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Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines In meeting deadlines, top performers apply seven key principles. This change management is not intended simply to permit the company to endure a few more years—it is proposed to set the company on a path to greater success and thus virtuous jobs for those who remain.

Another is that a blindly optimistic self-explanatory style of deadlines might actually promote a reduction in effort as we might not try as hard if we believe our ability eliminates the need. For the following reasons, I consider this behavior neither compassionate nor moral.

Principle #1 for Meeting Deadlines: Schedules are Sacrosanct

Task teams express a reverence for “the schedule” as the single most important deadline management tool, even though people search for more colorful, personality-driven keys to victory. But it is precisely its implacability that makes a schedule so stable, incorruptible, and enforceable. Amendments to schedule can’t be made capriciously. Changes should be rare, even agonizing, since each adjustment threatens to compress the final stages. Schedules become impersonal enforcement tools, because they do not respond to appeal. The manager can say, “It’s not me—it’s the schedule that’s pushing us all, and we need to keep pace.”

Schedules are not dreamed up by distant executives who then hand them down to task teams, along with deadline dates. All long-term projects are guided by realistic, believable, timelines that benefit from the insight and input of those doing the work. Schedules codify the ambition and enable synergy.

Within each timeline, milestones are set—and celebrated as they are met. These mini-deadlines make the program more manageable, attainable, and comprehensible those who are focused on their part. When milestones are in jeopardy of not being met, alarm bells go off in the minds of project managers and team leaders. All are affected by slippage along the critical path. A milestone won’t be “bumped” unless, and until, the team knows why it is in jeopardy. Allowing more time won’t necessarily correct the process. Margins of time and budget are factored into each schedule and managed by the teams.

Principle #2 for Meeting Deadlines: Partnering

Deadlines involving major, long-term projects are met jointly; the distance between customer and those who serve are bridged in the interest of expediency. Leaders see that their races against time must be run in unison.

While companies discover many rewards in the closer relationships and find that the doors of communication, once opened, are difficult to close, their original motivation is often to save time. “Business as usual” won’t suffice under the conditions of a major deadline. Competitive companies need each other to win. Deadlines are often joint ventures, since few organizations can go it alone. Even global industrial leaders depend on the unstinting cooperation of customers and suppliers to bring their projects in on time. Conversely, much is expected of them. Reciprocation is possible by modifying billing and payment practices, or by waving long-standing bureaucratic requirements, or by re-routing time-consuming communication paths, or by modeling teams to reflect those of the partner. Customers and contractors like feeling part of the delivery process.

Principle #3 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk

Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk Deadlines involve risk. The risks inherent in these projects are not accepted by swashbucklers who revel in danger but by serious professionals who seek ways to reduce the risk—by preparing backup plans, brainstorming creative solutions, and even taking out insurance policies. The risk is accepted, then reduced, to improve the odds to succeed, to make a profit, or to reduce casualties. The willingness to take a chance defines an organization in ways a thousand ads cannot. Word gets around. Companies and individuals who take on risk, and prevail, develop reputations as giant killers.

Something in the nature of “risky” operations binds teammates together. The “sink or swim” mentality of great teams is responsible for innovations that bring their projects in on time. Participating in these deadlines is not simply another day at the office for those involved; these are adventures. Those who pass through the whitewater of a serous deadline can look back on the “nervous time” with a nostalgic pride. “Risk” creates common cause, even more than “reward.” Lackadaisical groups will suddenly become focused and serous once risk is introduced.

Principle #4 for Meeting Deadlines: Company Men and Women

Challenging deadlines are met most successfully by “company men and women” whose most obvious credential is tenure (average of 25 years of service). No one looks forward to retirement (in fact, they seem to dread the day), and all seem to thrive on the formidable tasks assigned to them. While those people are ambitious, success seems to be measured less by personal recognition and more by participation on a job well done. None of them are coy about their futures with the company. “I love it here,” and other expressions of affection and loyalty are heard frequently. Company men and women are usually portrayed as obstacles to bold, forward-thinking newcomers, but they are precisely the people you want tasked with a significant deadline. They are less likely to look on a project as a feather in their caps and more likely to factor in the long-term interests of the company and of the customer (which are complementary).

If you don’t have tried-and-true employees with years of service, entrust deadlines to employees who are sincerely interested in a career with the company. Team players who distinguish themselves by helping others are prime candidates, as are those who demonstrate a real concern for customer satisfaction. Managers must take an active role with a team of fresh faces and lead by example, in creating a sense of mission so compelling that the team will be carried in their wake.

Wise managers assume that peak performers are always being courted by the competition, and could, without proper attention, be gone in the blink of an eye.

Principle #5 for Meeting Deadlines: Family Outreach

The popular stereotype of an executive who sacrifices family for career is somewhat of a contradiction, because, clearly, business success is not sustainable without a strong emotional base. A hard-driving executive plagued by personal problems, distracted by divorce proceedings or custody battles, can’t focus on the job at hand—and may even exacerbate his or her situation by finding a comfort of sorts in alcohol or drugs.

The wise manager recognizes the importance of family and finds ways to involve the “other half” of the deadline team and to enlist their support in the pursuit of the deadline.

When George H. Bush announced the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1990 a cheer was reported at a professional basketball game, and it was to enter into it with anything other than a heavy heart. I know now why that cheer went up, though. The spirit of abstraction.

Leverage the tasks you want to do by withholding them until your more odious tasks are completed first. That way, desirable tasks become a motivating reward.

Principle #6 for Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer

Legal and human resources constrictions counteract names from being released until the selection is complete and the official communications and severance packages are ready. Employees know the moment is coming, but little else.

Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer Thinking in terms of the customer’s deadline and of ways to facilitate the up-line obligations to yet another level of customers or end users is characteristic of great companies. Great organizations never lose sight of the big picture, which includes the customer meeting its own deadline. Great conversations are like anything. Success is usually not an accident. It’s planned. Each company has a reputation as a dependable azlly who will not let the customer fail. That’s true, but letting people go is far easier from a legal standpoint if you’ve established and documented a strong case for why a particular employee doesn’t fit with your culture—and exactly what that means.

Principle #7 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Ramp Up

Most teams have to ramp up to meet their deadlines. It isn’t as if they can meet their challenges the way they are. The challenges they accept are complicated by the steps that need to be taken to meet each deadline—and yet they are not intimidated by the deadlines, nor by the requirements to meet them.

Definitely, we can imagine naysayers. But, the decisions of senior management to accept the challenges have positive repercussions. Organizations are transformed by the requirements to meet the challenges they willingly accept.

Authorize them to communicate and lead, not to just passively watch their departments be clipped without a rationale.

Conclusion: Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Meeting deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy Those involved in setting the deadline feel driven by the schedule, but they are not emotionally overwhelmed. That’s not strong enough, and it’s not quantifiable. By most quantitative standards, the employee is doing great work. In fact, enforced schsedules offer a sense of relief: You then know exactly what must be done daily to be victorious, and even when “off schedule,” you know what must be done to get back on track. Deadline busters willingly bow to the Schedule God, obeying the truest guide to victory in the race against time.

What it is, therefore, matters a great deal, for studies show that what we choose to meet deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy. Pursuing meeting deadlines, for example, actually tends to decrease our happiness in the long run. Pursuing altruistic goals, on the other hand, is one of the few things that actually increases it.

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Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity Management and Leadership

Warren Buffett on Time Management: “All You Need Is … Time”

Warren Buffett on Time Management: Warren Buffett once said on time management, “The rich invest in time; the poor invest in money.”

Buffett is currently the fourth richest men in the world. He can buy practically anything he wants to, and more than nearly everyone else could ever dream of.

Nevertheless there’s one thing that even Warren Buffett cannot buy, and that is time.

Here’s a brief transcript from a Charlie Rose interview:

Warren Buffett: I mean I can buy anything I want basically, but I can’t buy time.

Charlie Rose: And so to have time is the most precious thing you can have?

Warren Buffett: Yes, I better be careful with it. There is no way I will be able to buy more time.

Warren Buffett's Interview with Charlie Rose (Time Management) Charlie Rose: And living in Omaha makes that easy?

Warren Buffett: That makes it a lot easier. I, for 50 whatever, well for 54 years I spent five minutes going each way now. Just imagine that was a half an hour each way. You know. I know the words to a lot more songs and that’s about it.

Charlie Rose: It adds up. Doesn’t it?

Warren Buffett: It really adds up. Now if you’re doing an hour a day difference coming and going that’s two and a half percent of the person’s work week. That means 40 years you’re talking about a year.

An undisciplined mind will find every reason to do what should not be done and every excuse not to do what should be done. Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Ira Glass Time Management Technique

This American Life‘s Ira Glass talks with Lifehacker about how he works. When asked what his best time-saving shortcut or life hack was, he responded:

I’ve got nothing. Reading other people’s answers to this question on your website today made me realize I live my life like an ape. I eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.

Though come to think of it, I guess my biggest life hack—and this is the very first time I’ve attempted to use the phrase “life hack” in a sentence—is that my wife and I decided to live just a few blocks from where I work. We did this because of our dog. Since I spend at least an hour every night walking the dog, I didn’t want to spend another 60 or 90 minutes a day commuting. I don’t have the time. Like lots of people, I work long hours.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Philosophy and Wisdom

Perfection

Perfection

Perfection is the concept of something that is completely flawless or complete.

Perfection, in the sense of being flawless, is derived from discussions by Aristotle (384-322 BCE) of privation, or deficiency. Aristotle stated that “a doctor and a musician are ‘perfect’ when they have no deficiency in respect of the form of their peculiar excellence.” In other words, a “perfect” specimen is flawless in every way with respect to its performance of its profession or its embodiment of its species. This, however, is just one sense of a concept that is key to Aristotle’s philosophy. Being good is not the same thing as being perfect. More exactly, attaining virtue involves practice; but practice never truly makes perfect because we always can do better.

The word “perfect” is a translation of the Greek teleion, a derivative of the polysemous word telos. In this context, the relevant meaning of telos is “end,” or “goal.” With this in mind, the English translation “perfect” can be understood to encapsulate the idea of being complete, of having fulfilled a goal. This was important for Aristotle because, as a matter of principle, he believed that all things exist for a reason-that is, they have some telos-and that all things naturally strive toward the fulfillment of their telos. Therefore, perfection, for Aristotle, is something all things strive for, be they a blade of grass or a human being. For Aristotle, happiness itself is the most perfect of all things. So it made sense to strive for both siblings—happiness and perfection.

In biology, Aristotle employs this notion to explain (in part) the various stages of an organism’s development-each is a step toward the fulfillment of its telos. In cosmology, however, Aristotle employs the idea very generally, suggesting that the telos of all heavy bodies invariably drives them toward a state of rest around a cosmic center point. That all heavy bodies fall to Earth is evidence that this center point is, in fact, Earth. In this way, perfection is a concept wholly entangled with geocentrism.

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

How Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Marissa Mayer Process Emails

How Marissa Mayer Handled Email while at Google

How Marissa Mayer Handled Email while at Google In an interview with tech journalist David Kirkpatrick for Fortune Magazine’s “Secrets of greatness: How I work” series, Marissa Mayer revealed how she processes emails. Marissa was then the Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, and is presently the CEO of Yahoo!

I don’t feel overwhelmed with information. I really like it. I use Gmail for my personal e-mail—15 to 20 e-mails a day—but on my work e-mail I get as many as 700 to 800 a day, so I need something really fast.

I use an e-mail application called Pine, a Linux-based utility I started using in college. It’s a very simple text-based mailer in a crunchy little terminal window with Courier fonts. I do marathon e-mail catch-up sessions, sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday. I’ll just sit down and do e-mail for ten to 14 hours straight. I almost always have the radio or my TV on. I guess I’m a typical 25- to 35-year-old who’s now really embracing the two-screen experience.

How Larry Page / Sergey Brin Handle Email at Google

Ever wonder how CEOs of large companies manage and process the hundreds or thousands of emails they receive daily?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google In a thread on managing loads of email, Quora user David Shin, who previously worked at Google, remembers Page and Brin being asked this question during a Q&A session at Google. When someone asked how they manage their email, one of them (he can’t remember which) responded like this:

When I open up my email, I start at the top and work my way down, and go as far as I feel like. Anything I don’t get to will never be read. Some people end up amazed that they get an email response from a founder of Google in just 5 minutes. Others simply get what they expected (no reply).

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Posted in Software and Programming

Save Yourself from Multitasking

Save Yourself from Multitasking

Most folks lack the self-discipline to focus on one thing at a time and stick closely to their plans. The younger generation has grown up multitasking wholly and especially knows how to do their physics homework, exchange messages on Facebook, download music on their iPods and IM each other all at once.

Multitasking is a myth. We overestimate our ability to do many things at the same time. Our brain is simply not engineered in a way that lets it perform multiple tasks simultaneously. While we may think we are multitasking, we are actually doing nothing more than just speedily switching between tasks, often at the cost of productivity, quality, and good sense.

Strangely enough, multitasking takes more time. It makes solving tough problems challenging. Activity is not the same as productivity. Therefore, multitasking is not efficient at all. That we feel we are multitasking is an illusion. In its place, we are hurriedly switching our focus back and forth between different tasks. We shift our attention from one task to the next in rapid succession.

Frequent multi-taskers have trouble switching between tasks. The helplessness to sift out the immediately previous task before taking on another activity causes multi-taskers to be slower than those not multitasking.

  • Systematize your thinking and try to focus on jobs. If you do not organize your thinking and your time, you can end up focusing on the urgent rather than the important.
  • Do not drive and talk on the phone — even if you are using a handsfree device. One academic study found that people using cellphones drive no better than drunks.
  • Reduce or do away with the notifications that take away your concentration. Configure your email program to stop checking for new email every five minutes. Each chime declaring a new email sidetracks you from other work, and is likely to move less important tasks to the top of your plans.

Divest yourself of all distractions and make significant progress on challenging projects. Better yet, reduce your stress levels. After all, multitasking is not just inefficient, it is stressful too.

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Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity

Three Ways to Use AutoHotKey to Rock Your Firefox Experience

AutoHotkey Numeric Keypad for Firefox

We are devoted aficionados of AutoHotkey, an open-source scripting language that can be used to religiously automate repetitive tasks on the Microsoft Windows operating system tasks and save time. AutoHotkey primarily works by overriding the default key commands on any software that runs on Windows. The core of AutoHotkey is a custom scripting language that can help define keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys.

If the keyboard on your Windows computer has a numeric keypad, you can use the keys on the numeric keypad to assist you with using the Firefox browser. By installing and running these scripts to scroll and close tabs, you don’t need to move your hands a long way from the mouse. Here are three simple scripts.

Scroll Down a Firefox Page using the ‘Add’ Key on the Numeric Keypad

This simple script substitutes the ‘Page Down’ key with the ‘Add’ key on the numeric keypad, thus helping you scroll down on Firefox pages.

NumpadAdd::
        Send {PgDn}
Return

Scroll Up a Firefox Page using the ‘Subtract’ Key on the Numeric Keypad

This simple script substitutes the ‘Page Up’ key with the ‘Subtract’ key on the numeric keypad, thus helping you scroll up on Firefox pages.

NumpadSub::
        Send {PgUp}
Return

Close a Firefox Tab using the ‘Pause’ Key

This simple script substitutes the ‘Control + F4′ key combination with the ‘Pause’ key on your keypad, thus helping you close the current tab in the Firefox application.

Pause::
        Send ^{F4}
Return

This AutoHotkey Script Needs ‘MozillaWindowClass’

To restrict the customization of these special keys just to the Firefox browser, you will need to an #IfWinActive block with the ahk_class set to MozillaWindowClass. Here is the full script. Actually, MozillaWindowClass refers to any window in any Mozilla application; hence you will notice that these shortcuts work on the Mozilla Thunderbird email application as well.

#IfWinActive ahk_class MozillaWindowClass
        Pause::
                Send ^{F4}
        Return
        NumpadAdd::
                Send {PgDn}
        Return
        NumpadSub::
                Send {PgUp}
        Return
#IfWinActive

For a basic introduction to the utility of AutoHotkey and a tutorial on installing AutoHotkey and compiling AutoHotkey scripts, see this useful YouTube video or this orderly guide from howtogeek.

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Posted in Software and Programming

Self-Quiz: Telltale Signs of a Workaholic

Telltale Signs of a Workaholic

In America, partly as part of the Calvinist mindset, a man who provided well for his family was valued, even if he was never around for his family because he was working so much. Over time, this fascination with vocation became a psychological thrust to work much too hard for no apparent reason. Even today, many Americans feel guilty if we are not working very hard. The society, taken as a whole, has come to think very highly of people who hate what the workaholics do: the push for work-life balance has irrationally stigmatized workaholics and, somewhat justifiably, pushed the sense of balance as more virtuous than having a job somebody loves. They’ve implied that people who work long hours are those who control themselves. But, many people work long hours for a more justifiable reason to advance themselves, provide for their families, and make the world a better place.

Workaholism is an addictive behavior that directly applies to the core aspect of economic life: working. Even if workaholism may help you climb the corporate ladder and get ahead at work, it can adversely affect your physical and emotional well-being. Here is a simple seven-point quiz to help you check if your life-work balance is out of sync.

  1. Are you preoccupied with work? Do you have difficulty leaving the office? Do you tend to work from home after before retiring?
  2. Are you avoiding delegation? Do you believe that many tasks can be handled only by you?
  3. Do you have a tendency to see no distinction between leisure time and work time? Are you mingling your personal and your professional lives?
  4. Do you tend to invent alibi to conceal your obsession with work?
  5. Is relaxing hard for you? When you’re on vacation, is your mind still wired to the office? Do you have a compulsive urge to contact your office to check-up on things?
  6. Have you let your employer define your sense of identity? Do you identify yourself with anything other than work?
  7. Are you shunning your private life? Are you steering clear of responsibilities at home? Are you dodging social responsibilities? Are you avoiding members of your family and friends?
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Posted in Education and Career

Protestant Work Ethic: Work as Worship

Protestant Work Ethic: Work as Worship

The Protestant Reformation brought about a far-reaching affirmation of the dignity of all sincere occupations—including manual labor—as vocations that signify a calling to the worship of God. Contrary to the emphasis placed in the Catholic tradition on the sacrifice of the mass, the holy sacrament, the confession, and other rituals, the convictions of work as worship, predestination, and salvation of vocational success were a dominant outcome of the Protestant Reformation.

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther (1483-1546) asserted that the term ‘vocation’ should be applied not only to those ‘called’ into the priesthood or a holy order. Instead, Luther preached that all Christians have a vocation: wherever God has placed one—from garbage collection to sporting star—was one’s vocation. Therefore, one should do pursue that vocation to the “Glory of God” with as much energy and commitment as one could gather.

Later on, John Calvin (1509-1564) explained that the only way to ensure that one is part of the “chosen” is to ensure that one reflects in one’s life the fruits of one’s spirit (patience, perseverance, hard work, stewardship, etc.).

Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theological concepts and the emphasis on conscientiousness, hard work, and thrift as signs of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith became core to the Protestant Work Ethic or the Puritan Work Ethic. These renovations to the practice of faith gave birth to an industry and focus that the world had never before seen.

The Protestant Work Ethic (regard your labor as your gift to God and, in so doing, provide the evidence that you are chosen for redemption) became a defining quality of the western world.

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

A Checklist for Checklists: Developing, Drafting, Validating the Checklist

Checklist and Standard Operating Procedures

A checklist is not cast in stone. Modify it, enhance it, adapt it as needed. But, use it. If it is incorrect, change it. A checklist is critical when we are learning.

Develop a checklist and then put it to the test. Apply it, see the outcomes, and gauge the results. Does it avert errors? Does it create a better outcomes? Does it keep you on track? Does it help? Does it save time in performing the process and team-learning? Test the benefits, modify, and test again.

Phase 1: Developing the Checklist

  • Is each item:
    • a critical safety step and in great danger of being missed?
    • not adequately checked by other mechanisms?
    • actionable, with a specific response required for each item?
    • designed to be read aloud as a verbal check?
    • one that can be affected by the use of a checklist?
  • Have you considered,
    • adding items that will improve communication among team members?
    • involving all members of the team in the checklist creation process?

Phase 2: Drafting the Checklist

  • Does the checklist:
    • Utilize natural breaks in workflow (pause points)?
    • Use simple sentence structure and basic language?
    • Have a title that reflects its objectives?
    • Have a simple, uncluttered, and logical format?
    • Fit on one page?
    • Minimize the use of color?
  • Is the font:
    • Sans serif?
    • Upper and lower case text?
    • Large enough to be read easily?
    • Dark on a light background?
  • Are there fewer than 10 items per pause point?
  • Is the date of creation (or revision) clearly marked? Have you:

Phase 3: Validating the Checklist

  • Have you trialed the checklist with front line users (either in a real or simulated situation)?
  • Have you modified the checklist in response to repeated trials?
  • Does the checklist:
    • Fit the flow of work?
    • Detect errors at a time when they can still be corrected?
  • Can the checklist be completed in a reasonably brief period?
  • Have you made plans for future review and revision of the checklist?

Recommended Reading

'The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right' by Atul Gawande (ISBN 0312430000) ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right’ by surgeon Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande is authority on reducing inaccuracy, improving safety, and increasing efficiency in modern surgery and other lines of healthcare practices. As the world becomes increasingly complex, so do the problems that people and businesses face. Preventable failures are widespread, but Atul Gawande contends that personal- and professional-failures can be prevented. Using examples from the fields of surgery, healthcare, aviation, and other spheres of business, ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right’ convinces that Training, organizational change, quality control can be dramatically improved through the adaptation of checklists, standard operating practices, and work instructions.

Also recommended: Beyond the Checklist by Suzanne Gordon, Patrick Mendenhall, Bonnie Blair O’Connor. The subtitle is ‘What Else Health Care Can Learn from Aviation Teamwork and Safety (The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work).’

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Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity Management and Leadership

The First Hour is the Most Important Hour of Your Day

The First Hour is the Most Important Hour of Your Day

The attitudes that you wake up with set the tone of the rest of your day. The first part of the morning is very vital to your experience for the rest of the day for the reason that it establishes your attitude for the rest of the day.

Early birds are more proactive than evening people. Research has found that all early riders are more likely than night owls to stick to healthy routines and productive behaviors.

Other research has shown that we have a fixed amount of willpower and strength of mind that we can expend during the day. Therefore, this willpower reserve depletes during the course of the day resulting in poor motivation, difficulty in cerebral thought processes, wallowing away, and taking the path of least resistance.

Doing the most arduous tasks in the morning ensures the important things get done. Establishing a morning routine ensures that these routines keep you grounded and sane, productive, and balanced. Establish a morning routine and begin to feel more natural and less irreverent through the rest of your day.

Learn to love the morning and you may end up with a healthier, productive, and more balanced life.

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Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity