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My 5 Best Organizing Tricks

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My 5 Best Organizing Tricks

I’ve been away from Lifehack for a while, first running an unconference, then attending a conference, and I’ll be away a few days more to attend a funeral. Over these past several days, I’ve needed a way to stay organized, a simple, flexible way to get everything that needed doing handled without much effort, and with as much effectiveness as I could muster. This is all very related to David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but just my lightweight spin. Here’s what I did.

  • Carry 3×5 cards and a pen– At all times, I have a stack of 3×5 cards and a pen on my person. I write down thoughts, ideas, follow-up tasks, and contact information from people who don’t have a business card on hand.
  • Transfer this to electronic format quickly– I’ve learned that keeping info on the cards never helps me. Instead, I move all to-do items into Google Calendar, all contacts into Gmail’s contact list, and all ideas into 37Signals’ Backpack. In this way, I can act upon the things written on the cards.
  • Have an idea warehousehere) to store lists and notes about future projects, and also as a checklist of current active projects. By writing down ideas that I have that I can’t execute right away, it keeps my head clear.
  • Do frequent sweeps– Check in with what you’re doing at any given moment, and ask whether it’s applying to your larger goals. I do this often. I say, “What am I doing?” out loud or in my head probably 20 times a day. Now that I’m in the habit of doing it, I find it gives me a way to refocus my efforts, and continue executing on what needs doing.
  • Use Small Boxes I wrote a piece on my Grasshopper Factory site about Small Boxes, a method I’m using to prioritize and execute in my life. The basic premise is that we can THINK on a grand scale, but we need smaller metaphors with which to organize and execute. I like small boxes because it lets me work against small project lists, executing until I’ve cleared the list.

These were how I navigated the last several days, successfully conducted a 2 day unconference (not counting the help of a team of other dedicated people), attended and made good use of a major technology conference, and worked on dozens of projects over the last few days to meet deadlines. You’re welcome to tinker with my list as you wish. Did it make sense? Would you do it differently?

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Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com], and thinks about things at Grasshopper Factory

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

The easy fundamentals

First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

Here are some examples of strong passwords:
* i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
* ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
* mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

And not so good examples
* sammy1234
* password123
* christopher

You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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Managing your passwords

I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

Upkeep

You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

Alternatives

You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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  1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
  2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
  3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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