Stress, The Doctor and the DMV – A Productivity Lesson

The Doctor’s Visit

Recently, I was at the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how long I will ever be there, no matter if I schedule the earliest appointment they have. As it turned out, I waited over an hour to even see the person who does all the recording of all my vitals – pulse, blood pressure, temperature. After that was done, I had to wait another 20 mins to actually see the doctor.


How many of you dread the visit to the DMV?

It’s painful. We all know it. It’s just what we have to do if we want to legally drive in this country. Worse yet, it’s as if misery feeds misery. You don’t want to be there and when you look around, neither does anyone else.

The Stress Video

Enter a video posted to a friend’s Facebook account. He made a decision to enjoy his life a little more than being insanely frantic 24×7. When he publicly announced that, someone posted the following TED Talk about stress for him to watch.

In her talk, part of what Kelly McGonigal talks about is reversing the idea that stress is bad for you. We have always learned that stress is bad but what if we can use stress as a positive?

So how do these things all fit together?

Well, the first two are probably obvious. Waiting sucks. But what about the idea of making stress your friend?

Turning Their Time into My Time

While I waited at the doctor’s office, I wrote a full draft of my 2 Apps to Develop Great Habits article. In fact, when I was finally called in to see the doctor, I was a bit bummed as I still had a few thoughts in my head and I had to stop.

But as I looked around, most of all the other waiting patients were just staring at the walls. Granted, they could’ve been doing work that wasn’t evident. I also know that they may have had other important things on their minds (like their health).

What do you notice at the DMV? Probably the same thing – a LOT of people sitting around for HOURS, staring at the wall.

What I realized is that with limited thinking, I can make these typical painful situations work for me. In fact, I would argue that I like going to the doctor’s office or DMV because it gives me a place where I can focus.

I can choose to be miserable or I can do something about it.

And when I choose not to be miserable, I make that time go faster.

Let’s face it, you probably don’t know anyone at either place so unless you are ultra-extroverted, you aren’t going to be starting any long and great conversations at those places.

You’ve got dedicated time. None of your co-workers are going to bother you. You don’t have to leave the office to go to the library or coffee shop to get away from them.

The best thing about that trip to see the doctor? I didn’t have to get home to then spend 90 minutes writing a blog article because I was playing games or watching videos on my phone during the visit.

So, the next time you have to go somewhere where it’s even remotely possible that a long wait is going to happen, don’t dread it. Embrace it.

Assume it’s going to happen and turn it into a positive.

Heck, find something you’ve been putting off for a long time and get it done. That will even make it better.

Worst case, the visit is much shorter than expected. But then you can brag about how little time you spent at the DMV.

A Great Piece of Advice from Arianna Huffington

“You can actually complete a project by dropping it.” – Arianna Huffington

I could try to write a full blown blog post about wasting time but luckily, I don’t have to. I’d rather be efficient and refer to this keynote by Arianna Huffington a couple of years ago that I was lucky enough to attend.

Jump to the 17:53 mark to get to my favorite part of her talk although if you have the time, I found many great nuggets of wisdom throughout.

The only thing I will add personally to her keynote is that there are many people out there telling you do something or use something to help you improve your life (including yours truly).

Try it. But if it doesn’t work for you, shut it down. Find something else that works for you.

Why do you think there are multitudes of successful to-do list applications? Should you use Todoist or Wunderlist or 2Do or ToodleDo or Any.Do or Google Keep or OneNote or Remember the Milk or OmniFocus?

They all can share market space because we all work differently.

As Arianna says, drop things with clarity. If you know it doesn’t work for you, no matter how many people you trust suggest you try it, dump it.

By not continuing to waste your time, you ultimately save time.

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.

You Don’t Need No Stinking Badges

Badges, Sounds, Banners.

Fantastic in theory. Total disruption in practice.

Badges kill your productivity and they most likely make you feel like a lazy piece of crap.

If you have an iPhone or iPad or even an Apple computer, you know what badges are. (I’m assuming other products have the same.) Maybe not by name but they are in your face all day, every day.

The most common badge that people know is the one that shows the number of new emails that you have. I recently saw a friend’s email badge that had 5 digits.

5 digits.

That’s 10,000 plus.

Don’t read any further. Just look at that number for 10 seconds.

How is that not a recipe for disaster? If this was my inbox, I would probably quit life.

The crazy thing is that I see this ALL THE TIME.

When I ask people about it, I usually get one of a select few common answers.

“I hate it”
“Is that what that’s called?”
“Can I turn it off?”

For this post, I’m going to offer up one quick and simple solution.

Turn off ALL badges, especially your Email badge.

On your iOS device, follow these steps:

  • Go into Settings
  • Click on Notifications
  • Click on Email
  • Click on Badge App Icon to toggle it off
iPhone homescreen
Doesn’t that look nice?!

The reason why you should do this is so that you don’t constantly have ANY number staring you in your face that will compel you to look at it.

If you have a large number, it’s going to make you feel miserable. It will be a constant reminder that you are behind – that you have a lot of emails that you need to look at (that you probably never will).

Seeing a large number will negatively affect you.

As I’ve written previously, you have to manage your email so it doesn’t manage you.

Hopefully, at your own designated time, you will look at your emails. It will be on your own terms. That shouldn’t change whether you have 2 or 10 or 50 emails.

Ask yourself, what purpose does seeing your email count serve?

Earlier, I mentioned that you should turn off all your badges. I would say that keeping your Phone badge on is probably a good thing so you know if you missed a call. But even keeping the Calendar badge on is debatable.

And if you don’t believe me, believe these people.

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.