Kenton Hansen

Productivity: Stop Remembering Things

This past weekend my family of three went on a short excursion to Kansas City. Everything was going great until we received an email sent to my son’s inbox. It stated that his Instagram password had been changed; but he had not been using his phone or the Internet for hours.

He’d been hacked.

My marching orders for these weekly posts are to recommend ways to become more productive, and while security might not fit the average person’s idea of “productivity,” I think it does.

Let me say two things:

  1. I don’t lump you all into the category of “average” – you’re all special to me.
  2. Anyone who has had to deal with a compromised account on any service ever knows that nothing kills productivity more than the hours wasted trying to regain and secure control.

My son made several mistakes, but the most egregious was using the same password for everything. This might save mental workout when logging in, but turns one lucky guess into the keys to the kingdom.

My son’s second sin was one we have all committed.

Do you know how most security breaches start? With “social engineering.” Most likely, the cause of this weekend’s headache was not logging out of a school computer, or not covering his fingers from prying eyes as he typed in his login credentials.

There are several practices you can implement to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

  • Don’t store your passwords in a notebook next to your computer.
  • Make your passwords difficult to guess. Don’t use birthdays, first names, etc.
  • The most secure passwords are stories. My favorite password that I used previously was “cow store cart home” to describe the journey milk takes to my house. Easy to remember and difficult to guess or brute-force.

Or you can resolve both of these issues by using a password manager. These helpful bits of software store your multitudes of secure username/password combos behind a single password. In addition, they will also generate random strings of text to use as passwords. Talk about security. My favorite password manager is 1password.

You know, I used to joke with Beth about her password. Her one password. She has since converted… to 1password.

Productivity: Everybody Calm Down…

You know that feeling when you’ve got that big project? Or when you’re behind schedule? Or when your to-do list seems to grow longer with every item you check off?

It’s time to buckle down!

Yeah, how about no…

The feeling you have to just keep plugging along is wrong. And it’s not just me procrastinating. Science tells us so, and New York Magazine put together a great animation to keep you informed. Take a break and learn the strategy to doing more with less effort. Not only will you be more well rested in the end, but you’ll also have more to show for it now.

Time Wasters: Stop with the Email

Since my technical partner Kenton accomplishes more in a day than anyone else I know–and since he likes to tell me how I can improve my productivity–I asked him to offer some of his best tips. This is the first in his series: Time Wasters.

TWasting-Timehe best way to be productive is to look at the simple areas where you waste time. By finding and removing these areas, you can add more time into your day for the tasks that actually matter.

One of the biggest timesucks in the modern office is email.

In the U.S., 32% of employees reported replying to most messages within 15 minutes of receiving them. More than 50% said they responded within 30 minutes. This is a case of false productivity.

When we work, our brains have two states: the nonlinear daydreaming side, and the task-oriented side. To be productive, we need to commit to one side or the other (depending on what the task at hand requires). When we move back and forth between those two, it leaves us unable to commit to one side or the other. We literally feel busy without actually producing anything.

And as this New York Times article points out, “An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.”

The best way to have a day and deal with email is to treat it like any other task. Set aside some time (and typically not first thing in the morning) to empty out your inbox. Have a strategy to clean out the digital drawer; file messages you need, and delete those you don’t. And lastly, quit stressing about instant responses. If someone needs something urgent, email is the worst way to get it.

A screenshot is worth a lot of words.

Screenshots have existed for a while, but now that they’re being used more and more, they are really coming into their prime. This article from Wired talks about the stats of screenshots. Their popularity is gaining for everything from documentation of crazy ex’s to storing notes about a project.

One example mentioned was a tale of two tweets: one had a link to an article, the other a readable screenshot of the article’s text. The screenshot received 400 times more retweets than the link. Author Austin Kleon recently included a post in his email newsletter about that relatively new trend in that same vein.

The Tab That Broke the Browser’s Back

The Tab That Broke the Browser’s Back

A note from Beth: Even though this piece from Kenton is embarrassing to me, I’m excited to post it because it has landed in my top three technical advances for the year. The whole 365-days-a-year year. Kenton is not the only person who gives me a hard time about the number of browser tabs I always have open. I receive over-the-shoulder comments daily. In fact, when I needed a temporary password for the work I was doing for our public radio station, the director of engineering gave me this one: TooManyTabs. So yes, my face is red. But I’m not sure if it’s due to embarrassment or excitement.


It’s happened often enough that it has become an inside joke. Beth will find herself excited to show me something she’s found online, but almost immediately she’ll dissolve into embarrassment when she notices how many browser tabs she has open. She knows what I’m going to say.

Something, something memory. Something, something running slowly.

(I’m much more eloquent in person.)

I understand the problem. You find something. You can’t use it right then. You don’t want to lose that amazing tidbit you’ve discovered.

I’ve found the solution.