Productivity blog postings

Productivity Postings

Earliest: July 14, 2003Latest: September 25, 2016Total: 25

September 25, 2016

MDRT Productivity Formula

Back on August 7th, 2000 I sent an email to the engineering team at the company I was working at with the subject "What is Productivity?"

This is a good site that examines what makes a person productive. This site was made for insurance salesmen, but the information can be applied to most situations.

http://www.mdrtcfp.org/about/whatis/index.html

The reason for my email was our team was trying to figure out ways to be more productive and bring in more revenue.

MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table) is the premier association of financial professionals. I manage to capture the text and graphic on the page before the section of the site disappeared sometime in 2007:

What is Productivity

The Productivity Task Force was established in 1994 to define, study, recommend and implement ways to which MDRT members can enhance their productivity through MDRT programs and services. Specifically, Strategic Direction 1.1 of the MDRT strategic plan states:

Define productivity in appropriate and operational terms and position productivity as the key focus for all MDRT activities and programs.

The Task Force determined that productivity can be best be defined as a simple formula based - in or of importance - on three elements:

Goals, Activities and Skills = Productivity

mdrtcfp Goals

The most critical step you can take to increase PRODUCTIVITY is first to make a commitment to do so.

Follow that commitment by conducting an analysis of your practice relative to the PRODUCTIVITY formula. Identify your strengths and also areas in which you can improve. Determine the changes you will institute in your business and set deadlines for implementation. Every producer can improve their PRODUCTIVITY.

Take the first step!

September 10, 2016

Pixelmator Repair Tool Keyboard Shortcut

This weekend I was doing a lot of touch up to some old photographs. Many of these contained scratches and dust that needed to get removed. Fortunately, Pixelmator makes repairing images very easy with the repair tool.

One of the things that was frustrating me was the procedure that I had to do to keep changing the brush side, sometimes a smaller brush would get a better accurate repair effect. This was especially true on scratches on stripe pattern. A bigger brush sometimes would produce an odd looking effect.

After a few times going to the 'Info Bar' to change the brush Diameter, I inadvertently discovered that when I have the 'Repair Tool' selected and then right click on the image I get a mini dialog with the option to change the brush Diameter and Hardness:

Repair Tool Tip

This is very handy when doing a lot of changes. It makes it very easy to adjust the brush size. Other tools also have some 'extra' functionality when you right-click. But I find that it's very helpful when touching up photos.

Tip about Hardness: Brush Hardness determines how much of an edge the brush has. A hardness level of 100% means that the brush has a solid edge. Anything less than that then the brush has a bit of a fade effect to the edge.

You can also adjust the size by using the '[' and ']' keys. The Left bracket increases, while the right bracket decreases.

In addition, you can navigate through the brushes by using the period and comma keys. This is useful if you have the Brush window open, so you know what brush your dealing with.

Keyboards Tips

I found it very helpful to review Pixelmator's Keyboard Shortcut page to see other shortcuts that were available to me.

August 27, 2016

Table Row Colors in EverNote

Evernote allows you add tables to your notes, but did you know that you can color rows in your tables? It's a bit tricky - Evernote doesn't provide any guidance on how to do this.

Evernote Table

Simple instructions on how to color a table row

  • Open a Note that has a Table
  • Select a row in the table so that the last cell is light blue
  • Right Click on the table and Select Table then Table Properties
  • Click on the "Cell Color Background"
  • Change to Whatever color you want.
  • Click Ok
  • Click Outside of the table, and notice that the entire row has the same color.

It's seems logical once you do change the table a couple of times. Hopefully this helps some users have better looking tables in their Evernote Notebook.

April 27, 2016

Winner's Creed

The Winner's Creed found in Napolean Hill book "Think and Grow Rich." This was made more popular by Tony Robbins in his Life Mastery Program in Hawaii, Fiji:

I know that I have the ability to achieve my definite purpose in life:
therefore I demand of myself, persistent, continuous action towards
its attainment and I here and now promise to render such action.
I fully realize that no wealth or position will long endure
unless it is built upon truth and justice;
therefore I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit
all to whom it effects.
I am succeeding by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use
and the cooperation of other people.
I induce others to serve me because of my willingness to serve others.
I eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, cynicism, anger, and fear
by developing a true love for all humanity,
because I know that a negative attitude towards others
will never bring me success.
I cause others to believe in me because I believe in them
and believe in myself.
This is my creed, my quest.
To never stop striving for the top.
To always keep moving forward.
To always be the very best I can be.
I am the power. I am the magic. I can not be stopped. I am a winner.
I promise to always be true to myself
because I am the creator and master of my universe
and I am responsible for making a positive difference in the world
and to the quality of life in it.
I live in constant and never-ending improvement.

April 20, 2016

QR Codes

qrcode

QR codes are becoming more and more popular, you see them just about everywhere. QA Codes is short for Quick Response Codes. QR Code symbol is a 2D barcode that can be scanned by handy terminals such as a mobile phone with CCD. The capacity of QR Code is up to 7000 digits or 4000 characters, and has high robustness.

The most popular QR Code app on iOS is QR Scanner.

History of QR codes

QR codes was created in 1994. A Toyota subsidiary named Denso Wave developed the code in order to help speed up the manufacturing process. The original QR codes help with tracking vehicles and parts. Since QR codes are able more information than bar codes, it created fast decoding speeds, hence the name Quick Response code.

How QR codes work

People scan the code using the camera on their smartphone and the app takes some action based on the QR code data:

  • go to a particular website,
  • show a product at the app store
  • Email Template
  • VCard Contact Information
  • Images

QR Codes only reads data and doesn't transmit any activity or device data. For example, a QR code won't cause an instant sale, it will only bring you to a sales page where customers can enter in data.

QR Controversies

There is a bit of controversy over who owns the worldwide rights to the QR code as a Germany company had apparently come up with the concept a few years before Denson Wave.

Some street billboards have included some large QR codes which make people wonder how drivers would be able to scan the code. Consumer Safety groups have argued that such billboards are distractions and could be a driving hazard.

The nation's largest billboard company, Clear Channel, has publicly promised to only use QR codes on billboards targeting pedestrian traffic.

Super Easy to generate a QR code

If you need to stock up on some new business cards, why not add a QR code on the back. There are plenty of websites that will generate QR codes for whatever websites that you like people to visit.

Here are a couple of sites to generate your own and download an image for the backside of your business cards. Make sure to use a high resolution so the QR Code doesn't get pixelated.

  • QR Code Generator. - Choose from a variety of functions: from displaying an interactive Facebook Like button to encoding a price list in PDF format. You can set up an accounting track on how well your QR Code is doing!
  • QR Stuff - Create different foreground color QR Codes. Open an account to get a high resolution image.

Business Card Services

Vistaprint and Moo offer the ability to upload images on the backside of business cards.

April 13, 2016

Keyboard Settings

Here are a some quick keyboard modifications that you can do to help improve your Mac OS X experience.

Change the Default Screen Shot Keyboard Combination

If you're using Apple screen shots, you may find it difficult to remember all the different keyboard combinations. Fortunately, Apple made it easy for you to change the shortcut to whatever keyboard combination that suits your style.

Simple Steps:

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Keyboard, then click Shortcuts.
  • Click on the 'Screen Shots' in the left panel
  • Double-click the current shortcut, then press the new key combination you want to use.
Keyboard Settings2

Create a Keyboard Short Cut to quickly convert legacy videos

Wouldn't it be productive if you could just convert all the legacy videos to the current format standards by selecting the file and then some custom keyboard combination? That is what this following will do:

Simple Steps:

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Keyboard, then click Shortcuts.
  • Click on the 'Services' in the left panel
  • Scroll down and under 'File and Folders' Double-click on 'Encode Selected Video Files', then press the new key combination you want to use.

Now when you copy old Quicktime movies, you can just select the file, or Folder and then your custom keyboard combination and the conversion will automatically happen. No more right-click and searching through the Services sub-menu.

March 30, 2016

Five Web Productivity Tools to Maximize Your Productivity

Here are the five online productivity tools that I use just about every day. picmonkey

PicMonkey

PicMonkey makes creative tools for photo editing and graphic design because we want you to rock the universe. We want your images to show your creativity, your style, your spot-on brilliance.

I currently have the Royale Membership ($33 a year) This is simply an awesome tool to touch up images and create Collages. I use this tool to create my photo collages where I email my daughter's photo of the day. The good thing about PicMonkey is that it's 100% web based - which means that it works the same no matter what platform I am using.

Here are the key features of the Royal Membership - Advanced touch up tools, 1,100+ graphic overlays, 2x more effects and filters, Premium fonts, Edit from Collage and No Ads.

Grammarly

grammarly

This online service says that they are "The World's Most Accurate Online Grammar Checker." - probably true. Grammarly's writing app finds and corrects hundreds of complex writing errors -- so you don't have to. Millions of users worldwide trust Grammarly's free and premium products, which are also licensed by more than 600 leading universities and corporations.

This is a great tool to have! It's almost like someone double checking my writing. I find this very handy when I have to send company-wide emails. Grammarly doesn't catch everything, but it forces me to proofread what I am writing. This works with any HTML page that has a text area.

I purchased Hemingway, but I find Grammarly to be more accurate and a lot easier to use.

I currently on the Free version, and don't have any immediate plans to use the Premium plans, although it's very tempting!

Google Alerts

Google Alerts

By creating a Google Alert, you can get email notifications any time Google finds new results on a topic that interests you. For example, you could get updates about a product you like, find out when people post something about you on the web, or keep up with news stories.

Stay on top of news that you care about! Google Alerts will send you daily email summary of whatever you choose. Interested in what Donald Trump said last night? How about a product review of camera you're thinking of buying? Google Alerts is a powerful tool that lets you focus on what you want and not get distracted by a lot of news clutter.

Here are some suggested Alerts to set up:

  • Your hometown
  • The car brand that you are thinking about buying: BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz
  • Favorite Vacation Spot: Disney World, Sint Maarten...etc
  • Famous Person to You: Phil Schiller, Carl Yastrzemski, Peter N Lewis

This is a free service provided by Google. Why not let the power of Google work for you!

MBTAtrains.com

MBTA trains

We're building the next generation commuting app focused on your commute and the information you need to make it better. Data-driven transit, designed and built for Boston. Tools for Commuter Rail riders.

Every morning I need to know the status of the train that I need to catch. As soon as I park my car, the first thing I do is bring up the MBTAtrains.com website. I then quickly figure out the current location of my train. That determines if I need to run or sprint to catch the train. The other commuters heading to the platform may look at me weird, but thanks to MBTAtrains.com, I know how much time I have.

I have found that the MBTAtrains.com site to be accurate and reliable. They use the train GPS locations and predict when the train will arrive at the next station.

MBTAtrains.com is currently a free service.

Evernote Plus

evernote

Evernote is a cross-platform, freemium app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving. As one workspace that lives across your phone, tablet, and computer, Evernote is the place you write free from distraction, collect information, find what you need, and present your ideas to the world.

I use Evernote on my Kindle Tablet for reading and writing. I also have it on my iPhone 6s Plus, but I find my Kindle HD 7 to be the perfect size for reading and writing.

I upgraded to Evernote Plus ($24.99 per year) so that I can read notebooks offline. While other people on the train are playing Candy Crush, I am reading the latest technical information on the just announced iPhone. This is the advantage of using EverNote Web Clipper.

March 23, 2016

AutoCorrect functionality

I recently disable the AutoCorrect functionality on my iPhone and tablet. Why? There's I have read too many stories of which people have had to apologize because auto correct completely changed the context of their text messages.

Disabling auto correct will not turn off the spellchecker or the suggestion bar above the keyboard. It will simply turn off the replacement of a non-dictionary word with a close match. If you're not watching carefully,

To turn off the Auto Correct feature on iOS:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Then General
  3. Then Keyboard
  4. Then uncheck the Auto Correct functionality
i Phone Keyboard

To turn off Auto Correct on the Kindle:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Then Keyboard
  3. Then Auto-Correct

Kindle Keyboard

March 16, 2016

Evernote Web Clipper

The internet is filled with all sorts of very useful information. Unfortunately, most people don't have the time to read every bit of useful article that they found or they don't want to be sitting at their computer reading when they could be watching a funny YouTube video. Wouldn't it be easier to just save the documents and read them when you have time.

Thankfully there is a way to do that.

Evernote Web Clipper

Use Evernote Web Clipper to save online articles to read when you're offline. You can create a notebook for interesting articles that you would like to read when you're offline. To enable the online feature you need to subscribe to the Plus plan, which cost $24.99 a year. This is well worth the cost, I justify it as a price of standard technology book. You have the ability to keep learning all year long.

Evernote Web University

After you download and install the Evernote Web Clipper extensions for Chrome and Firefox you can begin to create your own University Classroom. You get to pick the topics that you want to read about at your spare time.

EverNote Web Clipper saves the data as rich text, so everything is searchable. You keep all the formatting as if you were reading the article. At any time you can use Evernote search functionality to find the data you want.

When you find an article that you want to read later, simply click on the EverNote icon in the browser toolbar and then click the big green save button. Poof! Like magic the content of the page now appears in your Evernote account.

Downtime Notebook Idea

Here's a simple project to get you excited about the possibilities of offline reading. After you setup your browser extensions, and installed EverNote on your phone try this:

Create a new Notebook called 'Downtime' then search for the following and use the Web Clipper to save the "Simplified article" to the new Notebook:

Now you have some useful tips for future vacation planning. The next time when you're on the train or subway you have something interesting to read. Maybe you can make plans to see one of the Hot movies this fall near one of the best BBQ joints in the world.

March 9, 2016

Levenger Cira Notebook

Levenger Cira

My favorite reliable notebook tool is my Levenger Circa notebook. I have been using my leather bound cover version off and on for about ten years now. It holds a lot of my reference materials and every once in a while, I?ll bring it to a meeting to take notes. It may seem strange to even think of spending money on a notebook system with so many tools available on tablets.

What is Circa System?

Levenger description of the Circa System:

Incomparable quality and constant innovation set Circa apart from any other note-taking system. With pages that can be removed, rearranged or transferred to other notebooks with ease, versatile Circa brings note-taking to a new level of convenience. All our Circa notebooks are stocked with substantial, warm white 90-gsm Circa paper, friendly to all ink types. Make Circa your own with covers in rich full-grain leather and brightly colored book cloth; Circa discs in a variety of colors, finishes and sizes; and enhancements and accessories that allow you to customize Circa to meet your specific needs.

How I use my Circa

I use my Circa as my offline personal reference guide. It has all sorts of information that I can get in an instant, in some cases faster than searching in Evernote. I have page tabs to break content up into four major categories; Work, Personal, Website, and Reference. Here are some of the data that I currently store:

  • Bootstrap blog image size guidelines
  • TextExpander Short cuts
  • Quarterly project projections
  • Common Unix Commands
  • Boston Public Schools 2015-2016 Calendar (Basically a school year on a page.)
  • Blank pages for when I need to jot something in a meeting.
  • This years work goals which was defined at last year's performance review.
  • Extra Business Cards - You never know when you'll need to hand them out!

Five Personal Productive Tips using the Circa Notebook

If you're new to the Cira system, go with the starter kit from Levenger. Work with it for about a month and see if it helps you. You can start small, perhaps create a Circa reference guide for your home.

I like using the Circa Annotation Ruled Refill Sheets. While the paper is a bit expensive than standard paper, it's totally worth the investment. When I write out notes with the annotation rule sheets, I tend to focus on putting practical information on the page.

Get the Levenger Circa Universal Desk Punch. With the puncher, you can create your own cool reference guides or find online cheat sheets of your favorite applications and customize your book. My home notebook has project invoices from people that did various home improvements.

I find that the 3/4 circa disks to be the perfect notebook size. The leather bound cover is a good long term investment. I commute with mine frequently and there's very little wear and tear to show.

When possible, take your Cira Notebook to a meeting. I use it because I know I won?t get distracted by some email notification or someone pinging me on Slack. I have a couple of blank sheets in the notebook that I can use for free writing. After the meeting, I will spend time reorganizing my notes nicely on an annotation ruled sheet.