Improving Efficiency with 1Password

How many times have you forgotten a password?

Wait, don’t answer that. I already know the answer because for most, the answer is “a lot.”

Including me.

I was your typical online personality. I would reuse the same login information so it was easy for me to remember. Why not minimize a lot of headaches?

The good news is that over the last year, I only have to remember one master password. And that’s not because I use the same password for every site I login to.

The reason is because I wanted to increase my online security. In this day and age, we constantly hear stories about accounts getting hacked. My mindset is that it’s only going to get worse if it ever gets better.

After doing some research, I decided to go with 1Password.

The benefit of having more secure passwords makes me sleep better at night. Are they are fool-proof? No. But they aren’t embarassingly hackable by a 4 year old either. And they are all unique so if one site gets hacked, I don’t have to worry about others.

Security Up, Productivity Up

But as much as I made my decision based on security, the benefit impacts my productivity on a daily basis.

You can’t imagine how many sites you login per day. It’s more than you think.

Now I have to remember only one password.


So while I can have many unique very passwords that look like this:


I don’t ever have to remember any of them.

At current count, I have over 250 logins. Mind you, not all of them are for me personally, which I’ll get to in a minute.

And, I don’t even have to type in my one long master password everytime. If I’ve used 1Password recently on my laptop, I can simply use a keyboard shortcut to enter login credentials to any site. It will also auto-fill credit card info if you choose to use that time-saving feature.

As mentioned earlier, this problem is insanely common. As a consultant, I have multiple clients. Due to the work I do, many times I need access to some of their accounts, which I never feel comfortable asking for. But in some cases, there is no way around me needing some of their private information.

So having a secure password manager makes me feel a lot better that I can protect someone else’s privacy as well.

As a sidenote and the impetus for this article, ALL of my clients at one time or another have asked me for one of their passwords. I guess it’s nice knowing that they inherently trust me but I’d rather see my clients improve the way they handle their online security.

People think that password management, if they even know about it, is only about security.

I propose that it’s only half the reason. The other half is decluttering your brain with insecure information and not wasting time trying to find the password you wrote down somewhere or resetting it only to forget it the next time.

I happen to use 1Password but with minimal effort, you can find lots of them out there.

Please note that I have received no compensation from the makers of 1Password for this article.

Keyboard Shortcuts – Friend or Enemy?

Billiard Balls
Have you ever had someone try to teach you something and it just didn’t click with you?

Or maybe someone else came along and told you to do it differently?

A couple of months ago, I joined a pool (billiards) league, mainly to help my friend CT out who was starting it. Although I owned a pool table for a few years way back in the day, it had been many years since I played with any regularity.

Even when I did play, I never truly tried to learn how to hit many shots. Sure, I could put some backspin on the cue ball but that was it.

So, after costing my team a match recently, my partner JR, who is a very good player decided to show me a few things to improve. Without getting into the gruesome details of this particular shot, he told me to hit it with top right english. I spent about 10 minutes practicing the shot that way.

It was at this point when CT, who had just walked over, grabs a stick and says he hits the shot with top LEFT english. He proceeds to knock it into the pocket on the first try.

JR turns to me and says, “that way works too – whichever way you feel comfortable.”

I’m not saying JR was just trying to cover his ass, but you have to imagine that I got a huge chuckle when that all went down.

So why am I talking to you about my crappy pool skills?

How does that story affect you one iota?

Here’s another true story that may hit a little closer to home for you.

The Keyboard Shortcut Dilemma

One day, I was helping a family member while she worked on her computer. Let me preface that she has used a computer for MANY years. As she worked, I noticed she never used keyboard shortcuts.

Whenever she needed a command, she would go find it on the applications menu bar. Honestly, I think she even quit the application using the menu bar.

After asking her about it, she said that her son used keyboard shortcuts all the time but that she couldn’t remember them so she just just used the menu bar.

After getting past my initial shock, I realized that this is what worked for her.

Did I personally find it inefficient? Without question. There is no denying that using your keyboard, where your hands are all the time, is much faster than using a mouse.

But, what it doesn’t take into account is the fact that having to store those keyboard shortcuts in your brain, isn’t for everyone, including my sister.

It was far better for her to not worry about trying to remember keyboard shortcuts when there was a perfectly good alternative solution – the ever-present menu bar.

She found a way that worked for her.

All that being said, I would still argue that one should learn the basic shortcuts – the ones that are application-agnostic, like copy/paste, undo, quit, save, save as, print, etc.

Push yourself a little bit. Maybe you’ll find that it’s easier to remember a bunch of shortcuts than you thought.

Given that those are common to all programs, you will use them all the time and increase your efficiency very quickly.

If you use a particular program on a regular basis, try learning some shortcuts of actions that you find yourself using frequently. If you are a writer, chances are, you may bold, italicize, and check spelling quite frequently.

How to learn keyboard shortcuts

It’s pretty simple. If you find yourself doing an action repetitively, go up to the menu and find that action. But instead of just clicking on it, look to see if it has a keyboard shortcut. If it does, it typically shows the keyboard command to the right. (see below). If it has a shortcut, mentally note it, back out of the menu, and then use the shortcut instead. Over time, you may find that you don’t have to go to the menu anymore.


So, what’s the moral of this blog post?

Listen to what JR said.

Find the way that works for you and do it that way.


Manage Your Email So It Doesn’t Manage You

Your email inbox is out of control.

If it’s not, congratulate yourself. You are one of a true minority that can say that.

For most people, we are inundated with emails that come from or are related to:

  • work
  • friends
  • family
  • newsletters
  • ads
  • news
  • invoices and bills
  • deals
  • services you use
  • renewals
  • google alerts
  • tips and insights
  • general notifications
  • spam
  • other

That’s quite a lot, right there.

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Why Should I Minimize Emails?

The main reason is because emails are a huge distraction. It causes us to lose focus on our immediate tasks at hand – the tasks we’ve determined will get us towards our goals.

Somewhere in time, we became addicted to email. It was/is an easy way to communicate.

Then, people (mostly companies) realized it was a great way to market to others. In fact, an email list it’s still promoted as the best way to market to people. Companies give away stuff for free (i.e. guides, newsletters, tips) in exchange for your email. That’s Inbound Marketing, folks.

But I digressed there. Sorry.

The main goal here is to take back some control of your email.

It stands to reason that the less email you receive, the less you feel you have to be constantly checking your emails, thereby putting all the focus in the right place.

Ask a Few Questions to Help Eliminate Email Overload

Some emails you can’t necessarily control easily. I would argue that everything can be minimized or deleted altogether but let’s focus with the emails that aren’t from people you know, be it personal or work.

While I believe that multitasking is mostly a myth, in this case, you can definitely do it.

The next time you find yourself watching a sporting event (especially golf) or The Voice or anything that doesn’t require you to concentrate on every little thing that happens, grab your computer or mobile device and look at all those emails that aren’t from work, friends, and family.

Go back through your emails for the last week. Ask yourself the following questions for each email.

  • Do I really still read this? Sure, 3 years ago, that newsletter may have provided a lot of value. But things change. Does it still bring you value? If not, get rid of it.
  • Did I leave it there to read later? If you left it for later, did you ever go back to it? The problem with later is that it rarely comes. For most people, ‘later’ emails just pile up until you just delete them anyway.
  • Is this a notification for a bill that’s due? If it’s a recurring reminder, stop sending them to yourself. Create a repeating task on your task list like paying bills every xth day of the month. Your email is NOT your task list.
  • Do I get this same information from a different place (i.e. social networks, phone apps)? Cut out redundancies.
  • Do I need to get this at the same frequency as I’m now getting it? Sometimes, you can control how often you receive an alert, deal, tip etc. Back it off and see if that has any effect on your life. After a month or two, you may realize you can delete it completely.

On top of those questions, are there any emails that you tend to delete as soon as they come in? Newsletters are a good example of this.

I had someone suggest that I sign up for a newsletter because they thought it had so much great info. After getting them for over 2 years, I realized I deleted it more often than not. Worse, I felt guilty not reading it. So not only was it clogging up my inbox, it was making me feel bad. Lose-lose.

The Big Finish

As you may know by now, I’m a big believer in purging. I don’t try to live a minimalist lifestyle but I feel everyone can learn a lot by purging.

I’m not saying that emails don’t have value. But you want to make sure they continuously bring you so much value that it’s worth filling up your inbox.

After you do this email purge once, everytime you get one of these types of emails, ask yourself the questions above and if they don’t add value, unsubscribe (or change the frequency) immediately.


Purging to Increase Focus and Efficiency

Cluttered Desk Drawer

Have you ever watched Hoarders on the A&E network?

Do some of those houses make you nauseous?

How messy is your house or your office? Have you ever thought about decluttering your space?

Decluttering and tidying up seems to have become a huge trend recently. Marie Kondo wrote a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing that apparently a zillion other people have read beside myself.  She’s everywhere, including The Wall Street Journal.

For me, this was life-altering. It’s all I could talk about and think about for about a month straight.

I purged. I donated. I did it all. (Ok, maybe not all since I’m still not finished.)

Recently I was asked to be interviewed by the great folks at UnStuckable and also to write a guest post about my experience with purging. Granted, I was nowhere near the level of these tv examples.

In the podcast and the article (links coming soon), you’ll get a pretty good picture of the benefits I found in doing a huge purge.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Decluttering and purging brings great focus

What I don’t elaborate in those pieces much is that purging brings great focus.

Here are some random office examples and the benefits they brought me:

  • My desk is now clear, which allows me not to be distracted
  • Computer cables and adapters have been severely minimized and stored, decreasing the time and hassle of finding what I need
  • Getting rid of office supplies frees up drawer space that can be utilized more efficiently. No need for finding other ways to store things (i.e. another cabinet)
  • Books have been donated allowing only those that I truly value to take up space. One large bookcase has been removed (out of two)

My new office space is a place where I can now focus, increasing my efficiency and productivity. Not only that, I love being in there now!

Tidy Up Your Task List

Don’t stop at your physical space. Bring this concept to everything you do, including your task lists.

I recently met a client who uses task management software. When I glanced at it, I saw a list about 30 items long. And that was just what I could see on the screen. That list went on for a few screens.

I get it. We all have a lot of stuff to do.

My list is long too. One main reason is because I write everything down.

If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

However, with a little bit of organizing, my list looks a lot more manageable and not so overwhelming.

I can focus on the most important things. The MITs. The Frogs.

Every month, I also reflect on my list to see what truly needs to stay on it. Nobody wants a long laundry list of tasks so do some purging.

Circumstances change in your life. It’s ok to purge things that you once thought were important to do.


One Simple Solution to Become More Efficient

List of tasks on hand

How many times have you been talking to friends and they say “you have to see xyz movie” and 2 hours later, you are texting them for the name of that movie?

You look like an idiot to your friends. But who cares? They don’t think you’re an idiot because they do the same thing.

More critically, have you ever been in a meeting and after you get back to your computer, you realize you can only remember half the things that you were now supposed to do?

Or, you were on a 20-minute phone call, knew and agreed to all the tasks that you had to, only to find your boss chewing you out two weeks later about something that you had no recollection of?

Stop Wasting My Time and Your Time

I’ll admit, this issue bugs the CRAP out of me.

I see it ALL the time.

Every time I see it happen, I want to tee-off on the person that’s doing it. Or rather, not doing it.

If we’re talking to each other and there are clear takeaways, you better be writing something down.

If you didn’t follow through with something because you forgot, you’ve just wasted my time and your time.

One Small Fix to Improve Your Efficiency

Write it down. Duh.

I don’t remember where I read it but someone wrote something to the effect of “don’t write it for you, write it for future you.”

Especially, in this day and age of smartphones, there’s no reason why you should forget anything.

The key to remember is that all you have to do is write something/anything down so that it can jog your memory later.

Here is a current snapshot of my list on my iPhone using the Drafts app.

Drafts app list

As you can see, it’s quite a diverse list of things.

To break it down, this is the background for each item.

  • Look into an application called Byword. I heard about it on a podcast and it sounded like it was worth checking out.
  • I was having drinks with my friend Mary and she suggested that I see ‘That Man from Rio.’ Once I see it, I can talk to her about it.
  • I need one last ingredient for my dinner masterpiece.
  • The topic of an article that I thought would be great to have on my client’s blog. Came to me while watching a commercial on tv.
  • A random thought while at the supermarket (possibly buying broccolini) about an article I was writing. Perhaps I could stick that in somewhere.

The Benefits of Writing Stuff Down

Forgetting something can have some serious consequences. Important tasks not completed, missed medications, important dates.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the difference between finding your wife’s killer or not. Just ask Leonard Shelby.

The other benefit that most people don’t think of is the lessening of anxiety that comes from NOT having to remember something.

If you don’t think that’s true, try this.

Find a simple free note-taking app on your phone and anytime you have to remember something, write it down quickly. For this exercise, disregard a list that you are writing down to take to the store in an hour.

Do it for a couple of days, long enough to get up to around 10 notes.

For most people, I suspect they will notice that there’s an immediate sense of relief of not having to remember something even an hour later.

No anxiety. No screaming bosses.

Why wouldn’t you put this simple process into your daily life?

Mind you, this post is not about journaling or documentation, in the way we all think about long boring documentation. I’ll get to those another time. This is about quick items.