How Do You Remember Due Dates, Commitments, and Promises?

Use your brain for thinking; not for remembering
– Peggy Duncan

As you go through the day acknowledging due dates or making commitments and promises, always ask yourself: “How am I going to remember this?” Then put some type of external cues in place that will trigger the action.

You probably already use a to do list, tickler file, calendar or task reminders in Outlook, sticky note, etc. I use all of these plus a lot of checklists. But when it’s something I need to remember that I will look pretty foolish if I forget (such as a Webinar, radio interview, etc.), I use a free download, the Talking Alarm Clock from Cinnamon Software. If I’m going to be away from my computer, I set alarms on my BlackBerry.

The Talking Alarm Clock lets your computer remind you of important deadlines. Each reminder pops up in a separate box with either a talking character or other sound. You’ll also discover these other features.

  • An alarm can be set to go off once, daily, weekly, monthly or annually, with very flexible scheduling.  Each alarm can have multiple schedules.

  • You can configure an alarm to open files, run programs, send email, and open Web pages.

  • An icon in the Windows® system tray gives quick access to the alarm clock.  The New Alarm Wizard makes adding an alarm fast and easy.

UPDATE: Now that I have an iPhone, I use an app, Alarmed, that was created with me and time management in mind.

So the next time you need to remember something important, set the reminder and forget about it. Let me know about the first time it saves you! Visit my Website and find out about my popular time management training.


Don't Let Spam Slow You Down

I’m still getting too many nods “Yes” when I ask seminar and workshop attendees if they’re still getting a lot of spam. If you are too, take these steps to end it.

Use a good provider. If you’re using Joe’s Internet Service with servers in his basement, he’s probably not using the best technologies to block spam on the server side…before it gets to you. Use one of the big boys such as AT&T for Internet access and make sure your Webhost meets the same requirements (e.g., Network Solutions).

Keep your clickable email address off the Web. There is no valid reason for putting your live, clickable email address on the Web. Spambots scour the Internet looking for the @ symbol and all that comes with it. Spell it out with “at” instead of the symbol…people will know what to do. It’s a good idea to Google all of your email addresses to see where they show up. Get them removed! Then sign up for Google Alerts so you’ll be notified if they show up anywhere later. And remember that Google can index any documents, PDFs, and Flash files so keep your full email address out of there.

Get a powerful spam blocker. Technology is available to stop spam in its tracks. I highly recommend Cloudmark Desktop because it works in the background and doesn’t challenge people who want to reach me (a potential client or journalist shouldn’t have to get permission to send me a message).

Turn up the security volume in your email software. I use Outlook 2007 and have my security set at High. To check yours, click the Actions tab, point to Junk E-Mail, click Junk Email Options. On the resulting Options tab, choose High.

Get a new set of email addresses. If after all this you’re still getting a lot of spam (not likely), change your email addresses and start over. I know it’s a hassle, but you can’t afford to spend another minute deleting spam. Or at the very least, get rid of info@, sales@ email addresses…you’re making it too easy for the spammer because all they’ll need is your domain.

Deal with the few that will still trickle in. After you’ve made these changes, you’ll probably still get one or two spam messages a day. It doesn’t do any good to add them to your blocked senders list because they’re coming from a one-use email address. Instead (in Outlook), hold down the Shift key and Delete (it’ll bypass your Deleted Items folder).

Stop using autoresponders. If you decide not to do any of this and you continue to use autoresponders (e.g., out of office replies), you’re autoresponding to the spammers. You’re letting them know that yours is a legitimate email address and the floods will keep rising.

Email is too important and something can easily fall through the cracks if you don’t stay on top of it. In my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007, I include lots of tips, tricks, and strategies for managing your life. And for hands-on training at your place or mine, check out my workshop (also available online).

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

A Green Office: How I Ran My Business Without a Printer for a Year

A sheet of labels got stuck in my HP All-in-One LaserJet printer and I tried pulling it out. I got it, but I destroyed the sensor that lets the printer know I have a cartridge. After finding out it was almost as cheap to buy a new printer as to fix the old one, I threw up my hands.

I considered buying another printer but I realized how rarely I printed anything. It dawned on me to try doing without one. Here’s how I managed without a printer for a year.

  • Documents I need to sign. My clients either send training agreements as a Word document or a PDF. Word Documents: When the agreement is in Word, I pop in my signature from AutoText, save a softcopy, and email it back. I had already scanned in my written signature and saved it as a graphic. In Word, I saved it in AutoText (display the graphic on a page, select it, click Insert, AutoText, New, give the entry a name. Every time I need to sign a document, I click where I want the signature to go, type in the name of the AutoText entry, and press F3.) PDFs: When the agreement is in a PDF, I have a Custom Stamp with this same signature graphic and insert it as needed.

UPDATE: Here’s a video I recorded on how to do this. It’s part of my new series for Suite Minute TV: tips that will save minutes or hours every day for people who don’t have a second to spare.

  • QuickBooks invoices for clients. I used to print my client invoices (created in QuickBooks) and fax them along with all the receipts. Without a printer, I create a PDF of the invoice, scan all the receipts and attach them to the PDF and email everything. (Since I lost my scanner when I lost my all-in-one LaserJet, I either asked every establishment for an extra receipt, or I scanned all receipts with either my business card scanner (Executive CardScan) or my NeatReceipts(TM) scanner.I use the CardScan when I have one or two small receipts. I use the NeatReceipts units when I have several by taping as many receipts as possible onto one sheet of paper and then scanning.)
  • Shipping labels for packages and envelopes.For shipping, I either handwrite whatever I need, but most times I print everything with my Dymo LabelWriter(TM) Twin Turbo that doesn’t require ink cartridges.
  • Documents I absolutely had to print. On very, very rare occasions when I needed a printed document, I saved it on a Flash drive as a PDF and either printed it at a friend’s office up the street (on my way out), or I’d wait until I got to my hotel and printed it at their business center. This was never an inconvenience. My friend didn’t mind because every time I stopped by there he had a list of computer questions to ask me.
  • Outlook Calendar details to use on travel. I put all the details of my trip in the text area of a calendar appointment. All of this information gets synched to my PDA, but I like having it on paper in case the PDA locks up and it’s inconvenient to boot up my laptop. When I had a printer, I printed all this. Without the printer, I had to handwrite notes with the main information I’d need (flight and hotel info, host phone, etc.).
  • Documents I had to mail but wanted to keep a copy. When I needed to keep a copy of a document I needed to mail (e.g., a rebate form), I simply scanned it (with the Neat Receipts scanner).

After a year, I discovered I was doing just fine without a printer. Then I purchased a new desktop computer that came with one. It’s an HP Color Deskjet and does everything but fax. It’s nice knowing the printer is here if I need it, but you can go broke buying ink. It’s been two weeks and I’ve used it once (to copy a receipt for a rebate) because, as usual, I have no intention of printing anything unless I absolutely have to.

So rethink how you use your printer and let me know if you have any success with not using it.


Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

How to Sign Mail Merge Letters

A financial planner sent me a letter that went into the trash the instant I opened it…without even blinking. Here’s why:

  • The letter was typed using the Comic Sans typeface. The typeface you select for your business correspondence should reflect the type of business you’re in. If you’re running a daycare center, a playful font like Comic Sans would be appropriate, but not for a financial planner who wants to be taken seriously.

  • She started the letter using “Dear Peggy.” Since I don’t know her, the planner should have addressed the letter with “Dear Ms. Duncan.” If we had met in passing or had talked on the phone at least once, or had our paths crossed at all, Dear Peggy would have been OK.

  • The signature was wrong. Real wrong. The financial planner was asking for my business and sent me a letter with a TYPED SIGNATURE! She didn’t even bother to sign her name! Never do this…regardless of how fancy the typeface is!

If you’re sending someone a form letter that you’re creating using mail merge, or you’re having something printed requiring your signature, do this instead of typing your signature:

  1. Sign your name as you normally would on a blank sheet of paper using a fluid writing instrument so the signature will be smooth and solid.

  2. Take a digital picture or scan it (if you need to scan and don’t have a scanner, someone you know does or perhaps your local office supply store or copy center…don’t buy one because you’ll probably rarely use it).

  3. Save your scanned signature as a graphic as you would any item. (I also saved this graphic as an AutoText entry in Word so anytime I need it, I type the name I gave it and press F3.)

  4. Create your mail merge letter as you normally would, and insert the graphic signature into the letter where you would normally sign it. Resize the graphic if you need to.

  5. Run your mail merge. Your original-looking signature will print out on every letter.

Direct mail experts say that a signature signed in blue ink has a better response rate (I don’t remember why but I think it’s to show it’s an original). So if you’re sending out a direct mail letter and you have a color printer, sign your name in blue ink and scan using the color option.

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

A tornado hit Atlanta and I didn't know

A tornado whipped through downtown Atlanta last month for the first time in history. I slept through it and so did at least five other people I spoke with. In fact, we didn’t even know about the storm until our loved ones called from out of town to see if we were OK.

Why is this? Why didn’t we know? Because we rarely watch the local news or read the local newspapers (paper or online). Why? Because they’re not talking about anything except what Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are doing, or who shot John overnight.

I talked to my other “clueless” friends, and we all agreed that it’s scary to think that something this drastic happened and we didn’t know about it. So we discussed some solutions.

  1. Watch television news first thing in the morning. Nope. I’m not starting my day out with the horrors that are happening in the world. That “news” gets in your spirit and that’s what you’ll think about all day. (I keep up with what’s going on by checking news sites, but not in the morning.)
  2. Listen to the radio first thing in the morning. Nope. For the same reasons as Number 1.
  3. Depend on others to let us know what’s going on. We could do this and wait until our loved ones who watch the news let us know. But we shouldn’t put this burden on others. We have to take responsibility for our own safety.

Our discussion went on through examples like this. What did we decide on? Since we live on our computers, we downloaded The Weather Channel Desktop for Atlanta. Now every day, all day, I have a visual of what is going on in my town…at least weather-wise.

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

The Google Calendar integrates with Outlook so sharing is easy

The question about sharing the Outlook calendar with others comes up a lot in my workshops I conduct on managing time with Outlook. If you’re on an Exchange Server it’s no problem. But what if you’re working with a virtual assistant or you’d like a family member to always know where you are? There are various solutions, but Google has taken all the pain away.

I use Outlook to its fullest. If you knew it the way I do, you wouldn’t use anything else. It never crossed my mind to use the Google Calendar until now. Google integrates with Outlook and you can easily share your calendar with the public or only with certain people that you designate. And it’s free! (Is this old news? I’m just now finding out.)

Keeping the two in sync is easy…as easy as with your PDA. Any change I make in Outlook is synched to the Google Calendar as soon as I connect to the Internet. This is just too good.

Use Dual Monitors and Spend Less Time Working

Here are some things you’ll be able to do:

  • Research the Net on one and drag the information to the other.
  • View your Outlook calendar on one and email on the other.
  • Read instructions on one and perform the steps on the other.
  • Launch your PowerPoint show onto one monitor, make the changes on your computer and see the changes as they happen in Slide Show view.
  • And so much more!

Note: Under the instruction “to move items between monitors” add the following:

  • Double-click the top of a display screen (your blue bar) to resize your screen (Restore).
  • Then drag an item on your desktop across your screen until it appears on the other monitor.

This monitor swivels to portrait mode.

You will love using dual monitors. It’ll take you a few minutes to get used to it, but you’ll be glad you did.

One more thing: to view your Outlook calendar on one monitor and email on the other, right-click the Calendar icon, Open in New Window. Then drag the calendar to the other monitor.

If you went from one monitor to two or more, let me know how much it has helped. Or once you set yours up, let me know what you think.


Related Post
Are You Wasting Time at Work?

Products You Might Like…
Get Organized at Work
Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Email Entire Contents of a Folder

Have you ever needed to email the entire contents of a computer folder? It’s easy with Windows XP or above.
  1. Right-click the Start button, click Explore. Find the folder you want to email.
  2. Right-click the folder, Send To, Compressed (zipped) folder. All of the folder’s contents will be compressed into a single file (don’t worry, when it’s unzipped, everything will be as individual files).
  3. Click Yes to designate Compressed (zipped) Folders as the application you want to handle these types of files. The folder that I zipped was a subfolder and the new .zip file ended up as the last file in the main folder. It will have the same name but with a .zip extension.
  4. Email this folder as you normally would. Either from where you are now (right-click the .zip folder, Send To, Mail Recipient), or later as an attached file. When I’ve done this, the recipient has had to first save the .zip file out on their Desktop to open. They were not able to open it inside the email message (if you have better luck, let me know).

Note: If it’s a large file and too big to send via email, use a free service such as You’ll upload your file onto their server, and your recipient can download it. They also have a paid service, YouSendIt Express, that allows you to send entire folders,


Let's Not Take It Anymore!

“You called me. We met for lunch but your attention is somewhere else. Thumbing and talking on your cell phone. Oh noooooo buddy. I didn’t take time out from my business, get out of my pajamas, drive to this restaurant wasting my gas and adding wear and tear on my car just to sit here and watch you conduct your business. My cell phone is off. You have my undivided attention…”

Does this sound familiar? Let’s not take it anymore!

Say: “If you even glance at that X?!! BlackBerry one more time I’m leaving!”