Everyone’s trying to optimize their productivity. But it’s become synonymous to finding new applications. That’s the wrong approach.
We believe that to become effective, you need to approach ‘optimization’ rationally. Your goal shouldn’t be to ‘get more done’, instead it should be to ‘get more of the right things done’. Effectiveness, not productivity.
Becoming more effective begins with establishing priorities. You need a system for that. This is more important than any app you could download. Store everything you need to do somewhere and separate the ‘important’ from the ‘urgent’, discarding everything that doesn’t fit those two boxes.
Then learn to protect your time. You can configure your phone and computer in a way so that you’re disturbed less often. This allows you to spend more valuable time working on the things that have the most impact.
Your computer allows you to act towards your priorities. It’s output is limited by how you control it (assuming your computer isn’t slow). Stupidly enough, the highest return on productivity-hacking your computer, isn’t the latest app. It’s learning how to use it better. Improve your typing speed, mouse speed, data-input control and master all the shortcuts. Only when you’ve got that in place, should you emphasize geeky apps (don’t worry – we have a ton of those).
A lot of your priorities will involve people. So optimizing how you collaborate and communicate with them is important. Work-chat applications such as Slack and cloud-hosting solutions that allow you to send file-sharing links instead of email attachments, make a world of difference. If you’re working in a team, get everyone to adopt the same productivity methodology.
We’ve gone through the tricks, settings and apps that we find most useful on a day to day basis. Find them below.
Again, we stress, teach yourself the boring stuff such as touch-typing and your operating system’s shortcuts first. Those initiate every action on your computer and thus generate the biggest returns.
Accelerate your typing speed (aText) A-text
Set it up to abbreviate all the phrases and words you use regularly. My settings below.
Never struggle with not being able to copy-paste multiple items at once. This app allows you to store 10 items, including images, in your ‘copy’ backlog at all times. I’ve bound my paste to “shift + cmd + v” for ease of use.
Always backup all your files to a cloud hosted solution and regularly back these up on normal HDDs. Then store these in separate places.
I’m always running Google Drive, which hosts all the files I use. It’s cheap and you’re an idiot if you don’t use this or a similar solution.
Stop sending attachments and simplify file-sharing.
If people are still attaching files to emails in a year or two, I may have to start a foundation against this.
Use the link-sharing capabilities of your cloud-hosting app (Drive or Dropbox) to share files to people. The best thing about it is that if you link to a folder, or to a specific file, it’ll update when you move it around or add files in there.
PS: If you want real street cred, train yourself to embed links in your text, instead of pasting it in your emails or writing. “cmd + K” is the shortcut.
You will become a much better communicator when you learn to use the power of screenshots or short videos to explain something We’ve tried a bunch of apps and Jumpshare is the best. It allows you to take quick screenshots with “cmd + 5” or videos with “cmd + 6” to explain things. When you pair this up with only sharing files with links, you’ll be a smooth operator.
Take OSX’s Spotlight to the next level by installing Alfred. Then learn all the shortcuts.
I ask Alfred a bunch of queries every day, including:
– # USD to # EUR
For currency conversion rates.
– Define x
For word definitions or thesaurus queries.
– “space” filename
To quickly find items on my computer.
Create peace of mind
This is a cross-app piece of advice. Train yourself to become non-reactive. I understand that email and chat (Whatsapp / Slack / FB messenger / Fleep) are a necessary part of life and business, but you need to stop these from disrupting your attention span.
– On your phone, turn on the “do not disturb” feature. This’ll turn off any buzzing or noises, and sends callers straight to voicemail. On iOS, you can configure selected favorite contacts who are able to get through.
– Turn off notifications for all applications except those required. For me, this is Fleep and iMessage. They never buzz, though.
– On OSX, disable all notifications. Badges are the hovering “2 new notification” messages that make it unable for you to finish a coherent thought. And the slide-ins are terrible too.
– 100% do this for your email and chat clients. It will change your life. Just wait until you set this up and uncomfortably notice yourself wanting to open the email or chat app, or check your phone, while there’s no notification. You’re conditioned to interact. Now that you’re free, use your time on your priorities.
My rote memory sucks, so I work around it. I always dump everything I have to do into a system, that I look at throughout the whole day.
My system is a variation of “Kanban”. I have a few lists:
– Not important
– Important & not urgent
– Important & urgent
– Budi sprint (max 3)
– Waiting (internal)
– Waiting (external)
All my tasks go in either one of the first three lists. If they don’t fit, they get discarded immediately.
At any point in time, I am only allowed to put three tasks in my ‘Budi sprint” list. I choose these by asking myself “what’s the most important thing I could be doing right now?”. I am then only allowed to act on those. This means that I try to never do anything that isn’t on my sprint list. I want to always consider everything I have to do and make sure that how I’m prioritizing reflects what will get me the closest to my goals.
Whenever a task is actioned, but requires action from someone else, or needs to be waited on, I move them to the “waiting” list. The internal one requires action from our team, the external one from people outside it.
Intra-team email is inefficient and a thing of the past. If you’re working in a 2+ people team and rooted in your old habits, I strongly urge you to reconsider. We host our artists in our team chat and because of that, Slack was unaffordable. Fleep is an amazing and free alternative.
BetterTouchTool – increase trackpad speed ClipMenu – work faster when copy pasting multiple times. Trello – task manager Zapier – automate anything F.lux – reduce eye strain during night-time§ HelloSign – most convenient way to do contracts Ulysses – super minimal writing app Evernote – best place to save notes and thoughts DabbleMe – online diary via email. Soundcleod – mac desktop app for Soundcloud Franz – FB messenger, WhatsApp and Slack in one app ScreenFlow – easy way to make screen recordings xACT – sound file converter
iZotope Ozone 7 – all-round mastering plugin Fabfilter Pro Q2 – equalizer Fabfilter Pro C – compressor Fabfilter Timeless 2 – delay