Eliminate App-Related Overwhelm

If you’re like most people these days, you probably have a computer, a smartphone, or maybe even both. With these tools come apps – sometimes many, many apps. Without question, some of these apps can be very useful. However, it can be very challenging to know which ones to get, and which ones are worth keeping on your device. Maybe a friend told you about a great app that they downloaded, or perhaps you read about an app online and wanted to try it for yourself, and you started downloading new apps. Before you knew it, you had dozens of apps installed, and have forgotten what many of them do!

Many of the clients that I work with tell me that they are suffering from app-related overwhelm – where they’ve downloaded or purchased so many apps, and their devices are so full, that they can no longer easily find or use the apps that they actually need. When this happens to you, your smartphone becomes a lot less smart and in addition to being frustrated, you become a lot less and productive. Let’s look at how we can approach solving this problem:

Delete the duds.

Open your smartphone or the applications folder on your computer. Not sure what each app, program, or tool actually does? Then it’s time to start the process of editing through what you have. Look at it this way – if you’re not actually sure what a given app or tool can do for you, then it’s serving no useful purpose. It’s time to let it go, and by let it go I mean uninstall it or delete it. Also delete any apps that you haven’t ever used, or used one time and didn’t like. This will not only free up space on your computer or your device, it will make it a lot easier for you to find the apps that you actually make use of.

Use what you have. 

So now you’re left with just the apps or programs that you use (or want to use), but do you actually know how they work? Most applications and programs, regardless of how well-designed they are, still typically need you to spend some time learning how to best make use of them. It’s not enough to just have an application on your phone or program installed on your computer – as great as some apps are, they’re not magic – all have a learning curve (some short, some long). You’ll want to spend some time getting to know each app or tool a little bit better and understand its capabilities. That way you can figure out how each one can best fit into your day-to-day life and help improve your productivity.

Add with purpose. 

In some ways, having a smartphone is like having a shopping mall in the palm of your hand. And at this particular shopping mall (your smartphone’s app store), many of the wares are free – so why not get a bunch? The availability of free or trial versions of apps makes it very tempting to just download apps and then see how they work for you later. Sounds good on paper, but this is one of the big culprits when it comes to creating app-related overwhelm. Just because a friend tells you an app is great, or because you read an article online telling you about the latest and greatest app that’s available, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right app for you. As with all things productivity-related, you want to make sure you’re acting with purpose. Don’t download a new app for tool until you’ve decided a) that you need it, and b) that you found the one that is going to solve a problem that you’re currently have or make something you’re currently doing easier.

I know it can be very tempting to go app-crazy and download everything in sight, but let me talk you down from the ledge. Remember, your tools are supposed to be useful – and just like when your closet has so much clutter that you can’t find your favorite outfit, when your phone has so many apps that you have to scroll through a half-dozen screens to find the one you need, what was once useful is now wasting your time.

Excellent organizing advice Josh, thanks for sharing! You can find more pro organizing solutions from Josh at Custom Living Solutions, or see more space-saving organizing solutions from FranklinCovey.

Joshua Zerkel

Psst —What’s the Password?

By Joshua Zerkel

Follow these tips for managing your many logins and passwords.

In the age of living your life online—banking, bills, video rentals, social media, work, email, and so on—keeping track of all your passwords is essential. Many people simply put their passwords on a sticky note stuck right on their monitors—something I definitely don’t recommend. Nor would I suggest using a little booklet specifically for passwords, like the ones they sell in the Container Store. Although these methods keep your passwords centralized, they are not at all secure. (If you are keeping your passwords written down on paper somewhere, make sure they are kept in a locked drawer or cabinet.)

Far better than writing your passwords down is to keep them in a locked file or database on your computer. You could make an excel spreadsheet that is password protected, so that only you can open it (of course, you’ll need to memorize the password to get into your password document!).

You could also purchase a password management tool, which is what I use and recommend.

There are two great programs I recommend: KeePass or RoboForm. KeePass is free, but RoboForm as a few more additional features that might be worthwhile to you. In essence however they work the same. Once you install the program on your computer, you unlock the database with your master password and then you input the websites, user names, passwords, and any notes for the accounts you are keeping track of. All the data that is stored in those databases is encrypted, so if someone tried to hack into it, it would require a lot of effort, so long as they don’t have your master password.

A similar option to KeePass and RoboForm is an online password management tool called LastPass, which essentially works the same way, but it stores your password data online via a secure server, rather than on your home computer. There are pros and cons to doing it this way. The pros are that you have access to your passwords no matter where you are, and you don’t lose all your passwords if your computer bites the dust. The con, however, is that your passwords are stored on someone else’s server, so in theory they could get hacked. If you are considering using something online like LastPass, be sure to look at the company’s security and privacy policies so that you can feel confident about storing your data with them.


September is Self-Improvement Month

Playlist Ring-bound Daily Planner RefillIn life, you have many different responsibilities – your career, your family, your community, and more. Before you know it, these responsibilities can squeeze out all of your extra time, leaving little to work on a very important responsibility: self-improvement.

This September, identify ways you want to improve yourself, such as changing a long-term habit or developing a new hobby. Then, before other things crowd them out, make appointments in your planner throughout the month and save the date for self improvement.

Syncing your Planner with Technology

With all the cool devices at our fingertips, perhaps the best gadget is one invented centuries ago—the pen. That’s why so many people continue to use paper planners, calendars, and notepads. Today, technology is growing ever more prevalent and convenient, so our challenge is to keep it all in sync. How do we do that? We’ve asked some of our employees to share the ways they merge their planners with technology. Maybe you’ll get a few ideas for yourself.



“As a project manager, I fully embrace both technology and paper. The flexibility of both a planner and technology allows me to tailor a system that works best in my hectic world.

“For day-to-day work tasks, I rely heavily on email, calendaring, and spreadsheets to keep the details organized. There are simply too many tasks to juggle when managing a large workload. My prioritized task list would be a mile long every day. Electronically, I can easily keep projects moving within the team, even when they are thousands of miles away.

“My planner is important for big-picture projects, brainstorming, note taking and personal tasks. I can easily flip back and recall notes or conversations. A planner is fantastic for capturing action-items in a meeting and collecting feedback from a creative presentation. I like it because I don’t have to search several places for notes. It’s all contained in a binder.  It’s my main tool for keeping personal tasks organized. I can jot down home tasks or grocery lists, keep track of parties and vet appointments—basically, it’s my memory.”

—Lisa Gines, Project Manager



“I love technology, but it can be distracting much of the time. In a meeting, some may assume that if you are using your iPad or smart phone, you aren’t paying attention to what is going on, or that the content of the discussion isn’t important.

“My most important planner tactic? I don’t move my page finder to the current day until I have checked off tasks from the prior day, assigned them to others, or moved them forward. That way I don’t lose any projects, and have a constant reminder to “catch up” if I don’t do it first thing in the morning.”“I sync my smart phone with my work desktop calendar and email system. It is a great way to keep track of appointments, and get a popup reminder ten minutes prior to a meeting. During those meetings, I silence my phone (okay, every now and then I forget). For task lists and meeting notes, however, no electronic device can hold a candle to my planner. I like the planner formats without defined meeting times, which gives me plenty of space for tasks and notes.

—Lareen Strong, Marketing Director



“Using my planner with technology is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, both are good on their own, but combine them and they’re even better.

“Take a look at my desk and you’ll see the best of both worlds. Sure, my computer is humming and the screen is filled with files, spreadsheets, and webpages—but take another look and you’ll see lists, post-it notes, and my planner.

“A large section of my day is spent creating ideas, attending meetings, and planning campaigns. These activities require brainstorming and thought. For me, this is best done with paper and pen.  I love to jot down ideas and activities in my planner; I can then flip back and forth from page to page and re-remember what a genius I am.

“I love to take advantage of technology.  I can transform my notes, ideas and lists; into useful information and reports. Whether it’s a computer, tablet, phone, or something new I’ve never heard of, technology is a definite time-saver. From work to play, it’s here to stay.

“So I’m going to take both, my planner and my technology…the perfect sandwich.”

—Scott Anderson, Advertising Campaign Manager


Hopefully some of our ideas have sparked your imagination, and you’ll find even more ways to incorporate your planner and your technology into your hectic lifestyle. Here’s wishing you the best success possible.

Clean Up Your Devices

Gadget Wally Organizer by KangaroomThink back ten years – back when cell phones flipped open and most portable devices used AA batteries. Most of your tech centered around a single desk, where you could put cords behind and out of the way.

Fast forward, and technology has spread over the entire house, with more devices than ever and charging cords as far as the eye can see. Keeping track of everything can be a tangled mess.

Luckily, we have several solutions on our Tech Organization page, from phone-securing chargers that you unplug and clip to your belt, to useful organization solutions for your cords. It’s time to take back your house from the tech invasion.


Keeping Up with Your RSS Feed on the Web, iPad, or Smart Phone

Which programs and apps are best suited for your needs?  

In 2013 it’s just crazy not to gather all your favorite blogs and websites into one easy-to-read RSS feed. The question is, which one is the best? Well, it depends on how you keep up with your internet reading: on a computer, a tablet like the iPad, or through your smart phone. Here are some of my favorite programs and apps for each scenario.

For the computer: I really like Google Reader. It is a very simple, clean interface—not many frills, but it gets the job done. It lets you read your feeds easily and simply, and you can organize your feeds into groups—for instance, segregating your tech and sports blogs, or grouping your favorite, must-read blogs into one folder. Other aggregators like My Yahoo will also let you import RSS feeds, so if you are already using My Yahoo you can import your feeds there too and just get them into a site where you are already in the habit of visiting.

For the iPad: Flipboard, which is available in the App Store, is a really beautiful way to you’re your feeds. It takes all of your different feeds—whether they are RSS feeds, social media, or websites—and presents them in a magazine-style layout. It takes today’s technology and meshes it with yesterday’s presentation format of a magazine, coming up with a really great, usable result.

For the smart phone: If you are on an Android or an iPhone, you might want to look at Pulse, which is a really nice way to read feeds on a smaller screen.

Excellent organizing advice Josh, thanks for sharing! You can find more pro organizing solutions from Josh at Custom Living Solutions, or see more space-saving organizing solutions from FranklinCovey.

Joshua Zerkel

Digitized Files: How Much Hard Drive Do They Take?

PDFs, Docs, and image files all take space, but how much?

By Joshua Zerkel  

So you’ve gone paperless and are now storing all your documents on your hard drive. Great! By doing so, you’ve likely freed up tons of space in your office by eliminating the need for paper storage. Just because the papers don’t take up physical space, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t taking space on your hard drive. Hard drives have memory capacities, so it’s good to know what kinds of files are filling your storage.

Word Documents (.doc, .docx, .txt): Text documents—whether Microsoft Word, TextEdit on Macs, or other word processing programs—typically contain only text, which is one of the tiniest forms of files that you can have. You can have a book-length Word document that nevertheless amounts to a very, very small file size, unless it also contains embedded images or any sort of imported media inside of it. Typically, however, Word documents are very tiny, usually a in the range of a few kilobytes (kb) to less than ten megabytes (MBs).

Portable Document Format (.pdf): Compared to docs, PDFs can have all sorts of things inside of them. In addition to just text, PDFs often include images or links to other things. This increases their overall file size. If a PDF is a scanned document, it can be an extremely large file size—many MBs. Typically your scanner will come with software that lets you create PDFs, and that software has multiple settings. You can opt to scan things at high resolution, low resolution, black and white, color, single-sided, or double-sided, depending on your scanner. If you’re scanning things at high resolution, in color and double-sided, the resulting PDFs you create can be surprisingly large. So you might want to play with the settings in your scanner, making sure that you’re scanning at the resolution that you need, not necessarily the best possible quality. If you scan something in black and white at low resolution, that may be enough to capture what you need and the file size of your PDF will be much, much smaller.

Image files (.jpg, .gif, .tif): Image files can be of all sorts of different file sizes, depending on the resolution of the image or the overall dimensions. If an image is print-quality resolution—300 dpi (dots per inch) or higher—it will be a larger file size, upwards of 25 or 50 MBs. Likewise if the image is many inches wide, as opposed to a tiny thumbnail, it will be a larger file size. If you use images only for web-based or Power Point presentations, you can save them at a lower resolution (72 dpi) and thus at a lower file size.

Thank you Joshua!  Did you like this article?  Like it on Facebook and/or give it a cheer!

Joshua Zerkel



Battery Back-Up

Hybrid Snap-On Case & Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone 4/4s by BoostCaseWhether you’re going out for a full day of school or heading home for the weekend, keeping the batteries charged in your devices can make all the difference in your day. But rather than carrying around a coiled charger cord, there are several other options for keeping things powered. Using battery pack cases can more than double the life of your phone, and protect the finish as well. Also, several powered bags now come with their own batteries, letting you charge on the go. Another interesting fact – extending your phone’s battery capacity can help you avoid wasting electricity when charging overnight.



Tech Accessory Renaissance

Throughout the history of computers, accessories have played a huge role. Some have been fads that have come and gone, and some have become essential to modern life. I can remember playing text-based games on a computer that didn’t even have a mouse, only to discover the amazing ease of point and click.

In today’s world, the march has gone the other way. Today’s tablets and smartphones can take care of things that would have required seven different pieces back in 1995 – a film camera, a calculator, a personal computer, a handheld game system, an answering machine, a dial-up computer modem, and, yes, even a computer mouse.

Despite the push to simplify (and contrary to the opinions of die-hard tech fans), we have yet to invent the device that does everything. And as we’ve made our tech solutions more portable, we’ve also increased the risk to our investment. Leaving a disposable camera on the tour bus was much less traumatic – today, losing your iPhone is like someone robbing your house of all your electronics and writing down your bank account number while they’re at it.

So as you go pick up new tech devices, it’s worthwhile to invest in smart accessories to keep them safe. Here at FranklinPlanner.com, we’ve got a wide selection for the iPad line, the Kindle Fire, and other eReaders and smart phones. With so many differences, there are few one-size-fits-all approaches anymore – older covers and cases might block cameras or other ports, for example. Your case won’t do much good if you forget to put it back on after taking a picture.

Another great solution for tech protection (and an answer to the nightmare phone loss scenario) – the iKeep from Poldera. With a retractable cable, it keeps your iPhone connected to you and makes it nearly impossible to drop or leave behind. If your teenager has lost three iPhones already, this is a must-have.

One of the greatest drawbacks of portable devices is that they miss some of the benefits of traditional computer stations – a place where you can sit down and focus on typing an email on a keyboard you can feel, or where you can watch a video without craning your neck 45 degrees. Whether you’re sending comments to the creative team or streaming a show on Hulu, the WorkStation is the perfect accessory – functional, compact, and compatible.

So until we have an indestructible device that interfaces through brainwaves, tech accessories can take your great device and make it perfect for your needs.

GO Tip: Organize Your Touchscreen

Toddy Gear touchscreen cleaning clothIn our new world of touchscreen mobile devices there are all sorts of challenges to overcome. Not only do you have to keep your screen intact, but you have to keep it clean enough to actually see what’s on your smartphone or tablet. Two simple ideas: first, keep your phone and your keys in separate compartments or pockets. Second, get a Toddy Gear cleaning cloth to keep it shiny, fun, and microbe-free.