Monday, March 30, 2009
Confession time: I'm a two-finger typist - pretty fast for two fingers, but still. I learned touch typing back in high school, lost the skill, never got it back. (Yes, I know I could teach myself again; that's on the someday/maybe list.)
Here are two ways I've become more productive on the computer:
1. I turned off the caps lock key.
I was always hitting that darn key by mistake. Back on my old PC, I just removed the key from my keyboard, as in the photo above. But on my Mac, I simply learned how to disable the caps lock key. You can also do this on a PC, but I'm no expert there; I'll let you google for solutions. (I also got a giggle from the Caps Lock Trainer Key, found via Unplggd.]
[photo of keyboard with caps lock removed by tlianza / Tom Lianza, licensed under Creative Commons]
2. I bought a text expansion tool.
This is what Mark Hurst calls a "bit lever", and he's the one who introduced me to the idea. My choice is Typinator (a Mac-only product), but there are plenty of other options for both PCs and Macs; Guy Kawasaki uses TextExpander.
Typinator lets me define a whole series of simple abbreviations that I can type in any program. When I enter one of those abbreviations, it gets replaced with a chunk of text - in my case, that's often multiple paragraphs. I use it for long phrases I type with some regularity (such as National Association of Professional Organizers - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter), some standard e-mail replies I send as a Freecycle moderator, and much more.
Highly recommended for all - not just the two-finger typists!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Fabric buckets provide a splash of color and pattern to jazz up any room - and at not-too-crazy prices. This bucket by Lotta Jansdotter costs $32 (plus shipping, and possibly tax) and is the most expensive of the choices listed here. Update on April 15, 2012: Lotta Jansdotter doesn't seem to sell these any more.
Other nice buckets are available through various Etsy shops. This fabric storage bucket comes from Henry and Zoe; right now, there are nine different fabrics available.
You can also head over to Henry and Zoe Studio Designs for more fabric buckets, including this one. (Name corrected on June 28, 2009)
These fabric buckets come from White Rabbit 21; right now, the store has seven different bucket choices.
And these fabric buckets come from How About Orange. Update on April 15, 2012: The owner of this Etsy shop is closing it down.
Sewing Momma provides these fabric bins. Update on April 15, 2012: This Etsy store seems to have disappeared.
Inklore has this linen bucket. Update on June 5, 2013: These buckets are no longer available; Samantha Hirst, who ran the shop, has refocused on other types of products.
And finally, leaving Etsy, Tiny Décor has felt buckets, made from 100% organic cotton. Update on April 15, 2012: This web site disappeared — but seems to have re-appeared on Etsy.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
While a tickler file has a file folder (or a slot) for every day of the current month, and for each of the next 12 months, there are other products that just have spaces labeled 1-31. While these are often called bill organizers, you could certainly use them for other things too. Here's one such product I've seen a lot: the wood 31-day monthly bill organizer.
Another option is the rotating bill organizer. [via ADD Consults] Update on Sept. 1, 2014: This product doesn't seem to be available any more.
The Globe-Weis 1-31 Everyday File Fast Sorter looks a lot like the company's other sorter which also has the months - so be sure you're getting the one you want. (Smead has a very similar product.)
There's also this sorter from Esselte, in red. It's made with 30% post-consumer waste.
And a number of companies make expanding files with 31 pockets.
And another option is the EZ Pocket Date Organizer. This one is promoted as more than a bill organizer: "Simply tuck a note, bill, sports ticket or invitation in the dated pocket that corresponds to when the 'action' needs to take place. Every day check the current date's numbered pocket." Update on Nov. 1, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Back in 2004, Merlin Mann created a web site called 43 folders. As he explains:
This site’s title, 43 folders, refers to the number of manila folders required to build a physical tickler file system.If you'd like to learn about creating and using a tickler file, here are two excellent resources from my fellow professional organizers:
Twelve monthly folders and 31 daily folders are used to build a rotating, one-year “look ahead” system. Maintained daily, it’s a powerful lofi hack for never forgetting to do something (and, consequently, not having to worry about forgetting to do something).
It beats (or at least complements) your electronic calendar in at least one way by letting you store hard-copy items like cards or bills in the folder associated with any day between now and a year from now.
- Emily Wilska's blog post: Creating and Using a Tickler File
- Julie Bestry's e-book, well worth the modest price: Tickle Yourself Organized
You can also download David Allen's article on the tickler file.
Creating a tickler file is easy enough. You don't need much: just 43 labeled folders and a place to store them. But if you'd like to buy a ready-made system, you can certainly do that. The most common product is the one shown above, from Smead.
David Allen now sells the GTD tickler file - the 43 file folders (not hanging file folders, since he doesn't like those). The alphabetic files included in this picture are not part of the tickler file product.
At-A-Glance has this GTD Tools tickler file - the 43 folders plus a desk organizer box. Update on Nov. 20, 2011: It seems this product is no longer available for purchase.
The Paper Tiger Productivity Institute sells the SwiftFile - the 43 folders, sold with or without a desktop file to hold them.
The Alpha-Omega Organizer is a tickler file and more. Thanks to organizer Allison Carter for pointing me to this one.
And then there are also some products, often called bill paying systems, that have part of the tickler system - the 31-day portion, without the 12-month portion. I'll cover that in my next post.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
As David Allen tells us: "Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them." So what do you do about the ideas that come to you in the shower? It's been quite a while since I posted about writing in the shower, so it's time for an update.
The dive slate is still a perfectly fine option; you can get these through dive shops, or you can get the one shown above from Cindy Helgason at Soupourri Natural Bath & Body; she includes a non-rusting hook to hang it from. [Image from Amazon.com]
And the washable crayon is still a decent option, too. Jennifer Barthe writes on HubSpot, "I too get my best ideas in the shower. I use washable crayons to write down my ideas on the tiles and then I write them down on paper later." Just be sure the product you're using is not going to cause any staining issues. (Some have reported problems.) Crayola says, "The Crayola Washable formula was designed to wipe off of most walls and non-porous household surfaces with just warm water and a sponge."
But I'm also intrigued by some newer products, including Aqua Notes - a waterproof notepad.
The Droodle is a similar product - a waterproof notepad. [via GeekAlerts]
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I love my Mac - so I was amused to read some people arguing that Macs are an essential tool for those who care about productivity.
First, let's listen to (Uncle) Mark Hurst:
Without question, buy a Mac – unless you must be compatible with a Windows network at work or school. ...And then there's the dialogue between Guy Kawasaki and David Allen at David's recent GTD Global Summit, as reported by Chris Blatnick:
Now, for everyone else: buy a Mac. There are two main reasons to make this choice. First Macs are easier to use. The whole point of using a computer is to get things done. Given the choice between getting your work done more or less easily, why would you choose the harder option? This has always puzzled me about people choosing Windows PCs – why would they choose to be less productive?
Guy told David, "I don't see how anyone that thinks they are going to get things done uses Windows."And them there's Lauren, who also writes about Moving to Macs for Productivity (and Prettiness).
Yes, I'm sure some of you are very productive on your PCs. But I'm just reporting on what I've been reading - and I haven't found people arguing that PCs make you more productive than Macs do.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
My March 2009 newsletter is now available.
Tip of the Month: Other People's Stuff
Product of the Month: Silverware trays from Mountain Woods
Recycling Resource of the Month: The Currency Commission
[via Ed Perkins, read in the San Francisco Chronicle]
Also included: Statistics of the Month
The Kitchn asks: Where do you hang the kitchen towel? Reading the replies, and looking around the web, you can see a number of answers. The oven door is a top pick. [photo by Carissa Marie / Carissa Bonham, licensed under Creative Commons]
Another popular option is the refrigerator door handle. [photo by trekkyandy / Andy Melton, licensed under Creative Commons]
Some people use refrigerator door magnets. The Endo magnet clip, which I wrote about some time ago, could certainly hold a towel.
Some people use the drawer pulls. [Photo by Peter Clark, licensed under Creative Commons - who also used the oven door option]
Some put up wall-mounted towel racks (or towel hooks). [Photo by Lara604, licensed under Creative Commons]
And some just put towel racks on the outside of the kitchen cabinet doors. As the photographer says, "Not pretty, but pretty useful!" [Photo by jek in the box, licensed under Creative Commons]
What other options are there? Well, there are the adhesive-backed towel holders (sometimes called towel grabbers).
Then there are over-cabinet towel racks.
Here's another over-the-door kitchen towel rack, with room for more towels.
There are over-the-door hooks, too - maybe easier for the towels to fall off (unless you have those crocheted-top towels), but hooks are about the easiest way to hang anything up.
It's not as convenient, but if you like to hide your towels away, you could use an inside-the-door towel rack. OK, that photo shows bath towels, but you could use it for any towels you wanted.
Another inside-the-door option is the pull-out towel rack.
If you had countertop space available, you could use one of the many countertop towel trees that are available.
And finally, an interesting option is the cookhook, designed to give you more options as to where to put the towel. [via Slashfood]
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sometimes a series of bins is the perfect storage solution. Here are some companies that make bin storage products. While I'm only showing one product/company, most of them make a range of useful stuff: cabinets, racks/shelving, and carts. We'll go through in alphabetical order, from A to W.
Akro-Mils makes the cabinet shown above - and many more products. [Photo from Lab Safety Supply.]
These pick racks with plastic bins are some of the many products made by Edsal Manufacturing. [Photo from Quill.com]
Flexcon Container makes this cart, and a lot more.
LewisBins is another company with a wide range of products, including this cart.
Lyon Cabinets makes just what you'd expect - cabinets.
Sandusky Lee makes this bin wall cabinet. [photo from GlobalIndustrial.com]
Quantum Storage is yet another company with lots to choose from, including this cabinet. [Photo from CSN Sheds]
And finally, Whalen Storage has this bin rack with metal shelves.