Category Archives: Productivity

How to set New Year Resolutions That Work

Once again, that time has come to start tracking resolutions for the year ahead…. or at least the next month!  I, like the majority of people, have a tendency to set them and then follow them for a few weeks before slowly “re-prioritising” them.  Usually because I don’t track them within my to-do list!

Another thing that I have had a tendency to do, is not set S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  S.M.A.R.T. doesn’t mean clever, or sharply dressed (although a few of the “S.M.A.R.T.” objectives I’ve seen in the past have had a certain façade around them!  What it actually stands for is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely


The specific part, really summarises the whole objective.  “Get in shape” is not specific – how do you know when you are in shape?  A more specific goal would be “Get into a pair of size 34 trousers”.  In order to make a goal specific, it helps to ask yourself the 5Ws:

  1. Who – is involved?
  2. What – needs to be accomplished?
  3. Why – does it need to be accomplished?
  4. Where – does it need to take place?
  5. When – does it need to be accomplished by?  How often? Etc.


If you have no measure against your goal, then you have no way of knowing whether you have achieved it, or how you are performing against it!  Taking the previous example, by giving yourself a target trouser size, you have your target!  If you wanted to be uber-geeky, you could track your weekly waist size against a graph, to track your performance!

Attainable & Realistic

This is another deal breaker!  If you set yourself an unobtainable goal, not only will you not achieve it, but you’ll dishearten yourself and probably fall short of what you could have achieved if you had set yourself a slightly less ambitious goal!  The old adage of “Aim for the stars” doesn’t always ring true!  However, it is important to set yourself targets that stretch you.  For instance, I know that I won’t be able to build this blog up to get 10,000 unique visitors / month within a year, no matter how hard I try.  However, I think 1,000 could be within my grasp.  It would be a stretch, and I would be happy with half of that.


Putting a timescale on your goals is just as important as a unit to measure them against.  Sure, I may want to improve the SEO on the website so that I get 1,000 unique visitors a month, but unless I set myself a deadline, then I’ll just keep putting it on the back burner.  By giving myself a timeframe to work in, I can plan appropriately.

Its only through setting goals with all of the above attributes that you can build your goal list to become something that is achievable and that you want to achieve.

With that in mind, here are my goals for 2013:

  1. Write a minimum of 600 words a week for leisure.  This would either be for this blog, guest blogging, books or short stories.  I’ve wanted to improve my writing and communication for some time now.  Not just for the obvious communication skill development, but in order to research and share some of the things that interest me.
  2. Publish on average, one photo a week to the internet.  Either onto my own website, into competitions or to stock photo sites.  Photography and digital art is one of my passions, but I only tend to do stuff ad hoc.  This year I’d like to build a bit of a framework and workflow into my photography and by setting this goal, it’ll drive me into bigger and better things.
  3. Complete a 50+ mile cycle ride within 2013.  The furthest I have ridden so far in one go has been 25 miles.  I have plans to complete one of the big cycle rides in our area next year with a friend, and hopefully make some money for charity in the process.  I’ll need to build up my training beforehand though, otherwise I’ll have a very sore bum!

So, these are some of my personal goals for this year.  There are a few others, which I am keeping to myself for the time being, but will hopefully become apparent throughout the year!

What are everyone else’s goals?

5 Favourite Android Apps of 2012

Over 2012 I have really pushed my productivity system.  A big part of that has been to make the most out of my android phone – helping me stay productive, wherever I may be.  I’d like to share 5 of my favourite apps that I have used the most over 2012, and a little bit about how I use them.


Google Play: free


Waze is a free social sat nav app.  I started using this not long after it first launched, and the maps neeed a lot of work before they became useful.  However, over the past couple of years, the app has really improved, and whilst it can’t compete quite so well with the likes of Tom Tom, it still does a hell of a job.

The key to this app is in it’s social functionality.  You can report pretty much anything – hazards, such as objects on the road, accidents, floods etc, traffic jams, speed traps etc and even record new roads.  The app also automatically notices if you are going slower than the average speed and asks you if you are stuck in traffic.  It then records the average speed down the road, so you can see at a glance where the traffic hot spots are.  I use this for my daily commute to look for alternative routes or optimal times to leave.

Speaking of commutes, there is a really good widget included that uses previous data for the traffic on your daily commuting journey, coupled with current data and recommends the optimal time to start your commute.

If you notice something that isn’t quite right with the maps, then you can go into the map editor on your computer and edit the map.  True integration!


Google Play: free

Dropbox with memories floating out to user

Dropbox is an absolute lifesaver!  This is more than just an app – the app is simply another way of accessing the whole service.

Essentially this is a cloud storage solution.  You get 2GB for a free account.  However, for every member that you refer, you get a further 500mb of space.  You can often get deals giving you more space too.  There is also the option to purchase more space too, should you need it, for quite reasonable prices.

There are plenty of ways to use it.  Keeping reference books synced on my phone, sharing files with collaborators, keeping in-work documents handy, ensuring preference files are synced across your computers, the list goes on.  For more ideas, have a look here and here!

BeyondPod Pro

Google Play: free | paid

Beyondpod logo

As well as music, I enjoy listening to Podcasts.  Theres nothing like catching up on radio shows such as The Infinite Monkey Cage at a time that suits me!

I used to use the traditional iTunes & iPod route, but that involved me having to regularly connect up my aging iPod to my computer in order to update it – and making sure I turned my computer and iTunes on regularly…. far too much hassle in this day and age!

Along comes BeyondPod to save the day!  BeyondPod is a podcast manager for Android.  I subscribe to all the feeds I want.  By registering for the Pro version, for a measly amount of money, I can set my podcasts to update automatically whenever I want and however I want.  I set mine to use my free overnight broadband bandwidth at home, so it doesn’t eat into either my mobile allowance, or my home broadband allowance.  The free version lets you update manually though, so if you are happy doing that then there is no need to fork out…. but it is nice picking my phone up in the morning to find I’ve got a new podcast to listen to on my commute that day!


Google Play: free


As well as my healthy addiction to podcasts, I also like to read.  Be it feeds from websites and blogs, or articles people have tweeted about.  However, finding the time to read them is often limited.

Pocket (formerly read It Later) Pocket logolets you save articles for offline reading.  So, wherever I am I have a whole bunch of articles ready for reading.  I actually have a bit of a system going when it comes to keeping up to date with my reading, which I will post about in a future article.


Google Play: free

Evernote Logo

Evernote is new to me.  I’d been using Springpad previously, but I think Evernote is just about pipping it to the post now in terms of usability for me.  Springpad has lots of bells and whistles, like scanning a barcode to add a product to a list, but Evernote’s strongest feature for me is the OCR functionality.

I can scribble notes in a meeting, photograph or scan the page into Evernote and behind the scenes, the notes will be scanned for any words and I can then search within the picture.  An absolute genius feature!

There are plenty of ways to use Evernote.  For some ideas, check out this post, focussing on blogging, and this post on photography.

So there you have it.  My favourite apps of 2012.  What apps have you been using in 2012?  And what features in apps would you like to see in 2013?

Notebook with "To Do" written with roller ball

Productivity in my Personal Life – 1. Introduction

Productivity, as a self-confessed geek, is something towards I take more than a passing nod.  Having looked into many different ways to track what needs to hold my attention, I seem to have settled on David Allen’s GTD methodology.  Whilst at first glance, this seems like a lot of hard work, once it becomes completely natural to your life, it really does pay for itself.

Whilst trying to pull my system together, I had several requirements that made things a little more awkward than most set ups.  The following were my requirements

Productivity Requirements

  • Needed to be able to keep my lists available to me wherever I am
  • Couldn’t install any extra software on my computer at work
  • Needed to be able to “inbox” tasks wherever I am – work, home, in town etc.
  • Unlike most “geeks”, I don’t have a computer on at home 24/7, so turning my computer on would be an obstacle to overcome when at home.

It looks like relying on a computer program such as Outlook is ruled out, as whilst I have Outlook at work, I couldn’t sync my work computer to my phone or my home computer as I am on a secure PC.  Several other mediums sprung to mind.

Potential Productivity Solutions

  • Paper – a notebook is easy to carry round, however, it is yet another thing to carry around!
  • Phone.  Two ways to use this:
    • App on phone
    • Web app

The advantage of using a web app is that I can access my lists wherever I have internet (my own PCs, phone, library etc).  However, having been caught in situations where I have no data on my phone, this method isn’t without it’s risks.  Similarly, using a phone app means if I forget my phone, or the battery dies (which it frequently does!) then again I am stuck.

The solution I settled on was a combination of Android App Ultimate To-Do List synchronised with web app Toodledo.

Over the coming weeks I will talk you through exactly how I set these up for my particular needs and hopefully you will gain something from it.

Series Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How I use Ultimate To-Do List
  3. Supplemented by Toodledo
  4. Improvements that could be made

Image by stock.xchng by Mattox