people, that allow you to know what’s up in their lives without spending a lot of time?
  • How much time to you spend on the administration of your life when you’d rather be spending it on living your life!

How about we work together to minimize some of that could-be-better-spent time, eh?

Stop spending time scheduling—Use Google Calendar!

I’m sure you already have a calendar of some kind, be it paper or Outlook or something else, and your first response to my suggestion to add yet another makes your stomach hurt.

It’ll be ok—stay tuned.

When I was first getting serious with my boyfriend Josh, we were having one helluva time finding time to spend together because we’re both pretty busy people. I’d always used Outlook and he’d always used Yahoo! for his calendar. Well, I’d just begun playing with Google Calendar, and I had a great idea.

You see, Google allows you to create multiple calendars for yourself, and SHARE them with others! And you select the access you want others to have: see only free/busy information, see full schedule, make changes to your schedule, manage sharing of your schedule. See my public calendar (new window).

Considering what I mentioned above about pushing people too hard with technology, I suggested we try it. It was a smashing success from Minute 1. Here’s a typical screenshot of a week in my calendar:

(I’ve” shrunk the image to protect privacy.)

The gold is my personal schedule. Blue is Josh’s. Brown is time scheduled for ME, sleep and work. Me, sleep and work—are you kidding? Nope. If you don’t schedule EVERYTHING then visually it seems like you have a lot of free time that you don’t actually have, because you have to sleep! I also schedule two ME! nights each week, which are nights that I DO NOT allow myself to work. I can do laundry or read a book or see Josh, but it’s time I invest on me. I hope I don’t have to say how valuable that is here… I can also move them around in the week as much as I want, but they have to stay on that week!

Josh and I simply check out our shared calendar when getting an invite from friends, send the other an appointment, and when accepted, accept the friend’s invite! Or we plan the time we will spend together, etc. It’s been a real godsend.

The green in the upper right marks Memorial Day Weekend. Now look at the list at the left, which is of calendars that I keep with other organizations. I can’t tell you HOW USEFUL this is! Others who are involved in the same organization can have these listed on their calendars, and life gets a whole lot easier!

You can also send invitations for any event, and if you use Gmail, all of your contacts are already available (you can also import them).

I keep calendars for: a monthly dinner group of friends, instructors at the Center for Creative Learning, the public calendar for the Center, the Detroit instructing calendar, my half-marathon training schedule (big success!), a public calendar (where others can see my important travel, etc.), and a monthly video group I like to attend.

Don’t want to give up your calendar? You don’t have to!

Google has a program that will automatically synch many calendars directly with the Google Calendar: either your calendar or Google’s can “win”, or it will synch both ways. Problem solved!
Don’t feel like there’s a need to keep as many calendars as me—if you keep just one and use some of the techniques I’ve mentioned, you’re way ahead of the game!

Your Next Steps

In each of these columns I will give you some suggested action. If you don’t take action on new information soon after learning it, it’s as good as gone.

  • Read about Getting Started with Google Calendar
  • Do you use Google Calendar? Please leave a comment below on a great trick you have, or just share how you enjoy it!
  • Have you tried it and gotten stuck? Leave a question below and I’ll answer it in an up-coming entry.
  • Do you have a technology tip that would be good for this blog? Please share it below or email me directly.