Change Your Password, Change Your Life

Change Your Password, Change Your Life

strong_passwordLet’s face it. While passwords serve the needed purpose of protecting our digital information, most times they can just be a pain. To be effective, passwords must be changed often, be unique to each application, and contain a good mix of letters, numbers and characters. And, they shouldn’t be written down! If done the right way, remembering all of our passwords and coming up with new, unique combinations is almost impossible. Below I share two simple strategies for making this mundane task easier and perhaps even inspiring.

1. Use a Password Manager such as LastPass, RoboForm, Dashlane, or Keeper. Password Managers store your log-in information for all the websites you use and allow you to log into them automatically. The master log-in for the secure and encrypted password database is the only one you have to remember. Password Managers not only store your log-ins in a secure environment, but can generate strong passwords for you or provide a strength score for your manually created passwords. PCMag has a great review of some of these managers.

2. An article from the website Medium.com suggests using passwords to inspire and motivate you towards a certain goal.

The author shares his story, “So there it was…This input field with a pulsating cursor, waiting for me to type a password that I’d have to reenter – many times – for the next 30 days. Then, letting all the frustration go…I thought, ‘I’m gonna to use a password to change my life.’

…My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be a victim of my recent divorce and that I’m strong enough to do something about it.

My password became: “Forgive@h3r”

I had to type this statement several times a day. Each time my computer would lock. Each time my screen saver with her photo would appear. Each time I would come back from eating lunch alone. In my mind, I wrote Forgive her every day.

The simple action changed the way I look at my ex-wife. That constant reminder that I should forgive her, led me to accept the way things happened at the end of my marriage, and embrace a new way of dealing with the depression that I was drowning into. In the following days, my mood improved drastically.

One month later, my dear exchange server asked me again to renew my password. I thought about the next thing I had to get done. My password became: “Quit@smoking4ever.” And guess what happened. I’m not kidding you. I quit smoking overnight.

This is how I learned that I can truly change my life, if I play it right. I kept doing this repeatedly month after month, with great results…”

Source: Maurico Estrella. Medium (May 15, 2014), Medium.com.

What goals can you write into your passwords? I’d love to hear how your life is changed.

A Checklist for Tackling Digital Overwhelm

A Checklist for Tackling Digital Overwhelm

Last month, my Project Digital Sanity colleagues and I had the great opportunity to present to our peers at the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in Phoenix. As part of this, we created a checklist for tackling the endless amount of digital information we receive daily. When we are overwhelmed by our digital information, it’s often difficult to know how and where to start to address the related challenges. Step back, take a deep breath, and visualize what digital sanity looks like for you. Then, walk through the checklist below to reach your vision step by step.

The Prodigitivity Approach™

1. Declutter

  • I have identified target areas for digital purging.
  • I have set clear criteria for what to purge.
  • I have a strategy for decluttering my digital desktop.
  • I have a strategy for decluttering my email inbox.
  • I have a strategy for purging my digital folders.

2. Develop Structure

  • I have selected a context for my digital filing structure
  • I have identified 5-7 top-level information buckets.
  • I have a structure for current work on my digital desktop.
  • I have determined standards for naming my folders.
  • I have a plan to migrate files to my new structure.

3. Capture

  • I know all of my points of entry to reduce/consolidate.
  • I have criteria/tools to capture content in email.
  • I have criteria/tools to capture web-based content.
  • I have tools/processes to capture thoughts & notes.
  • I have a strategy to convert paper assets to digital form.

4. Processing

  • I have evaluated my digital documents’ life cycle.
  • I have a mapping strategy for examining my workflow.
  • I use a triage method for processing my email.
  • I am investigating ways to automate my processes.
  • I use a standard format for my task statements.

5. Findability

  • I have naming standards for my documents and files.
  • I am building proficiency in my search skills.
  • My desktop is arranged for finding my current work.
  • I use metadata, keywords and tags to find documents.
  • I am aggregating information into accessible portals.

If you are interested in some assistance, accountability and motivation as you work through these steps, contact me at lori@alifemadesimple.com or via the Contact page.

Organize Your Photos Like a Pro

Organize Your Photos Like a Pro

In the realm of digital information management, the storage and organization of photos may be one of the most difficult things to master.  With digital cameras, we can now shoot an unlimited number of photos easily, and editing programs allow us to customize the look of photos in just about any way imaginable.  In addition, the options for storing and organizing photos, and the features available within these programs, can make your head swim.  To make the process more manageable, you should first answer some important questions.

1.  How much space do you need to store digital photos? The size of a photo file can range from as low as .1 Mb to over 100 Mb depending on quality and use.  Determine your average photo size and number of photos to determine the storage space you need now and in the future.  Or if you have your photos currently stored in a folder, check the storage size of that particular folder to get a feel for your current needs.  How might this grow over time?

2.  Do you need to access your photos online? Will you be storing and accessing your photos from one computer, or would you like to be able to access them from any computer or mobile device?  One construction client I worked with wanted to be able to view photos of projects while on the job-site.  You may also want to use an online program as a way to back up or archive your photos. There are many good cloud-based programs for storing and organizing photos with varying features and price.

One example is a Google application called Picasa.  One great feature of Picasa is the ability to store your photos on your computer’s hard drive for organization, renaming, tagging, face recognition, location information and basic editing.  An automatic sync will then upload the photos to Google+ so that you can access them at photos.google.com using your Google account.  Any changes you make to the photos in Picasa will continue to sync with your online albums.  You can then also share your photos within your Google+ Circles.  An added benefit is the ability to use a mobile app on your phone or tablet to upload any photos from these devices.  Apps are available with both the Android and iOS systems.  Of course, iPhoto is a similar program available on Apple devices with the ability to upload to the iCloud.

If you decide to use an online storage service, be sure to review and be comfortable with the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy for the service.  For example, Google’s Terms of Service explains that you retain the ownership rights to your photos, but Google is allowed access to them in order to provide you the service and to improve on the product.

3.  How often, if ever, do you need to order prints of your photos? If you order prints of your photos often, an online program such as Snapfish or Shutterfly may be a good solution.  With these programs, you can store and organize your photos as well as perform basic editing features.  But if you don’t continue to order prints, your photos will not be stored beyond a certain amount of time (typically one year).

4.  Will you be doing professional editing of your photos? The programs mentioned so far allow editing features that are typically sufficient for the novice photographer.  If your editing needs are more advanced, you can look at a program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 12.

5.  What is your budget? As mentioned, there are a wide range of solutions available and some are free.  Price will increase with storage size, features available and the availability of advanced editing.

Note that many digital cameras come with their own organization and editing software.  If you have basic needs for photo storage and organization, this may be a good solution.

I’d love to hear what you use for your photo organization and storage.  Please share your comments on our Facebook page.

Who’s Watching You Online?

Who’s Watching You Online?

According to a 2012 infographic from Go-Golf.com, Americans spend 32 hours per month on the internet.  Do you know that when you shop, research, surf and socialize online you may have several third-parties watching your every move?  There are ways you can reduce the ability of these “stalkers” to follow you.  Most importantly, be sure your firewall and anti-spam software is up to date and the internet privacy settings are appropriate for your needs.

An article in this month’s Money magazine* offers a few additional tips to cut down on internet stalking:

1. Cut the cookies. In your browser’s privacy settings, block third-party cookies to make it tougher for marketers to keep tabs on you.  While there, check the “do not track” request, the online equivalent of a do-not-call list, says Joseph Lorenzo Hall of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Here is a picture of my settings in the Mozilla Firefox browser after choosing Tools>Options>Privacy:


You may also set it to “never save your history” and remove cookies often.

Following are the steps for other browsers, from Business Insider:

Chrome: Chrome> Preferences> Settings> Advanced Settings> Privacy> Content Settings> Click, “Block Third Party Cookies and Site Data.”

Safari: Safari> Preferences> Security> Accept Cookies> select “never.” You might also want to consider browsing privately so your history and passwords are not stored, and thus accessible.

Internet Explorer 10: Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer 10 will default to a “Do Not Track” position. The browser will send a signal to advertisers altering them that users do not want to be tracked.

2. See who’s watching. Visit a single site and you might pick up dozens of tracking tags that tail you on the web.  The free browser extension Ghostery lets you see them and decide which to nix. For shutting out third-party ads, Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggest the free AdBlock Plus extension.

3. Get an email alias. Finding you online via your email address – obtained from your loyalty card, perhaps – marketers can link your online and offline behavior and solicit you accordingly. To prevent this, Stefen Smith of information security firm SecureForce advises setting up an email account solely for commercial transactions.

* “Shop Online, Unobserved” by Sarah Max, Money, July 2013, p. 22.

Tips and Tools for Managing Electronic Reading

Tips and Tools for Managing Electronic Reading

The information we can choose to read each day is growing at an enormous rate due to the availability of digital information.  Taking into account email messages and attachments, online articles and stories, information shared via networks and cloud systems, and the vast array of social media options, we can spend our entire day in reading mode.   In last month’s article, I discussed tips and tools for managing your reading materials that are in paper form.  This month, I promised to focus on ideas for managing your electronic reading information.

Steps for management of digital reading:

1. Acknowledge that you can’t read everything.  Unsubscribe from email lists that don’t provide you value.  Delete information that doesn’t apply to your personal or professional vision and goals. The more you can declutter, keeping only that which applies to your current values and goals, the less stress and overwhelm you will feel.

2. Categorize your information by type.

  • Is it necessary for a current project or training need (active reading)?
  • Are you keeping it for a future project or “just in case” you may need it (reference reading)?
  • Is it leisure reading, or perhaps a quick read that will either be deleted or stored as reference once you are finished (for example, an email newsletter)?

3. Determine how and where you will store your information.  This should depend on the type of reading as determined above.  For example, email newsletters might be stored in a “To Read” folder, or you might save them to your hard drive or an online system such as EvernoteDropbox or iPEP(the system I personally use, which allows me to forward emails and attachments directly to my iPEP online workspaces).  If a message or attachment is related to a current or future project, consider attaching it to your task or reminder system so it is available when and where you need it.

4. Regardless of where you store your electronic reading, it should be organized in a logical way that allows for easy retrieval.  Using good titles, tags and keywords will enhance your ability to search for information.  And, if your digital reading is stored in OCR (optical character resolution) format, your search program can search content within the document as well.  Programs such as Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro allow you to scan and convert documents to OCR format.

Once you have decluttered, defined and categorized your digital reading materials, and you have developed a basic organizational structure for storage and retrieval, you can begin to enhance your structure with helpful add-ins and applications.  One of my favorites is Pocket, a free application for desktop and mobiles devices that allows you to save articles, videos, etc. in your electronic “pocket.”  If it’s in your Pocket, you can view it later on any of your mobile devices, with or without an internet connection.  Instead of using those free minutes to surf Facebook, catch up on some reading!  A helpful tool for email newsletters is Unroll.me, which is offered for Gmail and Yahoo email users.  Unroll.me allows you to roll subscription emails into a daily digest.  You can then review them at one time instead of being distracted by several throughout the day.

I’d love to hear what reading tools and apps you love to use!  Please share your favorites on our Facebook page.

The Amazon Finding System

The Amazon Finding System

Last week, I found myself channel-surfing at my local gym to find the right motivational show to watch while I worked out on the elliptical machine.  You may be surprised to hear that I stopped on a news story describing the inner workings of Amazon.com’s fulfillment centers (of which there are currently 80 around the world with the largest, in Phoenix, the size of 28 football fields).  While you wouldn’t normally think this type of entertainment would keep someone going as they work through various levels of interval training, something the reporter said kept me listening.  He said Amazon doesn’t care where its employees store the thousands of merchandise items that are put away each day.  In fact, Amazon expects its workers to store things where they fit best.  So if that means a box of golf balls is located next to a can of hair spray, so be it.

So how do Amazon’s Fulfillment Associates quickly find the Floating Bubbles Light-up Pen you just ordered for your child’s Christmas stocking?  They use a computer system, scanners, and a set of bar codes, one on the product and one on the shelf, to inventory and index each individual item.  Shelves do not need be labeled and re-labeled as products come and go.  In other words, even though inventory is constantly changing, the storage system remains static.  Think of the time and money Amazon saves with this system.

Now let’s take this down to a smaller scale – your own company’s warehouse or storage area, its central library, your own personal library, or your office files.  Amazon’s system of static labeling and electronic indexing can apply to all of these environments.  With an inventory model like this, it doesn’t matter where items are stored as long as they are labeled and tagged appropriately in an electronic indexing system.  One quick search will point you in the right direction in seconds.

As an example, let’s discuss how to apply this to your paper files.  First, label each file with a number (e.g. Reference 1, Reference 2, etc.).  Then, use one of the following systems to index these files according to the title and contents.

  1. A basic Excel Spreadsheet with columns for the file number, category (if applicable), title and keywords or descriptions of contents of the file.  In addition, you may customize the Excel workbook further by having separate worksheets for different information types (Action, Reference, Books, Binders, CD’s, etc.).  Excel’s search feature allows you to quickly find information by title or keyword.
  2. Take your indexing system a step further by using a software program built specifically for paper filing and office inventory, such as Taming the Paper Tiger Software.
  3. An additional option for indexing of paper and other information is iPEP (interactive-Productive Environment Platform).  In this cloud-based system, you can not only inventory your physical information but also store your electronic files, email, links, photos and other digital information.

Note: To learn more about each of the systems described or to learn if any of them is right for your needs, please contact Lori at Life Made Simple.

While your indexing system may not tell you exactly which path to walk to retrieve your items in the most efficient way, as Amazon’s does, it will go a long way towards creating an organized and productive environment where you can be comfortable knowing you will find what you need when you need it.