Well, here we are! Before us lies a bright and shiny new year. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year and implement some new strategies, tips and tools to increase our productivity.
On January 5, 2016, I gave a presentation for Professional Independent Communicators (PIC), a subgroup of IABC Toronto that provides professional development and networking opportunities for independent communicators.
In my talk, I shared essential tips, tricks and tools to boost productivity, based on the latest neuroscience and as recommended by leading productivity experts.
5 Top Productivity Boosters
- Follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done: 5 steps that apply order to chaos. Get all of your things to do into a productivity management system and triage them to get IN to EMPTY: Collect, Clarify, Organize, Reflect and Engage.
- Stop multitasking. Chunk your day into scheduled blocks of time for focusing on work.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off notifications and alerts. Consider using background music to get in the flow.
- Master your email. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list! Get your email inbox to zero using the same triage principles for the 5 steps for Getting Things Done. Set up rules to automate incoming emails. Unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer want. Read and triage your email at set times per day, e.g. 3 times, and set fetching frequency to a longer interval. Turn email off when you are focusing on work.
- Outsource tasks. As independent communicators, we can’t really delegate to anyone else when we are both boss and employee. Instead, outsource the work you don’t like doing or that is not worth your time to do.
Here are the productivity resources I mentioned in my talk. I hope you find them helpful to get more things accomplished, increase your income and have a better work/life balance this year. Let me know if there are other systems that work for you.
Productivity management systems
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done: 5 steps that apply order to chaos
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done: Common tools and software: PC
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done: Setup guides for popular productivity systems
- Things by Cultured Code: Mac, iOS
- Evernote: Mac and PC
- Bullet Journal: analog
- Planner Pad: paper or digital app
Time tracking tools
- RescueTime: Mac or PC
- 168 Hours time management spreadsheet: Laura Vanderkam (PDF)
- How to do your own time makeover: Laura Vanderkam (PDF)
Mind mapping tools
Reference archive tool
- Evernote Mac and PC
Tools to improve focus
- Pomodoro apps: here is a selection to choose from
- Focus@will: music to boost concentration and focus for mobile, tablet or computer
- RescueTime: block distracting websites, track productivity score
- Focus Filter: set a timer and block distracting websites
Tools to save time
- FreshBooks: accounting app for invoicing, expenses and time tracking
- Notability by Ginger Labs: Mac, iOS app for recording notes and audio
- Rev: transcription service for audio and video; caption and subtitle video
- SignEasy: document signature app, mobile and desktop, Mac and PC
Healthy work habits
Articles, books and video
- Why I Hired a Girl on Craigslist — and How I Quadrupled my Productivity: Hacking the System by Maneesh Sethi
- The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin
- Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy. F. Baumeister and John Tierney
- 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
- I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
- Addicted to Distraction by Tony Schwartz, New York Times, November 29, 2015
- Flow, the secret to happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk
- 10 Best Lines Steve Jobs Used in a Presentation by Minda Zetlin, Inc.om, Nov.11, 2015