Archive for the ‘Business and Life’ Category

Spreed reading

November 6, 2008

Free speed-reading webapp Spreed:News lets you choose from a wide array of news sources and have their articles read to you in small clusters of words. Working from the principles that make for faster reading, you can scale the tool between 240 and 1500 words per minute, and set up an account to save your favorite sources—from Boing Boing to the New York Times and dozens more—for quick browsing. Spreed offers a tally of the seconds you’ve saved from word-by-word reading, and offers an iPhone-optimized interface for speed reading while on commutes or trips. Spreed is free to use, requires a sign-up to save your feeds. For tips on honing your speed reading, check the how-to article on the via link below.

Spreed:News [via Wired How-To Wiki]

Define Yourself

November 1, 2008

This article really hit home for me…. thanks!

What comprises “today’s” Realtor? (it’s not a generational thing) It’s crucial to be confident in our own definitions of ourselves as well as the recognition that there is no one definition.

1 – More agile, nimble and able to adapt to change than previous generations of Realtors (this is not an age-related generalization)

2 – Today’s Realtors are client representatives, not salespeople

3 – Technologically aware and capable

4 – Ethical and honest, but not necessarily tied to the Code of Ethics (there is very little CoE indoctrination, from my limited experience, and besides, you can’t teach ethics). Today’s social-network-aware Realtors are more tuned in to reputation management, because they know that their clients are Googling for them and talking to their friends about them.

5 – Social-network aware, but not solely dependent on social networks for business

6 – Focused on the business of real estate and cognizant of the fact that real estate is not a hobby.

7 – Big Brokers are less relevant to how we/they operate; their brands do not necessarily define individual Realtors’ brands. In some cases the big brands may interfere. *subject of an upcoming post

8 – Willing to educate themselves, and “educate” themselves online to fulfill licensing requirements.

9 – Willing to experiment, fail, learn and move on

The challenge – define yourself, in whatever profession that may be lest others do it for (or to) you.

Telecommuting Talking Points [Telecommuting]

October 30, 2008

This works great for me!… actually I find myself more productive at home without people constantly stopping by.



Wired magazine columnist (and friend of Lifehacker) Brendan I. Koerner makes the case for companies to ditch their offices entirely and let all their employees telecommute to work. Nuts? Maybe, but in a time of budget crunches and sky-high gas prices, it can save both the company and its workers a whole lot of scratch—plus up productivity.

Last year, researchers from Penn State analyzed 46 studies of telecommuting conducted over two decades and covering almost 13,000 employees. Their sweeping inquiry concluded that working from home has “favorable effects on perceived autonomy, work-family conflict, job satisfaction, performance, turnover intent, and stress.” The only demonstrable drawback is a slight fraying of the relationships between telecommuters and their colleagues back at headquarters — largely because of jealousy on the part of the latter group. That’s the first problem you solve when you kill your office.

While big companies with dozens of established offices (and leases) probably won’t take this advice, if you’re trying to make the case to your boss for telecommuting (even once or twice a week), this article’s a good reference point.

Task Coach Portable

October 29, 2008

I’m going to give this a try… maybe you should too?


Previously mentioned to-do manager Task Coach is now available as a standalone, portable version, fit for taking your tasks (and subtasks) along with you on your thumb drive. Update: Task Coach Portable has available, but it just got updated yesterday. [via]

GTD Free Puts Getting Things Done on the Desktop [Featured Download]

October 27, 2008



Windows/Mac/Linux (all platforms with Java): GTD Free, a Java-based desktop app, is one of the most straight-forward implementations of the Getting Things Done organizational system you’ll see, but it also serves as a great introduction for the GTD-curious. Five tabs put your tasks in a sequential flow, and using them helps reinforce GTD’s basic tenets in your brain. Bang out action blurbs in Collect, detail them in Process, file them in already-labeled folders like Actions, Someday/Maybe, and Projects, and mark them off in Execute. It’s definitely not a lightweight, paper-like system, but it’s a fairly clean implementation if you want to try Getting Things Done as it was really intended. GTD Free is a free download, works wherever the Java platform does.

Why You Should Risk Dweebhood with Written Goals

October 18, 2008

Once you get over the idea that people who walk around with a list of personal goals in their pocket are utter self-improvement dweebs, you should make writing your own list a number one priority. There are bookshelves full of annoying self-help hype around the notion of personal goal setting, which is why we’re skeptics just like you are. But the truth is, when you feel like you’re drifting aimlessly, unhappy with your job, finances, location, fitness level, whatever—it’s time to start writing down goals. A personal goals program is a training regimen for your mind: it makes you visualize a finish line in a better place than the one you’re in now, and it helps you get there. Let’s take a look at why you should shrug off all the cringe-worthy reasons not to think about goals, sit down with a piece of paper, and start writing.

Goals mean you’re trying to be better. Ask anyone if they want to be a better person, and you’ll get “Of course!” as an answer. Ask them what better means and how they’re getting there, and you’ll probably get a pair of blinking eyes in response. Setting a goal is simply articulating an improved state of being, thinking through the steps in between where you are now and where that better place is, and taking them. Setting goals means you’re actively trying to be better. Frankly, it’s a rare occurrence in a world where most people get up, take a shower, pour coffee, and go about their business as usual in exactly the same place they were yesterday.

Writing things down makes them happen. Something potent occurs when a thought graduates from a couple of synapses firing off in your head to a statement on paper: the idea gets a life of its own, it becomes a possibility that can stare back at you, and ask what you’re going to do about it. Writing down your goals means you’ll have a reminder, a record, and most importantly, the experience of promoting an idle thought that deserves to be more than that to a written statement. Lots of people may have goals in their heads, but a goal is only a whim until you articulate it.

Written goals make time for big thinking upfront. Just as we discussed in the art of making a doable to-do list, thinking and doing are two very different modes. Like composing a good to-do list, writing down a goal requires you to do your higher-level thinking first, to put on “The Boss” hat, to consider the big picture, to decide how you want to spend your time on this planet. Then, when you’re in out in the world doing your regular, everyday, mundane tasks, wearing your “Personal Assistant” hat, you can just do whatever actions align with the plan The Boss laid out. Most people skip the thinking part and let themselves get swept into the everyday mundane tasks part, like commuting to work or grocery shopping for dinner. Those are the people who, several years down the road, stop and wonder where the heck all their time went, and feel that terrible twinge of regret that they didn’t do something more worthwhile with it. Letting yourself just go through each day without thinking things through means you’re drifting, going wherever the waves toss you. Having goals means that when the rubber hits the road, your tires are pointed the right way.

Written goals give you hyper-focus and clarity. Why do you spend so much of your time leveling up your character or shooting down aliens or collecting gold in your favorite video game? Because the rules of the game are clear, the tasks are obvious and laid out, and all you have to do is practice, shoot and collect to make it to the next level—instant accomplishment. A goals program is like setting up levels in your life and work—the difference is, you have to make the rules and designate what the loot is.

Written goals make it easy to cut the crap. One of the most effective ways to have more time and get stuff done faster is to opt out of the activities and tasks that aren’t important enough to spend your time on. Having goals makes that assessment exponentially easier: when you have doubt about an activity or commitment, all you have to do is figure out whether or not it helps you reach your goals. No? Then cross it off your list or calendar—you have no reason to be there. When you’ve written down goals, you’ve given yourself a direction to point in, hyper-focus, and clarity about what each day’s point is. Goals means you’ve thought things through sooner rather than later, and the answers to the smaller questions snap into focus. “Should I stay at this job?” “Should I start this business?” “Should I go on this trip?” All those answers come easy when you’ve decided on your goals.

Written goals prepare you for the best and the worst. Setting and working towards goals is not a single-pass process—it’s an iterative practice of setting your sights higher than your current position, and climbing the ladder to get there. Constantly. Sometimes you’ll make it, and sometimes you won’t, and when you don’t, you’ll revise your goals into something you can make, and try again. That habit of constantly trying for something just beyond you toughens you up, sets your mind into a permanently hungry and optimistic state, ready and willing to do the work to make things better—and able to cope when things get worse. A person who’s set and achieved goals in life is more likely to weather the storm of a layoff or illness or tragedy because they’ve trained themselves to be goals-oriented, to think positively and work toward something better. That’s their modus operandi—they don’t know how else to be. This is the part about goal-setting that just doesn’t get the press it deserves. People who work on goals put optimism into practice. Every attempt you make to get better (whether you fail or succeed) makes you a stronger, fitter, and more capable person, the person you want to be when all hell breaks loose. Goals prepare you to get better and for worse times.

Now that you’re convinced that having goals is a good thing, how do you decide on them? In the next installment of this Goal Setting for Skeptics series, we’ll cover how to set goals when you don’t know what you want to achieve.

In the meantime, tell us: why have you chosen to write down (or not write down) your goals? Tell us about it in the comments.

Clean Your Workspace–and Keep it That Way

October 12, 2008



Whether your workspace is miles from your home or right there amongst your books and Battlestar Galactica figurines, it probably has something in common with at least a few other Lifehackers’ (and mine)—the ability to attract clutter, make important documents and objects hard to find, and, over time, become time an actual impediment to getting things done. Some of us are able to work in a way that doesn’t leave things a mess and clean as you go, but for those of us who can’t trust our instincts, a system that corrects itself is needed. Today I’ve rounded up a few of our best tips for getting your workspace in order and keeping it that way without a cerebral transplant. Take one last look at your paper piles and empty coffee cups and read on for inspiration. Photo by frischmilch.

Banish (or resurrect) your junk drawer

Having an extra, hidden-away place to stash things is just a giant fix for a clutter junkie. Take a look inside, and you’ll likely find the remainders of a whole bunch of organizational equations you refused to perform—extra parts, novelty schwag, hardly-used tools, and similarly hard-to-file gear.

Inspired by Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much, our own Jason Fitzpatrick trashed or put away the gear in his kitchen’s junk drawer, then put it to better use (as an easy-to-select tea drawer) and, through a little space-shuffling, found a way to speed up cooking with easy-to-grab pots and pans. The same principle—sort, return, re-purpose—applies to a workspace, but you don’t have to give up on a junk drawer or shelf entirely. The Apartment Therapy blog recommends adding order to your junk space with dividers:

We like bamboo drawer organizers from the Container Store or Bed Bath and Beyond but you can use silverware trays, small jars, gift boxes, muffin tins, food storage containers or a combination to create order.

Dividing the space removes the feeling of “anything goes,” and makes it more likely you’ll think about where a plastic fork can actually be found and used before pitching it in your former catch-all. Photo by littledan77.

Make your desk actually usable

My co-editor Adam knows a good deal about repetitive stress and workspace discomfort, and his guide to setting up a healthy workspace is a great place to start. Just adjusting my office chair to line up better with my laptop screen was worth the read for me, but learning how to mouse goofy—or switch to my left hand when the right feels stiff—will find a place in my schedule. Once I actually felt better while working, applying some basic principles of Getting Things Done to my stuff—keeping things I regularly need close, things I hardly ever use (stacks of business cards, blank CDs, checkbook) farther out—I was less tempted to grab things and clutter my desktop. As sad as it sounds, sometimes just putting something out of reach can be the tipping point for your motivation to mess with it. Still, I had to deal with …

The perennial problems

Some stuff seems like it’s work-related, yet it doesn’t actually do much other than creep onto your desk—a problem that can hurt your image at work, and leave you feeling overwhelmed, rather than creative and ready for anything. Paper is the most perennial clutter culprit of them all—if you’re not using at least some of Productivity 501’s tips on desk organizing, you’re missing out. Cables are another seemingly inescapable desk-messer, but there are many creative solutions for them, too. Assuming your normal workflow and gadget set-up is under control, let’s tackle the rest.

For everything that’s not daily work, try a modified version of the six-month “maybe” box. Get a shoebox (or larger, if necessary) and put nearly every non-essential item from your work area into it, and put it somewhere you’ll actually have to get up and walk to. Stick to a plan to review its contents in, say, two weeks. Did you manage to get by without these goods? Did you find a better way when faced with the idea of getting up? Than it really wasn’t necessary. Properly put away all the stuff in your box, but consider chucking or donating anything you didn’t know you didn’t need.

Finally, the filing cabinet

As our commenters have noted, the filing cabinet is like the hard drive that can keep your short-term memory—your brain and your desktop—from having to hold onto stuff that’s not necessary at the moment. A good filing system is partially a personal preference, but setting up all those tabs and remembering to put your stuff back ain’t easy. Luckily, we’ve run down the science of sliding folders more than once. Here’s some tips on how to:

Your system

This is just one of a number of decluttering projects I plan to undertake, so I’ll be testing what works and what doesn’t, and posting picture proof, soon enough. But let’s hear from our veteran readers and clean-deskers: What’s your system for keeping yourself from letting things go? What do you do differently that your more messy-minded colleagues obviously don’t? Tell us your take in the comments.

10 Simple Ways to Live a Less Stressful Life

October 9, 2008


Stress is a major problem for many people — a hectic, stressful job, a chaotic home life, bills to worry about, and bad habits such as unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking can lead to a mountain of stress.

If your life is full of stress, like mine once was, there are some simle things you can do to get your life to a more manageable level.

Now, your life will probably never be stress-free — I don’t think that’s even desirable, even if it is possible, because stress is something that challenges us and helps us grow. At a reasonable level. But when stress gets too high, it causes us to be unhappy and unhealthy.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was working long hours in a very stressful job, with little time for my family, smoking and eating fatty foods and not exercising. I had a lot of debt and too many bills. I was unhappy and stressed out all the time. I was losing hair … OK, actually that was because of genetics, but still. I was pretty stressed.

So I made some drastic changes. I quit my job. I simplified my life. I quit smoking and started exercising and eating healthier. I began to eliminate my debt. And I learned some habits that, when applied on a daily basis, can really transform the way you live, in a positive way.

How did I do all of this? One thing at a time. I didn’t do a major rehaul of my life. I changed one habit a month, and gradually over the course of a year or two changed a lot of things in my life.

I won’t guarantee that all of these will work for you. They worked for me, but each person is different. Pick and choose the ones that will work best for you, and give them a try. One at a time.

1. One thing at a time. This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a report? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you’re working on that report. If you’re going to do email, do only that. This takes practice, and you’ll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing and you’ll get better at it.


Staying Positive

October 6, 2008

Bad News fosters Bad Attitudes

It’s hard not to fall prey to the incessant bombardment of bad news from Wall Street and Capitol Hill, as financial markets continue to crumble, sending out shockwaves of gloom and doom that trickle down into every corner of the world, and threaten our sense of comfort and security.

No Market is an Island

There are fewer industries more significantly impacted by the current financial woes than real estate. Not only are more Buyers and Sellers hunkering down and waiting out the storm, but even those who have ventured into the market are hard pressed to achieve success. With credit literally frozen and banking institutions collapsing daily, lending requirements have tightened severely, leaving many Buyers who are simply unable to secure a loan.

Worry only delays progress

It’s hard not to worry about tomorrow, especially when you have others who are dependent upon you to provide for them. Such moments are a challenge to our character and faith.

Time for a Marketing Overhaul

Now, more than ever, is the time to re-evaluate your marketing plan, and to invest in activities that offer meaningful results. Work harder? Yes, absolutely! But most definitely, work smarter.

Analyze all of your current marketing methods/activities, and determine which are the most cost/time-effective. Now may be a good time to let go of some of those sacred marketing cows you’ve held onto for so long. Keep your plans and efforts simple and easy to implement.

Make It Personal

There’s something energizing and encouraging about meeting people/clients in person face-to-face. Make it a point to include in your plan a time to daily engage people personally. Enjoy that cup of coffee, or stop by their place or work.

Utilize the Buddy System

It’s at times like these that having meaningful relationships with other like-minded professionals can be so valuable. Find someone to partner with, who can hold you accountable, and cheer you on!

Love the One You’re with

Even in the midst of difficult challenges and pressures, remember to take time to deprogram, unwind, refresh, and re-energize. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures with those you love. Take nothing for granted.

Words of Wisdom

As my Father-in-Law always reminds me, “Have a better breakfast, have a better day!” Starting the day with an empty tank just doesn’t make any sense! And it amazes what a difference regular exercise can make on your attitude and disposition. Find something that works for you and stick with it!

Things may not get better anytime soon. In fact, they may very well get worse. We can only affect change in those things we have control over.

And as my Father-in-Law also wisely states, “This too shall pass.”

11 Refreshing Ways to Bring Out the Awesomeness in Life

October 4, 2008

I agree with some of this stuff… have a read.

Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.

I often get caught up in the hectic nature of life. I get bogged down with things to do and the drive to be productive. It’s hard not to get sucked into the routine of living and take life for granted. Sometimes it’s hard to stay excited about life.