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Here’s another layer to the dictation skill we presented in a previous post to help increase personal productivity using dictation.

Inspired by a Chicago time management client when they decided to use Chase Mobile Dictation to streamline meeting note completion from the road, we are now resurrecting the Dragon Dictation app loaded onto our phones to help draft client session notes. (More about our client session notes here.)

We plan to experiment with using this tool after each client session. Working from hand-written notes, we will speak our thoughts into our phones. Since Dragon Dictation only allows dictation in one-minute increments, we’ll record new normals and next actions pausing between points. Then, we will email the draft to ourselves for additions and corrections before sending to the client. (You’ll find sample new normals here.)

We are excited to add this new twist to our time savings and see how we can further use dictation to increase productivity.

How are you deploying dictation? Are you using it more with your phone or on the computer? We’re curious, so do tell.

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?


2 people on couch with PCs

There are many free and easy-to-use tools available to make collaboration more productive. This post touches on a few of the ones we often use. Some we have mentioned in previous blogs, and some are being shared for the first time. We hope these tools help boost your personal productivity.

  1. Google Docs – share ‘in process’ documents. Have multiple people all contributing to one document with ease.   

  2. Google Calendar – share calendars. Overlay multiple calendars to have both shared and private calendars in your single view; and, these calendars can be sent/updated instantaneously to your smart phone as well.   

  3. Wokflowy – share (unlimited!) task lists; add notes and mark items complete.   

  4. SugarSync – share attachments without taking up space in other’s email. Recipients simply follow the link and are able to download a shared attachment.   

  5. – share websites, podcasts and other internet favorites along with your annotations. Create your own stacks (groupings) and tags for items too.   

  6. – share availability with others to determine the best time to meet.

  7. = share mind maps. Have multiple people contributing at once, or on their own timing.

We know there are numerous nifty tools to make it easier to work with others in the electronic world. We hope you enjoy these tools and will share some of your favorites with us!

If you spend a lot of time in Microsoft Office Outlook, then a sure way to save time is to learn keyboard shortcuts for repetitive maneuvers. We suggest you learn a couple at a time, and soon you will be zipping around your keyboard faster than using your mouse or track pad.
Following are our top 15 favorite Microsoft Office Outlook (2007) Keyboard Shortcuts:

CTRL+1 Switch to Mail
CTRL+2 Switch to Calendar
Create new appointment
CTRL+Shift+Q Create new meeting request
CTRL+E  Search/find message or other item
CTRL+F Forward email
CTRL+K     Check names (when addressing emails or tagging items)
CTRL+N Create new email
PLUS or MINUS Expand/collapse Nav Pane group (with a group selected)
CTRL+R Reply to message
Create new contact
CTRL+Shift+K Create new task
CTRL+Shift+U Create new task request
CTRL+Enter Send
 F7 Check spelling

Excited about how these handy shortcuts can save you time? There are more opportunities to work faster and happier in email. Check out these prior blog posts and try being less organized (less sorting) and separating action emails from reference ones.

On a roll and want more… please join us for a quick, hands-on class to reclaim control and find peace in your email. Email Exhale will meet on Tuesday, May 1 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm in Chicago at Catalyst Ranch. Please register online through Dabble. We would love to see you there!


A handful of folks for whom I’ve served as time management coach described themselves as chronically late in their initial productivity assessment. Another handful mentioned they were frequently late for things that started in the morning hours–as they were, shall we say, allergic to early.

If you can relate, shed the worry of waking up on time. Try one of these wake-up call services we identified in our research so you can ease out of slumber and into productivity.

For those who enjoy variety…

Wakeupland is a 10 year-old online interfacing application with many options: 

  • Packages include wake-up and reminder calls that can be scheduled months in advance with the ability to see a list of schedules calls 

  • Selection of prerecorded messages in a male or female voice (with various accents!) and one free snooze (up to 11 snoozes/wake-up call available for additional fee…but, as you might have guessed, I don’t recommend snoozing)

  • Spice up your wake-up calls by choosing a daily weather report, joke, Psalm, quote, or other fun snippet

  • Reminder calls offer customized text-converted-to-computerized-voice feature or choose from a selection of pre-recorded messages in a male or female voice

  • First week is free, then choose from monthly and annual plans, i.e., $4.99 to $6.49/month

For the heavy sleeper…

Snoozester is also a comprehensive online interfacing tool offering: 

  • Wake-up and reminder calls that can be scheduled months in advance with the ability to see a list of scheduled calls

  • Selection of pre-recorded messages with a variety of male or female voices (with various personas!)

  • SecureAwake feature which attempt to call you every few minutes until you answer the phone and acknowledge you are awake

  • Schedule recurring wake-up calls and reminder calls

  • Reminder calls offer customized text-converted-to-computerized-voice feature or choose from a selection of pre-recorded messages in a male or female voice; can also send a text message with the reminder

  • First 10 calls are free; then, choose from prepaid or monthly plans; i.e., $3.99 for 35 calls/month or $6.99 for for 130 calls/month 

For those who want a more gentle awakening…

Voice Alarm Clock is an iPhone and iPod Touch app offering:

  • Avoiding phone rings and alarms entirely

  • Wake up to a recording of someone’s voice/a special message (think Walt Disney World and waking up to Mickey Mouse ensuring you it’s going to be a magical day)

  • Wake up to your favorite song or playlist

  • Turn snooze functionality on and off

  • Seven traditional alarm sounds (but who wants that?!)

  • Download for $.99 with promises of new features on the way

Avoid oversleeping, running late or skipping morning essentials by using one of these or other wake-up services. Set reminders to ensure you do not forget medication, paying a bill, or an appointment. And, wake up to a friendly voice instead of the repeated, siren bursts of an alarm clock.

Please share your experiences with these or other methods for ensuring you’re on time.

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Whether in a cubicle, airplane, or cafe, have you ever been reluctant to work on a task because others around you may view your screen? Similarly, have you felt distracted in your work, not sure of who may be passing by? Is it an option to work on nonpublic data in places where proximity presents challenges?

Chicago Professional Organizers at a recent NAPO meeting were able to learn first hand from 3M about a product that provides great assistance in these situations: privacy filters. These sleek, film-like covers adhere directly to your screen to introduce a layer of screen data privacy and thus increase your productivity in challenging places. Users view their screen with great clarity head on and within a 60° window. Outside of this window, a viewer will see only an empty screen.  

The 3M privacy filters are clear, removable and multifaceted in providing your technology choice (laptop, monitor, ipad, smartphone) with:

  • screen darkening privacy

  • anti-glare/anti-reflection

  • screen (scratch/fingerprint) protection

They are made specifically for each technology device, allowing laptops to easily close and iPad, tablet, and smart phone touch technology to be unaffected. The adhesive, in typical 3M style, was designed to allow users to not only safely remove the filter, but also to easily flip between the reversible glossy and matte (anti-glare) finishes on opposite sides.  

Although the screen darkening functionality could be misconstrued by those around you as staring at a blank screen, it is a simpler option than delaying confidential tasks, or manufacturing your own private-polling booth to cover your screen.

Would a product like this increase your productivity at work or in public places?

bing search boosts productivity

In the past I’ve detailed how to use search engine operators to increase internet search efficiency using Google. Today I’ll explain three situations when using Bing might speed up particular searches.

When Scanning Results by URL is Important

Google stacks their page title and URL links on top of one another, making the URLs tougher to read in my opinion:

Google Results Stacking resized 600

Whereas Bing separates them with descriptive data. I find this subtle difference useful in scanning for results by URL.

Bing Results Stacking resized 600

When Searching for Directions

Google requires an additional click to get from an address search to requesting directions:

Google Map Results resized 600

Whereas Bing allows for dropping the second address in from the first screen. (They also remember addresses from previous seaches, making directions to frequently-visited spots quicker to find.)

Bing Map Results resized 600

When You Want to Book Travel

While both search engines do a fabulous job of allowing for flight searches, Bing has a feature I find useful when making purchase decisions. They graph the daily low fair history as well as give you a price prediction complete with buy now or wait advice.

Bing Flight Search resized 600

What things does Google do well that make your heart throb? What Bing specialties have I missed? How do you use search to get more done in less time?

P.S. If you know me well, then you know I wrote about Bing today (2.23.12) because they are featuring my home state. That’s right. That bridge stretches across one of the more beautiful spots in West Virginia. Ahhh. I can almost breathe in the mountain air.

get faster

Many times the simplest time management solution is to learn how to complete tasks more quickly. I recently showed you how to increase productivity through split-screen computing with a single monitor. Today I’m going to reveal ten other nifty Windows 7 shortcuts to help you compute faster at the office. (Other platforms share some of these shortcuts.)

You likely already know the basic shortcuts like Ctrl+X for Cutting and Ctrl+V for Pasting, so I’m going to point out lesser known back roads…several of which require using the Windows key as shown: windows key
1. Windows+E, open Windows Explorer

windows explorer


2. Ctrl+Shift+N, create new folder in Windows Explorer

3. F2, rename selected item

4. Ctrl+Shift+Esc, open Windows Task Manager


Windows Task Manager resized 600

5. Ctrl+Arrow Keys, move around words and paragraphs

  • Ctrl+Right Arrow, move cursor to beginning of next word

  • Ctrl+Left Arrow, move cursor to beginning of previous word

  • Ctrl+Down Arrow, move cursor to beginning of next paragraph

  • Ctrl+Up Arrow, move cursor to beginning of previous paragraph

6. Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Key, select block of text

The following short video shows numbers five and six in action, as it’s hard to understand the value just by reading their descriptions.

7. Windows+D, display desktop

8. Windows+M, minimize all windows

9. Windows+Number, start program pinned to taskbar in position indicated by number; if program is already running, switch to that program

10. Alt+Windows+Number or Right Click+Pinned Program, open Jump List for program pinned to taskbar in position indicated by number

Windows Jump List resized 600

BTW, here’s where Microsoft keeps their master list of shortcuts. Which ones have you found most useful? What go-to shortcuts did I miss?

dual monitors increase productivityMany studies have been conducted on the merits of adding a monitor to increase productivity. According to a survey by Jon Peddie Research, you can increase productivity between 20 to 30 percent depending on the activity.

Two Chicago productivity coaching clients of mine have a four-monitor system like pictured. I wonder where the line in between enhanced time management & loss of production due to distractions?

If you don’t yet have two screens or if the budget/IT support doesn’t allow, consider using Windows 7 functionality to deliver dual screen advantages with only one monitor. That’s right, Windows 7 OS allows you to view & work from two screens–moving your mouse from application to application without rendering either useless as was the case in older operating systems.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Open the documents or websites you want to view side by side. (Note: if you want to look at two of the same application side by side, you will need to open the application twice.)

Step 2: Go to the screen you want to view on the left. Hold the Windows icon key down & tap the left arrow key (or drag the top edge of the window to the left edge of your screen & let go). This will move your first window to the left.

windows 7 dual screen shortcutStep 3. Go to the screen you want to view on the right. Hold the Windows icon key down & tap the right arrow key (or drag the top edge of the window to the right edge of your screen & let go). This will move your second window to the right.

dual screen increase productivity

I use this maneuver for cutting & pasting from one program to the next, and for looking @ my calendar when drafting an email. What situations do you find having dual monitors useful?

Thanks to office products powerhouse W.B. Mason, I was in Philadelphia last week training folks on how to customize office products to get more organized using Organizational Bling Bling and coaching people on how to exchange bad email habits for good using our Email Exhale program.

The following videos from the Life Contained Personal Productivity YouTube channel coincide with the email management lessons:

Use X1 to Search


Open to Calendar in Outlook


 Change Send/Receive Settings


 Turn Off Notifications


 Create Outlook Rules


 Customize Outlook Toolbar


 Delay Send by :02

 Monday-Friday Email Folders

Another hot topic among the group was how to add code to Outlook so you never forget another attachment.

What additional videos do you want us to create so time management is improved in your office?

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Our advice on how to organize time with a budget. We trust it will help you to be more realistic about scheduling so you accomplish the important stuff.