10 Ways GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity

4. Learn something new | Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

This is the fourth in a series of 10 articles that give suggestions meant to improve the over-all quality of your life.

4. Learn something new. Pick a topic, preferably something you know nothing about and learn something about it. A good source of inspiration for this can be the newspaper or Wikipedia. It helps to retain it if you have time to make a note of what you learned or explain it to someone else, but even if you don’t get the chance to do that, your brain will thank you for the new patterns you introduce as you learn something new every day.

Learning something new daily will can:

Once you’ve got new ideas rolling around in your head you will be surprised at the patterns that start forming. Connections will be made from seeming unrelated topics–that’s the stuff from which innovation comes. If you’re not doing it already, learn something new every day.

If you need somewhere to start, check out the following books that I’ve found to be good inspiration for learning:

“On Intelligence” (Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee)
“Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means” (Albert-Laszlo Barabasi)
“Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye” (Michael R. LeGault)
“The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few” (James Surowiecki)

As you’re searching for books, don’t forget to turn to the classics as well. Have you read Don Quixote? War and Peace? These are books that will change the way you think forever.

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10 Ways GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity

3. Do Something Bold | Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

This is the third in a series of 10 articles that give suggestions meant to improve the over-all quality of your life.

3. Make it a point to do something bold every day. Step out of your comfort zone, leave the routine even if for only a second. This might mean talking to someone that you generally wouldn’t talk to or starting a project that you feel intimidated by. There is no need to plan it in advance–though that might help at times, usually though you’ll find a point during the day when ‘two paths diverge in the woods’ and you have the change to take the one less travelled by. Take it. When there is something that we aren’t accustomed to doing we naturally set up mental barriers against it to protect ourselves from the thought of doing it. It takes a bold move to act and break those barriers.

Doing something bold every day doesn’t mean changing the world, it just means making a conscious effort to do something that will get your adrenalin pumping for a second or to by changing your routine. Taking calculated risks is healthy.

If you want to track your progress (which is always good) write down the bold thing you did in your journal. It will be fun to look back after time and see what you considered bold a week, month or year ago.

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10 Ways GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity

2. Get in the Zone | Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

This is the second in a series of 10 articles that give suggestions meant to improve the over-all quality of your life.

2. Get in the zone. This is also called “achieving flow.” There is a lot out there on what it means to ‘get in the zone’ or how to achieve it–it’s something you have to discover for yourself. Look for the formula that lets you ‘get in the zone’ by experimenting and once you’ve found it, apply it to your work or play every day. Not only will these be your most productive moments in life (the 20% of the time where you accomplish 80% of the results) but it will be a boost to your confidence that will alter the decisions you make elsewhere in life.

The concept of Flow was introduced by a scientist named Csikszentmihalyi. Here is a simplified list (adapted from the Wikipedia article) of the conditions that help achieve a state of flow and how you’ll know you’re in the zone. Your results may vary.

To get into the zone:
1. Have clear goals for what you want to accomplish
2. Create an environment where you can concentrate completely
3. Make sure you can get immediate feedback. You should be able to tell what is working or what isn’t so you can adjust your behavior quickly to keep in the flow.
4. The activity shouldn’t be either too easy or too hard.
5. The activity should be intrinsically rewarding.

You’ll know you’re there when:
1. You experience a distorted sense of time–“has it really already been 2 hours!”
2. You have a sense of complete personal control over the activity
3. You have a loss of the feeling of self-conciousness, the merging of action and awareness.

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10 Ways GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity

1. Think Daily | Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

This is the first of a series of ten articles that are written as a follow-up to a previous article on this site. In that article written a year and a half ago I gave 10 suggestions for ‘jump-starting success.’ This is a continuation and improvement on that list.

Once a day a post will be published containing a new step offering a suggestion of something that can be done every day (or as often as possible) that will improve your over-all quality of life. This means that if you put these suggestions in practice you’ll be happier, smarter and more fulfilled than you were ten days ago. If you continue after that, I believe these simple suggestions will be life changing.

I’m not an expert on the subject–in fact, my only qualifications are that it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about, read about and tried. If you’re only here for the software and tech articles, bear with me as I wander off into the realms of self-improvement, this will only last 10 days… that having been said, here’s the first:


1. Think daily. Meditate. Call it what you will but spend time each day alone with your thoughts. This surely isn’t the first time you’ve heard that advice, there’s a reason for that! There’s also a reason that this is the first step in the list. Doing the other things in the remaining nine suggestions without taking some time to reflect almost negates any benefit gained elsewhere.

When you schedule your thinking time, bring a pen, this is when your best thoughts and ideas will unfold. Things previously confusing will be clarified in your mind.

I’ve tried various ways of doing this–meditating with an ’empty mind,’ meditating with a mantra, praying, just sitting and thinking or even lying in bed thinking. They all work to varying degrees, and it’s interesting to try different styles of thinking to see what results from each.

With the amount of entertainment with-in easy grasp (cell-phones, tv, audiobooks, radio etc.) it is so easy to constantly stay in a state of either stimulation (when learning and doing new things) or vegetation (watching tv). It’s easy to go through several days, weeks or years at a time without truly pondering life, exploring your mind and seeking for meaning. Making it a point to think daily will prevent you from losing chunks of your life to the routine and mundane.

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Entertainment Knowledge Lifehacks

How to Have Better Conversations

Some time back I noticed two things:

  • I enjoy good conversations
  • I want to have more good conversations

Nothing revolutionary, but because of those things, I started thinking more about conversation and how to improve it. Here’s what I came up with.

These are some reasons that people converse:

  • Conversation brings back memories from your own life.
  • It validates your experiences and opinions and makes you feel understood and accepted.
  • It gives you knowledge about a subject you’re interested in. For example, what it’s like to live in South Africa, how it feels to be a parent etc.
  • It sparks ideas in you for improving your life, business or hobbies.
  • It gets you something you want.
  • It gives you the satisfaction that comes from convincing (or trying to convince) someone to change their opinion on some subject.
  • The feeling of satisfaction you get from helping someone feel better.
  • The power you feel for making someone feel bad. This is obviously not a good motive for conversation, but it is a real one nonetheless.
  • Conversation is a way to sort out your thoughts and feelings. By talking to someone who cares enough to listen, you often get the time and perspective needed to better understand yourself.
  • It’s an escape from stress and monotony. A way to laugh and lighten things up.

While most of these are valid reasons to have conversation, they don’t directly indicate what makes a good conversation. Ideally at the end of a conversation both people should leave looking forward to the next conversation. Before going on to how to have a good conversation, here are a few things that make conversation unenjoyable.

  • You didn’t feel listened to. The other person either didn’t stop talking long enough for you to speak, or when you were talking they were too busy thinking about the next thing they were going to say to hear what you were saying.
  • You didn’t feel understood. Despite the fact that the other person was listening intently, you didn’t feel like he or she actually understood what you were saying.
  • You felt manipulated. The other person tried to get you to do or say something you didn’t want to do or say.
  • Gossip. While tempting, gossip generally does not lead to a good conversation. It destroys trust–how can you be sure the other person isn’t gossiping about you?
  • Intellectual inequality. It’s hard (but not impossible) to have a good conversation if one party perceives the other as less (or more) intelligent. While this can still lead to a valuable and interesting exchange, it often does not.
  • Lack of common views. This can go both ways. If both parties to the conversation respect each other’s intelligence, differences in politics, religion, culture etc. can make for very interesting conversation and debates. On the other hand, if there is a lack of respect or extreme differences, conversation can become uncomfortable.

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Knowing what makes conversation good and bad, we can draw some conclusions about what to do in order to have a good conversation. Here’s the good stuff.

  • Don’t be selfish. It sounds harsh, but it’s not as obvious or easy as it seems. Conversation is give and take. There are times when you should listen and times to talk. Doing too much of either is not conducive to good conversation. Listen carefully to the other person then state your opinions after you understand theirs. Even if you are giving advice or teaching someone something, the listening/talking ratio should generally be around 50/50. In the end, the time you feel like you’re “giving up” to listen leads to better conversation. Everyone wins.
  • Prepare for good conversation. Read widely. If you know you’ll have a chance for a conversation, learn about the interests of the person you’ll be talking with. Keep up with the news. Broaden your knowledge. This not only will help you have interesting subjects to bring up, but it will help you understand the context of the conversation without interrupting it to ask for a definition. It’s is called cultural literacy.
  • Don’t manipulate, or in other words, be honest and up-front. For the most part, people will immediately recognize when they are being manipulated. You may get away with it, but the chances that the person will look forward to their next conversation with you are slim.
  • Reciprocate. If someone shares details about their life, it is natural for them to expect for you to do the same thing. It’s not good if after a conversation someone feels that they’ve laid their life bare before you and know nothing about you. The opposite is true as well.
  • Avoid gossip and complaining. Both of these things are extremely easy to do and both lead to negative, empty feelings afterwards.
  • Don’t be afraid to differ. Conversation is boring if everyone agrees. If you don’t agree, say you don’t and explain why.
  • Know and use your sense of humor in moderation. Figure out what’s natural for you and go with it.

I’ll finish by saying that I’m by no means an expert conversationalist so take my advice with a grain of salt, but hopefully you’ll find some of these tips useful. If you’ve got suggestions for having better conversations, by all means, comment!

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Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity Software Technology Web Services

11 Web Applications that are Ready for Primetime

I’m looking forward to the day I can use any computer with a web connection to be as productive as I am on my own computer. Most websites that try to replace desktop applications fall far short off their counterparts. In the meantime, here’s what’s ready and what’s not:

Ready to Use:

  1. Gmail – this one is obvious and nothing new. With well over 2gb of space I’ve completely stopped using a desktop mail client. I have about 6 email accounts and all go through Gmail. It’s nice getting it all in one place.
  2. Google Talk – while Google Talk isn’t as full featured as other IM clients, it has one great feature–logs are saved to Gmail and searchable right within Gmail. This is the case whether you use Google Talk from the web interface in Gmail or from a desktop client.
  3. Meebo – IM in the browser with meebo feels almost as natural as IM in a desktop client. Meebo is great for friends who don’t use Google Talk since it supports AIM, Yahoo, Jabber and others. It also saves chat logs, though they aren’t searchable yet. I’m not sure how meebo makes money since there are no ads, but I’m sure that will come.
  4. Google Spreadsheets – I’ve seen complaints that it’s not as full featured as it could be, but for the type of spreadsheets I make, it’s perfect. I love being able to collaborate in realtime on spreadsheets and even chat with people in the same browser window as the spreadsheet. I am a pretty basic spreadsheet user, but for me it’s already replaced Excel.
  5. NetVibes – I recently switched from Google’s custom homepage to Netvibes. I went kicking and screaming, but the tabbed pages, more compact interface and a few other things made their customizable homepage better for getting the news and reading blogs than Google’s. I guess this really isn’t a desktop app replacement, but it’s great to be able to log into it anywhere get a quick news fix.
  6. Google Calendar – this has completely replaced my desktop calendar application. It is full featured and integrates nicely with Gmail. Inviting others to events and sharing calendars is simple. Overall a very well done web application.
  7. Bloglines – there are a million blog aggregators out there. Bloglines was one of the first and is still the best. Some of the more interesting desktop aggregators let you sync your feeds so you can read them within the browser or within the desktop application but they still seem like more of a hassle than they’re worth. Why not just do it all from the browser?
  8. Remember the Milk – I defy anyone to find a faster, more featured to-do manager than Remember the Milk. It it excellent. Complete with keyboard shortcuts it makes managing to-do lists simple and much more pleasant than any desktop to-do list I’ve tried.
  9. Basecamp – This one is fairly specific to web development type projects, but Basecamp has been perfect for managing projects. I can’t even imagine going to MS Project after using it. The simplicity and effectiveness of Basecamp is excellent. Basecamp is the only one that I don’t pay for out of the list.
  10. Google Notebook – I use this for storing bits of information on random things. It’s been a hard switch from Notational Velocity (which is much better overall) but the convenience of having it all online has made it worth it.
  11. – It’s been more than a year since I bookmarked anything in a browser. has completely replaced browser bookmarks making them available wherever I am. Google Search History is also useful and falls in this category.

Almost there:

  1. Writely – I’ve tried using Writely for online word processing a la Microsoft Word, but they still just aren’t quite there. Imported documents don’t maintain all their formatting which is of utmost importance when using a Word Processor (otherwise I’d just make a text file). I’m sure that at some point Google will get Writely up to par, but for now I haven’t made the switch entirely.
  2. Flickr – I love Flickr for managing photos and hesitate to put it in the “almost there” category, but I still don’t feel comfortable enough keeping my photos ONLY on Flickr to say that it has replaced iPhoto or Picasa. Fluxiom looks like it might be featured enough to fully replace Flickr, but none of the plans fit my budget–even the one that costs 89 euros a month only lets you store 3gb of stuff.

Someone make this please:

  1. Online Budgeting – I subscribed to Mvelopes for a month or two but couldn’t get used to the strange Envelope budgeting mentality. I just want something decent with double entry accounting online. The one thing Mvelopes did do extremely well was pull data from all my financial institutions. From Paypal to my bank to my credit card companies, they connected to everything perfectly. They also offer bill pay to companies that don’t accept online bill pay. Mvelopes would be excellent if it weren’t for the whole non-traditional envelope paradigm.
  2. Online CRM – I’ve tried Sugar CRM and looked at for long enough to know that they are too tedious for me to ever want to use them. I’m looking forward to Sunrise from 37Signals.
  3. Online Outline– I love Omnigraffle, but don’t get to use it as often as I’d like since I’m always going back and forth between Mac and PC. I would really like to see an online outliner that had similar functionality. I’ve tried Sproutliner and some of it’s offshoots but found them to be pretty lacking.

Might never happen:

  1. Photo Editing – I use Photoshop and Illustrator quite a bit for work and play. While there are basic image editing programs online, nothing comes even close to these.
  2. Video Editing – Again, there are basic video editing programs online, but I don’t foresee being able to connect my video camera and edit video in a browser like i would in iMovie or Final Cut.
  3. Text Editing – (programmers only) – TextMate is my choice of text editor. I still see text editing as the domain of desktop applications. Maybe later I’ll go into more details here. When TextMate isn’t available, I’m comfortable using Vim, but to use that I still have to have an SSH client.
  4. Music – Things like Pandora and are really nice, but I can’t see anything completely replacing desktop music applications in the near future. It’d be nice if something came along and surprised me though.
Knowledge Software

ListLearn – Lists to Make You Smarter


I like lists! Really, who doesn’t? If I look back over the archives of this blog there are a significant number of lists–everything from finding domain names to finding success to my most recent post with 3 ways to deal with toddler tendencies.

I like lists.

A list is a concise way to obtain and share knowledge, a great way to start conversations and pique interest in new subjects. Lists are fun for trivial facts and are great ways to help remember things.

So, I decided to start an new blog dedicated to lists– – A blog that helps you get smarter through lists. I’m really excited about it–it’s a way to touch on a lot of different subjects in a format that works well online–lists. Check it out! Let me know what you think and feel free to submit an idea for a list or let me know if you post one on your own website. (marcus at vorwaller .dot. net)

A final note, if you haven’t looked at lately there’s a bunch of fresh content there as well.

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Business Knowledge Money Web Services

How to Find a Great Domain Name

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Good domain names are out there, but they can be hard to find. Here are some tools to help you in your search.

  1. Dislexicon – Takes common words and adds suffixes and prefixes. It even gives you the meaning. This site is great for finding short domain names that look like they could be real words.
  2. JustDropped – This site lets you search for domain names that have recently expired. You get a few searches for free with limited results. I’ve found that the free searches are usually adequate for my needs.
  3. Word Mixer – This one lets you enter up to five words which are mixed up into new, semi-pronouncable words. The same website also has a couple other tools that are useful such as the random words tool which is hit or miss, and the mixer seeds page.
  4. WordFinder – This is actually a tool for crossword puzzles, but it can also be very useful for finding a domain name.
  5. DomainsBot – This search engine is geared specifically towards finding a domain name. It works best if you’re looking for a compound-word domain rather than an invented word.
  6. Online Generators – If all else fails, sometimes you’ll find a gem using one of these online generators. This is usually a last resort for me though, they tend to suck up your time without out producing much.

If you find a great one that you can’t use, but want to make some cash on, this is the place to sell it.

Once you’ve found one, there are about a million places to purchase it. I personally like – good price and easy to use. Good luck… there are a ton of great names left!

Business Knowledge Money


What I learned today:

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, known as SOX, has caused some major changes in the way public companies must do their accounting. This act imposes strict regulations on companies in the wake of Enron and other accounting catastrophes of recent years. Audits are now much more time consuming and expensive. Many businesses have been “fired” by their Big Four accountants (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Price Waterhouse Cooper) since there is so much more work available. These displaced businesses are now forced to find accountants elsewhere and have turned to smaller (and less expensive) auditors.

Exciting stuff, huh? Maybe not, but what it means is that accountants are more in demand now than ever. If you (or someone you know) is looking for a career, maybe they should consider going into accounting.

Source – INC Magazine, August 2005 Page 19

I also found XPize today, which makes Windows XP look a lot like Windows Media Center–a nice change. I found Crimson Editor also for Windows–it’s a free text editor with tabs, file browsing, projects and syntax highlighting. I really it like so far. I came across Temptation, software that tries to prevent you from web-browsing when you should be working. Finally, StrongSpace, basically a glorified SFTP server with a web GUI, by TextDrive opened today and looks really nice. It’s nice to see another real-world implementation of Ruby on Rails (which I’m learning).

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Business Design Knowledge

Paul Frank is Your Friend

This is the first in what will hopefully be many similar posts to follow. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on various topics–from business to programming to real estate. In order to retain the information better myself as well as pass it on, I plan on posting some of what I learn here. The posts will be in the category “knowledge” as well as in the other categories they might belong in.

Paul Frank – Paul Frank’s design business is worth $100 million. He started the business with $5000 borrowed from his friend Ryan’s stepmom in 1995. Paul Frank is 37 years old. Up until he was 31 he lived at home, but says he always felt successful anyway.

Paul Frank does not have a hard time getting licenses to use other companies logos. He says, as an example–“Any company can make a green t-shirt with a John Deere logo. Paul Frank makes a fine fashion bag that is printed gold inside with a John Deer logo in gold satin and on the outside is printed some of the very first John Deere vehicles. That’s not just a green t-shirt with a Deere logo on it. We look for companies or people that have integrity and class.”

Paul Frank does not pay for product placement.

Source – INC Magazine, August 2005 Page 88

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