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.
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 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.
For 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).
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
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.
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:
- Interface is simple and easy to use. Simple keyboard shortcuts allow you to add, edit and organize tasks quickly.
- Organization of tasks into projects
- Ability to organize tasks into hierarchies.
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.
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.
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