Be bold

When there's something you know you really want to do and circumstances are all lined up to support it, but it's a really big leap, ask yourself if the regret if you don't do it outweighs the risks if you do.

It's good to plan, it's good to have safety nets and it's good to keep yourself from getting over-extended in general, but sometimes it is the right time to stretch.

Don't make yourself miss out on the good, but hard stuff just because it's hard.

Go for it!

Evening stroll

If the weather isn't absolutely horrid – if it's just sprinkling a little you aren't exempted! – pop out of the house this evening and walk about a bit. Go look at the park or head up to the nearest high ground to get a view into the distance. Or stroll down to the shops and pick up some fresh bread or something nice for dinner or dessert.

Look around as you walk. Make eye contact with people. Smile and greet them as you pass.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Carrying credit card debt? Been a customer of that bank for a year or more?

Give them a call and ask if you now qualify for a lower rate. If you can cite other rates you've been offered recently this may help.

They may also offer to give you a very low rate if you transfer other debt to them – sometimes you get blank checks in the mail for this. Always check to make sure the rate isn't for a shorter term than it will take you to pay off the money and that it doesn't then switch to a higher rate then you are paying now.

My personal philosophy is to stick mostly with the bank that gives the best service (for me, Wells Fargo Visa, who I've been using since 1989) and who put the least advertising in their bills (unlike those cheeseballs at Direct Merchant Bank with their damn Lillian Vernon catalog-like ads printed on flaps attached to the dang envelopes. No, I do not need a cheap plastic rain guage). I will occasionally make forays out to other banks to take advantage of special offers, but now that I've been a customer for so long and have a good history, Wells Fargo will often match deals. Never hurts to ask.

Spring Sunday

If it's raining, bake something. Even you non-cooks! Just go down to the store and get something ready-to-bake like biscuits or cinnamon rolls or cookies. Take some to a neighbor and get acquainted.

If it's not raining, plant some flowers. Windowbox, curbside planting area, garden, elderly neighbor's garden. Just get some flowers and dirt and springtime into your senses.

Hello, World

Here's a nice Saturday morning routine you might want to start.

Get up and have a little breakfast. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and head out to your front stoop with the broom.

Shake the doormat, pick up any trash about the place, and sweep the dirt up.

If you live in an apartment building, this could just be sweeping a bit around your door and the path you take to the stairs or elevator, but I recommend even in that case going on down to the street door and sweeping the sidewalk. It doesn't take long, it makes a place you see every day nicer, and it gives you a chance to say hello to your neighbors.

Urban and suburban lives are often far more isolated than is healthy, either for the people who live that way or the neighborhood as a whole. Get to know at least the faces and better yet, some names.

Email Mastery: Pay for checking your email

Don't sit and press the "Check Mail" switch like a lab rat hoping to get a tasty food pellet.

Yes, okay, you might get something you can answer quickly and scratch off your list, but that will not be as important as what is currently on the top of your to-do list.

Set your automatic mail check to every six hours. Yes, I said 6 HOURS.

As you get done with the things you've prioritized as important for today, you will check for new mail, but not before you've gotten at least the #1 thing on your list done.

As Merlin Mann said

Don’t let the blur of movement try to replace one elegantly completed task.

Variant rules:
– "okay to check first thing in the morning to catch changed priorities"
Set the timer for this one, though; you are only processing. After you go through it, you will do the most important thing you've labeled "Urgent". I like to download the mail at home and then process it on public transit.

– "close mail program when doing tasks that don't require something in email"
Cut out the distraction. At the very least, minimize the program and hide your active programs Dock or toolbar.

– "buy microbreaks too"
Want to spend 5 minutes checking personal mail? Not 'til you've crossed something off the list, bucko.

Email Mastery: Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am

Sorting incoming email faster is one of the critical ingredients of email mastery. You need to be able to process without acting on things. First, know what you have. Second, do the right next thing.

Taking as few seconds per message as possible whip through your inbox and delete, file or label everything as appropriate.

If you don't already have labels set up for your mail, do that quickly now. These labels should reflect the order in which you need to deal with things and I find it helpful to group by how long I think it will take to move this issue forward or perhaps even resolve it. My labels, once again, are Urgent, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes and Waiting For Someone. Also I recommend creating a Tickler folder for things you don't need to deal with until a certain day.

Before you begin, decide generally what you file and what just gets deleted. The only things that remain in the inbox are those that require some action.

If you have a very full inbox, work your way through this in 10 minute bursts. Set a timer (I recommend Minuteur for Mac users) and do not let yourself get distracted in that time. It's just ten minutes; you can do this! If you aren't done after 10 minutes, then go deal with some other discrete task that needs to be handled today – preferably something on paper or involving talking to someone so you get a break from the intense mousework – and then when you've had the pleasure of checking that off, come back and do another 10 minute burst. Repeat as necessary.

For some messages, the obvious action will be to give it the 2 Minute label because it's a long message you know you have to read and may need to act on, but your few second scan of it makes clear that that could wait until tomorrow if it had to. Read it later, even if later is just after this burst. Do not act while you're processing the inbox – you are only spending a max of 10 seconds per item to sort it into stacks.

Those folks who regularly need to send the same reply will benefit from creating a few mail templates to make this a matter of a few clicks rather than a bunch of redundant typing. If you can say the usual thing without having to create it afresh every time, you can often close out those kind of messages in your processing – just be sure you're only doing it on the ones you can truly handle in 10 seconds or less. The ones that need the standard message plus one or two more sentences belong with your "2 Minute" label.

Your goal: a prioritized inbox which contains only things requiring action and all the contents of which are generally familiar to you.

This will reduce your stress, help you focus your time on the most important actions, and give you the ability to respond much better to demands for status reports.