Do You Insure Your Commitments?

Think of these situations:

  1. You are on phone with your client, and you tell them that you will send the required details ASAP.
  2. You send an email accepting a speaking assignment which is a month away.
  3. While you are in the shower you get a wonderful idea of promoting your business.
  4. You attend a day-long seminar and make copious notes of how you could leverage those ideas during the session.
  5. A very important person to you in your network casually reveals his date of marriage anniversary.
  6. Your daughter tells you that she will soon run out of her prescription vitamin supplement.
  7. Your mentor tells you to read that great article that would solve one of your problems.
  8. You like an article posted on LinkedIn, by one of your friends and decide to read it later.

What is the common thread across them? There is an explicit or implicit commitment on your behalf in each of them. Some are in written form, some are oral and some are just thoughts. Leaving them in those forms is as risky as driving your car without insurance – you are just over-relying on your luck and your skills.

Let’s understand first what is the risk involved here. You play several roles in your personal and professional life and always want to do justice to each of them. By virtue of it, you are continuously bombarded with expectations from everyone around you and also from yourself. In an ideal world, you would remember all and take appropriate actions at the right time. But the reality is far from it.

When you just rely on your memory (short-term memory) for your commitments, you will soon start missing a few as your short-term memory can store only a little.

So what is the insurance that you need to avoid your loss? A single version of the truth – just one to-do list to record and refer to. Agreed that it is half the battle with the other half being a meticulous and frequent review of it to complete the actions. But what are the odds that you will have any chance of doing them if you don’t even remember them?

We need to start looking at all our sources of work differently. Look at them as commitment machines. As they generate commitments for you, collect them and put them outside your head. This becomes the first and critical step if you want to be proactive in completing them on time.

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Sign and Scan Your Documents Smartly

Nowadays the ink-signed documents are not required in most of our transactions. If you are expected to send just a signed and scanned document, you can do better than ink-signing the document and rush to a scanner machine.

There are many options but what you will like to know are the ones that are easy and free – well, and safe too!

At the risk of stating the obvious, never ever insert an image of your signature in MS Word or Excel documents – not even when you are going to convert it to PDF, as anyone will be able to copy your signature image – even from the PDF. There are online options that require you to upload such a PDF and generate a PDF that emulates a scanned document. They should practically be safe but there is always a doubt about the confidentiality of our document.

Let’s now look at the right ways of doing it. We may have few different scenarios.

(A) You have a touch screen device with a digital pen.

  1. The source is a Word or Excel document – You should be able to simply sign with the digital pen and print the document as PDF. Don’t forget to choose the color of your signature.
  2. The source is a PDF document – You might be able to convert the PDF to Word and do the above, but you know it’s messy. Instead, you should go for the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader (free version). Of course, you will not be able to edit the PDF document but Reader App will allow you to sign with the digital pen wherever you want. Look for the “Sign” icon in the toolbar.

(B) If you don’t have a touch screen device, you will be required to create an image of your signature by signing on white paper and scanning it with your smartphone. Once you create a good resolution image of your signature, secure it in a known place so that you don’t have to start from scratch the next time.

  1. The source is a Word or Excel document – Print it to PDF document and follow the PDF procedure below.
  2. The source is a PDF document – Adobe Acrobat Reader (free version) provides an option to insert the signature image wherever you want. Look for the “Sign” icon in the toolbar.

Isn’t it quick, safe, and cheap?

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How can one overcome procrastination?

The brilliant meme above by Instachaaz captures the turmoil of people about time management. The Ever Given ship that was stuck in the Suez canal had sparked this idea. Procrastination is the biggest obstacle to personal productivity. Procrastination is real! We are humans and not computers that continue working, once powered on. At the root of any procrastination, there is just one thing – the lack of clarity about the work under question.

The work looks daunting as it is new, and it is so big that you don’t know whether you would ever finish it even if you start now. The answer lies in getting clarity about how to make at least a little progress on the work, without worrying about the whole problem.

Also, sometimes a smoothly running work just stops and does not progress and you start wondering why you are procrastinating to take it up. The reason should always be, again, not knowing a next doable action to make progress on it.

As you get clarity by means of figuring out the first or next doable action, the fear and so the procrastination should go away.

The real hurdle in getting clarity is a natural aversion of our mind to do the slow thinking as it requires the application of deliberate effort and energy. This effort or energy is not as large as one would think, so being conscious about this fact should help one to try.

A nice tool to find suitable doable actions on any work is mind map. A mind map encourages you to do slow thinking. Thus as you build a mind map you get a whole lot of possibilities to make inroads into a seemingly intractable work.

Next time you do procrastination about something, think of getting clarity and proceed to a mind map tool.

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How Frequently Should You Check Your Emails?

You should check your emails (applies to even other sources of communication) through which you get your “work”, regularly, to know what should be on your To-Do list. The “work” here is all that you are responsible for, both on personal and professional fronts.

It always pays to stay current with the entire scope of your work for the best utilization of your time. If you do not know the complete scope of your work, what are the odds that you will choose the right task for a given time slot!

Wait! Did someone tell you to not look at your emails more often? I agree but don’t take the advice blindly. It only meant that you should not break your concentration just to look at every mail that arrived. But there is nothing wrong with looking at emails when you are not into a work that requires concentration or you are into the breaks.

A good practice for processing your sources of communication is to go through the inputs and just note down your actions in your to-do list than actually doing them unless something can be done in less than two minutes.  If there is an action of reading articles on the web you would save them in Read-later App than actually reading them at that moment.

Here are the benefits:

  1. Since you are simply identifying the actions, it should require smaller chunks of time that you get more often and easily.
  2. Keep processing your sources of communication as often as possible so that you don’t accumulate so many items that make you look for bigger chunks of time that you rarely get.
  3. Get comfortable with your Email and other relevant Apps so that working with them should be fun. Learn the settings that make you more productive. For example, a useful setting for processing emails is to open the next mail automatically after closing or deleting one. Also, knowing keyboard shortcuts saves time by having your hands always on your keyboard.
  4. Keep the spirit behind this processing activity in your mind and that should motivate you to do it regularly.

Let me reiterate the spirit: “It always pays to stay current with the entire scope of your work for the best utilization of your time”.

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(featured image: Photo by Torsten Dettlaff from Pexels)


Simple Technique to Manage Your Email Inbox

Email is quite an important form of communication on both the personal and professional front. Most of us are always on the lookout for a better way of managing the Email Inbox. Let me first tell you a couple of ways that don’t work, but commonly followed.

  1. Keep sampling some out of the pile of unread emails based on some mystical sense of importance and process them, till you feel better and leave the rest. One of my colleagues did that, and when I requested snapshots of his Inboxes, he graciously shared it. Look at the featured image. Funny, isn’t it? He was my direct and many times, I had to make a special call to make him read a mail that he had never opened.
  2. Read the unread emails and act on them. But, if some mail requires a longer time, change its status back to unread, for revisiting and move on to the next. I followed this for many years and so know that it is unreliable.

Then there are some complex methods that you simply don’t comprehend, leave alone implement them.

Let me propose a simple technique that I have tested in the noisy environment of my corporate jobs. I refer to Outlook App here, but it should work for any other Email App.


  1. Create a sub-folder say, “Next Action” in “Inbox”. This will be the place to hold mails that are going to take some time for you to go over and act or reply.
  2. Set the property for this folder as “show total number of items”, by right-clicking.
  3. Create a shortcut for this folder in “Favorites”. Remove other default items in Favorites that you really don’t care about. I have only three Favorites – Drafts, Inbox and Next Action.

Note: Be careful to not delete the folder and just remove a shortcut to that folder from Favorites.

Act on the unread mails right at the moment:

  1. If a mail is not useful, simply delete it or mark it as spam, if it is so.
  2. Liberally unsubscribe to newsletters that didn’t come up to your expectations.
  3. Complete the implied action from the mail, if it is quick to do.
  4. Now the most important one – If a mail requires some different setting (as in, place, time, and energy level) to process, COPY (not MOVE) it to the “Next Action” folder and move on to the next unread mail till you reach that magical moment of ZERO unread emails.
  5. The number against “Next Action” Favorites item, indicating the number of items in that folder, will help to draw your attention to it.
  6. When you find a suitable time, visit the “Next Action” folder and process the mails in it, and once done, simply delete them from the folder (as these are copies), till you reach the next magical moment of ZERO “Next Action” items.

Managing email inbox becomes crucial to keep things under control if you get 10s of emails every day. Following this simple and efficient method will go a long way towards making you productive.

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How to Bulk Copy-Paste With the Clipboard

Copy-paste brings speed to digital content creation and the idea is as old as the wheel – we hardly notice doing it. Our mind moves faster than what our hands can move on the keyboard, so copy-paste makes up for the gap. Copy-Paste works because of the clipboard system provided by the OS.

But how many times does it happen to you when you lose some massive copied content in the clipboard, just because you accidentally copied another content that overwrote the clipboard, worse when it was just one word that did it – bad bargain! The other problem situation is when you want to copy-paste several items as then you will have to keep switching between the two Apps.

If you use MS Office, you can do it better by activating the MS Office clipboard and keep the last 24 items in it for pasting elsewhere. The clipboard gathers the items when you copy contents not just in MS Office Apps but even in all the other Apps running on your computer. The menu option for the clipboard is available on the Home Tab and is in the leftmost group of all the MS Office Apps.

Once equipped with this bigger clipboard you could go copying spree in the source material which could be some document or a webpage or an e-book and then come back and paste as you wish.

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(featured image: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels)

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