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Tips for Boosting Productivity: Part 1

Thursday January 26, 2012

Tips for Productivity

I love being productive and getting things done, whether at home or for work.  I thrive on being efficient and staying on top of things before they get out of control.  However, as much as I naturally love efficiency and productivity, I still have those days {or weeks} in which I just can't find my groove...or stay in it longer than half an hour.  I felt this way as a teacher and I feel it now as a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom of three.  I am often conflicted with how to divide my time between work and parenting, which is why being as efficient as possible is crucial for staying sane and keeping all the balls in the air.

Thus, I have come up with 3 steps for boosting productivity that I think are somewhat obvious, but still quite helpful.

Step 1: Getting rid of distractions

Distractions are a real time suck, as their name implies.  Whether it's noisy co-workers, neighbors, or even your own children {like my daughter asking me right now if I'm choosing to ignore her?}, these distractions interrupt our train of thought and therefore stifle creative thought as we struggle to wrangle our minds back into gear.

So, for those of you who work from home, I can’t emphasize how important it is to set up good boundaries for actually getting work done at home so you still have a place to work and place to relax at home.   For work, it's important to have a good home officewhite noise, and general organization.

Once you've protected yourself as much as possible from distraction, you have to discipline yourself to use your time well.  What do you do if you are fresh out of ideas?  Or if you have a great one but can't develop it due to other commitments?  This is where step 2 comes in to play.

Step 2: Getting rid of writer’s (worker’s) block


So, here are few tips for breaking the barrier when you’re staring at a blank screen:
  • Sit and think for 10 minutes.  Seriously, before you give yourself (another) break, try to come up with a starting point.  It’s not that I don’t value breaks- in fact I have a lot due to the nature of my work day and kids.  However, I think it’s easy to procrastinate by allowing yourself too many.
  • Make a list of things that need to get done and start doing them- it may be that you have a break-through as you make the list or start checking things off.  Sometimes, the feeling of accomplishment is enough to get your mind going.
  • If you’re writing, do a google search and see what others have written.  Sometimes this is good fodder for a new idea or a response to someone else’s.  I find that I write best {i.e. not plagiarize} if I read an article and then close it, whether I agree with it or not.
  • Since I do work from home and also have small children still at home, I don’t work 9-5.  So, I have a couple hours a couple times a day.  I push it hard while I have the peace and quiet to do it, then when I’m on with the kids, I keep a pad and paper by me so I can jot down any ideas that come to mind.  That way, I’m not working while the kids are around and I also don’t lose an idea.
  • Take breaks.  See, I do value breaks.  I just think they need to be earned.
  • Frequently, I work on an idea in the back of my head…maybe it’s a real life experience, maybe it’s not, but either way, I find that my best ideas come when I am not technically working.  I usually mull them over in the back of my mind as I wash dishes {we live in the UK- no dishwasher, so there’s lots of that} or pick up toys or even play with the kids.  Then, I either work on it the next chance I get, or I at least write it down so I don’t forget.
If you're struggling to be productive, rework your work space for minimal distractions, then discipline yourself to actually work.  Be sure to check back next time for Part 2!

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Free Tips, Tools, & Resources for Boosting Your Productivity

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Productivity Boosters

Getting it all done, and on time, has become increasingly more complicated and therefore challenging.  With the advent of great new technology {I shiver when I think of the pine system of email I logged into for college just 12 years ago} comes a new era of distractions.  Besides the typical office noise we all face, we're distracted by our own gadgetry as well. While I love being productive and crossing tasks off my to-do list, I can always tell when I'm in a mood for distraction by how frequently I refresh my email, Pinterest, blog stats, or Facebook.  I don't think I'm the only one either.  Guarding ourselves from ourselves can be just as difficult as protecting our time from office time sucks, such as seemingly pointless meetings and co-worker chatter.

Thus, in case you are not totally tech-savvy like me {meaning I'm not at all}, here are some productivity boosters you may not be aware of.  I have broken them into several categories: free Firefox add-ons, a free white noise online generator, and some ergonomic products known for efficiency.

First, check out these great Firefox add-ons.

  • LeechBlock: a Firefox add-on that allows you to block sites so you can avoid their distraction.
  • Customize Google: CustomizeGoogle is a Firefox extension that enhance Google search results by adding extra information (like links to Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN etc) and removing unwanted information (like ads and spam). All features are optional and easily configured.
  • FlashGot: Download all the links, movies and audio clips of a page at the maximum speed with a single click, using the most popular, lightweight and reliable external download managers.
  • StatusBar: View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar - without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing.
  • Flashblock: Flashblock is an extension for the Mozilla, Firefox, and Netscape browsers that takes a pessimistic approach to dealing with Macromedia Flash content on a webpage and blocks ALL Flash content from loading. It then leaves placeholders on the webpage that allow you to click to download and then view the Flash content.
  • URL fixer: URL Fixer is an extension for Mozilla Firefox that corrects typos in URLs that you enter in the address bar. For example, if you type google.con, it will correct it to google.com (asking first, if you enable confirmation).
  • Tab Mix Plus: Tab Mix Plus enhances Firefox's tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager.
  • ScrapBook: Helps you to save Web pages and organize the collection.

And, a final productivity booster for any browser:

Now, take a look at these ergonomic products that maximize on comfort and minimize movement, thus making any workspace more efficient.
  • Ergonomic Mini Keyboard: a smaller, more compact design helps minimize movements for faster typing
  • Ergonomic Mouse:  a handshake grip like this Evoluent mouse offers is much more comfortable and prevents straining; pair it with a slim-lined ergo keyboard that lets you pull it in close, and you have an efficient little typing space!

Finally, be sure to take a look at these productivity tips for mousing and a mini keyboard.

Check out these free productivity add-ons, a free white noise generator, and efficient ergonomic equipment to get a little boost at work.

Posted in ergonomic keyboards , ergonomic mouse , mini keyboard , productivity , Uncategorized , white noise | Make a Comment

using Light Therapy & Heated Ergo Products for SAD

Tuesday January 10, 2012

Dreading January & February?

The post-holiday season can be quite depressing for many people for a variety of reasons.  Some are just sad Christmas is over and time with family is shortened again.  Others just crash after running on adrenaline for so long.  Still others struggle with the colder climate and literally shorter days with so much less sun light.  Being cold and not seeing the sun very much isn't exactly an exhilarating way to spend the winter, regardless of how seasons naturally work.

In fact, many people struggle so much with the weather and decreased sunlight they are diagnosed with a seasonal form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known quite appropriately as SAD).  While there is medication you can get from your doctor, you might be interested in knowing there are some more "natural" ways to brighten your mood and deal with the effects of SAD.  

Warm Up & Brighten Up!

Usually it's the cold and the added dark hours that get people down in winter, even clinically speaking, so dealing with those two factors is essential in dealing with your own mood and boosting your productivity.  Here are some office remedies you can try.

  • Warm up! Winter is cold.  Plain and simple.  If you don't have access to a thermostat or find that you are still cold, there are some great ergonomic products made just for you!  You won't need them all, but just using a heated keyboard, heated mouse, or heated foot pad will keep your fingers and feet (the outer extremities of your body) toasty warm and much more likely to keep working well.  Plus, you won't dread coming to work or feel the need to dress in 17 layers.
  • Brighten up! Whether you don't like the dark, or, like millions of others, you actually suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), adding light through the use of light therapy is sure to brighten your work space and your mood!  An improved mood usually aides in productivity.  Plus, it's portable, so you can take it home with you for the long evenings and late-to-arrive mornings, too.  Many people enjoy them in their kitchens.

Don't dread these early months- make the most of them by staying warm and feeling less depressed even if you suffer from SAD.

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Tips for Wrist Pain & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Thursday January 5, 2012

While Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been a medical condition for quite some time, more and more people are reporting pain in their wrists and hands as a result of their computer-related work.  It used to be that musicians and hand-workers suffered in the sensitive carpal tunnel area, but now anyone who repeatedly uses their hands and wrists to type, mouse, or text can be a victim of CTS.  

Read below for a definition, symptoms, and some ergonomic tips to help you escape the pain and discomfort of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition named for the long, thin passageway known as the carpal tunnel.  The tunnel is about the size of your thumb and is on the palm side of your hand; it is surrounded by ligaments and bones.  The tunnel serves as a protective barrier for the median nerve that runs through the arm and into the wrist, hand, and fingers. This essential nerve sends the signal to bend and move the fingers. That's why straining this tunnel can be so painful- it is the center for all major hand, wrist, and finger movements.  When certain movements are repeated frequently or excessive pressure is put on this particular area, a host of symptoms may appear, often making the simplest of tasks difficult and even painful for many.

What Are Some Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You'll typically notice pain in the hand, wrist, or fingers.  Some people feel burning, tingling, or even numbness in those areas, which can be not only frightening but a real liability for work. If you notice any pain, burning, tingling, or numbness, do not hesitate to contact a doctor, and at the very least spend time correcting your typing posture and habits. Check out the tips below to avoid the onset of CTS and find relief.

Tips for Relief of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Correct your posture.  You may not realize that there is proper and improper hand and wrist positioning.  Essentially, DON'T bend or cock your wrists.  DO everything you can to avoid cocking or bending of your wrists.  If you feel pain as you are typing, texting, or mousing, stop what you are doing and re-position yourself.

  • Try ergonomic products.  In particular, an ergonomic keyboard is designed to better your hands, while an ergonomic mouse makes mousing more natural and less straining for your wrists.  Regardless of what keyboard and mouse you're using, be sure to keep them side-by-side and on the same surface to reduce movement and therefore injury.  So, lastly, a keyboard tray will store both and at a lower spot so your arms, wrists, and hands can work more comfortably.
  • Wear a wrist splint. If you're already experiencing wrist pain, one of the trouble spots is night time.  So often, we flex our wrists and sleep with them in quite odd positions, never even aware of it.  Thus, wearing a wrist splint at night time can protect you from doing more harm.

Using an ergonomic keyboard and ergonomic mouse at work and wearing a wrist splint at night can greatly reduce wrist pain and injury.

Posted in carpal tunnel syndrome , ergonomic keyboards , forearm pain , hand pain , repetitive strain injury (RSI) , Uncategorized , wrist pain , wrist pain , wrist splint | Make a Comment

Why You Should Make New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday January 3, 2012

Why Don't We Make Resolutions?

It's past the first of the year, so why are we talking about New Year's Resolutions?  We're talking about them because you didn't make them.  Whether you put them off, or weren't in the mood, or felt they weren't worth the time, it's no surprise that a lot of people just skip the entire making New Year's Resolutions process.  While I understand the sentiment, having made far too many failed resolutions myself, I still believe in the process.  I believe in making resolutions because they force you to sit down and reflect on the previous year in light of the coming year.  However, I do advocate making reasonable resolutions since lofty goals are frequently unattainable and therefore quite demotivating.  Starting the year off negatively doesn't exactly spell success.

So, if you're going to make some resolutions, what should you resolve to do?  Rather than setting crazy-high goals, like tripling your profits or traveling the world on a tight budget, try to think of reasonable, achievable goals.  Some good examples that are fairly common are working out more, spending more time with family, quitting smoking, etc.  They're all great goals and worth the time and effort.   I'd like to suggest one more thing as you set you goals- if health, and better health at that, is a worthwhile goal, why not aim for ergonomic health, too?   Taking care of yourself ergonomically means being every bit as intentional at your desk as you are in every other part of your life.

Here are some pointers for ergonomic health you can implement as a New Year's Resolution.

  • One of the main things you can do is to keep your work space clean and organized so you don't over-reach to get the stuff you need (as a bonus, you'll feel better too).
  • Additionally, keep good posture.  Sit up relatively straight with your back and even your arms well-supported as you sit at your desk day in and day out.  Use a keyboard tray to keep your keyboard and mouse lower than your desk so that you keep your arms well-positioned, at a downward angle.
  • Lastly, never, ever cock your wrists as you type or bend any part of you awkwardly.

Making assessments of the past year and looking forward to the next is worth the time, even if you don't make every goal.  Just remember to make reasonable goals like maintaining ergonomic health.

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