Quick Email

Quick Email is an iOS universal (iphone/ipod/ipad) app to facilitate sending of emails in an efficient manner.

I wrote this because I found myself sending emails to only a certain set of people and it was time consuming to find the names in the address book, type in a subject, then finally write the message. By predefining the recipients and subject line, you can just write out the message and hit send. This drastically eliminates time and allows you to get back to other tasks. Check it out and let me know how it works for you!

IMG_1768IMG_1751 IMG_1766  IMG_1783 IMG_1784

Google Alerts–RSS no more

We all knew that Google was turning off the Reader application today, but what I didn’t know was how it would effect me as I still use a stand alone RSS client/application. This morning when reviewing my daily feeds, all of my Google Alert feeds had a no longer in service message!

So I logged into Google Alerts to double check and I was greeted with this message:google-alerts-rss-no-more


Luckily there is another service that will assist us from talkwalker.com. The interface feels exactly like Google Alerts, and they even can import the csv file generated from the Google Alerts export feature! Migration was as simple of a few clicks for myself and the most time consuming piece was pointing to the new feeds.

So far the results seem to be accurate when doing sample tests which is certainly a good thing.

In general, I hope this is not the trend of RSS dying as it is a super useful mechanism for users like myself.

I’m still looking for a good solution to Twitter’s death of user and search based rss feeds as well if anyone has a suggestion.

Outsource Your Life

Yesterday my local CBS station ran a full segment on outsourcing trends. It was on the Eye On The Bay show, and the theme was called Outsource Your Life.

While the concept of outsourcing is not new, there has been a big trend of personal assistants to perform your every-day tasks. Things like buying groceries, setting up appointments, and writing thank you cards. Many people outsource functions like house cleaning and gardening, but how about having someone cooking for you?

In today’s world where everyone seems busy, hiring a personal assistant could free up some valuable time. But is it worth your money? This is where I have a hard time evaluating the worth. If it was for business, you could easily figure out if its worth the money to outsource. But when it comes to your personal life, its extremely hard to associate value to time. If you weren’t cooking for an hour, you could be spending time with your kids. You can’t associate cost to that.

The video is online, and their web site has a list of the personal assistant companies they covered. Tim Ferriss, the person behind the 4-Hour Workweek book also has a good list of resources for personal outsourcing.

So have you outsourced anything in your life? What was it? I am somewhat interested in having someone cook for me. I do like cooking though, so we will see. Maybe I’ll try it out and report back.

Getting Things Done with Index Cards

In 2002, David Allen pushed a book called Getting Things Done. In this book he introduced his action management system, which you can read more about on wikipedia. While his system is useful to some, many found that they were modifying the workflow to fit into their own unique style.

I tried many software approaches to organizing things to do, but none gave me the flexibility and portability of index cards. Probably the most widely used or referenced index card system is the Hipster PDA, from the DIY Planner folks.

Out of all the Hipster PDA templates, I only use the action item list one. There is one major tweak that I made to the card though. Not every item on the list will have a square box next to it. If there is a box next to each item, how do you know which one is of higher priority? Perhaps you put a number or some marking on it. But then what happens if you accomplish that task, and are wondering what is next? To reorganize your priorities will require cross outs or other new markings, and overall make a mess of the card. You would have to rewrite the whole card over if you want to quickly and easily identify what is next.

So how do I know what is a priority? I draw a box for the highest priority of that day. And once that is accomplished, put an X mark inside it. For things of lower priority that don’t get boxes, if they get done simply put an X mark beside it. With this workflow, you can easily see what is the high priority that isn’t done yet (box without an X), tasks that are complete (anything with an X), and lower priority items (empty space next to the item).

One implementation trick I have with the actionable index card system is to create a new card each Monday and Friday. The Monday card will be from Monday through Thursday, and Friday’s card will be through Sunday. I found that creating a new card each day just wastes time. I do keep records on when I accomplish major tasks, but I have no need to record the exact date of when it was done. But more on that system later.

Hopefully this gave you some insight into how I manage my work. Are you already a student of getting things done? What are some of your techniques on the system you use?

What is a Lifehack?

So what is a lifehack? Lifehack.org defines a lifehack by any hack, tip, or trick that gets things done quickly by automating, increasing productivity, and organizing. Lifehacker.com defines a lifehack by any tip, shortcut, or download to help you get things done smarter and more efficiently. From the two definitions, the theme is to get things done quicker.

I like Lifehacker’s definition better, because it mentions getting things done smarter and more efficiently. But my definition of a lifehack is any method that enhances your producitivity to get things done. To me that covers both definitions, in a smaller package.

Top Five Tips For Train Commuters

Last week I was on the east coast with some co-workers, and we were taking the train everyday to get into the office. They were amazed when I explained some my commuter lifehacking tips to them, so I decided to make a post out of it.

  1. Know when to leave for the train – Calculate the full time required to get to the train from your source location. This would include drive time, parking time, check-in time, and walking time. Add some padding time (five to ten minutes), and subtract the time from the time the train leaves. This is the time that you need to leave. Given that the train is always on time, you should never be waiting longer than ten minutes for your train.
  2. Know what train cab to sit it – Usually, each train station will have exits, stairs, or escalators at different locations. When you exit the train for the first time, you will determine which direction you need to go, but also note if you are going toward the front or back of the train. The next time you take the same route, sit in the cab closer to your destination’s exit.
  3. Know where to sit – Personally, I don’t like having the sun shine right on my face in the summer because it is so bright. Even with sun glasses on and your eyes closed, you feel the hot sun shining on you. Most trains will have forward, backward, and to the side seat configurations. Determine what side of the train the sun is on, and which direction it shines. Then try to get a seat where your back is against the sun, and on the opposite side of sun. If you like sitting in the sun, you can still follow this tip, just sit where the sun is shining :)
  4. Protect your ears – I’ve been on a bunch of trains, and none of them are quiet. Make sure to bring some good earplugs to block out the noise. If you like to listen to audio while on the train, I would suggest buying a pair of Etymotic ‘in the ear’ earphones. They are a bit expensive, but they block out up to 42 dB!
  5. Talk to your neighbor – Just like airplane neighbors, I try to talk to them for a at least a few minutes. You never know when you will meet someone interesting.

I hope these tips help the readers, and if you have tips of your own that you want to share, please respond in the comment area.