If only it were that easy, right?!?
Real productivity is hard to achieve, and possibly even more so now in our very digitally-noisy environment. That being said, we’ve all met people who are capable of producing amazingly creative and powerful work and in a surprisingly efficient way!
Certainly strong organization, prioritization and experience, but there’s more and it really depends on each person, their profession and their unique approach. I reached out to some of the most successful entrepreneurs, writers and creators in our community and asked them the 1) habit and 2) service or app that most impacted their day to day productivity. Without further ado, their valuable advice below and we thank them for the wealth they’ve shared with us all here!
For me, time management starts with the big picture: how I allocate my time overall. My work tends to fall into four categories: major projects for work, normal workflow (the never-ending daily email, grading, and management tasks), ongoing analysis (policy, technology, and trends), and what I call “”side projects””.
I do my daily reading while having my first cups of coffee. That brings me up to speed on the world. Then I tend to work my way though email and management activities. After that, I devote the afternoon and early evening to project time.
The biggest advice I can give is to take the plunge and commit to side projects you’re really drawn to, projects you do when you have lulls in other activities. I’ve used side project time to write two of my books. I’ve also done some fundamental artificial intelligence research, programmed and marketed 40 iPhone apps, built a broadcast studio in my house, composed music, and hacked the heck out of some really cool hardware.
While it doesn’t qualify as time management in the immediate sense, the side projects I’ve done have expanded my world, tremendously aided my career, and opened some amazing doors. If you want to know one app I can’t live without, it’s Google Calendar. I schedule both my main project and side project time as chunks of time in my calendar to make sure I’ve purposefully set aside blocks of days to focus on my most important work.
Don’t wait for “someday” to do something that drives you. As a friend once said, “Someday is today.”
Ari Meisel, author at Lessdoing.com, a system for optimizing, automating, and outsourcing everything in people’s personal and professional lives.
Keeping my mind as clear as possible is amazing. When I have an idea I quickly get it out of my head and into Evernote and by creating that space I’m able to use my brain to come up with new and exciting challenges. FollowUp.cc is my most essential tool.
Karen Hartline brings creativity and a personal touch to create unique events for her clients through her company, Reinventing Events and has over 13 years of event production experience for Mashable, Porter Novelli, Brian Solis, and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
I actually have two things that super charge my day…my pups, Lucas and Gary. I start the day cuddling with them each morning while I drink my coffee and there are times in the afternoons when I’m just completely stressed out and I get down on the floor to play with them. Just taking a few minutes to clear my head and play is all I need to energize me! If you don’t have pups, get some play-doh. Not as cuddly, but still great at energizing you through playing! b) the app/service that you couldn’t imagine having to work without.
While I sing praises daily for Evercontact and Boomerang, I’m sure those are on others lists as well. Our team stays on top of tasks thanks to Asana. I currently have over 15 different projects that I’m working on each week so this is a way for me to keep track of what’s due and when, as well as see when my team is getting things done. It’s also an easy way for my team to nudge me for things that are past due without pinging me directly. Our entire team is moving all communication around projects to Asana to help cut down on the emails coming into our mailboxes!
Warren Whitlock, FORBES Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer ProfitableSocialMedia.com
There’s a special power the physical act of writing. I keep thinking about ditching paper altogether but then I get stuck doing the chores (social media, email, routines) and feel I’m not getting all I can down. When this happens, I get to a blank sheet of paper, write down whatever comes to mind (often not the problem I thought needed to be solved) and within a couple of minutes, I’m clear on what do next. It’s seldom the busy work I thought I needed to focus on. Pen and Paper. and it has to be blank. If you are stuck with what to write.. start with 5 things you are thankful for. Now I make it a habit to start every day with a blank sheet of paper.
I write a lot – ranging from several thousand-word blog posts on a regular basis to books that are as large as 800 pages. I’ve done this for decades now and love writing as much as the day I started putting pen to paper (which shows you how old I am).
Yet, if there is one productivity tip that I would offer up, it’s this. Know when to walk away. That means, in the simplest terms, when you run up against a block and can’t write, don’t try to plow through it. Do something else. Play a game. Get something to drink (non-alcoholic); visit with a colleague, friend or family member. Get your mind off writing. You’ll find that you’ll be relaxed and refreshed when you sit back down to get started again.
The one app I can’t do without is actually the most obvious one. Microsoft Word 2013. Or Office 365. Yes, I know it isn’t cool to pick a Microsoft app as the one that I need the most, but you tell me, how do you expect me to write if I don’t have an app that allows me to – and Word in its latest incarnation, works great for just that. So there.
Other than swearing by getting up early, my #1 tip involves a phrase I came up with several years ago: Short Burst Downtime: “Short-burst downtime.” I came up with that term years ago – We all prep for “long-burst downtime” – the eight hours on a plane, the two hours at the doctor’s office, and we bring work to do in those situations.
But more often than not, we’re presented with short-burst – the five minutes on line at the bank, the 3 minutes waiting for the subway, the ten minutes before our kid finishes practice… THAT’S the most valuable time. I can answer a ton of emails, read websites I’ve saved for later on getpocket.com, or even pay bills – all with my mobile device, all in the time I’d otherwise be wasting because I’m in line or waiting somewhere. Short-burst downtime can be the most valuable thing in the world, if you remember to use it.
Chris Abraham, founder at Gerris Digital and veteran PR and social media marketing strategist.
I have tried Evernote, Remember the Milk, and Google Tasks and I have yet to find anything that remotely puts me at ease as the series of physical Moleskine notebooks that I keep. I generally keep three: one satellite, a small, soft-cover, squared, notebook; a medium “Classic” squared, hard-cover, notebook, and another medium squared, hard-covered, notebook.
The small satellite is always with me, in my left rear pocket, along with a pen. The second, the medium size, in black, is generally in my bag. I use it to transcribe the notes from the day, just like I did in college. The final notebook is where I keep my Bullet Journal, a free-form way of collecting, managing, and completing to-dos and tasks. I am a work-in-progress but using shades of David Allen’s GTD to get stuff out of my mind and into paper notebook buckets is what I do in order to attempt to tame the chaos that is my mind, my career, and my life.
And Chris shared pics of his moleskin / bullet journal… which has inspired me to make creative writing a daily morning habit, somewhat like James Altucher mentions in his “mental” daily program here. Definitely worth a read if you’re looking to become the luckiest guy/gal in the world! 🙂
Craig Fisher is the CEO of TalentNet, LLC and has been named 1 of the top influencers in HR and recruiting by HR examiner, as well as 1 of the top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts on Twitter by the Huffington Post.
I check my social places 3 times per day, mostly from my phone, to post, respond, like, retweet, etc. I spend only 5-10 minutes each time. Rather than troll social media all day, I regularly check in at intervals to make sure I am engaging with my audience. This leaves work time for work, and family time for family. I also automate some content via Twitterfeed, so I am constantly posting good quality resources to my network. Remember to select “title only” in advanced preferences on this app so your posts don’t trail off into a “…”
To-do lists used to be the bane of my existence. They’d pile up, spill over into the next day, and I always felt the weight of them on my shoulders (like a 600-pound silverback gorilla). That was, until, I moved my to-do lists from digital lists (Evernote, TeuxDeux, etc) to written lists (on actual paper in a notebook).
Since doing this I find myself tearing through my to-do items like never before. When my lists were digital, I’d find myself leaving the list, opening a new tab in Google Chrome, then another tab, and before I knew it I had gotten completely distracted. Writing down my to-do lists, and physically crossing them off, has been a huge productivity booster for me.
I find that getting started is half the problem. When I have a task that I’m dreading and have been putting off, I make myself do it for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes, I still can’t get into it, I take a break and try again later. But the majority of the time, once I’ve spent 15 minutes doing something, I want to finish and I feel better afterwards because it’s off my to-do list. My favorite apps for keeping track of my tasks are Any.do and Evernote. I like Any.do for short-term takss and I can assign tasks. I assign tasks to my kids each week so they know what their chores are. I use Evernote for long-term projects with many deadlines and tasks.
I’m always short on time, the most finite commodity (yet, most sold). Here’s my tip: “Pick one thing and do it,” my old Irish friend tells me. Since life is clutter, my Google Calendar is my day glue, everything goes there. Adding an event to the calendar means it stays on my radar. I’m using Producteev (iOS) right now to manage tasks, integrates with Sunrise (iOS).
I focus on new friends in social spaces like Facebook, Twitter, wherever they want to talk. CoBook brings my Social details into one view (MBP/OSX) and My Google Contacts database sits at the center with auto-updates from Evercontact. As unoriginal as it sounds, my calendar and my contact database are [the] constant productivity tool. Everything else is UI.
There are so many tricks, tips and possibilities when it comes to productivity, but at the end of the day it comes down to three things: prioritization, organization and focus. I’ve been running successful online companies for over 2 decades now and a tool like Asana is a godsend to companies like my own. This project management platform allows not only me as an individual to focus, but of course my entire team to work in an amazingly productive way. If you’re still collaborating with your team on email, it’s time for a change, and I’d say it’s time to give Asana a try!
I am all about saving small amounts of time on routine things I do everyday. Scheduling meetings sucks, so I use Boomerang Calendar to minimize back and forth time suggestions. Tasks lists are hard, but with a combination of Google Tasks (shown in my Gmail window), adding specific emails to my task list (Shift-T in gmail), Gotasks (shows the list on my iPhone) and setting all new tabs in Chrome to open to Tasks, I can easily add, re-prioritize and check things off my list. And, keep a good list of tools and hacks , review monthly and keep evolving! (links in email)
There are all sorts of tips and tactics I’ve picked up over time to help with my productivity, but the one that’s had the biggest, most immediate and longest lasting impact was tracking my time and activities with Rescuetime and Toggl.
It sounds simple, but truly tracking how and where (off and online) I spent my time really allowed me to eliminate large chunks of tasks and activities that didn’t have a direct impact or align with my bigger goals. We can’t add more hours in the day but we can choose how and where we spend them. The tool I can’t live without right now is Amazon Prime. I use the 2-day free shipping for everything I used to run errands for. For a small yearly fee I’ve eliminated almost every weekend shopping errand.
I launched my company, Reward Process , in July 2011, and since then my time has had to be carefully prioritized, especially with a family of 3 children! As a pragmatic-minded person, I take advantage of all solutions that allow me to save time.
I tend to use my iPhone quite a bit in public transport (and other downtime) to deal with both my immediate professional and personal tasks — processing emails, reading articles, interacting on LinkedIn, ordering groceries on Houra, shopping on Ebay, Vente Privée, and of course taking notes and brainstorming throughout the day on all of the going-ons at my company.
I typically plan my/teams day the night prior and then I’m at a computer by 7am working on projects that need my undivided attention. I label emails that come in and assign them to different team members to respond to and my team has independent contractors that they can also reach out to for various tasks.
Everyone in our group has a shared to-do app that has critical tasks and then non-critical items that we can focus on if we have extra time. Lastly, I think about the 80/20 rule daily and make sure the group is working on important items and eliminating the non-essential tasks/meetings/etc. We use HipChat to communicate and then have an internal company blog.
THE PRODUCTIVITY APPS MENTIONED THAT YOU SHOULD GIVE A GO!
AND WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THAT LIST? 😉