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90 Digital Insights: Productivity Hacks

By October 7, 2015 No Comments

When I think about productivity, I usually have a combination in mind between the right mind-set, the right strategies, and the right tools used in order to get things done efficiently.

We recently started a new practice at 90 Digital, sharing sessions about different topics. The facilitator is one of our team whom we consider a role model for a specific behavior or who has considerable knowledge about a topic. As a first step, we decided to start with a session about how to become better organized and more efficient – so we talked about tools, hacks, tips, and tricks. We also discussed the habits we need to build, the mind-set we need to have, or simply how to become more aware of all the helpful resources around us and how to take advantage of them. Georgiana, our Online Reputation Manager, was the facilitator of this sharing session, and using the insights and recommendations from the session and by researching what others use, we put together a list of tips and resources which we are happy to share with you all.

Ready, steady, go!

First of all, a great start to your day will set the tone as it will reflect in your work, your mood, and your capacity to focus. Whether it’s by exercising, reading a good book or having insightful conversation, try to find what works best for you to kick-start your day. When getting to work, having the same approach can make a difference. Organize your working space, keep it clean, and find those habits that work for you so you can have a good start.

Because we are a distributed workforce, we 90ers are all based in different parts of the world and have different working environments. Each one of us has our own style, so by having the freedom to choose if we work from our own home office, a co-working space, or different places every day, it gives us the chance to make sure our setup is right and we are able to be creative and focused in order to deliver great results.

Lefteris, our Digital PR Manager, wrote a useful post about a few tips to nail down telecommuting and get ready for a fulfilling working day as a remote worker.

These aspects don’t only apply to people who work remotely, so even if you go to the same office every day, try to organize your desk and find those habits that work for you and help you to get in the zone.

Organize your time and work.

Once you get settled in, it’s time to plan your working day and set your priorities.

There are several things that we find very useful here:

  •     Organize your agenda

It doesn’t matter if you are a morning person or a night owl, setting up your agenda the way it works best for you is a very important step in becoming more productive. Choose the best time to do creative work, learn, have meetings or calls, and understand how you work best – organize your working time around these factors and see how you can synchronize it with your colleagues. Using a shared calendar is a simple way of understanding everyone’s availability and time zone.

  •     Have a to do list

When working towards larger goals, break them down into small actions; this way it will be easier to get started and see your progress.

Having a to do list will definitely help you get things done. You can also organize your tasks according to importance and urgency, so you will know what you need to get done first and what your priorities are (Eisenhower Decision Matrix can be a very helpful tool to use in this case).

EisenhowerDecisionMatrix11

Some tools 90ers like to use to organize a to do list are Todoist, Evernote, or the Simple To-do list browser extension. Our advice is to try these out or similar tools and choose whatever works best for you.

My personal choice, Todoist is a great platform to use if what you need is to create a simple to do list, one that is easy to follow and update. It has a clear and minimalistic design and a very intuitive interface, has plenty of integration with other platforms, and it’s easily accessible from your mobile or through plugins on Chrome, Gmail, Firefox, Outlook, and Thunderbird.

It’s easy to set different to do lists for projects you are working on and even share them with other users. You can also add due dates and recurrent tasks and mark their importance. Another great feature is the overview mode where you can see all the tasks set for that day across projects in one place, or even what the next 7 days are going to look like.

All these features are included in the basic, free account, but for just 23 a year you can upgrade to Premium and use labels, reminders, attachments, and many more options.

Todoist screenshot

To organize resources and articles that need to be shared within teams, you might find Pocket or Gibbon very useful.

Pocket is an easy-to-use social bookmarking tool whose main advantage is that it can be used offline, as it saves your articles so you can access them even when you are not connected to internet. Though similar to Pocket in some respects, Gibbon’s most useful feature is that it allows you to organize your resources in a collaborative way by labeling them and adding them to folders shared with your team.

It’s very easy to add new content, and you can do this by logging on to the platform or by using the browser extension, which makes the bookmarking process as simple as possible.

4 Things You Need to Know About Gibbon — Get Started Welcome to Gibbon — Gibbon

  •     Use different techniques to increase your productivity

Using the pomodoro technique can be a very useful trick to get things done, so by dividing your working time and taking short breaks you can avoid interruptions and increase your productivity.

Apps that work really well with the pomodoro technique are Toggl, Focusbooster, or just using a simple tomato timer can be the right thing for you.

Tomato Timer

If you need a simple time tracking software to monitor how much time you spend working on different projects, then Toggl might be the right choice for you as it has a very simple and intuitive design. Add what you are working on, for what project and client, and you are ready to go. Pause when you need to or enter time later on, add tags, and see how much time you invest in your activities. Toggl is easy to integrate with other platforms like Asana or Trello and it can be used for all your devices including phone, tablet, and laptop.

12 44 min Writing a blog post about productivity hacks 90 Digital. Blog Posts • Timer • Toggl

To keep distractions away during work, you can create different browser personas for work and personal things, if you use Chrome. This way you can avoid receiving notifications from your personal social media accounts when you are working, or having to log on and off from different email addresses. Another option would be to create different users for desktop – one for work, and one for non-work related activities, so when you open your laptop, you can log in to one or the other.

If you open several windows when learning about a topic or researching for a new project, you might find TabCloud very helpful. TabCloud is a browser extension that saves and restores window sessions (on different devices), this way you can continue your research from where you left it without having to save each website.

Communicate effectively

For team communication and project management we are big fans of Skype, Breeze, and HipChat.

Breeze is a complex project management tool that allows you to visualize your workflow, organize your projects, and lets you work collaboratively with your whole team. There are lots of useful features like being able to discuss every task, leave feedback, attach documents, add the amount of time spend on a specific activity, and many more. It can be accessed directly from a web browser or from your phone or tablet if you are on the go.

For a complete tour of Breeze, have a look here.

Breeze project management tool benefits and features

When it comes to daily chat and conversations, we use a combination of Skype and Hipchat. Being a remote team has its perks, but to have great results and be productive we need to have a great communication system.

HipChat is a private group chat where you can have different rooms for different teams, but also one-to-one conversations. You can send files and images, search previously shared information, share screens, and more.

When thinking about effective communication, we have these aspects in mind:

  •     How to organize meetings.

All our meetings are online and we try to keep them short (around 30 minutes) and productive.

It’s always great to have an agenda for the meeting with the main points you need to discuss. Ensure to make the agenda accessible in advance to everyone involved in the meeting and always have a facilitator who can take notes, write down ideas, and useful things discussed in order to follow up and understand who needs to do what after the meeting.

To keep everyone in the loop, use shared documents – it’s a great way to work collaboratively and avoid having several versions of the same document.

  •     How to organize e-mail

E-mail can definitely become a burden if it’s not well organized. You can lose a lot of time just sorting out emails and replying, or you can find yourself at the end of your day thinking about what you did with your time and the answer might be…e-mails.

Avoid the trap of getting overwhelmed by using labels and creating folders for different types of emails, projects, and clients. Find what works best for you.

Try to also write emails in an organized manner – use bullet points and highlight important words and ideas. Write it as simple as possible, so that the person who will read it will understand your message without having to put in extra effort. To use written communication effectively, avoid sending emails for things that can be solved faster by just picking up the phone, having a Skype call, or sending a direct message on your preferred tool. This way you can give precise guidance and clear up misunderstandings quickly. A short Skype call can replace back and forth emails.

Two useful apps that 90ers use to organize their email better are ActiveInbox and Rapportive.

ActiveInbox is a very useful plugin for Gmail that helps you transform emails into tasks, lets you decide if you need to do any actions or wait for a reply, organizes, and adds reminders, and due dates. Rapportive is a tool that brings LinkedIn and other social media profiles (like Twitter) to your inbox. By connecting this app with your LinkedIn account you will be able to see in-depth details about the people you are in touch with via email.

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There are a lot of tools and platforms that can significantly improve the way you organize. Give them a try, select what works best for you, and start using them on a regular basis. But don’t forget that you are using these tools to become more efficient, not to slow you down, so choose wisely.

About Catalina Contoloru

Being passionate about organisational development and the future of work, Catalina designs the processes for 90 Digital and shapes our organisational culture as a self-managed team. With a background in economics, management and HR, she takes care of our operations as a business.

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