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How I am Productive

My tips for staying organized and productive.

I consider myself a productive and organized person. At a minimum, people come to me for things because they know I get things done. This doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s a skill I’ve developed over the past 15 years.

Here are some of the things I do to be productive:

Write things down

I loosely follow the Getting Things Done method developed by David Allen. The most important aspect to me has been capturing tasks into a single inbox. Capturing tasks means I don’t try to keep them in my head (which is unreliable and burns a lot of brain power trying to remember things). Capturing to a single inbox means tasks won’t get lost in piles of Post-Its and napkins.

I use the Drafts app on iOS and macOS, which lets me capture notes with zero friction. If it’s a task I’m writing down, I use a Drafts action to send it to my Omnifocus inbox. I regularly triage my inbox to organize my tasks into relevant projects and contexts (e.g., tasks that can be done on the computer and tasks to do at home).

Using nagging reminders

Tasks that must be done at a certain time aren’t fit for my Omnifocus task management systems. For example, my trash must go out on Monday nights, and I need to be reminded until it happens. I love the Due app on iOS, which will remind me repeatedly until the task is complete.

Tame email

I keep my email tidy. A big part of this is using Sanebox to keep unimportant emails out of my inbox; Sanebox automatically detects, labels, and archives inbox clutter like receipts, marketing, and newsletters. These typically don’t require any action and can be triaged as necessary. I aggressively hit the “Unsubscribe” button on things I don’t need to be bothered with (including most marketing).

When an email can be handled quickly (within a minute or two), I try to handle it as soon as I receive it. If an email requires work to follow up on, I forward it to my Omnifocus inbox and make it a task.

When this works well, my email inbox is normally empty.

Forget passwords

I have hundreds (thousands?) of logins to websites and apps. Even if I could use the same password for all of them, this is a notorious security risk.

Every password I use lives in my 1Password account. I also use it to manage 2-factor authentication pins, credit cards, WiFi passwords, and personal information (social security numbers, driver’s license scans, etc.). Using the 1Password keyboard shortcuts, I can quickly log in to any of my accounts.

I know my 1Password master passwords and almost no other passwords to my accounts. They’re typically long, randomly generated mixtures of characters.

1Password also lets me have a shared vault with my wife, which is invaluable for our shared services.

Keep Slack under control

Like many tech workers, much of my day is spent in Slack. A few years ago, I stumbled upon Michael Lopp’s guide to optimizing Slack. His approach greatly improved my experience with Slack and kept it from being a constant distraction. Go read his post.

Don’t waste 15 minutes

Like the next guy, I’m often inclined to spend 15 minutes of downtime scrolling Instagram. However, I once heard advice from a productive person that a key to productivity is not wasting those short intervals.

When I have free minutes (sitting in a waiting room or during a short interval between meetings), I look for a task I can knock off my to-do list. I’m regularly surprised that daunting tasks can be finished in little time.

Don’t waste idle brain cycles

Some tasks (like writing this blog post) are hard to complete in one sitting. I have difficulty developing new ideas in front of my computer with all its distractions. On the other hand, I’m a strong believer in the power of noodling on ideas.

When developing ideas, I prime my brain by dumping my thoughts on the topic into a Drafts app note and then thinking about it as I go about my day. When I have things to add, I pull up the note and jot down my ideas.

Last updated on May 13, 2024 18:56 UTC