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Chris Pollock

Chris Pollock - web developer & ecommerce entrepreneur
undivided… my thoughts on world, family, church, business, technology and Jesus Christ (all in all)

Productivity & Organization

As a entrepreneur, web developer, husband and father of four, staying organized is not just a “good idea” it is and absolute necessity.  In this post I will unpack the productivity tools that I rely on to keep afloat in the flood of information.

 

Basics

Email is where it’s at for me.  It is the center of my productivity world.  Most of my work, in some way, touches my email.  I have used Outlook and Gmail extensively, and in my estimation Gmail wins!  For me the context threading of emails was a stroke of genius by the Google engineers, and that along with a host of other highly usable features has won my loyalty.

 

Gmail

Gmail is my information hub.  Here are a couple of things I do to keep the things flowing.

Filters & Labels

Filtering is the first line of defense.  When one of my contacts fits a category, the get a filter and a label so that I can keep all those correspondences together.  If I am on any sort of list does not require my attention, I filter off those emails so they never even appear in my inbox.  They are labeled, so i can easily get to them if needed.

ScreenShot008

ScreenShot005For labeling I use the Folders4Gmail script that turns your labels into a folder like structure.  This method helps cut down the visual noise of the "Labels” sidebar.

 

Zero Message Inbox

Several months ago I adopted the stance of trying to keep my inbox empty.  This has been excellent.  When there is information in my inbox, my eyes constantly go over it, rereading subject lines, sorting through visual noise, wasting precious time.  The biggest aid to achieving the zero message inbox was the Remember the Milk plugin for Gmail (more on this in a minute).

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In short, every email that comes in is either: Deleted, Archived, or made into a Task.  In some cases a label is applied where necessary.  The idea is to keep things moving and not to allow the visual noise to build up.  Read it and decide what to do with it, don’t postpone this decision (It’ll just take longer next time).

Remember the Milk Plugin

ScreenShot003 For a long time I mourned the lack of a “todo” list inside of Gmail.  Finally, Remember the Milk (RTM) came to the rescue.  To keep my inbox empty I am constantly turning email messages into tasks (RTM has some slick ways of doing this).  I make it a task and archive the message.  When that task comes up, the email message is readily accessible through the RTM interface.

In addition to assigning emails to tasks, I can create independent tasks which are dated so that I only ever have to look at “today” and “tomorrow” to know what I need to do.

Its not complicated, and it keeps my life a bit more simplified in the deluge of information that comes to my door step every day.

 

 

Todoist

Being a developer, I need a tool to help me manage the projects I am working on.  The best interface I’ve found for a sole developer to keep track of a project is Todoist. Todoist is a super simple, super slick task management application that has a couple of core features that I find very helpful:

  1. Interface is simple and easy to use.  Simple keyboard shortcuts allow you to add, edit and organize tasks quickly.
  2. Organization of tasks into projects
     ScreenShot007
  3. Ability to organize tasks into hierarchies. 
    ScreenShot006

The third point is the real winner in my book.  Being able to quickly and easily create tasks and sub tasks really helps me to organize my development projects.  On top of this I can reorder the tasks.

What would really transform Todoist into a great web application would be the ability to interact with others.  For instance, others could assign tasks to me and vise versa, and then I could organize them appropriately.  I know this feature has been requested, so we’ll have to see where it goes from here.

 

In Closing

Above I’ve tried to outline the key tools that help keep me productive on the web.  Share your advise!  If you’ve got some processes which have really helped you be more productive, please share them in the comments below.

 

  • http://squaredeye.com matthew smith

    Well Chris! You're well on your way brotha! I'd also recommend checking out Merlin Mann's ideas on Inbox Zero: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk

  • Rohan

    i recommend http://www.statuswiz.com – a great task and project management tool!

  • http://www.chadfullerton.com Chad Fullerton

    Thanks for sharing! Some really great tips. I knew about Remember The Milk, but am finding it annoying that I can't group them into folders or categories (only by 'deadline'.. which some todos just dont have!).

    So this Todoist sounds fantastic. I'll give it a try.

    By the way, fantastic job on Pattern Tap! It is a very well organized site with great unique features.

    –Chad

  • http://web.simplifiedbuilding.com cwpollock

    I'm going update my post eventaully, but todoist has launched a side bar as well:

    http://amix.dk/blog/viewEntry/19333

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Things I see

Quote form @amylpollock "Children are always the most creative when they are supposed to be doing something else". #quotes #artforkids #quotesaboutkidsTheir own version of Tower BridgeIt's 8:30am. Kids already in the pool!ProviderYes. It's true. I turned 40 on Wednesday.Sand funToday is our 17th anniversary! Love dancing in the minefields with this woman.Every baby loves bath time!! Big enough for 3 (or 4). #bathtime #lifewithboys #bathtimeinsanityMagazine ad for children's body lotion. Radox??!!??:scream::joy:. #britishbrandingLook what I can do.There's something about this product name that just makes me want to laugh out loud. Guess I can't buy it... since I'm not diabetic:joy: #diabeticvanilla #britishbrandingFor discipline one of my kids was to do some copying. I asked him to bring me a piece of paper and pencil with a clipboard. This was what I got... funny guy!! #lifewithboysBoys playing with Simon's bday present.Captivated audience as Simon opens his presents. #9thbirthdayMaking a mast together. #teamwork #chathamhistoricdockyards #brothers

Chris Pollock

Web Developer - proficient in both PHP and ASP.NET.
Rochester, New York

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Quote form @amylpollock "Children are always the most creative when they are supposed to be doing something else". #quotes #artforkids #quotesaboutkidsTheir own version of Tower BridgeIt's 8:30am. Kids already in the pool!ProviderYes. It's true. I turned 40 on Wednesday.Sand funToday is our 17th anniversary! Love dancing in the minefields with this woman.Every baby loves bath time!! Big enough for 3 (or 4). #bathtime #lifewithboys #bathtimeinsanityMagazine ad for children's body lotion. Radox??!!??:scream::joy:. #britishbrandingLook what I can do.There's something about this product name that just makes me want to laugh out loud. Guess I can't buy it... since I'm not diabetic:joy: #diabeticvanilla #britishbrandingFor discipline one of my kids was to do some copying. I asked him to bring me a piece of paper and pencil with a clipboard. This was what I got... funny guy!! #lifewithboysBoys playing with Simon's bday present.Captivated audience as Simon opens his presents. #9thbirthdayMaking a mast together. #teamwork #chathamhistoricdockyards #brothers