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The place to be

By johannatime On January 31, 2013 2 Comments

‘The most important things are often not urgent, and many urgent things are not very important’ Dwight D. Eisenhower used to say. Reality to many is even more tragic: Numerous people are so busy doing the urgent, that they cannot step back and manage the important. Let’s have a look at Eisenhower’s model:

The top two quadrants represent all tasks and activities that are important to you. These are about things that matter. The left two quadrants represent everything urgent: It needs to be done now or it’ll be too late. Quadrant III represents unimportant urgent distractions and irrelevant time wasters sit in quadrant IV: When spending time on activities in the bottom two quadrants, there will probably be that little voice saying ‘you should be doing something else’.

So let’s look at quadrant I and II, the important stuff. In short: if you don’t prioritise activities in quadrant II (important, not urgent), chances are that they’ll end up in quadrant I at some stage, and become a crisis, because leaving something important to the last possible moment is quite a risk. In crisis, things cost you a lot more time and you compromise the quality of your work, so whatever happens: your focus should be on those things that are important and not (yet) urgent.

Quadrant II represents strategic stuff according to your life purpose, vision and goals, so consider this the place to be for your focused attention. You’ll probably feel most satisfied and in flow when you are working towards these goals, like drafting a plan, doing research, developing your brand, expanding your network and investing in relationships.

Let me give you a personal example: For me, moving from Rotterdam and merging into Canberra, my new home, finding my niche, making new (professional) friends and knowing what is happening, is a typical quadrant II priority. Important and not very urgent: I could always do it next week. And that is exactly what would happen if I’d just give way to less important but more urgent things: Many times I agreed on having an after work drink just because I was too overwhelmed by e-mails and commitments that I didn’t know what else to do (irrelevant time waster). And just as many other evenings I decided to stay in the office to finish some more ‘busy’ work (distraction).

Yet having a drink and a chat may very well be the place to be, and so it is to many, I discovered when I attended the January Schmooze event at the National Press Club of Australia yesterday evening.  Schmooze is a diverse mix of professionals who get together for various networking activities, like having a drink and a chat. Nothing urgent, but appearantly so important, that there are hundreds of them dedicating time and effort to being part of this tribe. This is not just a social drinking club. Members are aware it is about buisiness and therefore it is a great place to sharpen your pitch. And Schmooze’s got style: The events are held at quality venues and exciting nibbles are served. Etiquette is applied and by doing so we implicitly say: I value your presence and appreciate your company.

Quadrant II full stop. And so enjoyable when consciously considered a priority cheered by the little voice in the back of my head saying ‘this is the place to be at this moment’.

Why you need to get some routines in place

By johannatime On March 11, 2014 No Comments


Routines will dramatically simplify your life. By doing certain repetitive tasks the same way every time, you’ll save yourself time and energy and you’ll avoid overwhelm, you’ll be more productive because you get more done and by having routines in place you’re less likely to procrastinate, so you feel better about your day, too.

Let’s dive right in:

Whatever is coming at you, there are at least two decisions you’ll need to make about them:

  1. What are you going to do?
  2. How are you going to do it?

Decision making is about the most exhausting type of activity, that’s why you leave our inbox unprocessed when you’re tired, and that’s why you’re likely to procrastinate on difficult tasks: you need to make decisions and you don’t always have that kind of energy available. The more decisions you need to make, the less productive you’ll be for the rest of your day.

Most people are doing quite some repetitive work every day, or at least do similar things. That’s how you become good at what you do, that’s how you eventually become an expert: by doing the same thing many times you are training and eventually specialising yourself. And that’s good.

So when you realise your answer to question 1 ‘what are you going to do?’ is often the same or similar, it pays off to discover the pattern behind the answer to question 2 ‘How are you going to do it?’, and this is when routines come in handy: you half the decision making load instantly, because you recycle your decisions and simplify your work. If you wouldn’t, life would be like everything happened to you for the first time, as if you wouldn’t learn from experience.

Building a routine is simple:

  1. Work out a task or series of task that you would like to simplify. Most efficient would be to start with one you come across regularly and frequently
  2. Identify your steps (as you go, or virtually) and make a checklist for your routine
  3. Use your checklist every time you perform that task, and tweak your checklist so your process runs smoothly
  4. Repeat until you don’t need your checklist anymore. The more frequent your activity, the quicker it will become a routine. Apply discipline!
  5. Adjust your checklist whenever needed by starting again at step 2

For a further read about adopting good habits, please check out my blog about ten steps to change your behaviour, too!

Examples where checklists and routines come in handy:

  • Starting up your (work) day
  • E-mail processing
  • (Daily) workouts
  • Grocery shopping
  • Organising meetings or events
  • Chairing meetings or events
  • Archiving and filing
  • Packing away and organising
  • Leaving the office or the house
  • Cooking meals and meal planning
  • Finishing your (work) day

The options are endless, but depend on your daily reality.

Putting some routines in place for regular and frequent tasks simplifies your life, because you will:

  • Save time because routines are done quicker
  • Save energy because you have less decisions to make
  • Make less mistakes
  • Organically improve your processes

The risk of routines:

I have an important note about the risk of routines, too: keep them useful and make them better as much as you can. Whatever you do, don’t stick to routines because ‘that’s just how you do things’. You’ll annoy others and hold yourself back!

And please tell me about your routines and checklists in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

Habit of the month August: E-mail etiquette

By johannatime On August 1, 2015 No Comments

Are you sometimes annoyed by an e-mail? Or even offended? Do you agree that there are too many e-mails in your inbox, that they are too long, and often unclear? I am a true advocate for good manners and mutual respect amongst coworkers and professionals, so let’s make this world a better place: You can only change yourself,  so here’s the habit of the month August:

E – M A I L  E T I Q U E T T E

E-mail as a means to communicate

Before there was e-mail, there was mail. It was a lot of work to type a letter, print it, fold it into an envelope and mail it to the addressee, so it was only done when that was necessary. E-mail was invented to speed up this process, make it more reliable, and to save costs on paper, envelopes and stamps. Great.

I don’t know about you, but before there was e-mail, I wrote letters to my pen palls and my grandmother. In 1996 I sent my first e-mail. It was addressed at a fellow student and it was not important. We sent each other e-mails because we could. And that is the problem.

When is an e-mail appropriate?

I think you can point them out in your inbox right now: the messages that should not have been sent via e-mail, that should have been communicated otherwise, or not at all. Just consider the following, as a guideline:

  • E-mail is great for notifying someone about an update, where information is shared and can be found, for sending (confidential) information specifically to the addressee, and for specific questions.
  • Don’t use e-mail for sorting out a personal issue: arrange a meeting or make a call instead.
  • When something is urgent, a phone call is better than an e-mail.
  • For chit chat, use an instant messenger.

Often, sending an e-mail is the easy way to go, because you don’t need to have a direct confrontation with someone and you can always say that you have notified them, and prove it. It is this confrontation, however, that makes a difference: if your issue is not important enough for a confrontation with the recipient(s), reconcider sending it altogether. If it is, confront them politely and bring your message across face to face, or on the phone. Example? When you need someone to do you a favour, or when you have bad news, show them what it is worth to you by contacting them personally. You can always back up your message with an e-mail.

Dos and don’ts for good e-mail manners

When e-mailing still is your communication of choice, here are some ideas to make your communication as clear and pleasant as possible:

  • Keep your e-mails short and concise.
  • Be clear and polite in your communication, even if it means that you need to add a few words. Avoid words written in caps, it looks like you are shouting. Sending from your iPad or phone is not an excuse to be rude.
  • Make sound use of the subject line: ‘for your information’ when no action is required; ‘action required’ when there is, and ‘regarding your request’ when you respond to a request. If you want to read a bit more: IQTELL published a nice post about subject lines.
  • Write separate e-mails for separate requests. It makes processing a lot easier.
  • Don’t use cc’s and bcc’s unless it was specifically requested, or significantly practical.
  • Do not reply to all recipients. Just don’t.

Be considerate. Every day. With every e-mail you send. And please share your own best practices in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

There will always be 7 days of 24 hours

By johannatime On July 30, 2015 No Comments

‘It’s already Thursday!’ As if no one saw that coming? There are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week for everybody. It’s been this way for ages and it will not change, so let’s implement this sequence in order to never let the end of the week come by surprise ever again. A week is a wonderful and manageable chunk of time. It’s just short enough to easily oversee and work through and it is quite big enough to get some reasonal bits of work done without being overwhelmed.


Traditionally Monday is the first day of a work week. If you had a good weekend, you are well rested and ready to take on some work. Set goals for this week. Deligate to and communicate with coworkers and other professionals what you need from them and when as early as possible.


Somehow, Tuesday often is meeting day. Both recurring and ad hoc meetings happen to land on Tuesdays more than any other day. Meetings take time and you end up with to do’s on your list, that’s a fact of life. So less time and more to do. Be prepared and allocate some time to process any work that comes from meetings, whatever day of the week it is.


If you love your work, you can’t believe you’re already halfway for this week. If you hate it, you hang on to the thought that the weekend begins the day after tomorrow. Either way, Wednesday is a natural reflection moment of your week. Look back on your goals, look ahead on your calendar, adjust and renegotiate if needed.


Another meeting day, and on top of that, courses, annual and quarterly events (and there’s at least one every fortnight), are also often planned for Thusdays (and Fridays). Do your planning well: if your schedule allows for it and your colleagues are away, focus on quiet work time. If you attend an event, don’t count on the Thursday that week, to do the work you need to do.


Did you meet your goals and deadlines? Do a good review on Friday morning. If anything irregular comes up, you can have it fixed by the end of the day. By reviewing on Friday, you take all pressure off the weekend. It’s like going on a holiday. Other than spending a good hour or two on the review, make sure you leave Fridays for unexpected emergency work. If there’s none, spend time on low urgency high importance work.

Saturday and Sunday

For many, one of these days has a crammed schedule with house work and exercise and the other one is for rest and spontaneous (social) activities. Consider Parkinson’s Law before trying to catch up with work on the weekend. Instead, do nothing.


Every week you have exactly 168 hours for work, travel, social, family, exercise, rest and sleep. By being productive you can buy time for whatever is most valuable in your life. Note that there is a different week for everyone. Some will have their weekends on other days, and not everyone will have regular weekly activities. Also, you may wish to review work earlier in the week or on the Sunday everning. Still, your week is a consistent and reliable 7 day cycle you could use as a lever to make your life and work better manageable and more productive. What’s your week like? Please comment below:

Johanna Jansen

Habit of the month July: Inbox zero

By johannatime On July 1, 2015 No Comments

So many people dream of it: an empty e-mail inbox. Even if it was only once! Agreed, having none in ‘in’ feels amazing. Imagine granting this awesome gift to yourself on a daily basis: you’d finally get some work done, be tremendously productive and not get paralysed by overwhelm, or even slightly distracted. This ultimate state of joyful control is within arm’s reach, so please continue reading.

Defining inbox zero

In fact, it is easier to have your inbox empty every day than it is to empty it occasionally. This alone makes it most suitable for a sane working habit to introduce. Let me explain first what I mean by inbox zero:

  • Your e-mail and other inboxes are being processed on a daily basis.
  • Processing involves making decisions to follow up on and writing down your actions, projects, and ideas in a trusted system. Or discart the messages, of course.
  • It does not mean you have done all the actions that are involved with the e-mails or notes (or whatever is in your ‘in’; mine holds objects occasionally, too).
  • Your inbox does not contain any messages, scribbled on post-its or bills to pay after processing indeed. Zero means none.

Having an empty inbox every day is like making your bed every day. Wrapping up the (in)activity and starting with a clean sheet. Your inbox will fill up and your bed will get messy again, but you enjoyed the moment of having it all sorted. Every day.

How to get from 1000 messages to inbox zero?

Of course, you can roll up your sleeves now, and get through every single message hiding in your personal e-mail system and beyond, the way I teach my clients to do it. I described it in short in this post about inbox zero. If you’re quite organised anyway, that is surely the way to go.

However, people who need inbox zero most of all, are generally the ones who have above 1000 e-mails in it, and stacks of paper on their desks and floors. Getting started to get that done requires an aweful lot of commitment, discipline and time, and facing that task is demoralising in itself. If you can relate to this category of professionals, please join me in this imaginary experiment:

Imagine there was a digital disaster at your office. All e-mails were deleted. Gone. Retrieving them is pointless. You have to move on without. You have to start from scratch. Are you with me to see this is an extraordinary opportunity to keep up with the flow and stay in control from now on?

I’m not saying you should permanently delete all your e-mail and start over. But you could wrap them up nicely in a ‘my-previous-life’s-e-mails-before-I-got-control-over-it-all-folder’ and start over. The e-mails are there in case you need any of them, but at least they are not in your way discouraging you to make a change for the better.

No change is easy, but at least for this habit you’ll soon know the benefits. Instead of snacking on bits and pieces of e-mail throughout your day, I encourage you to completely empty your inbox once or twice daily. Use my instruction on how to have an empty inbox as a guideline. You may find my posts about discipline and commitment useful for getting through the first week or so of this life changing new habit.

Steps you should take for having an empty inbox every day:

1) Have an infrastructure in place. Follow my instructions in this presentation about setting up a Getting Things Done (GTD) system or in this blog post about organising your inbox.

2) Allocate time for e-mail processing in your daily schedule. Start today.

3) And just do it for your sanity’s sake. You will not regret.

Why it is so good to aim for inbox zero daily

I must have mentioned it countless times in previous blog posts; the benefits of having an empty inbox every day:

  • You’ll enjoy a calm mind that knows nothing is forgotten, and that is never bothered by ‘to-do-reminders’.
  • You’ll have a sense of full control over your work and your life. It magically boosts your self confidence.
  • You trust that nothing will fall between the cracks. No deadline will surprise you and no commitment will be overwhelming.
  • People can trust you to follow up on their requests. Often, you’ll have to say ‘no’, but better undercommit and overdeliver than vice versa.

Please share your inbox zero joy and challenges with me and other readers by commenting below:

Johanna Jansen

How to choose a digital task manager that works for you

By johannatime On June 30, 2015 No Comments

Could you be more productive if you just had the right tool? Often, looking for a technical solution to fix your procrastination is just a distraction, but sometimes it may help you to organise, tackle overwhelm and get into the zone. Here’s what to consider when you bother to switch to a new digital task manager:

Does your new app ‘do’ GTD®?

Before deciding what task manager you’re going to use, reflect for a while on your GTD® habits and see if the app supports them. Most important would be labeling tasks for contexts, time, energy and priority, but also the options for multiple lists and quick processing should be present.

Can e-mail be integrated or synchronised?

Many tasks originally come from an e-mail. So don’t let your inbox be your task list; process your e-mails regularly and if you have a clever task manager, it can simply convert them into tasks that you can tick off when they’re done. Even better if you can integrate your calendar, too!

Mobile, remote, on the go

Often, choosing for a productivity app happens from behind your computer screen. Make sure you also check out the mobile apps before hitting the ‘BUY’ button. Verify if your operating system is supported and if the app works well on the go. This is crucial for anyone who is not a plant rooted at their desk.


Do you assign tasks to team members or coworkers? You may need to collaborate on choosing a task manager, too. If everyone uses the same tool, working together can become lots easier. That is if the tool of your choice supports collaboration of course. Double check if it does and if not, there are stacks of apps out there specifically designed for collaboration.


Do you regularly work in places without an internet connection? Spend lots of time on aeroplanes or venues with restricted wifi? And if you’re honest, are those the windows of time you could be particularly productive in, if only you were online to see what tasks you could do? In that case, an offline feature is a must for your productivity app of choice.

Remember that money isn’t really important, and most apps cost less than $10 a month. Don’t force yourself on an app because it was a couple of dollars a year cheaper, because your time is worth so much more than that. Can’t make up your mind? Stay where you are and/or use just pen and paper. And if you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

Habit of the month June: Do a daily review

By johannatime On June 1, 2015 No Comments


The habit of this month is yet another simple way to improve your productivity, tackle procrastination and prevent overwhelm. By embracing this habit, you’ll build in some structure to wrap up your day and prepare for the next. And because it is a very small effort, performed daily, it is a great habit that will not take a lot of energy and time to adopt. This may even be the easiest habit to implement that I have introduced thus far.

The daily review in 3 steps

Unlike the weekly review, I discussed earlier, doing a daily review will only cost you a short moment at the end of each day, and it will bring you a lot of focus and momentum for the next. I recommend you just try it for a month without questioning why, because that will be clear soon. You do a daily review towards the end of your day in order to prepare for the next, no matter if it is a weekday or a weekend. A typical daily review is done in the following steps:

1) From the top of your head, are there any burning issues that need to be clarified before you go to bed tonight? They don’t need to get done now, only clarified, so you can sleep! Sometimes, these include things that need to be sorted out tomorrow. Make a believable plan to have them sorted, so they will not haunt your dreams.

Daily review or not, it calms your mind to capture everything and anything that has your attention in a trusted place anyway, so it will not wander around your consciousness when you try to concentrate on whatever is on your plate.

2) Take a good look at your calendar: when do you have to be where and with whom? Have you scheduled any travel time? And do you need any particular materials for your meeting? Then prepare for your meetings. Print documents if you have to, find addresses and figure out how to get there.

Note for success: Only write day and time specific commitments in your calendar and leave other actions, ambitions and activities that could be done at other moments, too, for your to do list. Actions do not belong in your calendar. It is fine to block out time for doing your actions, but then take those commitments as seriously as you take the other meetings!

3) How much time have you got in between your meetings tomorrow? Are there any significant windows of discretionary time where you could get some work done? If so, decide on the tasks that you’d like to get done tomorrow.

Suggestion: Challenge yourself to eat a frog tomorrow, if your calendar lets you. Are there any unpleasant tasks sitting on your to do list? Commit to tackling one tomorrow first thing. Don’t commit to more than one frog at first. It’ll be too overwhelming.

Why decide now for your commitments and not tomorrow?

  1. Because first of all: you’ll sleep better if you have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, your subconscious brain will try and make it up while you try to sleep.
  2. Another important reason: making decisions is very energy consuming. When you do that at the end of the day, you can go to sleep soon. Doing it in the morning drains your energy for that important time of the day.
  3. By making these decisions in the evening, when you have no time ahead of you to do things, you tackle overwhelm that’s often caused by the endless options you have in the morning.
  4. And last: By bypassing this paralysis of overwhelm, you create momentum to be very productive first thing in the morning. Before you check your e-mail preferably!

So give this easy habit a try and please share with me how you’re going!

Johanna Jansen

The sacrifices you’ll need to make for GTD® to solve your problems

By johannatime On March 30, 2015 No Comments

As far as I know, Getting Things Done® (GTD®), invented by David Allen, is the most sensible, sustainable and only effective approach for time and work flow management and productivity. In some cases, it will prevent burn out and in all cases it brings peace of mind, because it gets you back in control of the controllable things in work and life. In a few words, what you do is organising all your to do’s in one fully reliable system (paper and/or digital, however you like it and with whatever supplies you have available) and maintaining it so it stays fresh, in order for your mind to let go and relax, no matter how busy you are.

GTD® is not a trick and you cannot buy it. There is no quick fix, but it will fix all of your overwhelm and procrastination. GTD® requires practice and changing habits, so yes, you will need to make some sacrifices. Having these problems fixed, however, is priceless.

Here are 5 of the most common problems associated with being busy and disorganised, the solution GTD® offers, and the effort you’ll need to make:

#1: Overwhelm and being out of control

Overwhelm happens when there seems to be too much to do in too little time and feeling anxious about that. The anxiety often comes from being unable to see the full picture of urgent and important things that need to get done and being aware that you don’t know what will fall between the cracks. There will always be too much to do and too little time, the trick is to know exactly what you are not doing.

So to ease your fear, face all the tasks that need completion. Make a complete inventory of everything that needs action in any way. Set up a seamless system in which to capture and collect your actionables, process and organise every single item according to the same algorythm each time. Your reward is to be back in control, keeping every promise and meeting every deadline effortlessly and stress-free.

#2: Caught in the busy trap

The busy trap is dangerous! You’ll get caught in it when you are so busy that you cannot step back from your work any longer. You’ll start thinking you have no time to reflect on your purpose so you’ll keep going. As a result, you may well drift off and end up lost and exhausted, if not drowned.

So you’ll need to stop yourself to look back and to look ahead. You’ll need to pause your doing in order to think beyond tomorrow’s to do list. By investigating your purpose and your vision, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture of all you are doing, and you’ll start doing the right things in order to get there.

#3: A full e-mail inbox

How many (read and unread) e-mails are sitting in your inbox at the moment? And how many of those came in before today? E-mails queueing in your inbox are reminders of unfinished business and therefore causing stress and anxiety.

An out of control inbox is part of problem #1 (overwhelm) and problem #2 (busy trap) yet it is solvable without first solving problem #1 and #2. What you need to do is process your inbox daily according to the same algorythm and you will have a zero inbox every day. Certainly, new e-mails will gather in your inbox, but they will be no more than 24 hours old, a calming thought.

#4: Having trouble prioritising

Do you have a to do list at all? How many actions are on it? Do you actually use it? Is it just getting longer? Maybe you have a to do list per project or client? Then there may be a problem.

A to do list, should be a ‘next actions list’ that only holds doable and finishable commands to yourself. Also, you’ll need to categorise your actions according to context, time, energy and/or priority, and in that order of importance. Yes, context, time and energy are more important than priority. Once you’ve organised your to do’s along those lines, your system will serve you the task that gives you the highest possible pay off in that moment: Effortless yet acurate prioritising.

#5:Spending too much time on organising your work, or simply being messy

Many professionals are terrible at organising their work, simply because we don’t learn it at school, and particularly because smart tidying isn’t recognised as a professional skill. So people waste time doing it poorly or not bothering at all.

Work and life have complicated dynamics that are often not respected in any old do-it-yourself-to-do-list.  Organising your work and life just right by differentiating the dynamics of actionables will save you tons of time. On top of that, you’ll need to maintain it regularly and frequently by doing a weekly review.

Investing some time and effort in setting up your own GTD® system is worth your while. Which (combination) of the above is your problem? If you struggle to solve them all by yourself, please get in touch with me. I can help and I’d love to work with you. And of course, feel free to comment below:

Johanna Jansen

Habit of the month March: Use keyboard shortcuts for successful living

By johannatime On March 1, 2015 No Comments

The habit of this month is a typical ‘small change huge effect’ type of behaviour. By using keyboard shortcuts (working on your computer using keys instead of your mouse) you’ll save bits of time countless times a day with very little effort. Also, you’ll save energy that you can now address to the hard thinking you need to do for your work, so altogether you’ll be lots more productive. And because you do it all the time -working from your computer- you get hundreds of opportunities to practice every day, so you’ll manage to get this habit onto auto pilot quite quickly. Other than last month’s habit about capturing and collecting, this month there’s no need to go cold turkey: using keyboard shortcuts is preferably done in small steps, so relax!

More success and less stress by using keyboard shortcuts

There are four major benefits from using keyboard shortcuts instead of dragging and clicking with your mouse:

  1. Using keys is faster than dragging and clicking with your mouse or trackpad. Imagine when you are processing about 100 e-mails a day, and you save about 5 seconds on average per e-mail by using keyboard shortcuts, every day! That’s enough time for an extra vacation every year!
  2. Using keyboard shortcuts is healthier in terms of ergonomics. Just check your shoulders and neck when you are dragging an item with your mouse compared to just pressing a key. By using keyboard shortcuts you give your arm, shoulder and back muscles a break and that is good for your health and your wellbeing.
  3. You’ll be more accurate by using keyboard shortcuts. You can probably recall a moment today or yesterday that you dragged something along your screen and then dropped it just 2 pixels too early and gone it was. By using keyboard shortcuts you give your computer clear commands so you make less mistakes.
  4. You’ll look and feel professional and in control. I know when I see people clicking like maniacs it just looks like they’re browsing or gaming. When I see someone with their hands on their keys, being in relaxed control of their work, that looks good! And try it, it feels good, too!

The difference between using your mouse and using keys

When you use your mouse or trackpad, you navigate on eye-hand coordination of your brain: Your eyes send your hand to the required destination on your screen. This process needs full conscious attention so it requires a fair amount of energy and cannot be done on auto pilot. You can barely train yourself doing it better and quicker, because your mouse and your cursor are always at different locations on your desk and on your screen.

When you use keyboard shortcuts, you quickly train your fine motor memory for the commands, and navigating with keyboard shortcuts will eventually approach your thinking speed. And that’s very fast. You don’t need full attention for giving your computer the required commands, so you can keep your focus on what you’re doing. It’s like you are a concert pianist playing a beautiful piece without thinking about the individual keys.

Take small steps!

When all you do now is clicking along, you can have huge benefit from this habit, even by taking small steps. In fact, this will only work if you learn the keyboard shortcuts gradually. I recommend you take the following 6 steps for quick success:

  1. Work out some commands you’re using you mouse for many times a day, choose a maximum of 3 to start with
  2. Find the keyboard shortcut for them (google is a great source). Some are quite universal, some are very application specific
  3. Write the command and the shortcut on a post-it note and stick that to your mouse. If you like, place your mouse on the other side of your screen, so you’ll be reminded when you want to grab it (it’s not there!)
  4. Practice your selection of 3 commands until you don’t need the post-it note to remind you anymore
  5. Select 3 new commands and continue using the ones you have been practicing.
  6. Repeat step 1-5

Working towards mastery

There must be a pareto principle in here, too: you’re probably using 20% of your commands 80% of the time. Which commands they are, is very different between individuals, because they differ between apps and between operating systems, so I can’t really recommend your top 20%, however, there’s 5 commands everybody should use:

  1. ctrl (or cmd) a: select all
  2. ctrl (or cmd) c: copy
  3. ctrl (or cmd) x: cut
  4. ctrl (or cmd) v: paste
  5. tab: navigate to the next field

Eventually, you can get by without your mouse at all, but I recommend you focus on the 20%. If you’re working from a Mac, it may help to install hotkeyEVE, an app that gently teaches you the shortcuts for the commands you are using. KeyRocket does a similar thing for Windows.

What are your favorite keyboard shortcuts? Can you give some recommendations? And please share how you go in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

Habit of the month February: Capture all

By johannatime On February 1, 2015 No Comments

Using your brain as a reminder what to do is a bad idea. This ‘organic’ type of work organisation will compromise your productivity and it will leave you feeling overwhelmed. The habit of the month February therefore, is about capturing everything and anything that has your attention into a trusted system, so there is nothing on your mind, and you’ll forget nothing either.

You may be familiar with that feeling: there was something you must not forget, you remember it was important but you cannot remember what it was about. Or worse, you forgot about it altogether. I used to change my watch to my other wrist, or my ring to another finger, to remind me that there was something to remember. You may have your techniques, too.

The type of things you might try to remember:

  • Promises and commitments you made at the water cooler
  • Groceries you need to buy
  • E-mails that need to be followed up on
  • Phone calls you need to return
  • Birthday cards you need to send
  • Meeting notes
  • Items you borrowed or lent
  • Items that need repair or replacement
  • Great ideas

You get the idea. Your day is full of them. They cause you headaches.

Keeping reminders on your mind should be avoided at all times!

First of all: you forget things anyway, and they may explode right in your face at rather inappropriate times. When everything you could have properly prepared for is nicely organised, you have your resources available for the true surprises, and you have the capacity to deal with them calmly.

Second, but even more important: By trying to remind yourself, you are constantly trying to multitask; Whilst focussing your attention on a task, you also try to remember this commitment or whatever it is you’re trying not to forget. The habit of the month January is all about that, so have another read if you like.

Why bother changing habits?

Your mind is a terrible reminder. Instead, it is designed for creative and analytic thinking, so make sure that’s what your brain can do all day, and don’t leave task managing to your brain. Some people think that if something is truly important, something or someone will remind them anyway. Maybe. But I recommend you don’t count on that. You don’t want to share your responsibility to keep your commitments with others anyway. The price you’ll pay for following the strategy of having yourself reminded by others will be a permanent reactive working mode and a constant feeling of overwhelm and stress.

What you can do instead: capture and collect everything and anything that has your attention into a trusted ‘in-basket’

That means from now on, you will get every reminder out of your mind and into your ‘in-basket’ the moment it occurs to you. Any ‘in-basket’ will do as long as it is outside your brain. Capture everything, even the smallest thoughts, without judgement, and collect them into ‘in’. Get as many ‘in-baskets’ as you need, but as little as you can get by with. And make sure to process the contents of your ‘in-baskets’ regularly, preferably daily. Processing here means following up on them by making a decicion about your next step, even if that would be ‘delete’ or ‘don’t commit’.

Suggestions for capturing and collecting tools:

  • Your e-mail inbox collects automatically, so count that one in
  • And so does your mail box
  • A paper note pad and pen work fine under most conditions, so have one in your bag, in your bathroom, in your car, at your bedside
  • Use a voice recorder when you’re driving
  • There are many digital tools out there, like Evernote, or just use the notes app on your smartphone
  • Put up a white board in your shower or kitchen and have the markers ready at all times
  • Send yourself e-mails if you have to

In case adopting new habits is overwhelming in itself for you, I suggest you read my blog post about changing your behaviour, however, this one is ok to be done cold turkey style. And please let me know how you go in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen