Tag Archives: productivity

A few productivity tips for working remotely

Day 20 -  KeyboardI used to be a huge fan of working remotely. I still am, but I used to be, too. My view on working has changed drastically in the past 3-4 years, when I’ve had to come up with ingenious ways to work while not being at home, or at my own office. In fact, I spend around 4 hours a week at my own office, and the remaining ~45 hours per week that I put in I work elsewhere.

I’ve listed a few quick productivity tips that I find invaluable and keep using on a daily basis:

Instead of meetings, arrange voice conferences. Whenever I get an invitation to attend a meeting, the smallest unit of time is typically 60 minutes. It’s never 15 minutes. I simply feel that most work should be done before the meetings, and meetings should be quick status checks.

I’m happy to see so many companies embrace online video conferencing – it’s usually Lync, Skype or WebEx and they all work wonderfully. The downside is that it might be challenging to find a private space to attend a voice-based meeting.

CappuccinoArrange to have breakfast and lunch meetings on the same day. For me it’s Friday. I have all my breakfast meetings, lunch meetings and similar arranged for one specific day of the week. This helps me to avoid breaking my week into multiple shorter periods of work divided by random meetings around the city. Friday is considered “do stuff that needs to be done but doesn’t necessarily yield direct revenue”. It took me a few years to embrace this ideology, and now I’m more effective because of this.

The obvious downside is that on certain Friday’s I do 4 lunch meetings in a row, so I aim to eat lightly.

UptimeFind ways to convert downtime to uptime. We all have downtime. For me, it’s travel time, and random timeslots here and there when I’m moving from one client site to another, or when a workshop ends 2 hours earlier than I’ve anticipated. The number one productivity tool for me to catch up on things, check emails, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and RSS is iPad. I use it constantly, if just for checking something trivial for 30 seconds. If I have more than 30 minutes I head to the nearest café to work with my laptop. If I have more than an hour, I either head home or one of our offices, whichever is nearest.

Charlie Gilkey's Productivity System

Avoid doing useless stuff that is interesting. There’s so much interesting stuff to do. Too bad most of the interesting stuff is pretty useless. It doesn’t grow my business and it doesn’t provide me with anything else than satisfy my curiosity or force me to act based on external stimulus.

A great example comes to mind, that I just recently encountered: My mobile phone informs me that there’s an update available. Having just reinstalled my laptop I don’t have Zune installed, or a micro usb-cable available. I could spend the next 15 minutes setting those up and patching the phone – or do something more worthwhile, and just leave the phone without the update. I’ll probably perform the update on a slow Saturday evening anyway.

Some vaguely familiar software vendor sent me an email asking to fill out their customer satisfaction survey. It will only take 25 minutes, they promised. Or, I could spend 25 minutes doing something productive and simply not answer the survey. It’s amazing how much time emails can command by simply asking you to do something.

You don’t have to do everything people ask you to do – you just have to do what’s essential.

Multitasking – yes, I prefer it to single tasking. I’m writing this article while conducting 2 instant messaging conversations, and listening to a webcast. I’ve tried moving back to single tasking and feel that my productivity drops by at least 50%, and so much is left undone. The challenge with multitasking is the fact that you need to be aware of what is important, so that you can quickly and effectively drop whatever you are doing when something more important arises. And have time at the end of the day to clean up the tasks that are not done.

bucket listMake a list. Make it short. I start each morning with a simple list. It’s a list of 3-5 most important things I have to get done before I head home. When I’m done with those 3-5 items, I stop working. If the list grows too long I know I’m not concentrating on proper things, but just cherry-picking what I feel like is nice to do. It’s a gruesome exercise to leave out something you so badly want to do in favor of something mundane that has to be done.

And I write the list by hand on real paper. OneNote just doesn’t give me the sense of urgency.

Stacked LogsCut it and stack it. In Finnish we have a saying, “Poikki ja pinoon”, which roughly translates to cut it, stack it and forget about it. I’m a huge advocate of doing things fast, being efficient and shipping when it’s “good enough”, rather than polishing it indefinitely. The key here is to have the mind’s eye to understand when something is good enough, and when something is still crappy.

Be productive & be happy!

Power user productivity tips for Windows 8 (Consumer Preview)

It’s been a day filled with using the latest Windows-incarnation, Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Ever since Windows Vista beta (are we allowed to mention Vista anymore?) I’ve been trying to run my laptops and desktops in the latest (stable) beta for most Microsoft operating systems and software. This time has been easier than ever before: It just works.

I’ve found out a few great productivity tips that I think others might find useful – so here they are:

Add a pin number

I’m using a Active Directory domain account. The password is somewhat long and complex but it’s still pretty fast to type. I have a habit of locking my desktop with Win-L if I step away from the desk. Unlocking takes a few seconds but using a pin number is even faster – and it saves you the trouble of hitting enter!

Here’s how to set up a pin number:

Press Win-I to bring up the context menu for Desktop and click More PC Settings:


In the context menu select Users. You should see an option to create a pin:


Click Create a PIN. You need to type in your password first and then type a pin.

You can test your pin by locking the screen with Win-L and then typing the pin.

Synchronize user settings

One of the cloud-enabled features of Windows 8 CP is the option to link your local or domain accounts with your existing Live ID. I use Live ID for Live Messenger and different Microsoft services, such as https://partners.microsoft.com and http://msdn.com/subscriptions, but I use my own AD account for everything else. So it makes sense to link these two – I don’t have to type as much.

The benefits of linking your AD account with a Live ID are numerous: You can synchronize user profile settings between different physical machines. This way I can synchronize my Taskbar settings between my laptop, my desktop and my mini-laptop. Yet another way to save me from re-configuring everything.

I also use Dropbox to synchronize my data. It’s by far the best option to securely synchronize huge binary files to and from the cloud, and all my other devices (including iPad and laptops).

I might be the only one doing this, but I have a collection of +100 high resolution wallpapers that I switch every 15 minutes on the desktops with the built-in “Next desktop background” function:


And here’s my wallpaper collection and settings:


The issue here is that while Dropbox keeps my wallpapers nicely in order and sync, it also breaks the built-in wallpaper switch-mechanism of Windows. When I first encountered this issue I actually built a .NET command-line app to switch the wallpaper for me, but that’s more of a hack than anything else.

So I’ve got the same issue now with Windows 8 CP. It syncs all my user settings, including wallpapers. This means that Windows is scanning through my wallpaper folder and maybe locking the files, and Dropbox is sniffing the same folder for any changes. Dropbox wins, and Windows gets confused and decides to drop everything and maybe a static copy of whatever wallpaper you were using at the time. Automatic wallpaper switching is disabled and desktop background gallery only has 1 image left.

The solution, finally, with Windows 8 is to re-configure synchronization so that it does not synchronize your wallpaper settings – but still synchronizes everything else!

To do this, hit Win-I > More PC Settings. Under Sync your Settings disable Personalize: Colors, background, lock screen, and your account picture.


Fix the font size

The higher the resolution, the more it fits. If it fits, I sits and use it. The default setting, at least on my NVidia-based laptop, was 150% for font size. This is way too big, and I feel that I’m running at 1280*768, when I’m trying to run at 1920*1080.

To fix this, simply go to Screen Resolution from your desktop and click Make text and other items larger or smaller. Then select 100%:


A log-out is required to apply the change. Thankfully you can do that at a later time.

Make the default apps smaller

In the default Metro view, some of the default apps such as Mail, are huge. I mean, they consume so much space:


To make ‘Photos’ smaller, right-click on the icon and select Smaller:


Or just unpin the apps you don’t need.

The 5 most important keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Even though I like the new Metro interface, I’m still using the old keyboard shortcuts to navigate. So in order to learn something new and worthwhile, I compiled a quick list of the 5 most important (and useful) new keyboard shortcuts:

1. Settings-menu

Press Win-I for the new settings menu. You actually get slight differences for the UI depending where you press Win-I. In Metro-mode, it looks like this:


In classic desktop you’ll get a few more links:


2. Settings with Search

Press Win-W for Settings with Search-menu. This is almost the same as Win-I but shows you a nice search bar and real-time results:


3. Apps menu

Press Win-Q for Apps menu:


4. Files menu

Similar to Apps and Settings menu, press Win-F for files menu:


5. Hover menu

Press Win-C for a hover menu showing Search, Share, Start, Devices, settings and date and time:


Tips and tricks for using Visio 2010

Here’s a quick article I wrote a while back, it just got published today: http://www.tietoviikko.fi/msareena/ms-vinkit/vinkit+visio+2010+ndash+nelja+tehokayttajan+vinkkia/a698074 

This one is only in Finnish – sorry, here’s my poor attempt at translating it: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fi&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tietoviikko.fi%2Fmsareena%2Fms-vinkit%2Fvinkit%2Bvisio%2B2010%2Bndash%2Bnelja%2Btehokayttajan%2Bvinkkia%2Fa698074