Do You Ever Have Time to Do Nothing? Absolutely Nothing?

woman stressedI had a face-to-face conversation with a woman the other day. Her entire demeanor spelled


She started talking about all the things she was involved in (church, social clubs, etc.). Wore me out just listening to it.

She has entirely too much on her plate, and it showed. Way too much volunteer work added on top of paid work. It was obvious that she never has time to stop long enough to think, reflect, or do nothing. This is not healthy living, and if she ever decides to change (or is forced to), the solution is quite simple.

  1. List all the things you HAVE to do (work, cook, etc).
  2. Next, list all the things you CHOOSE to do (e.g., volunteer work).
  3. Consider the most important person in your life – YOU—and ask yourself what can be eliminated.
  4. Take a deep breath, make some calls, send some emails, and do it!

Don’t worry, they’ll either find someone else to do it or drop it because it wasn’t as important as you thought…not your concern because you need to focus on you right now.


Two Tips for Deleting Email Messages Quicker

When I sit down to deal with messages in my Inbox, I make decisions right then on what to do with each one. I keep my Inbox to one screen and don’t worry about promises, commitments, or deadlines falling through the cracks. Most messages are deleted. Here are two tips for deleting messages in Outlook (I use 2007. Works the same in 2003).
  • Turn off the warning, Are you sure? If this pesky box bothers you, it’s easy to turn it off. When I hit Delete, I want it gone and don’t want to give permission. From the Inbox, click Tools, Options, Other tab, Advanced Options, and untick the box, Warn before permanently deleting items.
  • Bypass the Deleted Items folder. If you’re sure you never want to see the message again (as in spam), permanently delete it so you don’t have to delete it again. Select the message (if it’s closed), hold down the Shift key then hit Delete. If you’re on an Exchange server, the message can be recovered. Otherwise, it’s gone!
Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Widget Calculates How Much Free Time You Have Each Week

One of the exercises I conduct in my time management training involves having the attendees determine how much free time they have after doing all the things they absolutely have to do. I came up with a brilliant idea (at least I think it was brilliant) and had this time log coded as a Flash (SWF) file (hired a programmer through After that, I was able to turn the SWF into a widget (at The widget will also provide a way for me to shamelessly promote my blog as others download it and add to their site (see more of my shameless tips in my ebook).

Use the time calculator above (also located in the right sidebar of this blog), and it will do the math. You’ll quickly see that you have more free time than you think.

The big question is how will you use it?
Will you waste it by being disorganized, procrastinating, and dealing with all the other time bandits you allow to take over your day? Or will you set goals and prioritize how you spend your time based on them? Get selfish and focus on making YOU better.

To get the work done, you have to work hard but you shouldn’t have to work long. To create time for a life, you have to work smart. See the related posts below for tips on how to spend less time working but get more done.

You can add my widget to your Web site or blog by clicking the
Get Widget
button. It’s free.


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.

Will the NCAA tournaments cause a dip in productivity?

Sporting News recently reported that heavy sports enthusiasts spend on average over 31 hours a week following sports. Amazing. I spend zero minutes a year on it.

If you’re going to get caught up in the festivities of the NCAA tournaments next week, remember that the work still has to get done. Since most people work like machines when they know they’ll be off, how about pretending that you’re going on vacation next week.

Will we see a dip in productivity? It depends.

  • Slackers will use this as an excuse to do less work. If they’re surfing the net, talking sports all day, handling personal business now, they’ll just do more of it next week.
  • Conscientious employees will continue to meet goals, beat deadlines, and service the customer.

If you, as the boss or owner, are also getting caught up in it, people will do what they see you do. If you’re going to require less of them next week, you should require more from them this week.

Note: See this blog entry for more information on how people waste time at work.


Keep Your Overloaded Inbox Under Control

I just got back from presenting my most popular seminar, “Conquer Email Overload with Outlook,” at a conference of magazine editors. If you think you have email issues, try being the editor of a popular magazine! They receive tons of irrelevant email from public relations companies and individuals trying to get press.

I have tons of ways to manage email overload in my book, Conquer Email Overload, and here in this blog. Here is one I suggested to this group.

Keep Messages Separate
Use two email addresses…one for the Web (don’t make it clickable). It’ll read like this: editor (a(t) Then create a rule in Outlook that sends all this email to a special folder as soon as it gets to your Inbox. (There is no valid argument for putting your clickable email address on the Web. Spam will continue to be a huge problem if you do because spambots crawl sites looking for the @ symbol. They’ll find it inside PDFs too.)

You can use this same email address on your business card.

You could also consider not including this email address in your regular Send/Receive. You’ll have to manually check email coming to this address…maybe have a routine to do it once or twice a week…deleting immediately and not letting them pile up.

Consider getting rid of the email address that’s “out there” too much. It won’t be the end of the world…just do it and start over. For the editors, I also recommended setting this new email address up with an autoresponder that returns a message that explains what their publication is about, what makes a good story, the best way to submit a query or deliver a pitch, and a link to their Webpage that explains more. They’ll also put this email address inside the publication instead of their main address.

For the second email address, use it internally, give it to the PR people who always send you relevant press, and to other important people in your life (like me).

And that’s it!


Related Posts

Email Etiquette Can Reduce Email Overload

Cure Email Addiction: 15 Things to Try

Send an Email Addressed to Undisclosed Recipients

If you’ve seen an email addressed to Undisclosed Recipients and wondered how it was done, here are two options.

First Option

When you create a new message, on the To line, type Undisclosed Recipients, and next to that put your email address inside brackets . Then see Step 5 below to finish the message. (When the recipient gets your message, they’ll only see Undisclosed Recipients on the To line…not your email address.)

Second Option (This is what I’ve done so I don’t have to remember anything later.)

Create a new Outlook contact:

  1. Full Name: Undisclosed Recipients.
  2. E-mail: Put whatever email address you’ll send the email from.
  3. Display as: Undisclosed Recipients.
  4. When you Save and Close the new contact, if you get a message indicating duplication, choose Add this contact anyway.
  5. When you send your email, type Undisclosed Recipients on the To line, and put recipient email addresses on the Bcc line. (If you don’t see Bcc and use Outlook 2003 as the email editor, click View, Bcc. If you use Word as your email editor, click Options drop down arrow, Bcc.

    For Outlook 2007, click the Options tab, Show Bcc.

  6. The recipient will only see his or her email address when you use Bcc. You can also put a distribution list name on the Bcc line and it works the same way.

And that’s it!


Related Posts
Email Entire Contents of a Folder
Keep Your Overloaded Inbox Under Control

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Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Cannot Remember John's Name? Four Ways to Find Him in Outlook

If you need to contact John right away but you can’t remember his name, here are four ways Outlook can help.

  • Search the Notes Area. If you made notes in the text area of John’s contact page, you can conduct a quick search to find any of the words. (Click Advanced Find (should be on your Outlook Standard toolbar. If it’s not, click the Tools menu, Find, Advanced Find. Or Ctrl+Shift+F), Advanced, Field, All Notes field, Content, Condition contains, Value=words you’re looking for.)
  • Search Various Fields. If you remember something about John such as his company name, you can search for it. Repeat the steps above, but instead of clicking More Choices, stay on the Contacts tab and explore those search options.

If these two methods turned up John’s contact, going forward do the following with your contacts.

  • Associate Contacts. You met John at Mary’s Website launch. Remembering Mary is no problem so you associate the two. On John’s contact page in Outlook, look at the bottom, left corner. Type Mary’s name where it reads Contacts. Outlook will associate the two and you’ll be able to hyperlink from one to the other (I shouldn’t have to say that Mary should also be in your Contacts).
  • Assign Categories. Now look at the bottom, right of John’s contact page. Type a Category (you’ll need to understand this feature) that John fits such as a business type, networking group, etc. Later, you can filter your contacts using that category as the criteria (from Contacts, right-click the header row (where Full Name, etc., are…separating fields the way Excel does), Customize Current View (if you don’t see Customize Current View, click Custom), Filter, More Choices, Categories=John’s category). Then it might help to see his name in a smaller sampling.


Are the ribbons in Office 2007 slowing you down? Get the menus back

I haven’t upgraded to the 2007 version of the Microsoft(R) Office Suite and don’t plan to anytime soon. (I will when I start getting training requests for it…hasn’t happened yet, and I’m glad.)

If you’re using the 2007 version, the new design could be slowing you down. It’s a brand new look and will take some getting used to. Change is hard and we usually adapt. But in this case, you might prefer the organized order of the menus and will want to go back to them.

You Can Bring the Menus Back

You can bring back traditional menus with some very inexpensive software (that Microsoft also recommends). You’ll still have to learn where the commands moved to, but at least it’s a more organized visual.

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?

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Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert