How to Stay Organized With a Tickler File

19. April 2013 09:06 by Calvin Yu in Productivity  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

During your quest to become a master of Inbox Zero, you’ll inevitably come across stuff in your inbox that doesn’t seem to have a home of its own. As we already know from experience, any stuff that doesn’t have a home, by default, makes its home right there in your inbox, along with all the other homeless stuff that gets piled up on top of it. 

Usually homeless stuff comes in the form of reminders. Reminders become the vagrants of your inbox simply because there’s unfinished business associated with it that prevents you from filing it away. So how do you deal with reminders?

What if I told you that there actually is a home for all those vagrant reminders? That home is a tickler file! And in this blog post, I’ll describe how this useful tool will ensure that no reminder is ever left forgotten or left sitting there in your inbox.  If I didn’t have this system, I don’t know how I would have grown remembered all the things to do for my toner cartridge business.

What is a Tickler File?

A tickler file is a reminder system that works in conjunction with your calendar and allows you to essentially “mail” physical items, such as bills, notes and paperwork, to yourself on specific future dates. It consists of a physical filing system of 43 folders - 12 folders for each month of the year and 31 folders for each day of the month. 

Let’s say that you get a bill in the mail that you want to handle three weeks from now. Most people would probably leave that bill in their inbox until the time came to handle it. With a tickler file at the ready, you simply drop that bill into the appropriate folder dated three weeks from now and presto!...That bill is now gone from your inbox and into a trusted system that won’t let you down.

And that’s the real beauty of a tickler file system. It’s a great solution for getting things out of your face that you don’t need to spend your precious attention on right now, yet it makes those items “magically” reappear when it’s time to deal with them.

Some Potential Uses of a Tickler File

What are some common applications of a tickler file? Here are a few common uses:

  1. Mailing yourself reports and support materials needed for a future meeting.
  2. Reminding yourself of bills that need to be paid before a certain date. This is great for avoiding late penalties and for maximizing your cash flow situation. 
  3. Revisiting purchases that you were considering on getting. You can either use your tickler file to give yourself a “cooling off” period before you make a large ticket purchase, or you can postpone a purchase and revisit it later when the budget is there to actually buy it.
  4. Keeping event tickets safe until the day you need them.
  5. Reminding yourself about upcoming events. Contemplating going to a conference, seminar or event, but haven’t made up your mind yet? Just throw the event brochure into your tickler file and revisit it later.
  6. Keeping travel information & documents safe. Put your passport, maps and other pertinent travel information in your tickler file for safe-keeping until the day you need it.
  7. Storing your hotel reservations and information.
  8. Mailing yourself coupons that should be used before the expiration date passes.
  9. Storing pre-written birthday cards to be sent on specific dates. This is great if you have a bunch of birthdays spread out across the month. You can batch them all together, get them all done and put each one in the appropriate folder to be mailed out on that particular day so they arrive just in time.
  10. Reminding yourself of items to be mailed off on a specific date. 
  11. Reminding yourself of subscription expirations & renewals.
  12. Reminding yourself about car and house maintenance jobs. 
  13. Giving yourself random moral-boosters. Everyone needs a little dose of positivity every now and then. Take something meaningful like an inspirational quote, a picture of a loved one(s) or even a letter addressed to your future self and “mail” it to yourself with your tickler file. It’ll bring a smile to your face when you receive it.

So Why Not Use a Calendar as a Reminder System?

If you’re a GTD purist, then you probably know that the space on your calendar is sacred and it should only be used for hard commitments and reminders, such as appointments, birthdays and deadlines. Your tasks and loose reminders should remain distinctly separate from your calendar items so that you can glance at your calendar during your daily review and immediately know what your time commitments are for that particular day. 

A tickler file compliments your calendar. It serves to house those items that you’d like to remind yourself of in the future as well as a container to house physical support documents that are necessary for that particular day, such as a spare key, a report or event tickets. Ultimately, your tickler file serves the purpose of de-cluttering your calendar so that it remains an effective time management tool for you.

Setting Up Your Tickler File

GTD tickler system using foldersSetting up your tickler file is both simple and inexpensive. You’ll need the following materials:

  • A narrow file box. Make sure it’s big enough to hold 43 manila folders and avoid getting a large file box because your folders won’t stay upright. You can find a narrow file box at any office supply store. Optionally, you can use the file drawer of your desk if you have one.
  • 12 colored manila folders. These will be used as your monthly folders. Colors are optional, but they do make identification a lot easier. If you’re going to be using your desk filing cabinet as your tickler file, then these should be hanging file folders instead of manila ones.
  • 31 plain manila folders. Make sure you get the manila folders with the tabs all in one spot for easier review. The manila folder packs with the assorted tab placements make a mess of your tickler file system.

Start by labeling each month of the year onto the 12 colored file folders. Then get the 31 day folders and label each one numerically from 1 to 31. Get your file box and place the monthly folders in the box with January facing you and December at the back of the box. Send those monthly folders that have already passed to the back of the file box. The current month should be the closest one to you. Insert the 31 day folders in the current month’s folder. Remove the days that have already passed and send them to the next month's folder. For example, if today is January 10th, then I'd remove day folders 1-9 from the January folder and send them to the February folder. Congratulations, your tickler system is now ready to use!

At the beginning of each day, take the current day's folder out of the tickler file and dump the contents into your inbox for processing. That empty folder then gets inserted at the back of the next month's folder. All the items in that folder then get processed according to standard GTD methodology. At the end of the month, the expired month’s folder gets put at the very back of the tickler file.

If you have an item that needs to be tickled beyond the 31 days, simply place it in the appropriate month’s folder and when you reach that month, empty out the contents for processing and re-assignment to one of the 31 day folders if necessary. The beauty of this system is that you’ve created a perpetual reminder system that never expires.

Analog Versus Digital Tickling

GTD tickler system in EvernoteOn one corner, there’s the GTD purists who stay true to the analog version of the tickler file system originally described by David Allen. On the other corner, are the techies who love to take the philosophy of the tickler system and hack it with the latest technology. Which one is better?

Well, who says that you can’t use both analog and digital tickling systems integrated together? Then you have the best of both worlds. Digital tickling makes it simple to send reminders, notes and emails to yourself. Analog tickling really helps for handling stuff that’s not digital, like files, reports, tickets and small items. I say use whatever you’re most comfortable with, but I’m a digital person that utilizes Evernote with GTD.

One idea for trying out digital tickling without downloading any new software is simply to use your existing email system. Most email systems nowadays allow you to send delayed emails. This is a wonderful feature because it allows you to write emails that can be sent later on to people and it allows you to send messages and forward emails to yourself on specific dates as well. Those emails that seem to linger in your inbox can now get forwarded to yourself on a specific date, allowing you to clear your inbox of those pesky lingering emails.

Getting Into the Habit

While the tickler file is a fantastic and versatile reminder system, it’s main crutch is that you actually have to develop the habit of using it every day otherwise it won’t work as a trusted reminder system. Most people who claim that tickler files don't work simply never got into the habit of regularly using them in the first place and without systematically checking your tickler file daily, the system breaks down. Experts generally agree that it takes about 21 days of unbroken practice to develop a habit, so start today and make tickling a regular productivity practice.

Sunshine and Smartphones Meet: Essential Warm Weather Apps

18. April 2013 07:38 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Temperatures are finally rising, at least in most places across the United States, which means you're probably beginning to plan your favorite outdoor activities for the first time in months. Whether hiking, beach volleyball, summer concerts, or sunbathing are your preferred hobbies, there are specific apps you can use to help improve your outdoor experience. From video apps to GPS location devices to plant encyclopedias, there are limitless possibilities to stay connected, even when you're basking in the sunshine.

vine appShare life's precious moments with Vine.

Vine, created by social media website Twitter, allows you to take 6 second video clips with audio. Available only for iPhone or iPad, the app allows for video content to be shared more easily over the internet. How many times have you taken video only to realize it's too long to send through email or attach on a social media website? Vine takes the hassle out of this. Whether you're looking to capture a candid family moment or some incredible vista during a hike, there are limitless options available.

Landscaper's Companion for that green thumb.

If you've got a garden, plan on starting one, or love to identify plants on hikes, Landscaper's Companion is the perfect app for you. Rather than carrying that bulky encyclopedia with you, you can carry a fully searchable database of over 26,000 plants and 21,000 images. Not only can you access data online but you can also make notes on specific plants. Have you noticed they only like a certain amount of sunshine or water? It takes the hassle out of trying to remember little details that are generally easy to forget or confuse. Better yet: it's available on both iOS and Android devices.

zLocation appNever get meeting points confused again with zLocation.

Have you ever gone on a hike with multiple people or tried to find your friends at a specific point on a beach that goes on for miles without avail? zLocation takes the hassle out of planning meeting points. You can create a meeting location point using GPS, provide a name and add specific location details if you're doing something like planning a beach volleyball excursion. Even if your friends don't have the app or an iOS, they'll be able to access the specific event through a mobile optimized browser.

These are just 3 suggestions to help make those outdoor plans easier. When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, you don't want to be too connected to your phone, but you also want to be able to plan the activities you love wihout having to worry about all of the small details. Feel free to share some other outdoor or spring/summer related app below. Otherwise enjoy the sunshine!

Guide to Wireless Printing from Your Computer and Mobile Phone

While printing dates back to the mid-15th century, wireless printing has only become commonly used in the last two decades. Wireless printing is, as the name clearly states, the ability to use a printer without a wire or a cord connecting the printer and computer. This will allow you to print from any computer within appropriate range of the printer, which will most likely be anywhere within your home. The average distance for wireless printing is approximately 100 feet, but this can vary based on the manufacturer. This wireless technology allows multiple family members to print from their personal computers to the same household printer.

3 Ways to Set Up Wireless Printing

  1. USB Cable: Many wireless printers will come with installation software and a USB cable. If you connect the printer and computer using the USB, you will be prompted to follow the installation guide setup steps. Once completed, you will be able to remove the USB and print wirelessly.

    Printer connected by a USB cable

  2. Wireless Setup Wizard: Using this method, you can setup wireless printing directly from the printer itself using either its control panel or touchscreen. You’ll need to follow a few quick steps and enter answers for questions such as the name of your wireless network and password.
  3. Wi-Fi Protected Setup: Similarly to the wireless setup wizard, you can also use this method using the printers control panel or touchscreen. If your home already has a WPS router with a push-button, after following a few printer setup steps, you will be able to push the button to activate the printer wirelessly with your computer.

Printing from personal computers is the most common form of printing and has been around almost as long as the computer itself. This form is used in offices and homes worldwide and while the printing technology has remained mostly the same, printers themselves have gotten more advanced.

The printer supply industry generates over $100 billion dollars a year. This includes not just printers, but also the ink cartridges or toner cartridges supplies. However, since smartphones and tablets hit the marketplace, the need to print from all technological forms grew as well. Since this need was growing, different mobile applications created by each leading manufacturer such as HP and Epson began emerging for both tablet and smart phone use.

What are my Options for Wireless Mobile Printing?

Regardless of the tablet or smartphone you have, there is a surplus of mobile printing apps to choose from. A few of the options you may use include Bluetooth printing, Apple AirPrint, or manufacturer applications. Allow us to highlight a few of the options:

    Apple iPhone AirPrint settings
  1. Bluetooth printing: Perhaps a more outdated technology, Bluetooth printing is primarily used with mobile phones, yet unlike Wi-Fi, your phone must be used within a few meters of the printer. This is best for phones without a Wi-Fi connection that are enabled for Bluetooth printing.
  2. Apple AirPrint: This is a great option for anyone who uses an Apple device whether an iPad or an iPhone. However AirPrint only applies to software versions 4.2 or later. There are several printers that are compatible with AirPrint including many Epson and HP models. Just locate what you would like to print on your phone, locate the print button (no application download needed), and your phones software will find all AirPrint printers in range you can print from.
  3. HP ePrint settings
  4. HP ePrint: This application can be downloaded directly from your mobile phone. The app is not only compatible with most HP printers, but is also compatible with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, photos, web pages, and more. The easy to use interface makes it simple to print documents, images, or web pages. If you have the appropriate printer and the application downloaded, make sure your printer is stocked with HP ink cartridges.
    Brother iPrint&Scan settings
  5. Brother iPrint&Scan: This app can also be downloaded directly from your mobile phone and is compatible with most Brother printers. In addition to an easy-to-use interface, the Brother app also allows you to set up scans from your smartphone and send results wirelessly to your printer. Don’t forget to fill your office or home printer with Epson ink cartridges before sending documents to print.

Printer applications have now become mainstream for most large manufacturers and have become expected by consumers. In the future, we can expect that most new smartphones will come with already enabled printing features, making the setup and installation process easier and easier. 


Getting Things Done (GTD) With Context-Based Task Lists

11. April 2013 10:22 by Calvin Yu in Productivity  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

There was a time not so long ago when I would write down all my tasks on a single master list in my day planner and as I completed my tasks, I would cross them off that list. That worked fine in my earlier days, but when I started my printer supply business, that master list went from being a single page to an entire pad of paper! I quickly realized that I needed a new system for managing my tasks.

That’s when I came across David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, which offered a new way of managing tasks that made a lot of sense to me. Allen said that trying to manage tasks via a master list was mentally-draining and it didn’t adequately address the fact that tasks have inherent dependencies assigned to them that need to be met before they can actually be completed. Allen suggested that it’s better to have your tasks grouped by common dependencies and assigned to one of multiple task lists, which he refers to as contexts. There’s less mental stress involved when you’re dealing with a task list that you can actual get done versus one where you must pick and choose which tasks you can actually get done right now. I quickly adopted this system of context-based task lists and my productivity sky-rocketed.

What is a Context?

You can think of a context as a group of tasks that all share a common constraint. Usually that constraint is either a physical location or it's a required resource. It might also be a specific individual or group of individuals. A typical list of contexts might include:

@Office - for all your business or professional tasks that must be done at the office
@Home - for all the personal tasks that can be done at home
@Town - for the tasks that are done around town
@Computer - for all the tasks that can be done on your computer

GTD'ers usually designate a context by placing an "@" symbol in front of it. The beauty of organizing your tasks by context is the fact that they’re already pre-sorted for you - so all you need to do is to go through each task within your context and get them done without having to worry about priority or having the necessary resources available.

How to Set Up Your Context Lists

In order to build a set of contexts that work well for your situation, it's important that you focus on the core dependency that each task relies on. Buying milk, eggs, salad and juice are dependent on me being at the supermarket in order to get them done, so it would be logical for me to have an @Supermarket context for these. Paying cable and utilities bills for some people might be an @Home context. Since I pay my bills online, this is actually an @Computer context for me. There’s plenty of flexibility built into this system to customize it to your heart’s content, so long as you stick to the criteria for building your context lists.

Creating contexts based on physical location is probably the easiest constraint to define because it’s generally the easiest to identify. The action of buying milk has to be done at the supermarket. The action of submitting a report to your boss has to be done at work. Location-based contexts work well for people who have definite edges around their various roles and responsibilities. Employees working for a company fit well into this profile because they typically have the most separation between their personal space and their professional space. Location-based contexts might be less effective for someone who operates a home-based business or is a freelancer because technically there’s no separation between work and personal environments in so far as physical location is concerned.

In addition to location, you can also set up your contexts based on resources. Having the necessary tools available that will allow you to complete your task is every bit as important as being in the right location to get it done. A common example of this is the @Computer context. If you only own a desktop, then I guess this might be a location-based context for you, but if you’re like me and go everywhere with a laptop in hand, then location is no longer a factor - the dependency lies with having the computer with you. Resource-based contexts are used more frequently by people who travel a lot or who are always on the move, like consultants, attorneys, professional speakers and sales professionals.

I personally would not create contexts based on subjective factors such as priority level or energy level. The problem with this is that 1) they’re not true constraint-based contexts, and 2) they’re prone to avoidance at the sub-conscious level for some people. Let’s face it, we know that high-priority and high-energy level tasks are difficult, so it’s easier to avoid those and pick away at the lesser tasks first and that defeats the whole purpose of GTD.

Beware of Too Many or Too Few Contexts

One of the things that you'll have to be careful of when you're customizing your context lists is not going overboard with building too many of them. It's a common problem amongst GTD'ers and it's something that David Allen warns against. He recommends creating the least amount of contexts necessary to fit your purpose. The problem that arises when you create too many specialized contexts is that now you have too many areas to check for tasks and that defeats the whole workflow model of GTD. An example of this is someone who sub-divides their @Computer context into @Amazon, @Facebook, @Twitter, @Email, etc. While none of these contexts are bad in and of themselves, if you only have one or two tasks per context, or if you fail to regularly check these contexts daily, then it defeats the whole purpose of GTD. It would probably serve you better to combine your specialized lists together into one broad context in order to keep your GTD system clean and efficient.

On the flip side, there might be times when you need to divide your context in order to make it more manageable. Perhaps you have a growing list of 30+ next actions under your @Computer context. Large lists can be difficult to manage and review, so you might want to break it down into a separate context such as @Email to make your review and execution more effective.

When to Place Your Tasks Into Your Context Lists

You should assign your tasks to a specific context when you’re processing your inbox. Remember that in the collection stage of GTD, you’re primary goal is non-evaluative collection of all your “stuff.” Once all your stuff is collected, then you can evaluate what each piece is and assign it to its particular place. When you come across a task during your processing stage, then that’s the point where you can place it onto one of the context lists that you’ve created.

Contexts and Evernote

I mentioned in a prior post that I use Evernote as my GTD software of choice. Contexts are tailor-made for Evernote. I simply set up a group of tags in Evernote with the “@” symbol in front of it and Evernote automatically bumps those tags to the top of my list for easy sorting. I use both the desktop version and the mobile version of Evernote as my universal collection tool and when I process all my tasks in my Evernote Inbox, I simply assign it a context tag. When I’m ready to get work done, I just click on the appropriate context tag and it pulls up all the tasks that are pending within that context. It’s a wonderful system that’s allowed me to be highly productive.

SurePayroll Features 247inktoner

surepayrollSurePayroll is one of the leading online providers of payroll services to small businesses and is our preferred provider at 247inktoner. Their interface, including the ability to access services on mobile devices, allows us to take the hassle out of payroll services. Every month SurePayroll features one of their customers to highlight "secrets of their success." For April 2013, we are their featured client.

The short article highlights our commitment to providing low-cost ink and toner catridges while creating a headache-free customer service experience from buying the cartridges to having them shipped. Some of our secrets include: free shipping for all orders $50 or more, the ability to mix and match different ink and toner cartridges to provide discounts, and our 100% satisfaction guarantee.

However, our success also hinges on our commitment to use technology to stay organized. As the article quotes me saying, "I quickly realized that I needed a process and set of tools to help me stay organized; otherwise, I would have run the risk of becoming completely overwhelmed." These tools include the Getting Things Done methodology and cloud services provided by Evernote, which we describe in more detail in a recent blog post. Using these systems have allowed me to reach inbox zero, file away important documents including receipts, and help organize daily tasks in a more systematic way.

As always, we're grateful for the support our customers provide everyday. Your enthusiasm about our products and your suggestions on how to help improve your experience with 247inktoner allow us to implement changes on a daily basis. Feel free to share your favorite thing about using 247inktoner or offer any additional suggestions below. We want to hear from you!

Is Inbox Zero Really that Elusive?

inbox zero

If you've just looked at your email inbox, it's likely that you have dozens, hundreds, or, in the worst case scenario, thousands of emails to contend with. Maybe some of them are unread, maybe others are read. No matter where your inbox stands, there's a way to unclutter all of that information. Though it doesn't happen overnight, incremental steps can help you figure out the mess your inbox might be. The following tips are mostly applicable to all email clients, though some are Gmail specific.

Start by removing the unnecessary messages from your inbox.

If you're anything like us, it's likely that you use email to receive promotional emails from businesses, whether it's for discounts and deals or product updates. However, how many of you also forget to delete these emails in your inbox? It's likely that over the years you've accumulated hundreds or thousands of emails. Try searching by specific terms (as an example, "LivingSocial") and see how many emails pop up. By searching by specific terms, you're able to delete emails in bulk, saving you valuable time.

Consider email labels and special folders to archive existing messages.

Often times individuals get multiple email accounts forwarded to a primary email account. However, many forget to label incoming messages and archive emails to the correct folders. Without search terms, you have to plug keywords into the search bar, hoping you don't have to sift through hundreds of messages. By using labels and folders you'll able to find specific information much more efficiently. With particularly valuable emails, this makes more sense, not only saving you time but helping ensure the messages might not get lost among less important ones.

Give yourself an hour every week to assess the state of your inbox.

Be proactive with your inbox. Rather than waiting until spring to clean out your inbox, give yourself 30 minutes or an hour every week to assess the state of your inbox. Do you notice important unread messages? Are there emails that can be deleted? Have you not heard from someone you had expected to? By taking time to look at your inbox, you keep it both more organized and ensure you're not missing out on any important conversation.

Consider investing in mobile apps can let you focus your attention elsewhere.

mailbox app featuresWhile it's great to have an organized inbox on your desktop, don't forget the potential of mobile apps to help you organize your inbox. One of our current favorites is Mailbox. Though it is available only for those with iPhones, you're able to use any Gmail account, including Google business accounts. What is particularly useful about this is the ability to archive messages and receive notifications for them at a later date. For instance, say you just bought tickets for a concert in three months but don't want to print them out now. You're able to select any date and time in the future to have that message return to your inbox.

By not having those emails in your inbox or having to worry about plugging in a unique calendar notification, you reduce clutter and let yourself focus on those more pressing messages in your inbox.

Finally, give yourself a break from your inbox, at least for a part of every day.

Do you ever find yourself checking your inbox right when you wake up or right before bed? We'd recommend against it. By feeling like you're constantly "on the clock" to answer emails, you never get distance between your personal life and your technology. It always feels like some communication is lingering over you, part of a constant to-do list. Not only can you get burnt out from email communication, but you're also likely not to feel like you want to keep up on your inbox organization.

Though these are just some possible tips, we're confident they can help get you one step closer to inbox zero. Though it might seem daunting at first, by taking incremental steps anyone can reach a state of email zen. My personal method is to couple David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology with Evernote, learn more about how I maximize my productivity at  Feel free to share your favorite tips for keeping your inbox organized below!

Printing History: Invention of the Printing Press

30. March 2013 08:00 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

While technologies we rely most dearly on today such as cell phones, the internet, and GPS systems may have only been invented in recent years, there are still technologies created hundreds of years ago we still use today. A technology that we see every day in life that was invented over 550 years ago is printing with ink. We see this technology from the newspaper you read in the morning, to the lined notebook you write on at work, to the magazine you read after a work day. Well, even 500 years ago, you were able to purchase a book printed with ink in very similar style as to what you would see today.

How was the printing press invented?

In 1450, a goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in his hometown of Mainz Germany. As a handyman by profession, Gutenberg was able to construct the first mass printing machine from both the existing technology of the wine press, and new technologies he created.

 Wine Press

The wine press depicted above was able to provide Gutenberg with the model he needed to build his own printing machine. His earliest version of the printing press was a wooden contraption that allowed him to slide paper in and out and squeeze water from the paper after printing. The first books he ever printed in mass were bibles written in Latin. With his process, he was able to print 3,600 pages per workday, compared to 2,000 pages with block printing. However, block printing also required a heavy amount of labor, while the printing press required significantly less.

How it Works?

Wood Printing Press

The original printing press was constructed from wood. The model depicted above was commonly used from 1650 to 1850 and allowed for books to be mass produced and not exclusively for the wealthy. The original structure ranged from 5 to 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 7 feet tall. The press used the moveable-type system for printing which was originally developed in China around 1040. This works by having small metal pieces with a raised letter on each piece that were stamped with ink, and pressed onto damp paper to withhold the ink better.

What kind of ink was used?

Traditionally, before Gutenberg’s invention, ink that was used for printing was water-based, which was mostly used for block printing (the earlier form of printing developed in Asia). However, when tested with the printing press, the water-based ink would run off the letters, and Gutenberg quickly found out he would need to create a thicker style ink that would stick to the metal. In order to turn the printing press into a success, Gutenberg created a formula for an oil-based ink that led to a higher quality of printing with his metal-type letters.

The ink that Gutenberg developed in his workshop was made of many elements including copper, lead, titanium and sulfur. Many of his original prints had a glittering surface which was due to the high level of metal content in his ingredients. Today, printer ink cartridges are made in factories in mass by combining a color pigment with a varnish to create each colored ink. These days ink making includes far less elements from the periodic table, but is still a continually improved upon product and increasingly important.

How Did the Printing Press Affect the World?

Before the printing press, the creation of books, newspapers, or religious documents would need to be done by hand or by block printing. After more than 10 years of perfecting his printing press, by 1450 Gutenberg released it to the world. By 1480, there were printers active in 110 different places throughout Europe. By the end of the 15th century, the printing press could be found in approximately 270 cities. In those quick 50 years, the printing press produced an estimated 150 to 200 million copies. This invention opened new opportunities for authors to have their work widely read and the invention of the phrase “bestseller”.

Despite the popularization of the printing press, it took over 100 years before the first newspaper was created and released. The newspaper industry would quickly change the face of the printing press as it would cause this invention to be popularized worldwide. Until the early 1800s, Gutenberg’s invention remained almost untouched in advancement. However by the 17th century it would become steam powered for more widespread and efficient production.

Getting Instagrammed Moments on Paper


In a previous blog post, we featured a mobile app that would allow you to print directly from your phone to your Canon printer. But what if you don't have a Canon device and you want to get photos from the popular smartphone app Instagram printed? Thankfully, in the increasingly mobile-centric world, you don't have to look too hard to find the perfect option-- Printstagram. Offered on both your smartphone and your web browser, the service allows you to transform any Instagrammed moment into a fully realized physical object.  With mobile cameras becoming increasingly better at taking high resolution photos, this is a perfect option for amateurs and pros alike to capture the moments traditional photography cannot.

How does Printstagram work?

If you're accessing Printstagram though your web browser, simply go to the main page and click the desired type of printing you want. When you click 'Buy Now', it will prompt you to log-in to Instagram with your username and password. After that, you're free to select the photos you want and within 14 business days, Prinstagram will ship the products to you.

For those with a smartphone running Apple iOS, you can download Printsagram's "Print Studio" app for free. By downloading the app, you'll be able to automatically synch your Instagram photos through your camera and order prints on the go.

What sizes of prints do they offer?

Printstagram is thankfully able to offer a wide variety of sizes. The smallest are the mini stickers, which measure less than 1 square inch and cost $10 for 252 total stickers. Individual prints can range considerably, including more expensive options like the 8x8 inch framed print for $60. For those who want high gloss options, Printstagram also offers posters up to 28x30 inches, which can be comprised of up to 512 different Instagram photos.

What occasions is Printstagram good for?

Every occasion. Really! You can use Prinstagram to get photos or posters to decorate your desk, an empty wall, or a refrigerator. But the prints also make great gifts! For instance, you can create a calendar that includes 365 different prints, making it a great way to show a loved one the photos that matter most to you. You can also create mini prints, which measure approximately 8.5x5.5 centimeters, making them perfect to slip into your cards during the next holiday season.

How long do the prints last?

Though it might depend on the type of print and exposure to light, all of the prints are produced with premium photo paper or card stock with glossy or matte finishes that help preserve shelf life. The posters are also printed on a special thick Fuji Crystal Archive paper, preventing the wear and tear that might easily come with posters. Needless to say, you want to go back to Printstagram to get new prints made every month.

If you use your phone primarily to take pictures, or want to be able to capture those on-the-go moments without having to worry about lugging around a bulky camera, Printstagram is the perfect option for getting mobile photos from Instagram available in physical form. Whether you're keeping them to yourself, or sharing them with others, no moment is a bad moment to hand out these printed memories. However, if you are too impatient to wait 14 days to get prints, now's the time to stock up on ink cartridges to do it yourself.

No matter how you plan on printing life's special moments, please share some of your favorite photographed moments below!


How I became more productive with Getting Things Done (GTD) and Evernote

27. March 2013 03:00 by Calvin Yu in Productivity  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

One of my secrets of running a successful business is staying organized. When I started my printer supply business,, I quickly realized that I needed a process and set of tools to help me stay organized; otherwise, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Being a technology geek, the solution that worked best for me was the Getting Things Done ® (GTD®) methodology by David Allen integrated with the cloud service Evernote®. Using this system, I was able to keep my inbox clean; capture all my actionable and non-actionable items into a one centralized bucket; file away important reference documents such as receipts; and systematically get all my daily tasks done.

In this blog post, I’ll share with you what this system is and I’ll offer some ways that I personally use GTD and Evernote to increase my productivity as a business owner. However, if you want to cut to the chase, you can learn the system that I use over at The Secret Weapon website.

GTD plus Evernote

What is GTD?

GTD is a task management methodology developed by productivity expert and best-selling author David Allen. It’s designed to reduce stress and improve clarity on actionable outcomes. One of the benefits of GTD is that it’s not dependent on any particular type of day planner or software program, but instead focuses on the workflow model of capturing and processing tasks in a systematic way. GTD can be equally effectively whether you prefer low-tech or hi-tech planning tools. As I said before, I’m a technology geek, so I prefer high-tech paperless planning tools. For this reason, I’ve found Evernote to be a match made in heaven for implementing GTD.

GTD Concepts In A Nutshell

I’ll only cover the essential concepts of GTD here in this blog post. If you want to fully understand the GTD system, then I highly recommend reading David Allen’s book. The GTD system follows a set of core principles:

Purge your brain and get all your “stuff” captured into a trusted system.

The brain is a wonderful machine, but unfortunately, it’s not the best tool for keeping track of all the tasks, projects, due dates and other bits of “stuff” that flow into your mind throughout the day. Trying to manage all this stuff in our mental RAM is a key cause of stress because your brain is not a trusted system for capturing and managing all of your incoming information. I use Evernote as my capturing tool because I’m comfortable with technology and Evernote enables me to capture my thoughts, email, website clippings, audio and pretty much anything else wherever I am.

Putting your stuff in the right buckets.

Once you’ve captured all the stuff that has come your way, it becomes necessary to clearly identify what each item actually is, and more importantly, where it should go. There are six “buckets” that your collected stuff can go:

  • The next action bucket: These are the tasks that can be acted on and that have concrete outcomes once completed. Next actions are what drives productivity and are at the heart of the GTD system.
  • The project bucket: These are a series of multiple next actions that, when completed, achieve an intended outcome. Projects themselves are not actionable until they are broken down to their granular level of next actions.
  • The reminder bucket: These are items that may or may not be actionable, but they do have concrete edges defined by solid dates and/or times. Appointments, birthdays and plane flights would fall in this bucket. These items get placed on a calendar and/or a tickler file.
  • The reference bucket: These are items that are not actionable, but are used as support material for a next action or project.
  • The waiting bucket: These are tasks that have been delegated to other people to complete and that need to be checked-up on so that they don’t fall victim to the delegation “black hole.”
  • The trash bucket: These are items that are neither actionable, nor worth saving as future reference and can be thrown away.

Productivity hinges on focusing and clarifying “next actions.”

One of the core concepts of the GTD method is distilling all your tasks into next actions. A next action is basically the indivisible unit of activity that can be completed in one session and that has a concrete outcome once completed. Next actions can either be stand alone, or they can be the building blocks to a larger project. GTD stresses clarifying next actions with specific action verbs and context on the basis that specificity breeds productivity. There should not be any confusion on what to do when reading a next action. Typically when there’s confusion about how to perform a next action, it’s because that next action either wasn’t properly clarified, or it’s actually a project and needs to be broken down into even more granular action steps.

Contextualize your next actions.

In a typical to-do list, you combine all your tasks onto one master list and work your way down the list. The problem with this approach is that you may not have the adequate resources available or be in the proper location to effectively complete that particular task. Having a list of tasks that you can’t complete is neither productive nor helpful on reducing stress. One defining characteristic of the GTD system is the concept of contextual task lists in which you have multiple tasks lists based on physical location and/or resources available. Common contexts include: @Home, @Office, @Town, @Grocery Store, etc. Placing your next actions into a context makes your task lists more efficient and effective by allowing you to focus in on only the tasks where the present resources and the ability to actually complete those tasks are available.

Reviewing your agenda.

GTD recommends a daily and weekly review to make sure all your actions and projects are moving forward towards completion. Daily reviews are intended to give you a top-down view on your daily work load and projects, while weekly reviews are intended to ensure that your projects are moving forward towards your higher goals and long-term objectives. Since GTD is a bottom-up approach to task management, the daily and weekly reviews are an important part of the methodology to ensure that all those daily actions have a higher purpose.

So What Is Evernote?

Evernote is a popular note-taking software and service that allows you to capture email, notes, pictures, webpages, audio and pretty much everything into its system. Once it's captured, you can tag, annotate and categorize your notes for easy finding and retrieval later on. Evernote has a very powerful search engine that allows your notes to be found very quickly. It also has OCR technology built into it so that you can search for text within PDF and image files.

Since GTD focuses on the premise that ideas flow into your mind organically no matter where you might be, it’s important to have a trusted capturing tool that is able to follow you everywhere as well. That’s one of the benefits of using Evernote with GTD. The software can be accessed by your computer desktop, on the web and on your smartphone, providing you with a very powerful capturing system to be used with GTD.

Another great benefit about using Evernote is that the company gives you a healthy portion of free service to use for as long as you want. I know plenty of people who have all their GTD needs met using the free version of Evernote’s service. Of course, if you really get into using Evernote as your GTD system, eventually you’ll want to get their $5 per month premium service to access more storage space and greater search capabilities. Trust me, the small investment is worth it.

Achieving Inbox Zero

Like most business owners, I get more emails flooding into my inbox than I know what to do with. A major contributor to the problem of email clutter is the tendency to use the inbox as a catch-all list for all of our to-dos, follow-ups, reminders and reference materials. Managing our activities through our email inbox inhibits productivity, causes added stress and slowly spirals out of control. It’s not uncommon for some people to have a 1,000 or more emails sitting in their inbox.

Evernote helps me achieve an "inbox zero" status daily. I set up my Evernote system so that I can forward all my incoming emails to Evernote for archiving and I use subject line tagging to contextually tag actionable and important reference emails appropriately so that I can find them later on. The beauty of this system is that all my emails are archived on Evernote, so I don’t have to keep them sitting in my inbox and any emails that are actionable or that are reminders can be tagged in Evernote so that I can take action on them later. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to leave work with a completely empty email inbox every day.

Keeping Receipts In Order

Running a business means that I need to keep track of all my business receipts. Evernote helps me organize all my receipts digitally, without the hassle of trying to organize bits and pieces of paper everywhere. All my email receipts get forwarded to Evernote and tagged twice with the tag labels: “receipts” and “to enter.” Paper receipts get scanned and uploaded to Evernote with the same tags. This allows me to instantly retrieve all my business receipts and my bookkeeper knows exactly which ones to enter into QuickBooks. Having everything in one place in my Evernote account makes maintaining the books a breeze.

Keeping Track of Follow-Ups

As many of us can attest to, one of the many black holes when it comes to delegated tasks is following up with people and holding them accountable for completing those assigned tasks. Typically, most people use their email inboxes as their reminder system by keeping their latest correspondence as a marker for them to remember to follow up with the person on a future date. Over time though, this system breaks down as more and more emails get piled on top of it. Evernote helps me know which tasks I’m waiting on others for while keeping my inbox squeaky clean. I created a “waiting on” tag for items that I’m waiting on others to complete and I simply apply this tag to emails and notes that reference delegated tasks. When I perform my daily review, I simply review what items under this tag category are pending and when I expect them to be completed. What used to be a black hole for unfinished business is now an air-tight system for me.


I’ve only briefly touched on how I stay productive as a business owner using GTD and Evernote. If you want to learn how to implement this system for yourself, I recommend reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done and then educate yourself on how to integrate it with Evernote by visiting this gem of a website called The Secret Weapon.

Spring Cleaning For Your Electronics

spring cleaningMarch 20th marked the beginning of spring and, for many, the annual spring cleaning ritual. While most focus on cleaning out the car, tossing excess clutter, and carefully scrubbing every surface free of dust and dirt, most neglect one of the most important electronic devices-- the printer. Though it's difficult to tell just how dirty a printer might have gotten during the winter months, it's important to remove any excess grime and test how the printer is working to ensure the highest quality experience. Failing to clean out your printer can result in poor printing quality, especially for photographs or color printing.

Before printing, check your printer manual or contact your manufacturer for best cleaning practices.

Every printer, like every floor or counter, is designed differently and thus requires specific care. Whether you have an inkjet, laser or solid ink printer, your manufacturer knows the best ways to avoid damaging the delicate (and essential) components of your printer.

Always make sure your printer is off and fully unplugged.

Ensuring your printer is not connected to any power source eliminates the risk of electrical shock. At the same time, by allowing the machine's internal components to power down, you prevent potential burns to yourself, as components in laser printers can get especially hot.

Never directly spray any type of cleaning solution onto your printer.

Though you should check with your printer to see if there are particular solvents you can use to clean the exterior (body) of the printer, it's never a good idea to spray anything onto your printer. Moisture accumulating in any component of the printer can cause irreparable damage. A dry, lint-free cloth is recommended, though many companies now make electronics wipes for your printer's body.

Avoid cleaning internal components unless you have experience.

You can, and should, examine ink cartridges to ensure there is no spilled ink, leaks, or other debris that has collected. However, avoid unscrewing components or touchings parts (including the feed rollers) as these can be permanently damaged. Certain models have self-cleaning mechanisms that can save you the hassle of wondering which components to touch (or not).

Don't forget to print a test page at the end of the process.

When you've finished your cleaning process, be sure to print a test page. If it's been several months since you've last used your printer, inks can settle, adversely affecting print quality. If the ink isn't moving properly through your printer, these inconsistencies will show up, especially during color printing. If you are satisfied with the results, you've successfully cleaned your printer! If you are experiencing ghosting you may have a part that is defective; otherwise consult your manufacturer's website or contact an electronics specialist.

You might be ready for a printer change, so don't forget to recycle.

You might be feeling like it's time to get an upgraded printer or find one best designed for your needs. If that's the case, don't forget to recycle your electronics. Adding them to a landfill only increases the risk of environmental contamination from ink and other printer components. Best Buy is one of the retailers that offers a national recycling program and if you have 8+ empty cartridges that need to be recycled, we have a free recycling program that includes a prepaid return shipping label.


As always, spring is the best time to replenish those depleted ink cartridges! Feel free to share some of your favorite cleaning tips for electronics below or ask any questions if you're looking for that perfect new printer this spring.

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