How I work productively

I used to be like many people, always looking for the next ‘trick’ for getting more done.

I’ve tried everything from timers, plugins, single focus apps, going offline, and while all of them work for a little while and make you think you have found the secret to smashing out a tonne of efficient work, it never lasts and you go back to old habits.

That said, I have a few things that have always worked for me, that don’t really require apps or expensive equipment.

Noise cancelling headphones

My chosen pair are QC35’s which I think are the best available by a mile. They are comfortable for long time wear, wireless, great battery life, and the noise cancelling is amazing. They are not all that cheap at $400 but have been the best investment I have ever made.

Noise cancelling headphones allow me to pump some music and block out all interruptions (This works especially well when you have writing to complete, or some kind of repetitive task)

What do I listen to? It doesn’t really matter as it’s just background noise, but a few Spotify playlists I like are:

  • My Daily Mix: How good are these? Always have some great variety
  • VLOG Casey Neistat: I only have this playlist as its generally music with no lyrics, so just background noise without anything to distract.

TextEdit (Or any simple text based program)

Lists are actually really important. I try my best to write a Todo list at the end of each day (It doesn’t always happen)

Having a list of the tasks you want to complete makes it easier to see what you have to do, and what you have accomplished. Without a list you  don’t have direction, and the day can get away from you VERY easily.

There are lots of apps that can do Todo lists and are very pretty – they will work just as nicely.

Work when you work best

This might sound a bit strange, but do the bulk of your work when you know you work best. I work really well in the mornings so I try and smash out a solid few hours of work in this time. Late in the arvo I start to hit a wall, so I use that time for less labour intensive tasks. Many people are the opposite – do whatever works for you.

Exercise

I like to try and break up my day with some exercise over lunch. Whether its the gym, a run, or even just a walk up the street, getting out and doing something in the middle of the day is a great way to get some energy back and be more productive in the second half of the day.

Seems pretty simple doesn’t it!

On the flip side, these are the things I have tried and found didn’t work or were pointless to doing anything for productivity:

  • Scheduling email time
  • Blocking websites you visit often
  • Timers and trackers that tell you what websites you go to and what you spend time doing
  • Working in silence

Have a productive day!

Podcasts I’m listening too…

I commute about 30 mins each way to work 4 days a week.

I don’t like to fill this time with aimless commercial radio, and I am not a huge fan of audiobooks (I am trying to change that but haven’t yet…)

I like to spend this commute consuming Podcasts – and I get through a lot of them in a week.

Below are my current favourite’s:

Sports

This is some light listening and all centred around NBA. The Lowe post is the more serious of the three, with The Starters and BS being a little more light and easy to listen to. Great listens for NBA fans.

  • The Lowe Post
  • The Starters
  • The Bill Simmons Podcast

the-starters

Business

Have been listening to all these since they began. Big fans of all the people involved in these shows and although not super regular – well worth a listen when they come out.

  • Startup
  • The Journal
  • The Tim Ferriss Show

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True Crime

I’ve always had an interest in True Crime, but have only just started listening to a few podcasts on the topic. All of these podcasts cover 1 case per episode, and some are pretty intense. Really well produced and researched.

  • Criminal
  • Casefile
  • Sword and Scale

Other

This American Life is the original podcast and always amazingly put together. I consume the episodes as soon as they are released (Fair regularly)

  • This American Life

One thing I haven’t mentioned in here is how and when I listen to podcasts. I find that I need to listen to them when I can concentrate fully on the information being spoken which for me is when I’m driving, catching the train to or from work, and when I run (The latter I like the most)

Got any podcasts you know I should add to my list? Let me know

Inbox Zero is Easy

Inbox zero is a concept that many think is not achievable and a great concept but ‘impossible for them to achieve’ These people are either lazy, lying to themselves, and procrastinators (That might all be a little harsh)

Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. According to Mann, zero is not a reference to the number of emails in an inbox; it is “the amount of time a brain is in the inbox.” Mann’s point is time and attention are limited and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.

Mann identifies five possible actions to take for each message: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do.

The big advantages of inbox zero to me are:

  • A clean inbox equals a clear, stress free mind
  • Day isn’t ruled by thinking about all those emails you need to get to
  • A clean inbox means everything is either responded to, scheduled, moved on to someone else, or discarded: Organised.
  • Gets things done so you can move onto more important things

Email is something that in the current working environment, is impossible to get rid of completely (even though I know people have tried), so the best we can do is manage it well and not let it control us.

The rules I have for achieving Inbox Zero every day (This should 100% be the goal, not once a week, or every now and then…)

  • Be quick and to the point with replies. It’s very rare that it should take you more than 5 minutes to send or reply to an email. If it does perhaps a phone call is in order?
  • Action emails straight away as much as possible. If you leave it in your inbox to do ‘later’, you are really doing this because you don’t want to reply, your putting it off. Rip the band aid off as soon as you get it.
  • If you can’t or don’t need to respond/action to an email right away, use a tool to flick it back to your inbox at a later date when you will action it appropriately (Use a chrome plugin such as Mailfred or Boomerang)
  • Have good labels setup (And auto labels) in gmail to make finding mail easier (Although the search function is actually pretty good)
  • Unsubscribe from as many email newsletters as possible (Only keep ones that are super important) as these can be big time drains and add to the volume of emails you have

Don’t put it off!

Choose today as your first day of inbox zero, and then just start the habit. You will gain a reputation as someone who responds quickly, and you will escape from the handcuffs of your emails!