Category Archives: Productivity

Favorite Things: DIY Planner

D*I*Y Planner Logo

Image via D*I*Y Planner

One of my favorite sites on the Internet is the venerable D*I*Y Planner—a site that provides a plethora of free productivity printables.

In their own words:

“ is a community site whose focus is on paper-based productivity, planning, journalling and creative techniques. Here you will find the official D*I*Y Planner kits, as well as daily articles, scores of useful templates, handbooks and how-to’s, forums for discussing productivity in its many forms, images to clad your planners or inspire you, and so much more.”

Weekly Planner.jpg

After writing my 7 Habits Weekly Planner a few years back, I uploaded the native files to D*I*Y Planner. Recently, they accepted a few other productivity tools I’d submitted from slightly insightful.


Now you can find the source files for both my Managing Time Effectively Mindmap at D*I*Y Planner and my Covey’s Time Management Matrix over there as well.

Time Management Matrix

Even though I primarily use OmniFocus to manage my projects and to-do’s digitally, I’m still a sucker for paper-based productivity tools. D*I*Y Planner is a fantastic, free resource to manage your life regardless of of what personal management system you use—7 habits, GTD, or whatever. Check it out today.

Which do you prefer digital or paper productivity systems? Sound off in the comments below.

D*I*Y Planner logo courtesy of D*I*Y Planner. All other images are from my flickr.


Email Productivity Hack: Message in Subject Line

Have you ever been guilty of sending someone a multi-paragraph email just to ask them to do one simple thing? Wouldn’t it be easier for all parties if you just sent them the request without all the fluff?

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith state the obvious in their book The Impact Equation (buy it here).

“If SMS text messaging is on the rise, why would you still send 1,400-word e-mails?”

One of the most practical tips I learned in the Managing Workflow for Business Leaders GTD workshop I attended back in September was to limit the entire email message to the subject line when it makes sense to do so.


This is a great time-saver for both the sender and the recipient. Be sure to use the acronym EOM (End Of Message) to act as a trigger to the recipient that everything they need to act upon is contained in the message subject.

Writing lengthy epistles was OK for Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, but it is almost never acceptable for email communication. Brevity is essential If you want someone to read and respond to your email.

Have any quick email tips to share? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Find Anything With Index of Searches

Recently, I taught a couple of friends some awesome Google Fu—the ever useful Index Of search trick. This little baby turns Google into a veritable smörgåsbord of file searching goodness. It trawls the Internet for just about anything your heart could desire.

Here’s an example of how to put this hack in use (courtesy of Lifehacker). Type the code below into Google.


-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:"index of" +"last modified" +"parent directory" +description +size +(wma|mp3) "Nirvana"

The above snippet searches Google for shared folders with music files with by Nirvana. It’s as simple as that. You can modify the text to search for movies, TV shows, E-books, comic books, etc.

Search Results

TextExpander by Smile Software is one of the most essential apps in my workflow. It “saves your fingers and your keyboard, expanding custom keyboard shortcuts into frequently-used text and pictures”. It’s also a super convenient way of storing bits of code that are too cryptic and/or lengthy for you to even think about memorizing.

So, for those of you already using it, I’ve created a TextExpander Snippet for your benefit. You can download it here.

Do you have any gnarly Googley tricks up your sleeve? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

GTD Comes to Houston

GTD Notes

Last Sunday I finished David Allen’s productivity opus, Getting Things Done. Sure, it took me three years to read, but that was my fault, not the book’s. I loved it.

I’d started the book several times and never finished. It’s not that I didn’t like the book or that I couldn’t get into it—I was afraid that if I read it in its entirety I’d have to hold myself to a higher standard that I wasn’t ready to commit to, yet (for whatever reason).

GTD via Amazon
Image via Amazon.

I’ve been practicing my own modified version of GTD for a few years now anyways thanks to what I had read from the GTD book and from the tips and insight I picked up from sites like 43 Folders and Lifehacker. But, I was ready for more.

A while back I signed up for the David Allen mailing list thinking someday I’d like to attend a training. However, they never scheduled anything for Houston I couldn’t justify the travel for one day of training.

Every time they sent the training schedule I’d fire off a reply asking when they were going to bring the training series to Houston—you know, the fourth biggest city in the US? Space City? The world’s oil & gas capitol? Any of that ring a bell?

GTD Files

Someone must have listened (thanks for that), because this week I attended the Mastering Workflow for Business Leaders course in the heart of Downtown Houston. And how was it?

Consider my expectations exceeded! As much as I loved the GTD book, it was so much more useful to participate in the instructor-led training. It turns out that there were several concepts (identifying desired final outcome, weekly review, etc.) that I was either doing wrong or at least not as effectively as I could have been.

5 Phases of Mastering Workflow

The highlight of the day, however, was sharing tips and tricks with the other highly efficient, productive professionals who were there—I can’t overstate how valuable that was.

Would I go to another GTD training? Yes, yes, and yes! I recommend this course no matter where you are on the GTD journey. We had attendees who had been to the course multiple times, folks who’d never even cracked the spine of the book, and everywhere in between. You can find out more about GTD and sign up for upcoming trainings on the official David Allen.

Bonus: Not content with other GTD workflow diagrams I’d seen, I decided to make my own.

GTD - Workflow

You can download a printable version here.

Are you using GTD, the Seven Habits, Pomodoro, or some other producitivy methodology? How are you making it work for you? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Stephen Covey’s Legacy – One Thing

Last month renowned productivity guru (and all-around swell human being) Stephen Covey passed away. At the time I really thought I should write something, but I wasn’t sure what to say until now.

Professor Stephen R. Covey

Professor Stephen R. Covey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Covey was an expert at showing others how to bring order out of chaos. He taught us that doing more things was no substitute for doing the right things.

If you’ve been following slightly insightful you’ll know that I’m a huge Covey devotee. Two of the most popular posts I’ve written are based on his teachings.

Before Covey we were slaves to our calendars, agendas, and to-do lists. His works taught us to identify who we are, what we care about, and how to use that knowledge to prioritize what we do.

It can all be summed up in the following quote.

“What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life?

So, what’s your one thing? What would make the biggest impact on your life if you were to start doing it regularly today?

Now, go out and do it.

Mac Tip: Cycle Through Open Application Windows

If you’re like me then you love keyboard shortcuts. If you’ve come to OS X from a Windows background then most of the shortcuts are very similar in function.

In a PC world when you use the familiar Alt-Tab keystroke it cycles through all open windows. The OS X equivalent, Command-Tab, switches from one app to another, however—not all windows in all apps.

This can be frustrating if you’re trying to navigate between multiple open Finder windows for example …

Lots of Finders

… or if you’re using an app with a multi-window user interface like MarsEdit.

MarsEdit Windows

To quickly switch from one window to another in the same application use the keyboard combo Command and ` (the key just above Tab on the left side of your Mac’s keyboard).

Cycle Through Application Windows

This little shortcut should save you some frustration. I wish I’d known about it much earlier.

What are your favorite OS X shortcuts? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Covey’s Time Management Matrix Explained

At least once a week I explain Stephen Covey’s time management philosophy to someone. I’ve even written about elements of it here on slightly insightful.

Do it mañana

I keep coming back to Covey because his focus on roles and values resonates with me and I find it the best way of prioritizing my tasks.

Not everyone groks a mindmap, so when I explain Covey’s system to others I invariably end up drawing the four quadrants of the Time Management Matrix.

Time Management Matrix

Let me give you a brief overview of the four quadrants matrix. Look at the things you do. Are they important? If so, they belong in the top half of the matrix. If they’re not they go in the lower half. Are they urgent? If so they belong in the left half of the matrix. If not, they belong in the right hand side of the matrix.

Urgent and Important

Quadrant 1

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the majority of us spend most (if not all) of our time here. We’re busy putting out fires and dealing with crises.

It’s only natural that some of your actions will fall into Quadrant 1. Unless you love ulcers though, you really don’t want to spend most of your time here.

Non-urgent and Important 2

Quadrant 2

If you don’t give Quadrant 2 activities precedence many of them will turn into Quadrant 1 activities. But, this is also where many of the activities that enhance the quality of your life lie—time with family, exercise, study, etc.

This is the magic quadrant. If possible, you want the majority of your actions to occur here. This is the where good managers and employees spend their time.

Urgent and Unimportant

Quadrant 3

You don’t want to be seen doing Quadrant 3 activities. They are ineffecient time-wasters.

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re in Quadrant 3 you’re really bad at prioritizing. Essentially, you’re hurrying around doing things which don’t add any value.

Non-urgent and Unimportant

Quadrant 4

Do you read and (even worse) forward all those joke emails your grandparents send you? Do you waste time on Facebook (or Twitter or YouTube or whatever) when you should be working? Quadrant 4 is the goof off domain.

One consequence of having spending too much time in Quadrant 1 is that in order to de-stress you’ll probably also be spending a fair amount of time in Quadrant 4 as well.

I Already Did That

For more on Covey’s Time Management Matrix and the Four Quadrants read First Thing’s First. You can also download a copy of the matrix and quadrants here.

Which quadrant do you spend most of your time in? What would it take to get to where you want to be? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.