July 26

Beat Procrastination With Efficient To-Do List Software

To Do ListI don’t know about you, but I’m a master procrastinator. I’m also a list-maker.

Former co-workers branded me as the “Queen of the Postit®” because I always had dozens and dozens of Postit® notes all over my desk. Appointment reminders. Mini To-do lists. A grocery list of things to pick up on the way home. Stuff like that. Unfortunately, it was a disorganized mess and, in spite of my best efforts, I had a terrible time keeping up with all those lists.

I still use Postit® notes an awful lot but I’m no longer the Queen. I’ve found a better way to manage my lists and get things done. It’s a software program called Efficient To-Do List and I can’t get through a day without it. Literally can’t! Everything I need to do on any given day is in this program and, because of it, I’m now an organized person who gets things done on time, everyday… Well, most of the time anyway.

It’s even eliminated a lot of my procrastination because I find myself motivated to complete tasks just for the little thrill of checking it off and watching my list get smaller. I know, I know. I’m a little weird.

Efficient To-Do List comes in a Lite version and a Pro version. Both are great products.  Both Lite and Pro versions also have a portable option to download and run from a USB flash drive, great for having your to-do list on the go.

Unlike the free or Lite versions of other to-do list software, Efficient To-Do List Lite doesn’t limit the number of items you can add to your list. It also doesn’t restrict other important features, like setting reminders, prioritizing tasks, searching your lists, and doing backups. You can also import and export to do lists, password protect your lists, and filter by current week, current month, overdue, not overdue, and high priority.

Then there is the Pro version, my personal favorite. With the Pro version, you can create Groups or Folders and sort your lists into those Groups, taking organization one step further. Now I can work on the tasks in a specific area, like paying bills, and not have my list cluttered with all the tasks from other areas. Each Group can also be customized to show only the columns I need for that group. After all, who needs a due date on their grocery list?

The only feature not available in either version is the ability to filter for the current day. I would like to be able to see a list of just the things I need to do today. I can get around this limitation by using the search feature to show only tasks with today’s date, but it takes a lot more effort and you can’t exclude items that have already been checked off the way you can in the main filtered view.  However, even with this one limitation, it’s still an amazing piece of software and if enough people ask for a “current day” filter, I’m sure they’ll consider adding it to a future version.

Here are some of the other things you can do with the Pro version:

  • Create hierarchical sub-tasks, which is very helpful for large projects that need to be broken down into smaller parts.
  • Add comments to tasks.
  • Add attachments to tasks.
  • Create lists that are read-only.
  • See your list in card view. Great for those of you who are visual types.

There are so many great things you can do with this software, I can’t possibly list them all. I suggest you go to their website and try one of the versions for yourself. The free version is great, but you can try a fully functioning Pro version free for 30 days. I know you’ll like it and you can’t beat the price if you decide to buy it. Just $24.95 for a single license that allows you to install it on up to three computers. Yup, that’s right, THREE! How’s that for value?

Now that you know my secret for staying organized and beating procrastination, I’d love to know your secret. How do you do to keep up with everything you have to do?

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July 19

To Hell With Niches, Blog Your Passion!

Have you ever read something or been told something that sucked the life right out of your dreams?

I seem to get that a lot, especially from well-meaning friends and family members who think they’re sparing me a lot of wasted time and hard work. Or maybe they think a little disappointment up front will hurt a lot less than a big failure down the line. Whatever the reason, I get sick of hearing it.

Something else I get sick of hearing about is niches, especially from bloggers who encourage you to pick a niche, just not their niche.

I recently came across this post, Blogging About Blogging: Fair Warning, where the author linked to and commented on another post, Stop Blogging About Blogging Already. The point of both posts was to discourage new bloggers from blogging about blogging, a niche they claim is saturated and much too difficult for a new blogger to break into. Ironically, both of these bloggers happen to blog about blogging and if you take a few minutes to read through some of the content on each blog, you’ll quickly find that they each write pretty much the same thing, as do many other bloggers on blogging.

The funny thing is… I like and subscribe to both sites. I also subscribe to Problogger and many others, all blogs about blogging, even though they say a lot of the same stuff. Why? Because they each have a different voice, a different way of presenting the same thing and I like being able to compare ideas, to read different viewpoints. The blogger’s personality draws me in as much or more than the content itself. That’s what keeps me coming back. That’s what I love about blogs. They’re not just information dumps. They’re people. Fascinating, exciting people.

According to Ambrose Bierce “there is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” There are also a lot of wonderful voices we haven’t yet heard. Yours is one of them.

My advice to new bloggers is to find your passion and blog about it. If you’re passionate about blogging, love blogging more than anything in the world and want to pass that passion on to others, than blog about it! Don’t worry if your niche is saturated. Put your voice out there and be heard. You might have to work a little harder than you would in another niche, but if you’re passionate about it, it won’t matter. You’ll be doing what you love and that passion will show through on your blog.

Be who you are and don’t let anyone steal the life out of your dreams.

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May 27

Responsibility, Security, & Social Networking

The #1 rule of secure social networking is this… The primary responsibility for protecting your personal and private data falls to YOU!

While sites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace have a responsibility to provide options for you to protect your data, it is you and only you who is responsible for understanding all the risks and options available and then learning how to use them to protect yourself, even if that means NOT using a service if it’s not secure enough for you. It’s also up to you to ensure that the options you end up choosing are actually working for you.

One of the complaints I often hear, especially with Facebook recently, is that people will set their privacy options once and then assume they’re going to stay set. They never bother to check them again and then they’re shocked when they find out what they thought was private, isn’t. Never, Never do this. If you have anti-virus software, and you should, you’re aware that it updates constantly. Why? Because the computer world is always changing and what works one day, may not the next. Assume the same is true for any website you are a member of.

Every piece of code that runs the internet is written by human beings and human beings are not perfect. They make mistakes. They act irresponsibly. They do stupid things. Plans fail. Code fails. Accept that fact and act accordingly. Nothing will ever be 100% secure. It’s not humanly possible.

If you want your data to be as secure as it can be, do the following on a regular basis:

  • Check your privacy settings and make sure they are still correctly set.
  • Log out of your accounts and then access your pages to see what unauthorized viewers are REALLY seeing about you.
  • Don’t post anything that you aren’t willing to risk revealing. Always assume that somebody you aren’t aware of is going to see it, even if it’s just an employee of the social site in question.
  • Remember that anyone who sees your data is a risk. Friends can betray you just as easily as a stranger.
  • Never post data like addresses, phone numbers, or other personal information that could endanger you or someone else. Being embarrassed by a lapse in privacy is bad enough, don’t invite something worse.

Social networking is a great way to stay connected with family and friends and a wonderful opportunity to make new friends. Just take my advice and remember to use common sense and protect yourself. Don’t rely on anyone else to do it for you.

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May 24

Top 5 Gadgets for Amateur Ghost Hunters

K2 KII EMF MeterK2 KII EMF Meter
This is the EMF meter frequently used on the Ghost Hunters show. I own one and I used it on my last ghost hunt at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky and loved it. It worked great and seems to have great battery life. I will be using it again on my next ghost hunting trip to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia coming up next week.

Fluke 62 Mini Infrared ThermometerFluke 62 Mini Infrared Thermometer
I don’t currently own this infrared thermometer but I’ve met several people who do and they highly recommend it. I’m planning to purchase one soon and promise to do a more in depth review once I’ve tried it out for myself.

Olympus WS-500 Digital Voice RecorderOlympus WS-500 Digital Voice Recorder
This is the digital voice recorder that I take with me on my ghost hunts and it has some great features. One very important feature is the ability to use the earphones while recording. This allows you to hear those EVPs live as well as recording them as evidence, a definite plus for ghost hunters.

Samsung SL30 10MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.5 inch LCDSamsung SL30 10MP Digital Camera
Having a good quality digital camera is another important piece of equipment for ghost hunting. This camera is small, light weight and easy to carry in a pocket but still has some great features. One of the features I find very important while ghost hunting is the rapid shoot feature. This allows me to point the camera, hold down the button and take up to 30 rapid fire shots in a matter of seconds. Perfect for capturing those elusive spirits.

The Spirit Box SB7 - (Deluxe Package)The Spirit Box SB7 – (Deluxe Package)
And finally, for the serious ghost hunter, there is the Spirit Box. I haven’t used one before but I’ve seen them demonstrated at a ghost hunting seminar and seen one used in action by Chris Fleming and they seem like an interesting piece of equipment to try. This is another item I plan to add to my ghost hunters tool kit soon.

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May 20

How To Create a Secure Password You Can Remember

Everybody has passwords; at home, at work, everywhere you look. If you’re active on the internet, you probably have more passwords than you can count. The question is… Are your passwords secure?

If you’re like a majority of the people mentioned in this article, you’re passwords are probably not as secure as you think. The article mentions that “even though hacking techniques have become better, users of today are no wiser than those 20 years ago.” I don’t agree with that statement. I don’t think the problem is lack of knowledge about the risks of insecure passwords. I think the problem is people not understanding how to create truly secure passwords that are also easy to remember.

Most recommendations tell you not to use names of family members or pets, birth dates, phone numbers, etc., but people use them anyway. Why? Because THOSE are the passwords that are easiest to remember. With those, you don’t need to resort to password keepers that aren’t always available when you need them or worse, written lists, which can be lost or stolen. So, how can you use the things you remember to create passwords that are secure?

Here’s what I do.

First, pick a name or word that means something to you. Something easy to remember.  For my example, I’ll use the name Tamera. Take the word you picked and convert each vowel into the number that it looks like. You can do this for a(@), e (3, which looks like E flipped over), i(1) and 0 (zero). There’s isn’t one for u.  So, Tamera would end up as T@m3r@. Make sure to keep the capital T, because using a mix of capitals and lowercase letters is a plus. Now, pick what I call a separator symbol, such as #, $, %,  or &, and place it after your word. Now you have T@m3r@#. Finally, pick a number that means something to you. Just about anyone who has a bank card will also have a PIN number and most people don’t share that number with anyone, so it would make a good addition to the password or choose another number that means something to you.  Now, add that number to the password you have so far and you end up with T@m3r@#1234.

According to passwordmeter.com, this password is very strong and gets a score of 100%, because it correctly uses a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, yet it should be easy to remember because you used words and numbers that already have meaning for you. It won’t, however, be easy for someone else to guess. Even someone who knows you and knows a lot of the names and numbers you might pick from wouldn’t have an easy time figuring it out. The combination of different pieces of personal data, vowel conversion, and separator symbol make your password very hard to guess.

Using your new passwords might take a little longer at first because you’ll have to pause and think about what number to convert each vowel to, but you’ll get used to it in no time and it’s a lot easier than trying to remember random strings of letters and numbers that have no meaning to you at all. The added security is worth the effort.

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