My Personal Productivity Stack

Or, how I get things done with room for a nap

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Photo by Sneaky Elbow on Unsplash

So many people ask me how I manage my tasks on a daily basis. I don’t give them an answer as that would be unproductive of me, instead of sending them to hell I can now send them to this story.

To start with, productivity is a state of mind, a way of life. If you’re not concerned about how you invest your time, you’re probably too young to understand life is short. how short? You probably have around 3,500–4,000 weekends during your entire lifetime. Scratching those you spent with your parents and those you’ll spend at the retirement home, you’re probably looking at about 2,500 weekends. You might think that’s a lot but if you’re in your 30’s, then 1,500 are already behind you.

Being negative is unproductive so let’s move on.

My productivity stack starts with the things I can easily spend less time on with just a little effort. Those would be text replacement and keyboard shortcuts.

I use iOS text replacement on my iPhone to quickly paste long texts I hate typing or long URLs I don’t want to remember or look for. These would be my email address, LinkedIn profile link, video conference link, address and URL’s I use often. If you don’t have a text replacement in place you’re wasting time. On my computer I use TextBlaze text replacement chrome extension with additional shortcuts in place for delivery addresses, email signatures and more. Text replacement is the best productivity feature I have ever used. Keyboard shortcuts are also fun.

I use Ctrl+Shift+T to reopen Chrome tabs I closed, Ctrl+Alt+T for terminal (in Ubuntu), Ctrl+K for links, Ctrl+b/i for styling, Ctrl + arrow keys to skip words in text etc. I also use the mouse middle click very often to open links in new tabs.

Next is email. I never took fancy to zero inbox, too OCD for my taste. So are folders for that matter. We have the technology to conduct better searches and filters so folders for me are a waste of time. What I do is use Sortd. I had the idea to create a Trello like view of my inbox years ago and while I never took the time to develop it, Sortd did. It just spreads my emails into lists allowing me to drag email from my Attention Needed list to Follow Up, or Done (my personal favorite). Installing Sortd takes a minute and you will never look back.

Calendars are especially important. I use google calendar and the twist for me is that I insert my to do tasks directly in the calendar. While it takes the same time to put it in a calendar as in any task management tool, it requires me to allocate time for it. Very effective and simple yet I’ve not yet met even one person who does that. Except in the mirror. Don’t know why.

I use appear.in for online meetings. It’s the fastest way to connect as no installation is required, just a link. and the quality is just as good as any other platform (except Skype which are the worst). I also have a text replacement for my private room URL so it’s always easy to share.

As for CRMs and other things I want to keep track in, I use Airtable. While the product is well crafted, the concept is even better and not exclusive to Airtable. What they do is let you build data tables and link them together. The end result is a custom made app that can keep track on anything from customer relations to expenses, links, to do list and what not. They also have a ton of useful templates so no need to invent the wheel there. It’s very powerful yet intuitive and I have text replacements for that as well (to open forms that let me or others insert data easily). I also use their iCal link to sync my due dates with my google calendar. Very effective and takes 20 seconds to set up.

I still use tools like Trello from time to time. But that’s just to feed my productivphilia (is that a word?).

I use chrome as my browser and my home page is set to “conmtinue where you left off”. I have a tab with my Airtable due dates calendar view, gmail (Sortd), google drive, calendar, linkedin and Facebook (used for work) and a couple of more depending on what I work on. Those are always there for me to keep me focused.

If you’re struggling with productivity know this is a mindset thing, those tools above won’t help you.

What can help is if you reward yourself when you do good. Remember we are just monkeys with a better OS. What works for them works for us. The trick is to use the things you already love and do as rewards.

Example:

Say you want to watch an episode of that show you like. Make watching an episode a reward for being productive. Taking coffee breaks? Wait until the task is done. Take cookies with your coffee? You gotta earn it baby. Once you find yourself more focused you can start looking for the stack that works best for you.

Last tips

  1. Learn to say no. Not every request should be answered with. “Yes, right away” and watch out for those “timejackers”.
  2. Learn to say “let’s do this later, how about Wednesday at 9?”
  3. For a task to be done you need to allocate time for it. Add daily or weekly slots to your calendar to reserve time for routine tasks. Use these slots for when you say later. That way you’ll have a slot ready for them.

Dedicated to lovely Rotem and her productivity issues.

May the force be with you.

Written by

A Product Manager, Biz Dev Director and Mentor, working with early stage startups, helping them to focus and scale.

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