More Favorite Productivity Tips: Cleaning Up Your Desktop

Being in the technology business for many years means I have seen a lot of computer screens and a lot of user desktops. While I have never done a scientific study, I’d guess that an easy majority of them are so full and seemingly disorganized that the user probably knows where a few key files are, but the rest…forget about it. It seems that “desktop” is a dumping ground, home base, halfway house, and miscellaneous whatever, all rolled in to one. At times I’ve been guilty of it too. My ministry productivity quotient went way up however when I finally followed these three simple tips to a healthier desktop.

Tip One: Your desktop should be reserved for documents you need to have one click access to.

Not all documents are created equal, and their relative importance can change over time. Take a look at your desktop right now and identify at least one document you haven’t opened, looked at or otherwise thought about in the last three months. Find any? If you did, it’s like trying to drive down the road and having abandoned cars just sitting there, in your way, slowing you down. Why are they there? Why aren’t they parked in someone’s garage, or towed away, or taken to the dump?

It’s your job to keep the path between you and your destinations as fast and friction free as possible. Not littered with all kinds of things that are just taking up space, making you look at them over and over again for no good reason. And then each time you look at them you think, “I should really clean this place up.” What a waste of brainpower. Knowledge workers like you need clear, distraction free paths to your work. Not an obstacle course. Clear those unneeded or unused documents away. Put them in folders. Delete them. Take a few hours. They’re digital. It won’t take long. You won’t even need to break a sweat.

Tip Two: Don’t use your desktop for applications

One of the wastes of computer desktop space is to leave or put shortcuts to application start up icons there. So you have your Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Email Client, Browser…and the list goes on. Whether you use Windows or Mac you have a Start/App Menu AND  a Task Bar/Dock. Use them for those frequently used apps. While I’ve seen some computers that do have them there, they ALSO have links to them on the desktop! Great! Two ways to get to the app. Sound more productive? Not really. You only need one. In fact, you really don’t need any icons to apps on the desktop or the taskbar/dock. Wait a minute…what? That’s right. The fastest way to open an app is to not even take your fingers off the keyboard. “Resist the mouse!” Say it with me. “Resist the mouse!”

Just tap the Windows key (on a PC) or the Command Key plus Spacebar (on a Mac) and type the first couple letters of the app you want to open and hit enter. More than likely those first couple letters will net you the app you are looking for. Your computer is smart. Let it do the work for you. Give it a try. I almost never use the mouse to open an app. Opening Microsoft Word is as easy as Windows Key -> “wo” -> Enter Key. Opening the Chrome browser is Windows Key -> “co” -> Enter Key. Sweet!

Tip Three: Change the default location of your desktop to a cloud service.

I saved the coolest tip for last. Perhaps the geekiest too. Unfortunately I think this tip is only for you Windows users. Did you know you can change where your desktop files are stored? Basically that means that whenever you “think” you are throwing something on your desktop, you are “really” storing it in a location of your choosing. My recommendation, if you are OK with the security side of it, is pick a cloud service. I use OneDrive for instance, and have it sync to my computer. Then I change the desktop location to it, and presto, I have anything that is sitting on my desktop also synced to the cloud. This makes it easy to get at my most active files from almost anywhere and any computer…or mobile device.

It’s actually very easy to do. Here is a quick tutorial on it. Another option is to use Google Backup and Sync to make sure your desktop data is stored in the cloud. One of the most frequent “oh no” moments I’ve observed in helping co-workers is when they realize they were saving stuff else where, to the cloud, etc. But neglected to consider the stuff on their desktop. Important stuff!

So just take care to use the desktop wisely. It is a great surface on which to work. Quick. Easy. Efficient. You can now make it even better.

Additional Resources

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519 – Back to the Future

The WELSTech discussion this week focuses on video, the next media frontier. Your social media feeds are dominated by them, and YouTube “channels” have become yesterday’s websites. How will your ministry respond to the video generation? Join Martin and Sallie as they discuss video, channels and how reaching out today seems to mean getting smarter at video creation, curation and presentation.

The discussion:

Video channels – Martin and Sallie consider time travel and decide there’s no time like the present to get serious about beefing up your video channels!

News in tech:

WELS now:

Interactive Faith online Bible Study – Luther’s Lasting Impact – Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Prof. Joel Otto will lead the study on Wednesday’s now through November 8 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Reformation Fun

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Community feedback spills into our weekly featured video selection thanks to Michael Vlieger from Risen Savior, Mankato, MN. He shared the Explaining Computers YouTube channel and two great videos. First, check out a demo of DaVinci Resolve in DaVinci Resolve 14 Free Video Editor.

And then, get your maker hat on as you watch an overview of Raspberry Pi Google AIY Voice Kit. You can learn more about the kit from the Google AIY site and purchase it from MicroCenter and other retailers.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 520 – Filmmakers Steve and Beth Zambo join the conversation to discuss planning, production, and distribution of video. Release date: Wednesday, October 25.

Get involved:

Reformation Fun

Celebrate the Reformation with this free downloadable group puzzle experience, A Day in the Life of Tölpel, The Luthers’ Dog.

Players will travel around Wittenberg with Martin Luther’s dog, Tölpel, as their tour guide, learning about the city of the Lutheran Reformation. The 28-page download contains everything you need to host a fun puzzle event!

Martin Luther loved his dog, Tölpel, and he mentioned Tölpel throughout his writings. (Really, I didn’t make that part up!) This puzzle is an “historical fiction” narrative in which Tölpel will explore Wittenberg in search of challenges. He’ll discover a challenge at each new destination he visits. Each time he solves a challenge, he’ll earn a puzzle piece. Earn all six puzzle pieces, and Tölpel will be able to solve the puzzle and become a wiser and happier dog.

This game was developed by Kevin & Sallie Draper as part of the ReformationFun.com site. We want to share it freely so WELSTech-ers can enjoy it during this special season of Reformation 500!

Application/audience

The puzzle game can be enjoyed with any group including classroom, catechism class, Sunday school, youth group, family game night, etc.

Typical time to complete​: 30 to 45 minutes

Ages​: 8-108

  • Younger children can play as well, but each group should have at least one strong reader who can read the clues to the others in the group.

Optimal group size​: 4-8

  • Multiple groups can work through the puzzle at the same time. Simply print multiple sets of clues. It would also be a good idea to have the groups play in separate designated areas, for instance, the four corners of a classroom.

Puzzle resources

Download the game resources in PDF format using the links below. Start by reading the instructions. You will then need to print the puzzle resources and either the color or black & white version of the Lutheran Rose.

IMPORTANT​: These documents should only be read by the Puzzlemaster! The Puzzlemaster will prepare and oversee the puzzle for the players. Reading this document will spoil the puzzle for anyone who wants to participate in solving the puzzle

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518 – Video Tech

This week on WELSTech, as part of our month of video for ministry focus, we look at all the many tools available for editing video. For us geeks the tech behind video is as much fun as seeing the content spring to life. There are tools for beginners and pros, those who use PCs and Macs, those who prefer working on tablets or Chromebooks. Martin shares his favorite productivity tip of all time! And Sallie gets serious about security.

The discussion:

Editing & streaming video – Martin and Sallie focus on software and resources around editing video as well as live streaming. Plus, stock video sites are thrown in the mix for good measure!

News in tech:

Visit the Google Store to learn about Google’s latest product announcement, including something for the Trekkie in all of us!

WELS now:

New Interactive Faith online Bible Study – Luther’s Lasting Impact – Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Prof. Joel Otto will lead the study on Wednesday’s now through November 8 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

My Favorite Productivity Tip!

Community feedback:

How to Make a Video (Part 2) from TechSmith

Featured video:

The newest addition to the WELSTech Product Demos YouTube channel is the Google Pixel 2 event in 19 minutes.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 519 – Learn the ins and outs of creating video channels on next week’s WELSTech. Release date: Wednesday, October 18.

Get involved:

My Favorite Productivity Tip!

Rarely do productivity tips have such an impact on my life as one I picked up years ago from reading David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.” And rarely do tips I implement stick with me this long. But the tip I call “waiting for” is one I think so highly of, that today I elevate to a ministry resource. It is one of the handiest time stewardship tools I have, and I have found it invaluable in getting projects unstuck, helping co-workers/volunteers and me stay “on task”, and in general one of the only tips I’ve ever found that improves my mental health. It’s easy. Here is how it works…

Every time you ask somebody to do something (answer a question, complete a task, provide feedback, you name it), note in some kind of capture system (electronic or analog):

  1. what you asked/expect,
  2. of whom you asked it, and
  3. when you made the request.

So for instance, I ask one of my staff to email me their budget request for next year. I note the who, the what and the when of that encounter. Then at the end of each week, or more often as I have time, I review this “waiting for” list to clean up those “delegations” that have been completed, or take the opportunity to remind somebody of something I’m still waiting for.

My brain doesn’t have to try and remember the who, what and when. It just has to know I’ve captured it and will be able to review those things to circle back if necessary. One of my biggest sources of stress was always trying to remember not only when I made such a request, but even IF I had. I can’t tell you how many projects have become “unstuck” because I simply was able to return to a key moment that a request was made and others are in a holding pattern until something gets done. That “something” is now concrete, not just a fading memory that my brain churns and worries over unnecessarily.

The question I bet your asking, and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the tip, at least for me anyway is, where do you capture this stuff? Where is this magical “waiting for” list? Well that depends. For me, I’d say 90% of all the items on my list are captured within email. I like to use email because it is “in writing.” Perhaps more for my own sanity than anything else. I have to be clear, can use bulleted text, and can ultimately search it if necessary. What I’m “waiting for” isn’t always a return email, but that’s OK. I do have a record of the request at the very least, which, guess what…has the recipient, the time sent and the request itself in the body of the email. Perfect.

The mechanics of doing this in email is the point of my quick screencast below. But to whet your appetite, it’s super easy. By simply cc’ing yourself you can automate the tucking away of said email for future reference without you having to do anything more than hit send. See the video below for how to set this up in either Outlook or Gmail. It can easily be done in other email clients as well.

If it’s not an email, perhaps a verbal conversation (of all things!), a voicemail left, a post it note left on a desk, an instant message or text message, there are a myriad of options. If it’s digital at all, I use OneNote. I simply have a Notebook with a tab called “Waiting For”. I can take pictures with my phone, copy and paste text, even drag a voice mail. I can also jot down the relevant info with my finger on the phone app version. Sometimes I just leave a voice memo for myself right in OneNote. It is a super tool for this kind of stuff. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of OneNote, but any tool like this would serve you well (Apple Notes, Evernote, Google Keep, etc.). The key is to have as few “inboxes” as possible. For me I have my “waiting for” list in one email folder and one OneNote section. Anything beyond that would get a little complicated.

That is not to say that you couldn’t do this with pen and paper either. The trick is that it needs to be easy and always with you. For years, before I transitioned to the smartphone/OneNote approach, I used a wallet from David Allen called the TriFold Notetaker. Unfortunately it isn’t made anymore. However, for guys, any wallet with a small pad of paper and pen will do. Ladies, same thing. Just find a small notebook as your “capture” device. Then once you have those notes (remember who, what, when), you need a place to store those and then go through the contents each week to review all the week’s “waiting for” items. A file folder would work, but make sure it’s in plain site.

If you’d like to learn more about this “waiting for” list concept, just do a quick Google search on “getting things done waiting for list” and you’ll get hundreds of approaches as examples. You’ll find what works best for you. The important part of this “ministry resource” is to start capturing those “waiting for” items, keep stuff moving forward and comfort your brain that you’ve got things “under control!”

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517 – Taming YouTube Live Streaming

It’s a new month and a new focus for WELSTech. October is all about video month. Your ministry may be missing out if it doesn’t have a video strategy. All month we’ll consider content, tools, and video platforms. Sallie takes her first swing at setting up live streaming on YouTube. It’s easier than you think!

The discussion:

October is for video – Martin and Sallie break the ice on this month’s WELSTech discussion focus, video. Why should congregations and schools consider video for communication? What type of content is appropriate for video delivery?

News in tech:

WELS now:

New Interactive Faith online Bible Study – Luther’s Lasting Impact – starts October 4. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Prof. Joel Otto will lead the study on Wednesday’s October 4 to November 8 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Getting Started with YouTube Live

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Replay the recent Festival of Hymns by Dr. Martin Luther (service folder), part of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Symposium on Reformation 500.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 518 – Next week we continue the video discussion, looking at the technology of creating video. Release date: Wednesday, October 10.

Get involved:

Getting Started with YouTube Live

Disclaimer: This is one of those Ministry Resources posts where we are going to learn together!

I’ve seen the option and heard of some who are using the live streaming feature on YouTube, but I had never tried it myself. This brought me to the logical (??) decision to give it a test run as a WELSTech Ministry Resource. If you are interested in kicking the tires a bit, my plan was for this post to give enough information to get started. You’ll have to let me know if I succeeded!

A bit of background regarding my live streaming experience to date … For our weekly WELSTech recordings we use Google Hangouts, also integrated into the YouTube live streaming arsenal. They are managed on the YouTube Live Streaming Events page at https://www.youtube.com/my_live_events. I am familiar with it and little has changed since the days when it was part of Google Plus. And I know enough to understand the two-way conversational Hangout experience is very different than traditional one-way live streaming.

As for live streaming, I’ve used the FinalWeb live streaming tool in the past. From that I had learned that live streaming isn’t handled in the browser alone. There is “encoder” software which is installed on the local computer to capture the video and send it to the streaming provider in the appropriate format. YouTube supplies live stream users with a list of potential encoding software solutions. For my test run, I chose to install Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), and had a great experience with it. Check out the video below to see me set up and stream with OBS for the first time.

After doing that one-time installation and setup of encoder software, live streaming on YouTube is super simple. Just visit the live streaming page at https://www.youtube.com/live_dashboard, name your live stream and set security options, and start streaming in your encoder software. When you are done, you’ll stop your stream in the encoder software as well. Then YouTube will automatically add the recording of your stream to your YouTube videos listing at https://www.youtube.com/my_videos.

Boom! Just like that, you’re officially a live streamer!!

Application/audience

There are many possibilities for live streaming in church and school settings. Consider event streaming, including worship, Bible class, school sports and drama, meetings, etc. Live streaming is also a good way to share prepared lessons of any type – daily devotions, special speakers, etc.

Related resources

Of course, the world of live streaming offers many more options than those covered in this getting started overview. Check out these YouTube Help resources to learn about all the possibilities.

And finally, there’s my Getting Started with YouTube Live Streaming video where I demo the setup of my first live stream.

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