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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

No More Google Reader; Now, Here Are 5 Alternatives

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 03:05 PM

describe the imageBy Eve Porcello, People-OnTheGo Faculty Member

Back in March, Google announced (buried within a bulleted list in their blog) that they would be retiring their popular RSS feed platform, Google Reader, as of July 1. Google cited a decline in usage, but Google Reader fans are rabid and reliant on the tool to organize and deliver their news for easy consumption.

So what is a Google Reader user to do?google reader issues

Despite Google Reader’s demise, there are still several services that will help you curate the experience of reading websites and news articles through RSS.

Feedly - Among the Google Reader replacements, Feedly is likely the most seamless. You can log right in to Feedly using your Google account and import your Google Reader data absolutely for free. Feedly also offers a variety of apps that will allow you to access your content from any device.

NewsBlur - Intended to help you read the news from anywhere, NewsBlur offers iOS, Android, and web apps to help you organize and read the news. The service also offers social features to help you see what your friends are reading and sharing. NewsBlur is a “freemium” app with free storage up to 64 feeds and $24/year for an unlimited subscription.

Flipboard, Pulse, & Zite - These apps help you get the latest on your mobile devices. While they don’t mirror the experience of viewing Google Reader from a desktop computer, all show your articles with reliability and great usability.

If you have used Google Reader in the past and you want to export your subscription data, you can download a copy with Google Takeout before July 15, 2013.

To learn more about using other Google tools (that won’t be retired anytime soon), check out our Managing Your Inbox in Google Apps, Google Docs & Drive, Google Docs & Drive Advanced, Google Sites, Google Sites Advanced, and Google Analytics webinars.

Topics: tools and supplies, Technology, productivity

Review of ScanBizCards iPhone App by Pierre Khawand

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Jun 03, 2012 @ 06:29 PM

ScanBizCards ScreenShot 2Do you remember the days when you needed a dedicated business card scanning device with its proprietary software to scan business cards? And when integration with other business applications was rudimentary? Well that is then and this is now. The ScanBizCards app is now. After presenting at a conference recently and finding myself with 50+ business cards, this prompted me to take a look at the latest business card scanning apps, which resulted in getting ScanBizCards for the iPhone and significantly streamlining the process of managing business cards.

The ScanBizCards app in a Nutshell

1. You start the app and take a picture of the card. ScanBizCards gives you a nice visual of the scanning process mimicking an actual scanner.

2. ScanBizCards recognizes the text on the business car and therefore populates the name, title, company name, e-mail address, phone, and other relevant fields. When in doubt, the app allows you to make adjustments and reassign and/or edit the unrecognized information.

3. Now comes the magic. You are presented with several options including

  • Sending an e-mail to the contact

  • Connecting on LinkedIn

  • Exporting to Salesforce.com (as well as Evernote and others)

  • Adding a follow-up reminder

  • Emailing the card

  • And more!

4. In addition, your card is stored in your device (my iPhone in this case, even though the app is also available for Android and Windows), and you can easily go through the cards that you scan just like you would if you had the paper cards in your hands.

(5. You throw the original card in the recycling bin!)

Estimated productivity gain

If you regularly deal with business cards and more than just a few at a time, you can expect significant productivity gains from ScanBizCards. The obvious gain is the time saving in getting the contact information in your preferred database (my estimate would be a saving of 5 minutes or more per card).

But the more important gain is the ability to quickly integrate the contact information with your various applications and cloud services (such as LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, Evernote, etc.) and therefore being able to easily manage the follow-up with this contact. This can translate into another saving of 10 or more minutes per contact and the opportunity to leverage your contacts instead of having their business cards collect dust on your desk.

More resources


Topics: tools and supplies, productivity

The WSJ's Health and Wellness section provides a glimpse into a distinctly first-world problem: digital hoarding

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, Apr 03, 2012 @ 07:48 AM

Guest blog article by Rick Colosimo

describe the imageBesides profiling a few prolific users and an "Odd Couple" married couple, complete with female Oscar, with photos, emails, audio, and video adding up to vast amounts of digital storage space, there is a list of a handful of "tell-tale" signs. Signs of digital hoarding include: using all your free space on gmail; a desktop cluttered with icons; digital photos that are mostly bad; and TV shows you don't plan to watch. Suggested "treatments" include: Inbox Zero (made famous by Merlin Mann of 43folders); declaring email bankruptcy; and reducing inflow to your email inbox. 

The real kernel of where this article meant to go is one of the signs that is ignored in the text: "Deleting anything makes you anxious -- even things you can't remember why you saved." Digital storage, by itself, is in a different category than physical hoarding because of the inherent cost-benefit analysis. With no physical outcomes, other than costs for a 2TB hard drive (<$200) every so often, it's hard to compare keeping emails with a pile of old unread newspapers. Certainly, the filing vs piling debate makes the "cost" of storing more even lower -- the generally accepted answer these days is that it's faster to search than maintain a detailed filing system. The search costs go down more than expected because you don't have to search for everything you store, but you have to file everything to have a filing system.

I think the critical distinction is one of attitude and anxiety: if you are anxious, you have a problem regardless of whether you have 100 photos or 100,000. If you search and can't find things, that's a different problem with a specific solution for your situation to create total organization. I find that Quicksilver and Spotlight do quite well at finding things quickly for me with little worries on my part.  

Take a quick look at your primary machine (OmniDiskSweeper is a free lightweight simple sizing tool): how much do you have in various folders?  After doing some cleaning myself, it reports: 

  • iTunes (Includes Stanford IOS course in HD and music videos): 50gb

  • Documents (includes archived client files and backups as well as my second copy of most mail since I have Outlook for Mac installed too): 26.6 gb

  • Pictures: 16.9 gb

  • Library (a Mac folder that stores mail, working folders for DevonThink, and IOS backups): 14.3 gb

  • Downloads (all my "temp" storage plus working files for learning how to program): 4.2 gb

  • All that plus the miscellaneous leaves me with plenty of space on a 256gb solid-state macbook air.

NB: To be fair, I've offloaded 10gb of old Windows PST files to my time capsule, and about 6gb of tutorial videos for Rails/IOS as well. Much of my old music (about 60gb) resides on my still-running Windows Vista desktop on a 500gb hard drive.

What's your digital storage profile look like? What tools do you use to find things easily?

Topics: tools and supplies, information overload

The new toolset for today’s mobile and virtual work environment includes the iPad

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Aug 09, 2010 @ 10:25 PM

In 2007 I waited for 24 hours in front of the Apple Store in Palo Alto to get the first iPhone, review it, and include the review in the Smartphone Experiment book that I was about to publish at the time. In 2010, when the first iPad was released, I wasn't ready to repeat the 2007 camping adventure to get the iPad. I also didn’t think that the iPad was more than a mega-iPod touch and not primarily a productivity tool. I even proceeded to skip the iPad for the time being and get a netbook instead in order to lighten up my load during travel instead of hauling the super duper laptop and its accessories.

When my netbook failed me, mostly being too slow with limited memory and limited processing power, both eaten up by the operating system and not leaving enough juice for my applications and browsers, then I resorted to the iPad. You have heard so much about the iPad, so I won’t attempt to review it or tell you how much I love it (which I do), but I would like to show a picture of the latest set of productivity tools (in which the iPad has claimed its place) that I consider crucial in the mobile and virtual work environment that we live in. 

The new toolset for today’s mobile and virtual work environment

ipad tools

Tool Ideal For

Pocket Device


Notification (texting, e-mailing, calling). Escalation. Quick replies. Quick searches. Quick documentation using camera. Quick idea capturing using notes, voice memos, or photos. Quick Social Media browsing and updates. All while in transit or in motion with limited real estate and one hand operation.

Tablet (iPad for now) Favored over pocket device anytime there is enough room and hands. Larger screen, better visibility, less scrolling, easier typing. Very fast. Stunning graphics. Freedom from the “chair+desk” position. Freedom from the mouse. Creativity.

Processing power. Memory. Large documents. Complex applications. Enterprise integration.

Extra monitor

Viewing multiple data sources. Using multiple applications. Handling complex models.

The Cloud 

Accessing data and applications across multiple platforms and from remote locations (this also applies to remote access to enterprise systems)

The paper journal

Thinking. Strategizing. Reflecting. Drawing. Visual problem solving. New perspective away from the information overload. Playground for imagination and creativity. Output rather than input.

And now with us in the picture, the picture might look like this

ipad and brain

Your turn to add your pieces to the above diagram! Your input is welcome in the comments below.

Topics: emerging technology, tools and supplies

Being productive on the road! From Laptop to iPod! And how to optimize

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sat, Jan 30, 2010 @ 11:22 AM

I found myself at Starbucks this week, trying to take advantage of this precious hour I had in between meetings. It was quite noisy but this didn't bother me for too long. I quickly got my iPod ready and put on my favorite music. Then within minutes, I was setup, connected, and fully functional. This made me think about productivity on the road and the tools we use today compared to those we used in the mid 90's when many of the technologies that we take for granted today were then in their early development.

My on the go toolkit today

Laptop + Spring 3G card + iPhone + iPod (classic) + headset + paper journal + pen

And power cord, extension cord, and network cable--just in case.

productivity on the road 

When on the go internationally

Even though these are applications and services, but they play such an important role in staying connected and being productive overseas:

Add Google Voice, Skype, Skype-Out, and Skype iPhone App.

And not to forget one more useful addition to the mix the Kindle iPhone App.

How can it be optimized?

  • Consolidate the iPod and the iPhone
  • Would be nice to have one provider instead of two (but for now AT&T has a hold on the iPhone and offers the voice/data capabilities internationally, while Sprint has the impeccable signal in the San Francisco area).

Soon, I will write more about what this looked like in the mid 90's

What does your on the go toolkit look like today? And how can it be optimized?

Topics: tools and supplies, Technology, productivity

How can a countdown timer help you succeed!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 @ 05:13 AM

time management tipsThe timer is one of the tools that I recommend throughout the Accomplishing More With Less Methodology. Not any timer - a countdown timer. Setting the countdown timer for 40 minutes (or whatever time period you choose) and then pushing the Start button has significant implications.

Just the fact that the timer is running seems to drastically heighten our awareness of time and allow us to quickly notice when we deviate from our task. It's as simple as that. It is fascinating that such a simple and easy tool can have such an impact on our focus, but it does. Buying a countdown timer may very well result in the biggest return on investment that we can ever achieve.

The Timer Creates Purpose

The timer helps us put a stake in the ground and declare that we have officially started the task at hand. Without such a clear signal it is easy to stay noncommittal, starting one task but then casually withdrawing from it to start another one. It is possible to keep testing task after task, escaping from the ones that are more difficult or less desirable, and sneaking into tasks that are easier (and, just as likely, less crucial) - I call this "task hopping!"

The timer puts an end to unproductive task hopping. It forces us to spend our time more purposefully on the task that we consciously select. This is a giant leap to become more purposeful. If you are thinking the timer is "just" another tool, and an expendable one at that, think again! The timer is revolutionary.

The Timer Creates Accountability

In addition to creating purpose, the timer also creates accountability. Now that the timer has started, in 40 minutes we are going to know clearly if we accomplished what we intended. The timer also helps us estimate time better in the future. Knowing how long it takes to accomplish any given project in such a time-crunched era is a rare and highly desirable skill.

The timer prompts us to move things forward

During the focused session, the timer improves the quality and efficiency of our work. It prompts us to face the issues, make decisions, and move things along as opposed to dwelling on issues and staying indefinitely in analysis/paralysis mode. In other words, the timer accelerates our pace and helps us equal or even beat the speed at which things are happening around us. What a competitive advantage that can be!

The timer as a stress relief mechanism

The timer signifies that we have given ourselves permission to be where we are for the time period we have chosen. Now we can more easily give up the guilt or anxiety that we would otherwise experience for not being somewhere else and not handling all the other things that need to be handled. With the timer, we are able to put everything else on hold because we have more "officially" chosen a path, and most importantly a path based on purpose instead of a reactive one. The timer is the official seal of approval for our purposeful choice.

With the timer and the 40 minute sessions, instead of feeling guilty and anxious, we feel challenged to complete our carefully selected mission. Instead of taking on "life" and feeling overwhelmed and trapped, now we are taking on 40 minutes, and feeling hopeful. We are fully engaged and facing the issues for 40 minutes with a visible and bright light shining at the end of tunnel. What a relief!

The happy sound of accomplishment

The happy sound of accomplishment is only 40 minutes away, and when it is heard, we are likely to experience a range of thoughts and feelings, the most prevalent of which is likely to be satisfaction.

Stopping is critical at this juncture. Even a brief moment of acknowledgement goes a long way. This can take any form that is appropriate for the context. Sometimes a few minutes of letting our mind freely wander and allowing thoughts and feelings to surface can do the job. Sometimes this may require a more significant break and potentially some physical movement that gets us re-energized.

Extracted from The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook, now available at Amazon.com


Topics: tools and supplies, time management tips

Windows 7 continues to be a boost in productivity! 3 ways in which it is saving me time

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Nov 30, 2009 @ 12:08 PM

time management tipsA couple of weeks ago, I made the transition from Vista to Windows 7, and reported on my initial positive experience with Windows 7. I also reflected on how technology can get in the way or be an enabler of productivity. Windows 7 falls in the enabler category.

I am happy to report that my excitement about Windows 7 wasn’t just temporary. I believe that this switch is saving me substantial time, maybe an hour or more per day, and here are 3 ways in which this is taking place:

First: It is much faster. It loads faster and performs faster. This anxiety of having to reboot the computer right before or during teaching a class (for one reason or another) is gone. Restarting Windows 7 takes only a couple of minutes as opposed to my old Vista which took a lot longer (10 to 15 minutes). Not only it loads faster, it operates faster. The same machine seems to have gotten a new life injected in it with Windows 7.

Second: The ability of pinning and unpinning applications to the Taskbar, and pinning and unpinning documents to applications, makes is easy to keep the applications you use most and the documents you use most at your fingertips, and in the same place so they become familiar and you don’t have to do unnecessary thinking—let technology do this kind of thinking while we focus on the core stuff.

Third: The way you can quickly preview the currently open applications and documents is quite intuitive and makes switching between applications easy and intuitive. This is greatly appreciated in a Web 2.0 and 3.0 world where information is abundant and tasks are increasingly complex and dependent on many people and services.

Remember to reflect on your technologies and on whether they are helping or hindering your productivity (operating systems related, applications related, or hardware and accessories related), and consider making some optimizing and starting 2010 with a boost in productivity!

Topics: tools and supplies, time management tips

Windows 7! A boost in personal productivity!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:43 AM

When technology gets in the way, work life can become inefficient, things can take longer, and most importantly the opportunity cost rises. Instead of focusing on the next marketing campaign, or strategizing on the next customer win, we find ourselves waiting for the computer to recover from a sudden crash, or being significantly slowed down by the computer poor performance-and resorting to restarting it all together which on my Windows Vista machine would take 10 to 15 minutes.

Will Windows 7 be the answer?

time management tipsApple users would say Apple is the answer, but if you don't to go that far and many of us can't go that far, I am pleasantly surprised by Windows 7, and so far it is demonstrating that it may be the answer. 

The upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 was seamless and it seems as if a new life has been injected into the computer. While I still need more time to confirm these findings, but I have to say that many of the performance issues and some of the awkward behaviors that Windows Vista displayed are no longer an issue.

Technology & productivity go hand in hand

In my work with business professionals, I emphasize that accomplishments are mostly the results of strategic thinking and channeling our resources in the areas that are most promising--among other things. In addition however, I emphasize that the way we use technology has a significant impact on how much we accomplish. My belief is that technology alone doesn't necessarily lead to accomplishments, however, technology is a key enabler when it is working well, and when it is not working well, it can be an obstacle. So yes, technology and productivity go hand in hand.

What could the takeaways be?

  1. Reflect on your technologies and your tools and see if they are serving as key enablers or if they are becoming obstacles. 
  2. Identify the areas where you can apply new technologies or tools and get the biggest returns. 
  3. To help you identify the returns, take into account the opportunity cost. What would you be able to do if you weren't spending or wasting time in these technologies or tools. 
  4. Put a plan for addressing one of these technologies or tools issues soon. This could be one of your holiday gift to yourself!

Topics: tools and supplies, time management tips