New year, new unitasker.

Photo by ollyy (Shutterstock)

I never bother with New Year’s resolutions. However, I am a fan of self-improvement — especially through the act of incorporating subtle but effective changes such as with the practice of kaizen. I’m always searching for small ways to improve, and one simple way I am doing this is by letting go of my urge to multitask, and retraining my brain to become a laser-focused unitasker… or at least a little less scattered.

It’s no secret that master multitaskers are looked on in admiration by many. But much like with that badge of honor bestowed on overloaded professionals in today’s culture of busy, the correlation between our level of multitasking and our level of productivity may not be what you think.

Multitasking can make us feel like we’re being oh so efficient and getting so much done, but the truth of the matter is we’re deluding ourselves. In fact, several studies done in the last decade show that people who multitask are as much as 40% less productive, more easily distracted, and make more mistakes. Chronic multitaskers may even be permanently impairing their brain’s executive mental function.

But how do we quit multitasking when it makes us feel so fulfilled, so capable? Luckily, I’m not alone in my desire to regain control of my thoughts and attention. Founder and chief executive officer of THRUUE Daniel Patrick Forrester recently posited that when you stop multitasking, you “reimagine your relationship with thinking [and] allow room for your ideas to surface.” Indeed, I have found that just one small change has already helped me to become more mindful and less stressed, all while giving my creativity and productivity a slight but noticeable boost.

Research  shows that stress is significantly lowered by checking email only a few times each day. Plus, when constantly bombarded with messages from emails and phone calls to instant messages and notifications, people quickly lose focus as they begin switching their brain functions from one task to another.

To get started on my path towards a more zen workday, I made one simple change — the way I monitor my email. Instead of keeping a running tab on all those new messages, I set aside a block of time every couple of hours and spend that time doing only one thing — checking my emails.

It’s simple, but it’s true. Do less, and you’ll accomplish more. Next on my uni-task list? Take Forrester’s advice to remove “multitasking” from the skills section of my résumé, and replace it with “single-tasking thinker and leader.”

When good friends go bad.

Photo by samuiblue (
Photo by samuiblue (

In social media, even though a person may “like” you or be your “friend”, it doesn’t always mean they have your best interest in mind. For personal accounts, the process for blocking a Facebook user from “liking” you is simple, but when you have a business page with thousands of “likes”, it becomes very difficult to ban a specific user.

In order to do this, you have to view the entire list of people who have “liked” your page and then manually search for the right person. With only 50 additional name results showing up with each request to “show more”, Facebook has not made it at all easy.

Well, a client of mine was recently having trouble with a particular person and needed them removed. With more than 6,000 “likes” for her page, I knew I had to find an alternative way to remove the user.

Thankfully I did, and here it is: How To Ban Any User From Your Facebook Page

Don’t be scared off by the fact that you edit a little HTML – it is easy and gets the job done quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better tutorial, but if you have another suggestion please share it with me!

I ♥ screen captures.

I apologize ahead of time for the fact that this post is only relevant to Mac users. That said, back to the main point – I ♥ screen captures.

If you don’t already know how to do a screen capture on your Mac, it’s quite easy. (But even if you do, keep reading – you just might learn something new.)

To save a PNG file of the entire screen to your desktop, push down Shift + Command + 3. To get crosshairs that allow you to drag and select a specified area, simply do Shift + Command + 4. I’ve been taking advantage of this highly useful feature for years but it has one major drawback – it is extremely easy to end up with tons of screen capture files on your desktop.

Sure you can just delete them later, but when I recently came across a way to just copy the image instead of save it I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me sooner to look up a way to do so. Now, I only save the screen capture if I actually need to. Most of the time a simple copy and paste will do. And the magic set of keys to press? Well that’s easy – just add Control to the ones above and you’re good to go.

And for those of you who already knew all of that, maybe this last little piece of information will make reading this more worthwhile. Have you ever needed a quick and easy way to record a video of what’s happening on your screen? All you have to do is launch the QuickTime Player application and select New Screen Recording from the File drop down menu. Click on the red circle and you will be instructed on how to record all or part of your screen.

From software tutorials to technical support troubleshooting, there’s a multitude of uses for screen captures and recordings. For Windows users that need a little help, check out The Mystery of the PrtScn Key Revealed.

Living in the culture of busy.

I haven’t written anything for my blog in the past four months because I have been so busy doing work for other people and it just kept falling lower and lower on the list of my priorities. I finally decided though, that I needed to carve out some time for my own stuff, and it wasn’t hard for me to decide on a topic.

Photo by jesadaphorn (
Photo by jesadaphorn (

Being an extremely busy professional is definitely looked on in approval these days. Indeed, for years it’s been seen as a mark of true success. When was the last time you  heard someone going on about how they got 8 hours of sleep or had loads of free time over their weekend to catch up on family time? Nope. It’s seen as much more admirable to have slept 4 hours and spent your weekend toiling away on a project at work than spending a day relaxing with friends.

I know all of this. And I know it’s ridiculous to give so much credit to being busy. Yet, when work begins to take over my life, this sort of approval or recognition is often exactly the kind of thing I start to crave. It’s human nature, really. Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated? Who doesn’t want to feel like there’s a point to all of their hard work?

Compounding the issue is that fact that in this day and age it’s often difficult for the people you work for to truly understand the amount of effort you are putting in. Most of my own business is performed completely through online channels, never meeting face to face, with only the occasional phone or Skype conversation.

Just as Lisa Evans discusses in her article Why You Need To Stop Bragging About How Busy You Are we live in a culture of busy.

“Logging in long hours and complaining about not having any time in the day is considered a status symbol and a sign of success.”

But at what cost? When exactly will this culture change? Lisa’s article makes it sound like things could be turned around if only the boss would just go home first. But what about people like me with bosses from one coast to the next, and some even abroad? How can we even know when our bosses have “left the office”?

So I try to be aware and objective, to remember what truly matters, and to center my efforts on being effective and efficient. As I love to say – work smarter, not harder. With that said, I hope it won’t be yet another 4 months before I decide to make time for a little writing of my own.

Organizing in the new year.

I don’t know about you, but my year so far has been one crazy roller coaster of work. One organization tool that I keep turning to since I first started using it late last year is keeeb. I love keeeb! I really do.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 4.02.21 PM

What is it you ask? Well to paraphrase their own words, it is an online tool for collecting anything, organizing visually, sharing, and inspiring. Keeeb can help you remember what is important and it will allow you to “organize and share your ideas like never before”.

It’s so amazing and versatile you almost have to try it to believe it because each user can mold it into whatever they want their keeeb experience to be. In fact, each page you set up can be a completely different experience, not just a different topic. And with their handy plug-in, the ability to keeeb something is right there in your browser’s toolbar, ready to go.

I might still check out Pinterest now and then, and I still might poke around Pearltrees or use Instapaper, but keeeb has me under its spell and I am glad to be there.

Go ahead – discover, collect, collaborate, create… keeeb!

Check them out at

PDF to Word converters to the rescue!

I’ve been struggling with a bit of a problem for a while now. I often design page layouts in Illustrator or InDesign and provide the files to my clients as PDFs, but every once in a while the client wants to be able to go in and change a few things. Yes, I could create a document with editable fields, but for much of what I do that just isn’t realistic.  Yes, I could suggest Adobe InCopy for some documents, but most of my clients have no need or desire to spend $50 per month on a year-long subscription to access a file now and then.

I searched and searched for a way to convert my original Illustrator and InDesign files, but it turns out I was barking up the wrong trees. What I should have been looking for was the best PDF to Word converter. Once I realized that I should be focusing on converting the PDF and not my native files, I tried exporting to a Word document from Adobe Acrobat Pro 9, but it was a horrible facsimile of the original. Perhaps version XI is better, but it’s not in my budget so I began to look for free and cheap ways of converting my PDFs.

I quickly narrowed it down to a few solid performers with free online conversion, with PDF Online and Nitro PDF  being the best performers in retaining the design layout. Both have paid versions you can download, which helps when you have multiple or image-heavy documents. The PDF to Word converter that I am most interested in trying doesn’t allow a free trial however. The Adobe PDF to Word converter subscription service requires that you sign up for a year-long subscription, but at a mere $1.99 per month it’s quite affordable. I certainly have my issues with Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription, but this is my top choice based solely on reputation.

I can only see the technology for converting PDFs to Word documents improving. Considering that Acrobat Pro 9 can’t even hold a candle to several free online services, I would like to think that someday a PDF to Word converter will come standard with MS Office. Are you listening Bill Gates?

I’m a content curator and didn’t even know it.

I must officially live under a rock. I had never heard the term content curation until today. But as it turns out, I’m already a content curator. I just didn’t know it. As a somewhat opinionated research and news junkie, I’ve apparently been curating content for years.

You see, anyone who has shared and commented on information from the web has been a content curator.  If you too are new to the term, allow me to present the basics on what content curation is. According to Wikipedia, content curation is “the process of collecting, organizing and displaying information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.”

There’s a ton of information on the web about content curation: benefits, strategies, tools, and tips. Almost too much. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest challenges of content curation is the sheer volume of information that is available to us. And it just keeps on coming.

Another more subtle challenge is making sense of the content you curate — defining its relevance to your audience and contextualizing it. Anyone can regurgitate information, but it takes a skilled content curator to (as content curation expert, Robin Good says) “show what is otherwise not visible” through valuable insight and observation.

Nonprofit social media blogger, Beth Kanter, commented on what content curation isn’t. It is not about “collecting links or being an information pack rat, it is more about putting them into a context with organization, annotation, and presentation.”

And another useful perspective from Constant Contact blogger Erica Ayotte:

“By making the Internet smaller, focusing our attention, providing context, and creating relevant experiences, curators actually enhance our online experiences.”

So if you happen to live under a rock like me, or just want to learn more about content curation, don’t overwhelm yourself. Here are two good places to start: Curata’s Resources Page and Robin Good’s website, Content Curation World.