Keyboard Shortcuts, Ranked

Capture date: 03.11.2019 23:53

Doing stuff with your mouse is cool. Doing stuff with your keyboard is cooler. These are the most important keyboard shortcuts, ranked from best to worst. (Unless noted, we’ve listed the Windows shortcuts; Mac users substitute cmd for ctrl.) With one exception, despite any flaws, all the shortcuts below are fundamentally good.

1. ctrl+Z

The undo shortcut is so essential that you’ve probably tried to hit it in real life. The “shake to undo” feature on phones is a gimmicky substitute that only triggers when you didn’t need it.


2. ctrl+Y

Undo your undo. And it uses the letter before Z. Legendary.

3. ctrl+X, ctrl+C, ctrl+V

Cut, copy, paste. About once a week I go to hit ctrl+V on my phone, before sighing and trying to hold my finger on the screen just long enough to pop up the paste menu, which always takes two tries. Cmd+X feels a bit weird on the Mac, but I used it to arrange this list, so I owe it some thanks. Thanks, Cmd+X.

4. ctrl+K

In most text edit windows, this lets you turn selected text into a link, instead of just pasting the whole URL into the body of your text like some kind of caveman.


5. cmd+space

Open Spotlight (or the launcher you installed to replace it) on MacOS. It’s like the Terminal command line for normies. Wish I’d discovered it earlier in life. I could be a whole other person by now.


6. cmd+shift+4

Windows and MacOS feature a whole array of shortcuts for capturing your whole screen, part of your screen, or a window, and saving it to your clipboard or as a file. On Windows you can even hit Windows key+H to capture your screen and pop up a share menu. We all have our favorites. But mine is cmd+shift+4, which lets a Mac user select a specific area to screenshot, then saves it as a file on the desktop. The key combo is a bit spaced out, but even my little hands can reach it comfortably.


7. cmd+`

On a Mac, this switches between windows of the same application. On Windows, you can do the same with alt+` if you install a little background app called Easy Window Switcher. What a smart idea, to incorporate an underused key that usually sits right above the tab key.


8. ctrl+F, ctrl+G

It’s cool to start a search with your keyboard. It’s even cooler to switch between results with your keyboard.


9. ctrl+T

New tab. Makes sense. Easy to remember. T for tab. Don’t have to take your hand off the keyboard before typing in a new URL. Good job all around.


10. ctrl+tab

Switch tabs. Classic. Don’t waste your time contorting your fingers into ctrl+shift+tab to go back one tab. Ugh. Not everything has to be optimized, you nerd.


11. shift+cmd+I

This is my custom Mac shortcut for resizing an image in Preview. It’s so insanely good that it ended up on this list of default shortcuts. Weird!


12. ctrl+N, ctrl+O, ctrl+shift+N

New file and open file are essential but boring. But that third shortcut: Depending on the context, ctrl+shift+N creates a new folder, a new smart playlist, or some other cool variation that technically makes you a coder.


13. Windows key+D

Minimize everything. Good life advice, good desktop-clearing trick. Macs can almost do it: Cmd+option+H hides everything but the current window, so if you click over your desktop first and you don’t have Finder open, you can hide all your windows.


14. cmd+H

On a Mac, this hides the current window. It’s cleaner than minimizing. To get the window back, just cmd+tab back to it. Windows users, you have to ctrl+alt+click.


15. alt+arrow keys

Back and forward in your browsing history. Not inherently bad, and it was wise of Chrome to disable the backspace, which caused so many of us to accidentally close out our Flash games. But these are also the best two extra buttons on a mouse, so they’re not that special.


16. cmd+S

Years ago, the “save file” shortcut would be on top of the list. Now everything auto-saves so you don’t have to obsessively tap this combo. You know what’s cool though? Ctrl+alt+shift+S to save a Photoshop project as an image.


17. ctrl+shift+T

Re-open a closed tab. Amazing function, terrible key combo. Rescuing a closed tab from oblivion makes you feel like Indiana Jones snatching his hat back. But to hit the keys, you either you stretch your left hand, or you take one hand off the mouse so you can hit it double-handed. I get that it’s an add-on to the ctrl+T shortcut for opening a new tab. But tbh this action should have a dedicated F key.


18. alt+tab

The thinking man’s alternative to switching apps through your Dock or Taskbar. But the app you want is always a little further or closer than you thought, and you have to switch again, and now you’re paying attention to the process instead of moving on with your work. Maybe the Dock-breathers are right.


19. alt+F4

This key combo is too arcane for closing an application. Mac users use cmd+Q, and you know what, it’s fine. We don’t accidentally close our apps that often.


20. ctrl+alt+del

First it meant restart, then it meant login. Now it’s disabled by default, and the top Google result for Ctrl+Alt+Del is the worst webcomic.


There are other shortcuts that matter, and you’re about to tell me all of them, but you’ll already know where they belong on this indisputable 20-point scale.

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About the author

Nick Douglas

Nick Douglas

Staff Writer, Lifehacker | Nick has written for Gawker, Valleywag, the Daily Dot, and Urlesque. He currently runs the scripted comedy podcast “Roommate From Hell.”







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5 Practical Google Cheat Sheets to Use Google Apps Better

Capture date: 27.10.2019 19:53

If you’re a Google user, learning the ins and outs of its many apps can make you a power user on the internet. But who has the time? Psst, instead of a crash course, peruse these cheat sheets to level up.

Unlock the “Most Useful Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts” cheat sheet now!

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These aren’t necessarily printable cheat sheets, and they come in all forms. Some of them are extensions that teach you as you use apps. Others are condensed guides to shortcuts and features.

Surprisingly, some of these shortcuts come from Google itself, perhaps from realizing how much its users need an easier way to learn its products. Others are made by fans, journalists, and anyone else willing to help.

1. Everything Google Assistant Can Do

Google has made an official mini-site for the new Google Assistant to find out everything you can do once you set up Google Home or Home Mini. Trust me, you’ll be shocked by the number of various apps and services that plug into it.

cheat sheets for google apps

Largely, the site shows you new and trending commands, services you can use like food delivery, quick updates for things like directions, and how to use it as a media player, among other things. To know everything possible, the left sidebar is a list of categories such as arts and lifestyle, home control, productivity, shopping, food and drink, games and fun, movies, photos, TV, music, sports, travel, weather, and so on. And of course, since this is a Google product, it features a strong Search feature to find anything you want quickly.

But really, take your time in browsing and exploring the site, more than searching. It’s amazing to see how many services are available in Assistant beyond the Google apps.

2. All OK Google Commands

“Ok Google,” you say to your phone, “Who is Jay Z married to?” And right on cue, Google will tell you the answer. It’s Beyonce, of course, but the point is that Google is able to give you a lot of information if you ask.

cheat sheets for google apps

The “OK Google” commands on your smartphone are almost as useful as the questions you ask Google Assistant. And this nifty site has a full list of every single command you can ask, from information about relationships and movies to setting an alarm and calculating a quick tip. The point is to know each command’s phrase and use it effectively.

It’s not easy to know these commands given how varied they are. But use a few memory boosting tricks to remember anything and you’ll soon be maximizing your Android phone’s abilities.

3. Google’s Official G Suite Training

Without much fanfare, Google has launched a massive online tutorial to learn all of its apps. G Suite Training is excellent to learn the basics of any major Google app, and to also get a few hints.

cheat sheets for google apps

Specifically, you should check out the G Suite Training extension for Chrome. This extension monitors when you are using any Google app, like Gmail, Search, Docs, and so on. And when you miss a shortcut, it helpfully points out how you could have saved time or energy.

Apart from the extension, the G Suite Training app hosts a bunch of cheat sheets made for each Google app. These are all downloadable, printable PDFs featuring basic tips and tricks for each service. Perfect to stick one up in your cubicle:

4. Printable Advanced Google Search Cheat Sheet

Google search operators, or search operands, can make a huge difference in the quality of results you get. And they aren’t that difficult to learn. You usually only need a quick reminder, which this printable cheat sheet will do.

cheat sheets for google apps

It includes a lot of the simpler stuff that you remember on a daily basis, like using quotes to search an exact phrase or minus to remove mentions of a particular phrase. But it’s the slightly more advanced stuff that helps, like using “inurl” to find posts with your search term in the page’s URL.

There are also the shortcuts you can use, like “Define:” to look up a word’s meaning or “movie:” to find which cinemas are showing that film and at what time.

5. The Minimalistic Gmail Cheat Sheet

For a lot of us, Gmail is the default email app. And if you really want to be proficient with it, you need to learn its keyboard shortcuts. Shortcuts are a pain to learn and remember, so here’s a quick cheat sheet to print and hang.

The minimalistic Gmail cheat sheet’s biggest feature is how beautiful it looks. And the tiny graphics are excellent to draw your eye towards what you’re trying to do and check the shortcut for you. Sure, you can learn those shortcuts through an app, but who wants to add more bulk to your already slow Chrome browser?

File Explorer Search Filters Every Windows User Should Know

Capture Date: 16.09.2018 23:00:59

The most common way to search in Windows File Explorer is to plop a word in the search bar, and the File Explorer will spit out the results. The File Explorer’s search bar is far more powerful than you think. Though there is nothing wrong with the general approach, you can further improve the search results using Windows Advanced Query Syntax, or what is simply known as search filters. Here are some of the most useful File Explorer search filters that every Windows user should know.

Find Files with a Specific Extension

When you want to find files with a specific file extension, then all you have to do is use the *.fileExtension search filter. The * in front of the file extension is called a wildcard and helps to ignore the filename. For instance, if you want to find all the MS Word documents on your hard drive, all you have to do is type *.docx in the File Explorer search bar and press the Enter button.


Since we are already using the wildcard, if you know part of the file name, you can add it before or after the * symbol. For instance, a search like ra*.mp3 shows all the mp3 files with the letters that start with “ra.”

Find Files Based on File Size

When your hard disk is filling up, it is time to find all those big files and either delete them or move them to other locations. To help you with that, File Explorer has a specific filter to find files based on their file size.

To find files based on file size, enter size: fileSize in the search bar. Replace “fileSize” with the actual file size, like 100MB. You can also use greater than (>) and less than (<) signs to find files larger or smaller than the specified file size. For instance, if you want to find files that are larger than one gigabyte, then use the search filter size: >1GB.


Though you can manually enter the file size as needed, File Explorer has some built-in easy-to-remember pre-defined properties to make things a tad bit easier. They are as follows.

  • Empty: Files that are empty or 0KB
  • Tiny: Files between 0 to 10KB
  • Small: Files between 10KB and 100KB
  • Medium: Files between 100KB and 1MB
  • Large: Files between 1MB and 16MB
  • Huge: Files between 16MB and 128MB
  • Gigantic: Files larger than 128MB

To use the above properties, type size: medium and press Enter. Of course, you can replace “medium” with any option you want.

Find Files Based on Date

Other than file size, you can also use the File Explorer’s search bar to find files that are created on, after, or before a certain date. Just like with the file size filter, you have to use the keyword date: to search files based on date. To be helpful, as soon as you type “date:” in the search bar, File Explorer will show a simple calendar so that you can quickly choose the date you need.

Use the > and < signs to find files created after or before the given date. If needed, you can use “>=” and “<=” to find files that are created on or after a given date and on or before a given date.


Find a Specific Kind of Files

While the file extension filter helps you find all the files with that specific extension, the “kind” filter helps you find all the files of a specific kind, regardless of their extension. For example, if you want to see all the images on your hard disk regardless of their file extension, like JPG, PNG, PSD, ICO, etc., then all you have to do is type kind:=picture.


There is a whole boatload of the “kind” properties. They include but are not limited to calendar, communication, film, music, note, video, task, program, email, and feed. The good thing is you don’t have to remember all these properties. Just place your mouse cursor in the search bar, click on the “Search” tab and then select the “Type” option to see all the available properties.


Find Files with the Specific Tag

I’ve recently shown how to tag files in Windows. Once tagged, you can find those files using the tag: property. For instance, if you want to find all the photos that are tagged as “vacation,” you simply type tag: vacation in the search field.


Additional Search Operators

Apart from the above search filters, File Explorer also offers additional search operators like “AND,” “OR,” “NOT,” and “[search term]” to further refine the search experience. If you have basic programming knowledge, you might’ve already guessed what these search operators can do. Other than “[search term],” these search operators are used to combine two search filters.

AND: when used, it will show results that satisfy both search filters. For example, *.mp3 AND size: >100MB will show all the MP3 files that are over 100MB.


OR: while the AND operator only shows results that satisfy both parameters, the OR operator shows results that satisfy at least one parameter. For example, using financial OR banking in the search bar results in files that have the word financial or the word banking in their name.


NOT: the NOT operator is useful when you want to exclude an item or search filter. As an example, a search like financial NOT banking will show all the files that contain the word “financial” but not “banking” in their name.

“[search term]”: When you know the exact phrase, you can use the “[search term]” filter and replace [search term] with the actual search term. A search like "family vacation" will result in files that have the exact phrase “family vacation” in them names.


The File Explorer’s search bar is a very powerful tool. The above search filters and operators are good enough for day to day usage. However, there are a lot more things you can do with the File Explorer’s search bar. Thankfully, Microsoft has detailed documentation regarding its Advanced Query Syntax and how to use it. So, spend some time with it and refine your search skills.

Comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences regarding using the above search filters to search in File Explorer.

How to Keep Windows 10 Organized, Pretty, and Productive

Capture Date: 16.09.2018 22:36:38

Microsoft Windows can get messy. It’s not (always) the operating system’s fault. You download tons of apps and files, and create new content stuff of your own, until your “Downloads” directory looks like a landfill for old content. Your desktop is so full of icons, you can’t see your pretty wallpaper. Your Start Menu looks like an app buffet. In short, your operating system is a mess, but it’s not unfixable.

We take spring cleaning very seriously at Lifehacker. Far be it from us to let an opportunity to refresh, reorganize, and declutter our homes lives pass us by. We’re also pretty psyched to hit the reset button on our tech usage, take a close look at our finances, and give the heave-ho to the day-to-day habits that have gotten a little musty. Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week, wherein we clear the cobwebs of winter and set the stage for sunny days ahead. Let’s clean things up, shall we?

There are a few free apps you can use to add some much-needed organization to your Windows world. Here are a few of our favorites:


We covered this app a long time ago, but it’s worth resurrecting. DropIt is a great utility that can help you stay organized if you’re the kind of person who dumps everything you download (or copy to your PC) into a single folder—one giant, sprawling hub that many files enter, but rarely leave.

DropIt allows you to set up a ton of different rules that fire off whenever you drag files onto the utility’s little icon. For example, you can set the app to always move image files into your primary photos folder, video files into your videos folder, and Word documents into—you guessed it—your documents folder.

That’s just the start. If you want to get more advanced, DropIt can automatically scan folders (like your Downloads folder) and apply more advanced filters to anything it finds, like automatically unzipping archives, renaming files based on your parameters, or compressing large batches of files that are otherwise taking up a bit more space than you want.

Automation is a great way to help you stay organized in Windows, and DropIt practically gives you a virtual helper at your fingertips.


If your sprawling photo library needs some serious organization but you don’t want to pay for something like Adobe Lightroom, the open-source app digiKam is a great alternative.

Use this app to sort your photos and create (or edit) metadata so you can find exactly what you’re looking for in one easy-to-access library. If you’re also a bit of a photo perfectionist, you can use digiKam to edit your regular and RAW shots to make them picture-perfect.

This app is a much better solution for organizing shots than just dumping them into arbitrary Windows folders. Your disorganized hard drive will thank you, and you’ll be much less likely to lose (or forget about) images going forward.


We’re not going to ask why you have a bunch of emulators installed on your system, and we’re going to assume that all the ROMs spread across that nightmare of a folder structure in the “Games” portion of your hard drive are completely legal. Right? Regardless, if you just spent the last day getting your nostalgia kick by downloading archives of thousands of different retro games to play on your modern-day PC, keeping these games under control is going to feel overwhelming.

We suggest grabbing LaunchBox, which is a great “game organizer” utility that allows you to quickly find and play titles in your giant library. You can tap into the app’s crowd-sourced database to pepper your titles with useful information, like release dates, genres, publishers, and images, and you can mark certain games as favorites to make theme easier to hunt down when you have a little time to kill.

LaunchBox also makes it (somewhat) easy to import games from your favorite distribution services, like Steam,, and GoG (to name a few). If you’re the world’s biggest gamer who plays everything you can download and always grabs new titles to try from all the major services, LaunchBox is a great way to organize your games under one digital roof.


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Screenshot: Nurgo Software

Everyone knows Windows’ Aero Snap shortcuts, right? Hit Windows Key + one of the arrow keys on your keyboard to send your active window flying all around your screen: minimizing, opening, shrinking to fill a quarter or half of your display, and bouncing off your primary display entirely (if you have a multi-monitor setup).

AquaSnap takes this concept and supercharges it. You can snap your windows to different parts of your display, just like with Aero Snap, but you can also do so much more.

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Screenshot: Nurgo Software

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For example, if you have three windows open in a lovely tiled configuration, you can resize all three on the fly just by dragging your mouse around—each expands and shrinks as needed. Your windows can now snap to each other, not just the corners of your display, and you can move connected apps around as one large chunk of a group.

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Screenshot: Nurgo Software

Double-clicking on the edge of a window allows it to expand in that direction to fill the entirety of your display, a handy trick. Grabbing a app’s window and shaking it around with your mouse—yes, shaking it—turns the window transparent and sets it to sit “always on top” of any other windows you have open. That’s a great little feature if you need to access something like a calculator, but don’t want it getting too much in the way when you aren’t using it.

And if you want to get crazy, you can manage your Windows wizardry using AquaSnap’s keyboard hotkeys. Your coworkers and friends will be in awe of your mad window-moving skills.



Screenshot: David Murphy

If you’re the kind of person who arranges your smartphone apps by color, you’re going to love TileIconifier. Though it’s going to demand a bit of your time if you’re crazy about how your Start Menu looks, this utility allows you to customize your apps’ tiles.

For example, if you love a particular color (green), and are upset that the background color of your favorite app’s tile doesn’t align with your chromatic preferences, you can fix that. You can either upload your own custom image to use as a medium or small tile—sorry, large or wide tiles aren’t supported—or you can simply use the app’s existing icon (scaled to any size) with any background color you want. You can make both light and dark versions of the icon, too, in case you ever feel like switching Windows themes.

Of course, most of your icons’ backgrounds should just switch to whatever color you select as an accent in Windows 10 (Settings > Personalization > Colors). TileIconifier is a great way to bend the more stubborn icons to your will—or, worse, to replace every official icon on your tiles with a different image of a cute animal. (And do send us a screenshot if you go that route.)

How to Automatically Clean and Organize Your Desktop, Downloads, and Other Folders

Capture Date: 01.05.2018 00:51:26


Chances are your computer’s desktop and other folders aren’t cluttered because you like it that way, but because you don’t want to spend time organizing every file that hits your hard drive. Automate your file organization and stay clutter-free without the effort.

(Awesome Belvedere logo by our good friends at What Cheer).

Few people are disorganized because it’s their preference. But organization takes time, and however little time it may be, it’s generally easier to do nothing than to take a few seconds to file something away in the appropriate folder. Easier, that is, until your desktop ends up looking like this:


(Photo by awjmfotos).

Sure, you could work harder to improve your digital organization skills, but if that hasn’t worked so far, let’s take a closer look at how you can automatically clean and organize your desktop.

Automatically Clean Up Your Hard Drive with Belvedere and Hazel

To aid you in your automated, self-cleaning PC, may we suggest you check out one of two applications: Belvedere for Windows users and Hazel if you’re on a Mac. Belvedere is completely free and open source (and was, in fact, developed in house at Lifehacker). At $22, Hazel costs a pretty penny, but it works like a charm and offers a 14-day free trial if you need some convincing.

Apart from the Windows/Mac divide, Belvedere and Hazel are very similar apps. Belvedere was, in fact, inspired by Hazel, so anything you can do on Belvedere, you should also be able to do in Hazel. (Hazel is easily the more fully featured application.)

With that in mind, I’ll focus on Belvedere for the rest of this post, but remember that if you’re a Mac user, most of the same ideas should still apply with Hazel. In fact, a few years back we even detailed how to set up a self-cleaning Mac with Hazel, so you can also jump over there for some ideas.

Getting Started


These applications work on a pretty basic principle: Once installed, launch the utility (Belvedere sits in your Windows system tray; Hazel installs as a preference pane in your System Preferences), then get the ball rolling by adding a new folder you’d like to monitor, clean, and organize. (Click the ‘+’ button like in the screenshot above.) Common choices include your desktop, Downloads, and Documents folders.


Then create new rules for how you want to organize files in each folder. (Select the folder you just added in the left sidebar, then click the ‘+’ button under the Rules section.) You’ll be met with the Create a Rule window, where your options for setting up rules are pretty extensive; you can match files based on file name, extension, size, modified date, last opened date, and date created, and you can create any combination of these criteria to get laser-precise with matching rules. When files match rules you’ve set up, you can choose to move, rename, delete, copy, open, or send the file to your Recycle Bin.

It’s all the ingredients of better hard drive organization, but it’s also a little confusing, so lets take a look at a few example uses.

Move Common File Types to Appropriate Folders

If you download a lot of content from the web, chances are your Downloads folder is overflowing with images, video, installers, documents, ZIP files, and tons more—leaving you with an absolutely unwieldy and completely disorganized folder. If that sounds familiar—whether your Downloads folder, Documents folder, or desktop is the offending repository—try setting up rules to automatically file away common files to pre-defined folders.


The above rule will automatically file images with PNG, JPG, GIF, JPEG, RAW, and BMP file types to a dedicated Images folder. (Note: When you’re using Belvedere’s “one of” rules, separate various options with a comma and no space.) If you take a lot of screenshots, you could set up something similar for filing old screenshots to an Archived Screenshots folder.

To take it further, you could set up similar rules for moving common video file types to your video folder, Word documents to your Documents folder, and so on.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Desktop Shortcuts

Despite keeping a keen eye on the requisite checkboxes, it seems like every time you install a new application, the installer places another link you don’t want on your desktop. That’s clutter you just don’t need. Try setting up a rule that sends .lnk shortcut files to your Recycle Bin so that even when the occasional link slips by, you don’t have to worry about it cluttering up your desktop.


Regularly Clean Out Old, Unused Files

Most of the stuff we download—or the stuff that ends up cluttering our desktops—is probably important when we first put it there, but what about after three weeks? A month? A year?

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Consider setting up a rule to monitor your common folders for those old, unused files, and send them to your Recycle Bin (e.g., files you haven’t opened in over 3 months):


Moving files around is one thing, but If you’re worried that a rule you’ve set up might accidentally end up deleting a file you need, you can vet your rules before you set them loose in a couple of ways.


First, before you set a new rule into motion, be sure to click the Test button to see what files match your rule. If something matches your rule that shouldn’t, your rule may need a few more tweaks.


Second, if you don’t like the idea of Belvedere moving around, copying, and deleting files, just tick the Confirm Action checkbox in the Rule Options. Before Belvedere takes any action on matching items, it’ll prompt you to green light any action.

Finally, if you’re a serious digital pack rat, you can always create a catchall Archive folder somewhere on your hard drive to file away the stuff that doesn’t really have a place but is taking up valuable place on your desktop.

Empty Your Recycle Bin on a Schedule

If you’re obsessive about keeping your Recycle Bin clean (at the very least, Lifehacker writer Whitson Gordon is seriously concerned with keeping his Bin clean), click the Recycle Bin tab in Belvedere’s main window, tick the Allow Belvedere to manage my Recycle Bin checkbox, then choose an interval for emptying it out. (I like to take out the trash once a week.)


Add Downloaded Music to iTunes

If you’re an iTunes user, I recently detailed how to use Belvedere to automatically add any song you download to your iTunes library, so for more details, check out that post. In a nutshell, you’re going to monitor your Downloads folder, BitTorrent downloads, and other common spots for new MP3s and other common music file types, then you’ll move those files to the folder that iTunes watches for new music. That rule will look something like:


Who Says You Have to Hate Mondays? Here’s How to Love Them!

Capture Date: 18.03.2018 23:51:57

For many people, the end of the day Sunday leads to sadness. The workweek is getting ready to begin, and for many people, that really sucks. An Emoji to English Dictionary: Emoji Faces’ Meaning, Explained An Emoji to English Dictionary: Emoji Faces’ Meaning, Explained Confused by a text? Here are the commonly accepted meanings of popular emoji. Read More

However, Monday doesn’t have to be something you dread. Perhaps, instead of screaming TGIF at the end of every week, you can spend your Monday morning exclaiming TGIM. (Okay, that might be a stretch, but you get the point.)

The infographic below from Monster provides you with the secrets of people who love their job. If you follow them, you just might love Monday too!

Click to Enlarge

TGIMInfographicFinal 2

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10 Tips for Success with GTD

Capture Date: 11.03.2018 19:37:36

I was reading a great article about creating fitness habits and realized every key point the author made about exercise could be applied to GTD®—especially for anyone still trying to get their systems off the ground and build sustainable habits. Inspired by that article, here are 10 easy tips for success with GTD:

1. Start Small

There is a lot that makes up the Getting Things Done® methodology. But that doesn’t mean you need to learn or master it all, all at once. Start with the master moves, like:

  • Write down everything that grabs your attention when it shows up (supporting the idea that your mind is better used to have ideas, not hold them).
  • Try the Two-Minute Rule, which would mean handling things that take less than two minutes to finish when they show up.
  • Make sure you really understand the 5 steps to mastering workflow—those are the keys to how everything gets done in your life and are the backbone to GTD.

2. Set Easy Rules

Create a game you can win with GTD. Instead of saying you’re going to get your inbox to zero every day, start with an easier goal of once a week. Instead of saying you’re going to do the GTD Weekly Review every week for the next 10 years, try scheduling just the next one. And when you’ve done that one, book the next one after that.

3. Trust You Are Not Too Busy

One of the common misconceptions and pushbacks about GTD is that it will take more time than people think they have to spend. The funny thing is, this ignores the time being spent now with inefficient systems and behaviors. Opening and closing an email without making a decision about it is taking more time than it deserves and more time than it would take to make a decision the first time you open it, using the GTD Clarifying Map.

Not having a dedicated time like the Weekly Review to get clear and current means your mind will try to do that kind of process 24/7.

Having the same idea more than once about something you need to do is taking more effort than it deserves (unless you really like having that idea).

4. Have a Why

One of the things we do at the start of the GTD Fundamentals course is to ask participants to consider, “What’s your desired outcome?” and “What would you like to be doing or experiencing differently?” The idea of inbox zero is nice, but why? Will that give you more peace of mind? Better sleep? The ability to be more present with your friends and family? Better chance at leaving work at work? Asking why will automatically move your thinking higher in your horizons of focus and to the deeper meaning about what drives you. You’ll want to know the why when you least feel like doing the maintenance that comes with being productive.

5. Be Prepared

GTD requires some simple gear. For starters, get an in-tray on your desk designated for new, incoming stuff (separate from work you’ve already decided what you need to do about). That tray will serve you well as a trusted bucket for capturing good ideas, meeting notes, etc. Without a designated tray for “IN,” you risk your whole desk/office/house being your in-tray.

The next thing I would recommend is a ubiquitous capture tool for giving you a fighting chance on having an empty mind. Without a capture tool to grab ideas, your mind is forced to try and hold on to them, and won’t do a very good job doing that. (It’s the wrong tool for the job).

6. Keep it Interesting

Mix up your tools, habits, and rewards. If you’ve been doing your Weekly Review the same way and they are feeling stale, mix it up by trying it on a different day, time, or location. I’ve heard from many clients that just doing it somewhere other than their office has sparked new inspiration.

Changing tools can also keep the process interesting. I recently moved from Evernote to Wunderlist for storing my projects and actions lists and was reminded about how changing tools can feel new and exciting again. And it forced me to re-evaluate everything on my lists as I transferred things over. I let go of some things and triaged some to Someday/Maybe.

7. Get Support

A friend of mine has been working out with a trainer for nearly two years. By this point, she knows the proper form and has a good variety of workout options to stay fit, yet she continues to see the trainer for motivation. She knows the trainer is waiting for her at the gym at 7am every Monday and Wednesday. It keeps her accountable and showing up—for herself and the trainer.

The same idea applies to GTD. You can hire a GTD Coach to motivate you, or at least get a colleague or friend who is also into GTD to check in with. There are often people on our GTD Forums looking for Weekly Review buddies or who use the forums to report in and have others celebrate their successes. Bottom line—don’t white-knuckle this alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, get support. If you’re feeling bored or stuck, first see #4, then find someone who you can support and who can support you on your path of mastery.

8. Learn What Works for You

One of the areas I often see people struggle with is using tools that don’t work for them. There is no one perfect tool for GTD, but there are many that will work really well if you work them. If you are repelled in any way by the tools you are using for GTD (capture tools, list manager, reference manager, etc.), then switch it up.

9. Get Momentum

GTD is a mental game, but it’s learned from practical experience. Build some reference points through repetition for having a clear head, inbox zero, Weekly Review, complete projects list, and current lists.

Along the start small theme in #1, give yourself winnable goals for building those reference points, like trying for inbox zero at least once a week. Much like when you were a kid and learned that brushing your teeth felt better than not, knowing what inbox zero feels like will be a strong motivator.

10. Keep At It

Much like learning a sport, you’ll have some falls with GTD. It’s part of the game. In fact, David Allen has often said that if you’re not out of control regularly, you’re not playing a big enough game. The good news is that it’s easy to get back “on” with GTD if you feel like you’ve fallen off the wagon. Simple things can make a big difference, like doing a Mind Sweep to capture what’s grabbing your attention, doing a thorough Weekly Review, completing that one thing that’s been waking you up at 4am, or clarifying the next action on a project that’s been stuck. Don’t underestimate the power of these key behaviors. They are at the core of mastery with GTD.

David says it takes two minutes to understand the five steps of mastering workflow, two days to get yourself set up, and two years to make the GTD behaviors a habit. So wherever you are in this journey, be kind to yourself and acknowledge your wins.

–Kelly Forrister, Certified GTD Coach