Dear Lifehacker, I’m trying to find software that could be used in conjunction with Dropbox or other features to allow people to put a signature on a document and email it back or otherwise. I’m trying to cut back on paper and hug some trees! Any suggestions? Thanks, Signing Up
Your high school science class may have you associating the word “pivot” with the wonders of basic mechanics, but in this age it’s been hijacked for another purpose — a term to describe switching up your established direction for something completely different.
Many of the physical setups and mental tactics we’ve recommended to banish desktop clutter and the like can be summarized by the 5S methodology. It’s a Japanese system consisting of five principles to keep any work station clean, labelled, orderly, and efficient.
We asked our editors and contributors to create a blue-sky wishlist for all things productivity and software in 2009. Read on for their responses, and to contribute your own do-wants for the new year.
Flowcharts are supposed to be a combination of words and line drawings anyone can grasp, but some software solutions get far too complex with them. LucidChart, an online flowchart creator that offers a free plan with 5MB of online storage, gets back to black-ink/white-background basics. The standard process/decision/input/etc. inputs are in a left-hand toolbar, the diagram background is graph-lined paper, and it works fairly snappy on most browsers. There are custom images for certain fields, and you can upload custom images if you’d like. But for those who just want a clean and easy PDF, screengrab, or print-out, LucidChart’s basic tools are best. LucidChart has a free plan that requires a sign-up. LucidChart [via MakeUseOf.com]
The New York Times’ Shifting Careers column interviews Peggy Klaus, author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills and noted proponent of the power of blogging, about the “soft skills” that everyone—especially the productivity-obsessed among us—can use occasional coaching on. Among the questions is one that any freelancer or over-scheduled office worker has probably pondered: How do you tell a boss or an important client that you can’t tackle a project, whether due to deadlines, preferences, or nearly any other reason. Klaus’ response:
All-nighters are usually symptoms of planning gone awry, but sometimes they’re just plain unavoidable. The Cranking Widgets Blog rounds up some hard-won advice on getting all the way to sunrise while actually getting your work done. Among the most valuable tips: Map Out Objectives Before Starting Work … If it’s 8:00 p.m. and you know you’ll be watching the sunrise from your desk, it’s best to plot out exactly what needs to be done on a sheet of paper and check things off as you complete them. You don’t want to have to count on your barely functioning brain to tell you what to do next, especially after you’ve been at it for several hours.
I must sadly admit I can vouch for that wisdom, as it’s all too easy to get sidetracked at 3 a.m. by web sites and other time holes. For more all-night advice, check out tips for pulling an all-nighter studying. Photo by patpompak. How to Work Effectively for 24 Consecutive Hours [The Cranking Widgets Blog]
While there’s something to be said for multitasking, a serial workflow—completing one task after another in order of priority—can be much more conducive to getting your work done. Splitting your attention between several tasks at once can slow you down compared to knocking off one focused task after another on an ordered list. Today I’m going to show you how to create a serial workflow platform with just a few simple tools that you probably already use: plain text, a couple handy extensions, and browser tabs.
Constant phone interruptions can break up even the most dedicated workflow. However, you can solve this by setting aside a specific time each day to return and make your calls. Productivity blogger John Cox has more: Folks will leave you messages. Return those messages at a set time. Try to say between 10AM and 11AM in the morning and 2PM and 3PM in the afternoon is the time that I call people back. Not before, not after. I suppose there could always be exceptions to the rule due to emergencies, but to be honest with you, I haven’t had to make the exception. The only reason that folks expect an immediate return call is because we train them into that behavior.
I’ve had to do this since I started working exclusively from home, and it’s cut my distractions down pretty drastically. If you’ve set aside a specific phone time, please share in the comments how this is working (or not working) for you.7 Habits [John Cox]