Productivity tips

Customizing the Start Menu

The makers of Windows 10 promised that it would bring back the “old into the new”, and this does exactly that. The new start menu is a mix of old and new, with the menu coming up with the click of the start button on the screen. Another welcome addition to the family is Cortana, which takes cues from Siri and helps you voice search for everything. This Start Menu pulls in the new tiled look from Windows 8, giving you access to the Live Tiles without exiting the desktop. If you don’t like how the tiles are arranged or want to add new stuff to your Start Menu, you can customize it! All you have to do is hover the mouse cursor over the tile and right-click. You will see options to resize tiles to make them bigger or smaller, or you can unpin them too. If you do not like the Live Tiles, you have the choice to turn them off by ticking on ‘Turn the live tile off, and you’re good to go!

Say No

How many commitments have you made that don’t really need to be kept at all? Have you taken on tasks that don’t actually matter to you or anybody else? Is your calendar cluttered with meetings that don’t accomplish anything for organizations that you no longer care about? Has your day been hijacked by somebody else’s priorities? If your calendar is jammed, if your to-do list is miles long, take ten minutes or so to look at each item with a careful eye. Can any of those appointments or tasks simply be crossed off to create some reasonable margin in your life? When someone calls or appears at your door with a request for your participation in some activity, take a breath and consider whether it fits into your own priorities (which priorities, of course, might legitimately include keeping your boss or spouse happy). If the answer is no, then just say no. Practice it ahead of time: “Thank you for inviting me, but no.” “Thank you for asking, but no.” “Thank you for thinking of me, but no.” As a wise person has said, “no” is a complete sentence. No explanation is necessary. Just no. You may want to learn from Leo Babauta The Gentle Art of Saying No so you can set better boundaries for yourself.

Make your desktop stylish

Windows 10 gives you the ability and control and personalize more than ever before. You can do this by going to the Start menu and going to Settings. From there, head to Personalization and Colors. You can choose Show colour on the taskbar and Start. You can also ask it to pick a colour from your wallpaper and apply it automatically. More style to you!

Drag and drop

Third rule of Office Management: Be open to learning new tricks! These little-known methods can surprise even the pros: Let’s face it – typing creates typos, which cause repair work and drain your productivity. When an email requires a task or follow up, (i.e.: a contact needs to be created or an appointment is needed based on the information in the email), use the Drag-And-Drop method below: (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, or Notes)

  • “Drag and Drop”:  Simply click and drag the email and drop it onto the bottom left “Contacts” symbol on the Navigation bar.  Suddenly you’ve got a brand new contact with the email address and name automatically entered. Now, inside the Contact window, the Notes portion will have the person’s phone # and address (if included on their signature line.)
  • Use Copy (Ctrl C) and Paste (Ctrl V) to get the signature line items into the correct fields in the new contact window. Less typing, no typos, and your contact is created within seconds!
  • “Drag and Drop”: the email again onto your “Calendar” and an appointment will be made, plus it keeps all the detail from the email. So you won’t have to re-type into the appointment.
  • “Drag and Drop” an email onto the Tasks or Notes symbols on the Navigation bar. You can also reverse this:
  • Drag any Contact to Mail on the Folder Pane to create a new email to that contact.
  • Drag any contact to Calendar to create a new appointment
  • Drag any contact to Tasks

View the calendar and inbox side by side

Save your sanity and move the Calendar to your second monitor to easily view both screens side-by-side.

  • Right-click any of the bottom buttons on the Navigation Pane (aka Folder pane) (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, or Notes)
  • Choose “Open in New Window”
  • Now drag that window onto your second monitor

Show git branch name in terminal

If you don’t already use something like zsh. You cannot see the active branch name by default. This is such an annoyance for bash users. However you can do this without changing your terminal. This is such a handy among other Ubuntu tips and tricks.

Streamline your bookkeeping.

This is a huge pain point for many startup businesses. Although it pays to hire a professional as you grow, try QuickBooks and Xero when you’re starting out. Both integrate with one-click into BigCommerce.

Get design help on the cheap.

Need some simple graphic design help for a logo, PPC banner or social media ad?

  • Check out Fiverr, where as little as $5 can go a long way.
  • You can also use a service like 99designs for help with logo and site design.
  • Depending on the complexity and quality you need, you can also search for a design agency.

Monitor, measure, tweak, repeat.

Last, but not least, you need to monitor & measure your activities to see the profitability and efficiency in everything you do. By analyzing your activities continuously, you can identify when one task is starting to take longer than usual, or when one task that was once profitable no longer is. Here are some examples.

  • By setting up Google Analytics, you can find out which online marketing activities are driving traffic to your website. If you see that Facebook generates more traffic than Twitter, for example, you’ll know that you need to focus more of your efforts towards Facebook.
  • By using unique coupon codes in your email marketing campaigns, you can find out whether your emails are generating more revenue than your paid marketing.
  • By calculating how much an hour of your time is worth and using a timer to monitor how long it takes to do a specific task, you can find out whether something is taking long enough to justify delegating the task to an employee, hiring an employee to handle that task, or outsourcing it.

Batch your day into productive chunks.

One thing that can be time consuming in managing the day-to-day tasks in a business is bouncing back and forth between tasks. The ability to focus on one task at a time and keep a consistent rhythm can make it easier to finish that task in less time. Let’s say that you are a solopreneur that has to handle emails from customers, packaging and shipping products, and marketing via your social media networks. Instead of prepping an item to ship each time a sale comes in, answering emails each time the notification pops up on your desktop, and checking your social media networks in between, try batching.

  • Check and respond to emails at the beginning, middle, and end of the day.
  • Check social media network notifications and post a new update to your social media networks twice a day.
  • Set aside an hour or two before you need to leave to drop off packages or before your carrier comes to pick up packages to do shipping and handling preparation. By doing this, you’ll get into a rhythm with each task instead of having to start and stop throughout the day. This allows you to be productive with the time you would normally spend shifting gears from one task to another.
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