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10 Reasons Paper is The Most Flexible Productivity Platform

10 Reasons Paper is The Most Flexible Productivity Platform

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    Lifehack’s theme for April is productivity without power. I don’t know about you but those words instantly bring one word to mind: paper. Whether it’s a Moleskine, index cards, a regular notebook or just loose-leaf, paper can be one of the most flexible tools in your arsenal. Let’s take a look at ten ways you can use paper yourself.

    Hipster PDA

    Here’s the thing you always know is going to be mentioned when an article’s title combines the words “paper” and “productivity” — it’s the classic Hipster PDA. Merlin Mann came up with the idea in 2004 when he got sick of carrying his Palm V around. Essentially, the “device” intends to replicate the organizational functions of a PDA without the electricity and is made from index cards.

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    Capturing Memory Leaks

    Often termed ubiquitous capture, there are a gazillion powered options for capturing ideas, forgotten tasks and other memory leaks in one of those “oh no!” moments. Nothing really does beat pen and paper, though — it won’t disappear when there’s no power or crash and freeze before you can hit the Ctrl+S. Paper is easily accessible and reliable. Unless, of course, you mix coffee, children and small spaces.

    Brain Dump

    In my mind, there’s something demanding about an empty word processor window, but something freeing about a blank sheet of paper. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I spend a heck of a lot of time working in word processors, but when I need to sweep my mind and get all the loose ends down the easiest, fastest, and most comprehensive way involves paper. I can empty my brain organically with lines and free association and all that literary-hippy stuff, rather than facing the cold, harsh linearity of the word processor.

    Task Lists

    I have always found that the most effective task lists for a one-day timeframe are paper-based. While I’ll use software to manage tasks in the greater scheme of things, my day’s plan of action is always mapped out on paper — at least those days where I’m reasonably effective are! You can read a bit more about my method of doing things here, and I strongly urge everyone to consider trialing this method. Task management software is so ubiquitous these days that many people don’t even give paper a week or two’s chance.

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    DIY Planner

    Here’s a resource that deserves a section of its own: DIY Planner. This website hosts a plethora of printables for all sorts of things — productivity, writing tools, psychology, and more. Unfortunately it can be a bit tough to separate the printables from the articles (not that there’s anything wrong with the articles, but sometimes you just want to get straight to the goodies). Despite that, it’s still worth a good look-through. Sure, you need a computer and a printer in the first place so it’s not exclusively powerless. Just make sure to stock up before the power grid explodes!

    Flash cards

    Every now and then we need to memorize things. Whether you’re learning some vocabulary in a new language or the lines in your presentation, sometimes the old-fashioned flash card method is the way to go. While there are apps for the computer and most phones that do this it can be simply more convenient to whip out a stack of cards in your wallet when you’re out and about. Why waste those idle moments?

    Idea Generation

    When my main income source was freelance writing, every couple of weeks I’d run dry on ideas. When you’re writing for more than fourteen hours a day it’s not hard to do at all. So I’d schedule a block of time every two weeks to sit down with a pen and one of those large drawing notebooks (like a Moleskine but with the wire binding) and brainstorm enough ideas to last a few weeks, and sometimes a month or two. I always kept the excess in an emergency reserve in case I came up dry two weeks later.

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    As I mentioned when I wrote about brain dumping, paper doesn’t have to be as linear as a word processor, so it’s that much easier to come up with more ideas on paper just by drawing lines and creating strange associations between ideas.

    Organize Contacts

    You could use an old-fashioned address book and put it by the phone. You could keep regular print-outs for everyone in your computer-based contact manager plus notes and client histories in a binder, since if your only backup of your digital address book was accidentally wiped you could be out of business.

    Or you could organize your contacts by throwing every business card you ever receive into a binder. Pretty cool, eh?

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    Organizing Your Family Life

    A whole lot of information flows through the family home. Important information from your doctor, permission slips to sign for the kid’s school, family events and birthdays to remember, the list goes on. Unclutterer offers an excellent paper-based idea to help you keep your home life as organized as your work life: the central home binder.

    A Funnel for Your Car

    We can’t finish this list without including one of the most common uses for paper that has persisted for decades.

    Well, not really — I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I do end up trying one day since our car is so poorly stocked; Brett Kelly of Cranking Widgets brings us the index card funnel.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

    It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

    To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

    So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

    1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

    We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

    Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

    Stop focusing on the material objects

    Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

    Plan gifts in advance

    We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

    Suggest a better way

    If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

    Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

    You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

    Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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    2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

    It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

    If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

    How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

    Here’s what you can do:

    Set a healthier pattern

    For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

    Get a fitness watch

    Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

    Find a physical activity that you enjoy

    Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

    Try intermittent fasting

    This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

    Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

    You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

    3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

    In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

    But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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    These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

    Leave bigger intervals between meetings

    If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

    Plan time to relax

    As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

    Try to be a little pessimistic

    We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

    Try waking up earlier

    Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

    Plan your day the day before

    Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

    Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

    If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

    4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

    If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

    Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

    Binge-watching TV series

    Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

    You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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    Running on coffee

    Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

    As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

    Procrastination

    Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

    Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

    If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

    Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

    5. Stop over-consuming

    We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

    Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

    • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
    • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
    • Can I rent it?
    • Can I make it myself?
    • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

    For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

    Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

    6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

    Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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    But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

    Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

    Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

    For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

    Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

    Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

    Set your phone on flight mode

    When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

    Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

    You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

    The Bottom Line

    As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

    But this year, promise yourself this:

    Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

    Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

    Reference

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