Lifehacking, personal productivity, there is an endless slew of advice and information, much of which isn’t applicable to you. While all of this personal productivity information is interesting, it’s not always applicable. I have to admit that I sometimes offer productivity tips that I don’t adhere to myself.
So that’s why I decided to write an article about personal productivity tips I use on a daily basis. My interest in this subject piqued when I heard entrepreneur Stephen Jagger describe how he has moved many of his company’s business operations to the cloud using cheap to free Web 2.0 applications. What made his story so interesting is it wasn’t just “advice,” he was actually using these tools regularly for his business.
So I’ve decided to do the same. I’m going to walk through every element of how I’ve improved the efficiency of my work process, personal branding, and media consumption. It’s far from perfect. I can still be highly distracted and I’m always looking for new productivity tips. If there are any that you can recommend, I’m always up for updating my regimen.
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Tools and tips I use for everyday productivity
Run in the morning – First thing I do in the morning. Sometimes I’ll blow it off with the rationale “I’ve got too much work to do.” If I do what results is I’m far more sluggish and I don’t think I’m nearly as productive. The run definitely helps amp me up for the rest of the day.
Password memorization – I have more than 300 accounts on various sites. Before I had a password memorization tool, I used to type in a variety of usernames and passwords hoping that I got the right one. Today, I skip that fruitless pastime and just use Roboform2Go, a password memorization tool that you install on a USB drive. The advantage of using a flash drive is I can take my passwords wherever I go and use it on any computer, even if it isn’t my own. Passwords are erased when I remove the stick. For more, read my article “Products I love and actually use – Roboform2Go.”
Personal content management – I use two tools: Microsoft OneNote for any communications and scraps of info I find. And I use my blog as a thought space to collect my ideas on different topics and issues.
OneNote is hugely advantageous in that I can pop in and out of different projects incredibly quickly and content is really well organized in tabs and folders. Opening, naming, and saving Word documents when you’re parsing out a variety of different information is simply not possible. OneNote makes it possible. Read my article “Products I love and actually use – OneNote.”
The blog is great when I want to collect my thoughts on a specific subject. I used to do this in long emails. When I wanted to share it with someone else I’d have to hunt for that email and forward it. Now I just write a blog post. When someone brings up an issue for which I’ve written something about it, I just search my blog, and then attach the link to an email.
Quick access to sites – There are about ten sites I consistently go to every single day. I used to type them in and let the browser’s auto-complete finish it off. Instead, I just create toolbar buttons at the top of my screen. The trick to getting them all in one row is trimming down the letters of the site’s name or removing them altogether and just leaving icons.
Bookmarking – I used to stick bookmarks in a folder and then they would disappear and I’d never see them again. Now I use Delicious along with the Delicious Firefox plugin to quickly bookmark and catalog items I see online. Often I’ll see something that will be of use to me in the future. A quick click of the Tag button and a couple clicks of the suggested tags of the site, and that page is bookmarked, making it easy to find again in the future.
Keeping up with trends – I use real-time search tools such as OneRiot and Twitter Search. For more on real-time search, read my report “Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Social Web” (20 page PDF). If I need to understand what a certain hashtag means, I take advantage of WhatTheTrend.
Mobile communications – My BlackBerry on Verizon. Yes, the iPhone is cool, but it does one thing very poorly, make calls. Where I live is an AT&T dead zone. My Verizon phone is awesome. I’ve yet to have a dropped call. Yes you read that correctly, NO DROPPED CALLS. As for that, the only thing I use daily on my BlackBerry is email and Twitter with Twitterberry.
Digital communications – Beyond email, I heavily use Twitter and instant messaging. Much can be debated as to whether they’re making me more or less efficient. All I can say is at least they’re keeping me entertained. The two applications I use are Twhirl for Twitter and Trillian as an all-in-one instant messaging application. While I know most Twitter goons have graduated to Seesmic or TweetDeck, I’m still very happy with Twhirl for its simplicity and small footprint on my desktop. Similarly, that’s why I also like the latest version of Trillian. Although when you first install Trillian, it doesn’t seem that simple. Tons of annoying alerts pop up. The trick is to go through the settings and turn them all off, and then only turn on the ones you need.
Consuming the news – Google Reader as my homepage is invaluable. Although I need to get it to cycle other news sources to the front. Another tool I started using to speed up my reading is Zap Reader. If you highlight some text, and then click a Zap Reader button on your toolbar, it will immediately load the text in the Zap Reader. Depending on the speed settings you had previously set, the words from the document will flash through in sequence allowing you read the document quickly without moving your eyes. I’ve just started using it and it’s become really valuable for concentrating and reading online documents more quickly.
The other time I use to consume news is during what I call my semi-distracted time, where I’m doing something else that doesn’t require mental concentration, such as running, cleaning up, or commuting. I figure I have somewhere between 1-3 hours of semi-distracted time every day. During those times I can’t read, but I can listen so I take advantage of those semi-distracted moments by consuming podcasts. When I used to hold an office job, I’d listen to my industry news on the way to work. So when I got to my job, I already knew what was happening. Podcasts are very valuable for keeping me informed and entertained. Check out my podcast listening lineup for 2010.
Promotions – I manually post every blog post to Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and StumbleUpon. I tried Ping.fm for mass posting across multiple services but the problem is submitting to the different sites is nuanced. No two are really exactly the same. That’s why I customize my promotions for each service differently. It’s obvious when people use the auto or mass-posting services. I kind of get turned off by them and start ignoring auto-postings. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it myself. It is a little extra effort, but for the audience I think it’s definitely worth it.
Writing faster – For filling out forms online, I turn once again to Roboform2Go which also has a built in utility that auto fills out online forms. These services have been around for a while and I used to just ignore them as silly until I started using them.
While I may not fill out a form every day, I do type a lot of the same text every day, such as my phone numbers, web sites, email addresses, and more. To speed up the monotony, I started using a small macro utility called Texter that works in all applications in Windows. Simple to use and I use it multiple times every day.
Getting around town – When driving, I rely on Google Maps, but I don’t take advantage of them on my mobile phone solely because of the small text. I print out directions first. But the real life saver for me is NextMUNI which is a service from the San Francisco transit system that tells me when the next bus is arriving, This is an ENORMOUS life saver as bus delays allow me to plan my schedule accordingly or take a different route. On my BlackBerry I’ve bookmarked my most frequent routes.
OK, that’s it for me. I’m eager to hear your suggestions on what productivity tips and tools you use on a daily basis.
Creative commons photo courtesy of Ashley Fisher and stock photo courtesy of Shutterstock.