Simple habits for better productivity

It’s been a really tough week, so today I have a non-technical post for you. I’m going to move on with the project this weekend, so I can put some technical stuff here tomorrow.

If you don’t really care about productivity, organization of your days, planning of tasks to be done during next X days, this post is for you. I totally didn’t care as well, but I felt a bit disorganized, I knew I could do more or at least be conscious of what I’m able to do and what I’m not. Finally, without studying anything like GTD, I managed to introduce few simple habits to my everyday life that make my life easier, allow to complete some tasks faster and make me aware of what I have to do and when. I’d like to share those manners with you – maybe you’ll also find them helpful.

Write everything down

I heard from many people promoting better life organization, that writing things down is a very important step in being more productive. I definitely confirm. Writing things down cleans up your brain – it makes you not thinking about something you have to do – you just write it down and you are sure you’ll take care of it when the time comes. Such brain-liberty is very powerful. You can use your brain to think about the activity you’re actually working on at the moment, not having many “background” topics taking your brain’s “resources”. Of course, you need to find a place in which you store your notes (or tasks – whatever you call it). For me, such place must meet the following requirements:
  • be easy and fast to use in every situation
  • be accessible from every place, on every device
  • synchronizing across multiple devices
  • allowing to set deadlines for each task
  • giving a possibility to group tasks
I’ve personally tested few todo lists / tasks management applications, including Freedcamp, Todoist or Wunderlist, but finally I found the perfect one – Nozbe (you can use my affiliate link to register, if you don’t mind 😉 ). This project has been started and is developed by Michał Śliwiński who is productivity enthusiast. You can hear more about him and his project in DevTalk#44 podcast (Polish only).

Nozbe allows to store tasks, set their deadlines, group them into projects and categories. It’s very simple and that’s the best about it. Free version allows to create maximally 5 projects, which is fair enough for me. Nozbe can be installed on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android or iOS, which allows for quick adding of tasks (there is a keyboard shortcut in Windows and notifications panel’s widget for Android). I’ve already been using it for few months and I’m very happy, it helps me a lot, really.

As soon as you have your place chosen, just work out that simple habit of writing things down (in case of Nozbe – adding them to your Inbox). When someone comes to you and asks you for something – write it down and say “Sure, added to my tasks list”. The person is then confident that you’ll take care of what he/she asks for and your brain is not occupied by it until you have time for it. When you’re on a meeting, and something to be done by you appears – write it down. If you suddenly recall you need to visit your dentist soon – write it down. Simple as that. You’ll see how much it helps.

Review and plan your tasks

As soon as you write everything down, try to work out the habit to review your list of tasks. If you have only one place in which you put everything you want to do, review such tasks inbox every day (e.g. in the evenings) and decide what to do with each task – either add it to the project/category and set the deadline, leave as it is if there’s nothing to do for now or delete if there’s actually nothing more to be done in a particular topic.

Apart from daily tasks review, perform a general, weekly-review of all your tasks in all projects/categories. I do such reviews every Sunday in the evening. It allows me to know the scope of things to be done on a higher level – across different projects and categories. I can also see if all the tasks are properly scheduled so I can manage to complete them. It’s better to plan than not, even if you finally don’t realize all tasks as planned.

Create what-to-take lists

When you pack for a business trip or holidays, don’t you forget something every time ? If yes, just create a check-box list containing all the things to take for particular type of trip. When you pack for the next time, add necessary things to it. If during the journey you notice you forgot something, add it to your list, so the next time you don’t forget it. Very simple, but saves a huge amount of time for packing.

I use Google Keep for storing such lists. Here you can see how my list of the things to take for a business trip looks like:
thingsToTake.PNG
Business Trip – things to take
Having such what-to-take lists, I don’t wonder what I should take when I go for a business trip, what should I take when I go for holidays etc. Firstly packing is fast, and secondly I know I won’t forget anything. I totally recommend such approach.

Create what-to-bring lists

Does it sound familiar to you: your family members asking you “Oh, bring me that nice shirt when you visit me the next time if you’re not using it anymore!” ? Or your mum calling you and saying “I bought you a beautiful sweater, don’t forget to take it when you visit us!” ? If yes, then for each such place you visit (parent’s house, sister’s house, brother’s house etc.) create what-to-bring list and just add to it each thing you need to either bring from or take to there. Then when you spontaneously visit your sister, you just open the sister’s home list and see if you have something to bring her or to take with you. Again – simple, but helpful.

Digitize your receipts

Have you ever wasted few hours on looking for a receipt, when wanting to return something for a warranty repair ? Maybe you finally found the receipt, but it got blank ? If yes, move your receipts to the cloud. As soon as you buy something and you know the receipt or invoice may be useful in the future, make a photo of it using your smartphone and store it in some cloud files storage service.

I use Android application called CamScanner for that – it allows to make a photo of a document, cut it, make it look as scanned and send to Google Drive, on which I store all my receipts and invoices. If you name your scanning files properly, it may save much of your time looking for a receipt or even make it possible at all to return something on a warranty repair if needed.

Use calendar only for time-important events

Before I discovered todo list apps and finally found Nozbe, I used to store everything I need to do in my Google Calendar. I treated it as my inbox – if I had something to do, I added it as a reminder to the calendar and set its reminding date at certain time, usually in the evenings. It happened that around 9 PM I had 5 or 6 pending calendar reminders notifications on my phone. When I mistakenly cleaned up my notifications panel, all those reminders were lost.

Calendar – as its name suggests – should be used only for events for which the time really matters. For instance, when you arrange a doctor’s visit in a month or two for concrete day and hour, add it to your calendar setting event’s time to exactly your visit’s day and hour. If you need a reminder few days/hours before, don’t add another calendar event few days/hours before (as I used to do) reminding you about the event – instead – if you use Google Calendar – use “remind before” notifications:
GoogleCalendarNotifications.PNG
Google Calendar – notifications
I also use Google Calendar for recurring events, for instance end of my car’s insurance or family members birthdays. The time is the most important for such events.

Summary

I’m not any kind of productivity fanatic. I also didn’t read any productivity/GTD books or courses. I think that such involvement in productivity management is not needed in many cases. In this post I presented few simple habits I introduced in my life that help me to be a lot more productive and just make my life simpler. If you want, you can try them out yourself 🙂

What productivity habits do you have ? What kind of tasks management tools/todo lists are you using ? Share your thoughts in the comments!

One thought on “Simple habits for better productivity

  1. Happy to see I’m not the only having a what-to-pack list on Google Keep!
    I put passport on mine too because you know, it might come handy when traveling 😀

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