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Have you noticed people whispering into their smartphones? Do you do it yourself? Using phone dictation tools encourages such behavior–and saves time.

Depending on the type and version of your smartphone, there are built-in voice recorders and apps that provide dictation ability without cost. Dictation allows hands-free recording of messages conveniently on the phone you are carrying. The voice recognition software automatically converts the recording to text which is up to five times faster than using the keyboard.


On the iPhone 4S (w/iOS 5), when the keyboard appears, tap the microphone icon to the left of the space bar and start talking. Tap done, and your words will appear as text. Use dictation to write messages, take notes, and more. Dictation also works with third-party apps, so you can update your Facebook status, tweet, or write and send Instagrams.

Speak punctuation words and phrases and see them translated into punctuation marks. For instance, say:

  • Comma
  • Period
  • Open/close parenthesis
  • Exclamation point
  • Colon
  • Ampersand
  • Question mark
  • Apostrophe
  • Quote
  • Hyphen
  • Dash
  • Semicolon
  • Slash
  • New line
  • New paragraph

And when on the go, iPhone 4S (w/iOS 5) users can ask their built-in voice control software, Siri, to call people, set up reminders and appointments, do Google searches, send texts and email messages, play music, and more.

Likewise, Siri users can experience their phones whispering back. They can ask Siri to read incoming text or email messages if they arrive when they are walking, driving, or in major sunlight.

For more on how we are going to use dictation to save time capturing notes, please visit this time management blog post. In what ways have you adopted dictation? What tips can you add?


relax by beach

Summer officially starts this week, do you have a summer vacation planned? When will you take time to injest the outdoors and relax?

Will you truly step away and go off the grid, or will your technology join you? For many people, vacations include laptops, ballgames involve watching children intermittently while responding to emails, and grilling out is done while placing an Amazon order on an iPad.

Although the advancement of mobile technology is very convenient, it has also led to the expectation of constant availability and immediate responses. The impulse to grab our iPhone before stepping onto the patio and our culture of multitasking at all times can be draining.

Just as books have white space around the text on each page to give our eyes some rest, likewise our bodies and mind frame need this same harmony of work and rest. This margin allows for balance and rejuvenation, enabling us to continue on with greater potential. Thus, being purposeful in our leisure time and releasing ourselves from technology will enable greater renewal and better output when returning to tasks.

This step of letting go can be very difficult. For suggestions on how to de-velocitize your life, check out this article. Are you up for the challenge? What are you doing this summer to put white space in your life?

Watch the following video or read the text below to suspend and help others to let go of perfectionism:

If perfectionism vexes you and prevents you from starting or finishing tasks, what words or phrases can you use to suspend the dysfunctional behavior so you can get unstuck? Following are four I find useful:


1 Experiment

For a recovering perfectionist like me, using the word experiment is liberating. When I want to try something new, I approach it as an experiment rather than a cold, hard fact of life. Things instantly get lighter and become approachable. Experiments aren’t perfect, they’re fun!

2 Doing things right versus doing the right things

This was one of the time management jewels from Randy Pausch’s body of work highlighting the failures of focusing on the wrong right.

3 Done is better than perfect

A fellow personal productivity coach taught me the power of this phrase. For instance, having this post published today in its current state is better than having it posted in a few weeks with a few more nuggets of gold. You might need the advice to make your weekend better!

4 Satisfice

One of Life Contained’s time management seminar participants touted the fourth mantra: satifice, a blending of satisfy and suffice.

The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy defines it as “an outcome that is good enough. Satisficing action can be contrasted with maximizing action, which seeks the biggest, or with optimizing action, which seeks the best…it is often rational to seek to satisfice i.e. to get a good result that is good enough although not necessarily the best.”

What language do you use to set your inner stickler free?

P.S. Feel free to point out typos and grammatical errors, as my non-perfectionist geek flag is flying freely.

I’ve written before about resolving to get organized. Today I’m going to reveal three of the tricks I use to change the contents of your brain to help manifest the change you want. Whether helping my work/life balance-seeking clients achieve new habits, or reaching toward my own declarations, I find these methods powerful.

Movie Making


establishing new habits resized 600

Playing out the change we want to see like a movie is a simple tool for creating new habits. A few reasons why this works because making the movie:

  • Allows our vision to take full shape

    • I envision myself looking & feeling healthier because I’m eating healthier

    • I see convenient healthy choices in the fridge every time I open it

  • Puts a spotlight on unrealistic expectations

    • I want to change the way I eat for every meal, but that’s not realistic; I’m going to start with eating healthier snacks

  • Calls for specificity

    • I see my husband buying more vegetables at the grocery store

    • I see me cutting up bell peppers and carrots on Sunday mornings before church

If-Then Planning

creating goals you'll reach

This Heidi Grant Halvorson article in Psychology Today outlines If-Then Planning, a technique first articulated by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer.

“If X happens, then I will do Y.

“X can be a time and place, like Monday at 9 a.m., or it can be an event, like the arrival of the dessert menu at a restaurant. Y is the specific action you will take whenever X occurs. …’Eat less,’ becomes something like ‘When the dessert menu comes, I will ignore it and order coffee.’

“Amazingly, you are two to three times more likely to succeed if you use an if-then plan than if you don’t.

“These plans work…because they speak the language of…contingencies. … Deciding exactly when and where you will act on your goal creates a link in your brain between the situation…and the behavior. … Below your awareness, your brain starts scanning the environment, searching for…the “if”. Once the “if” happens,…the “then” part…follows [almost] automatically.

Drawback Dwelling

Though it might seem pessimistic to dwell on the drawbacks of a new habit, I think it’s an important part of change. (I first say this concept articulated in Julie Morgenstern’s Shred book. Thanks, Julie!)

Let’s say, for instance, you want to exercise more. Follow a sequence similar to the following to allow for a little dwelling time on the drawbacks of such a change:

  1. Describe the specific change you want make: exercise for :30 three times weekly

  2. List the reasons you want to make the change: betting-looking body in a bathing suit; improved health; sharper reputation; enhanced self image

  3. List the drawbacks of making the change/the things you’ll lose to this new habit: couch time watching your favorite television show; sleeping in time with your spouse

  4. Rationally reconcile the pluses and minuses: I can record my favorite show and watch it at another time; I could even watch my show while walking on the treadmill if I set it up properly; I don’t really sleep in after 6:30…I just stall getting out of bed

  5. Draw a conclusion on whether or not you can rationally support the behavioral change: I will have to give up the luxury of laying in the bed doing nothing some mornings to exercise more, but having better health and a good-looking bikini body is totally worth it

What techniques do you find useful in following through on new habits?

(Our first conversation formulas were delivering constructive criticism and responding to criticism. This third conversation also has a companion video.)

self doubt spiral

Stopping the Self-Doubt Downward Spiral

Personal productivity is lessened when we’re trapped in a downward spiral of assuming the worst. Consider this formula to SNAP OUT OF IT! the next time you’re in this fix:

a. Write down the main points of the story you’re telling yourself, recognizing this is just a story, not facts.

b. Approach the main person in your story and say something like, “The story I’m telling myself is… Have I got that right?”

c. Allow the person to respond.

d. Continue the dialog, re-using the “The story I’m telling myself/hearing” phrase if necessary, until you’re both clear on how to move forward productively.

By delineating stories from facts, you’ll replace downward-spiral thinking with forward progress.

What phrases or techniques help you out of tight spots?

P.S. A Chicago PR man first introduced us to this idea. Then we read more about it in this book.

You know it’s bad when the productivity trainer in your life is providing procrastination aids, but this is just too good to pass up!

If you haven’t already visisted Google today, go now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Awaiting you is a fun game of Pacman…Google style.

There’s sound, so turn down the volume if you think you’ll get caught.

 pacman on google

Last week at the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conference I thanked industry legend, Barbara HemphillTaming the Paper Tiger at Work author, for writing the statement: Clutter is postponed decisions.

Simple, yet profound, this phrase is one I almost always include in my productivity training sessions. 


When you thoughtfully examine the items cluttering your desk and office, I suspect you’ll arrive in agreement with the sentiment–many items represent a postponed decision or action.

So why not make today the day you start changing your procrastination habit? Following are two questions to ask to make that happen:

What can I do in the next 15 to 20 minutes to move this forward? From The Now Habit author, Dr. Neil Fiore, this question propels many into action. No need to wait until you have enough time to complete the project. Do something now to prime the pump and maintain a forward motion.

By the end of the day, what do I want to accomplish in order to feel good about it? If you can make a habit of asking yourself this question, you’ll make a habit of getting the critical stuff done. Use this daily empowerment form to capture your ideas in the morning…and to confirm they’re getting checked off in the afternoon.

What questions do you use to prevent procrastination?

When I reached out to a fellow productivity trainer, Casey Moore, to ask about her favorite assertiveness training book, she referred me to the seminal piece When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel Smith.

Mr. Smith offers six systematic assertiveness skills you can start using today to harness a more assertive posture. This is the first in a series to showcase descriptions and dialogue examples taken from the book. (The 1970s references should give you a chuckle.)

broken record


“One of the most important aspects of being verbally assertive is to be persistent and to keep saying what you want over and over again without getting angry, irritated, or loud. In using broken record…don’t give up after you hear your first ‘no’…[and don’t be] deterred by anything the other person may say…keep saying in a calm, repetitive voice what you want to say until the other person accedes to your request or agrees to a compromise.

“SALESMAN: You do want your children to learn faster, don’t you?

CARLO: I understand, but I’m not interested in buying.

SALESMAN: Your wife would want her children to have them.

CARLO: I understand, but I am not interested.

SALESMAN: It’s awful hot out here, do you mind if I come in for a drink of water? 

CARLO: I understand, but I am not interested.

SALESMAN: You don’t understand or you would want to buy these for your children.

CARLO: I understand how you feel, but I’m not interested. 

“[With] stereotyped dialogues like this one…[you can learn to] change this compulsive habit of answering any question or responding to any statement… This habit is based upon our belief that when someone talks to us, we ‘should’ have an answer and ‘should’ respond specifically to whatever the other person says.”

What situations have you encountered of late where refraining from response and using the broken record technique might have delivered a better outcome? Who can you test using this method?

Someone I know and trust, Diane Testa, is co-hosting a Chicago workshop in January. I want to highlight her message…

“It’s time to acknowledge this past year’s accomplishments and chart your course for 2010.  Are you thriving in your life or in need of a change and new inspiration? In this results-focused workshop, you’ll learn how to live deliberately and create a more fulfilling life rather than have the outside world shape it for you.  With the help of a licensed psychologist, a corporate executive and feedback from peers, you’ll be able to shift your consciousness to a mindful and peaceful place, and walk away with a roadmap to your Good Life. Take advantage of this creative but practical approach to self-awareness, assessing your life inventory, living with intention and overcoming barriers to establishing your own personal definition of success.”

Register or find out more at Finding My Good Life.

Resolving to new habits before the start of a year is a ritual for most, and repeating a resolution year after year is the way of life for many.

So how do you go from pledging you’re going to do something to actually doing it? And how do you maintain the change over time?

Robert Fritz’s book, The Path of Least Resistance, describes how “the structures in some people’s lives lead to oscillation…moving forward and then backward, and then forward and then backward again…their attempts to change their life may work at first, and then not work, and then work again and then not work again.” He explains, “these people experience change, but it does not last.”

 reactive-responsive orientation He calls this the reactive-responsive orientation, an oscillating course characterized by reacting & responding to circumstances & external conditions.
 creative orientation He also presents a radically different life orientation embodying hope for lasting change: the creative orientation, a revolving state of being characterized by each person being the predominant creative power in their life.

One of the essential differences he describes between the orientations is something we hold true at Life Contained: change is initiated by changing the contents of your brain, not by attempting to change conditions outside yourself without also altering how you think.

Layer on another Fritz pronouncement, “what you choose to change does not depend on what you think is possible,” and you’ve got yourself powerful concepts for durable change.

Make a decision today to change how you think about being focused in the workplace, and then start changing how you work. Resolve to revolve.

Happy New Year!

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