Wednesday, February 28, 2007

5 Ways To Be More Productive In Your Every Day Life And How Technology Can Help You Do It.

Its amazing how busy life can be and the number of tasks that pile up before you each day. But there is nothing better than the feeling you get after you've accomplished the things you needed to. Below are 5 ways that can help you be more productive in your life and how technology can help you do it.

Set Goals

One of the most important aspects of productivity is knowing what and when something needs to be accomplished. With out this information nothing will ever get done. By setting goals you chart out the various things in your life that you would like to accomplish. Be sure to write down the goals you have. In reality, it isn't a goal until its been documented.

After you've written down your goals, list below each one all the tasks and objectives that must be completed for you to reach that goal. For example, if your goal is to save $1,000 this month you'll have to do a number of things to reach this goal. The first may be creating a budget. The second may include spending less on lunch each day. I like to call these mini-goals. They're the goals that you have to live in order to reach your end goals, or in other words, they're the means to the end.

One of the best ways to record your goals is through Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Recording your goals online allows you to access them from anywhere. I personally like to use the spreadsheets as I can easily add mini-goals by inserting rows and check off the goals I complete. Google Docs & Spreadsheets also let you quickly and easily share your goals with others. A great way to accomplish a goal is to tell other people what you're working towards. It adds accountability and another edge to help remind you of what you're trying to accomplish. The share feature also allows you to create group goals or family goals that other people can access and record how they're doing. For example, if you're trying to diet with a friend or family member. You can setup a spreadsheet that you both can access that displays how you're both doing on your diet.

2. Use To Do Lists

To do lists should include some of your mini-goals. Almost all goals require that you change or add something to your daily life. The list will help you keep track of all the tasks that are ahead of you and help you manage your time better to ensure that you accomplish your mini-goals. Set to do lists in places where you can see them throughout the day. They should help you work towards your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. offers a great way to create and manage your to do lists. Setting up an account takes just a few clicks and once you're registered you can quickly add tasks on a day to day bases or set them up to reoccur periodically. You can organize the lists based on categories such as personal, work, and inbox; or even create your own.

One of the great features about creating your to do lists on is that you can add your to do list to your Google Front page or to Google Calendar. This is a great way to remind yourself of everything you need to do each day.

3. Follow A Schedule

Keeping a schedule is the only way to help yourself stay on task. Use a Calendar to help do this and keep track of all activities you want to accomplish. I use Google Calendar to keep track of the various engagements in my life. I try and schedule everything that takes up time from my day and then work in the things on my to do list to make sure I continue to meet my daily responsibilities and still am capable of reaching my goals.

Google Calendar is great in that it allows you to send yourself reminders of events either through pop-ups, email, or even text messages to your phone. This can be done by changing your settings and adjusting how you want to receive notifications. I currently have Google calendar setup to send me an email every morning listing the agenda for the day and then I set important events to remind my through sending a txt message to my phone. This helps me be at the places I need to be and to stay on schedule to meet all the daily expectations.

4. Wake Up Earlier

You'll accomplish more before everyone else is actively about. I've found that the first few hours of my day are my most productive. My mind is fresh and my body is rested. I feel that I get things done faster and I'm able to stay more focused as I know that there is nothing else to do in those early morning hours. On a good day, I try and wake up early enough to finish a few things around the house and then still get into work by 7am. Everything runs much smoother and I find my email inbox, my tasks at work, and the people I interact with to be much more organized and less stressful. Having Google Calendar send me a daily agenda each morning at 5am also is extremely helpful to remind me what I need to accomplish as soon as I get out of bed.
gives additional detail on early mornings and productivity.

5. Review Progress

Check off what you've accomplished each day on your mini-goal documents, your to do lists, and on your Calendar. It will help you keep track of what you have accomplished and what else still needs to be done. Using online tools allows you to review your progress from anywhere.

Technology is making these 5 methods to increase productivity easier and is a great way to keep track of all the work you are doing in your personal and work life.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Add Music to Your Phone's Ringtones

Getting Started

One feature that is continually being added to more cell phones is the capability to play music and have music as your ring-tone. Unfortunately the cell phone companies want to sell you an additional hardware package to give you the ability to add your music to your phone. After searching the web and trying the suggested methods I found a quick and easy way to add your music to your ring-tones without purchasing any additional hardware or software. This tutorial will walk through the process on OS X 10.4+ but most of the software used is also available for Windows XP or Vista. Additionally, your phone and computer must both have bluetooth installed and enabled.

Connecting Your Phone To your Computer

The most important part of this tutorial is making sure that your computer and phone can communicate to each other. In Mac OS X make sure that bluetooth is on by going to system preferences >> bluetooth >> Settings: Bluetooth Power should be on. Next click on the Devices tab and then click on Set Up New Device. At this point, the Bluetooth Setup Assistant will appear and walk you through the process of connecting your computer to your phone. NOTE: Your Bluetooth enabled phone must be set to discoverable mode. After you've finished the Bluetooth Setup Assistant click the Sharing tab in the Bluetooth Preferences set Bluetooth File Transfer and Bluetooth File Exchange to On.

Setting Up Free Software

Now that your phone and computer are setup to communicate with each other we need to install the software that will allow us to edit and add to the files on your phone. BITPIM for Mac is a great tool that easily allows users to extract and add information to the files on their phone including ring-tones, sms messages, and address book information. It is also available for Windows and works in a similar method. After installing this software onto your computer you'll need to set it up to communicate with your exact phone. To do this go to preferences >> Phone Setting Wizard. Follow the onscreen instructions and select one of the available communication ports. After clicking next click Detect phone. The phone must Pass detection. If it does not, step back and select a different communication port and try again. Once your phone is detected by BITPIM you're set to start to edit your ring-tones and other files on your phone.

Adding Your Music to Your Ring-tones

Not that your phone and computer are connected through bluetooth and through the BITPIM software you can easily access the ringers on your phone. Click the Phone icon on the top with the are coming from the phone. A new window will pop up showing PhoneBook, Calendar, Wallpaper, etc. Check all of these and make sure Replace All is selected and hit Ok. Your computer will start to pull down all the related information from your phone and save it in BITPIM. After the information has been pulled from your phone click on ringers(Under Media). Any previous custom ring-tones you've installed on your phone will be listed. Click the Music Note with the green plus sign on the top of the menu. This will bring up a window to allow you to search for your music. Find the mp3 file you're looking for and then click open. A Convert Audio File window will appear with options that will allow you to convert the file into a format your phone can read. I suggest setting the bitrate to 96 as it will sound better on your phone. Click Convert. This will convert the entire song and when it is finished click ok. You should now see your song included with the others previous installed under Ringers. It is important to note that for your ring-tone you may only want 30 seconds of a song as more than that will rarely be used as a ringing option and the extra time of the song will just make the file larger and take up memory space on your computer. To edit these songs I'd suggest using a program such as Audacity with will allow you to edit your song file down to just the 30 second of the song that you would like as your ring-tone.

Now that your song has been added to your ringers it is ready to add to your phone. Click the Phone icon with the green arrow pointing towards it and check just the Ringtone Box. Change the selection from Replace All to All and then click ok. You've just told BITPIM to take the data you've added to ringers and send it to your phone. THe status bar the bottom will start to move and various files on your phone will be updated. When its finished you should be able to go to your ring-tones and see the song that you've just added. Select it and test it to make sure that it sounds the way you like. At this point you should have successfully added a song to your ring-tone. NOTE: to remove songs, delete the desired songs from the ringers list in BITPIM and then send the Ringtones to the phone using the above instructions but click replace all. This will remove the desired songs from your phone.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

RSS Feeds Rediscovered with Yahoo! Pipes

The amazing thing about the Internet is that it is always adapting and evolving into something better, more powerful, and more enjoyable for us, the users. The Internet got a lot more enjoyable when Yahoo! released a new RSS product, Pipes. But before I jump into how wonderful this tool that Yahoo has created for us and that makes the internet that more enjoyable I'll give a quick background on RSS feeds and my experience with them

One of the things I love to do with my free time is to venture out to the ends of the internet and read about the various new technologies that are being developed and the cutting edge technical products that will soon be released. A while back I came across some articles that talked about RSS feeds and how they were changing the way people used the internet.

I wondered to myself "what are RSS feeds?" I did a quick Wikipedia search for RSS feeds to learn more. When I discovered that RSS feeds were "a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds or podcasts." I started to understand what the various authors meant when they referred to RSS feeds as changing the way people used the internet. RSS feeds would allow the internet to come to users instead of users going out to the internet. One area I struggled with was how people receive this information and whether they could customize it. Receiving the content didn't turn out to be an issue but there weren't many tools that allowed you to customize the various RSS feeds.
Shortly after reading these articles I started to notice the RSS logo appear on various webpages and used my web browser to subscribe to the feeds from the websites I frequented often. Firefox and Safari allowed users to subscribe to this new frequently updated content. IE6 did not include any built in RSS features but Microsoft quickly fixed this when they released IE7 with full RSS support. Of the three, Safari for Mac OS X is the best browser based RSS reader. Unfortunately I use a Windows based laptop at work and wasn't able to use Safari all the time.

I tried using Google Reader as a RSS feed reader but never felt fully comfortable with it. I must admit that it has come a long way since its original release, but navigating to a website to find out about other websites bugs me. I eventually stumbled across Snarfer a FREE windows application that allowed you to subscribe to various RSS feeds and group them into categories to help you organize the information that the internet was sending you. It also gives the users the ability to assign how often feeds should be checked for new information and how long to save the information you've gathered. Snarfer has been great as it works its way to version 1.0

Added features to web browsers and the new RSS reader software that was readily available quickly solved my worries about how RSS content would get to users but customizing this information was still a problem.

Yahoo! Pipes is the solution. I didn't completely comprehend the power that Yahoo was giving us through pipes but after looking through a few examples and sketching out a few on my own the ability to clearly specify the information I wanted to receive got me excited. To demonstrate how powerful Yahoo Pipes are lets walk through one I created.

Photoshop is an amazing application that lets users create and edit images in anyway they can imagine. But with all that power it is sometimes difficult to learn how to do what you want to do. This is where Yahoo Pipes brings search and youtube together to send users a constant RSS feed. After navigating to login with a yahoo ID and go to create a new pipe. The first thing you want to do is select a source from the left.

For this pipe select Yahoo Search by clicking the arrow to drop it down on to your pipe. In the Search for box enter "Photoshop Tutorial" and below in the input field listed with a url enter This Tells the pipe to do a yahoo search of information just at youtube for photoshop tutorials.

The next thing we want to ensure is that all the video tutorials we receive in our RSS feeds are unique and not duplicates of themselves. To do this we select operators on the left and then unique. To connect the search criteria with the Unique filter we need to drag pipes from one box to the next and then finally to the output. You should see a small circle at the bottom and/or top of each of the boxes. Click the circle under the Yahoo search and drag it to the Unique filter. At this point the Unique filter will update and in the drop down menu give you options. For this particular feed you can filter based on title or description. We'll use description which will eliminate two videos that are the same from appearing in our feed.

To finish the pipe, simply drag the circle at the bottom of the Unique filter to the Pipe Output box. At the bottom you'll see a Refresh button. Click this and your field details will display. The Photoshop Tutorial Pipe is now finished and we can review our results by saving the pipe and clicking back to my pipes. What ever you saved the pipe as will appear in the list of your pipes. Click that and then click run this pipe. Your feed will display with details about each of the tutorials found through your Pipes Criteria. You can subscribe to this feed through a number of different readers or set it to your browser and then any updates to this feed will automatically be available to you without you doing the search in the future.

While this is a short and simple approach to Yahoo! Pipes the possibilities of how you can create custom information feeds around your web browsing habits are endless. You can follow this tutorial and adjust the search terms to anything from programing tutorials to Wake boarding videos and it will output you with an RSS feed set just the way you want it.