Posts in Productivity
You 2.0: Deep Work

This podcast episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain with Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World,” reminded me how important it is to protect your brain from distractions and to create flows of deeply focused work. I find that on days when I schedule 4-5 hours of uninterrupted work, I accomplish a lot more within a short time span, and can use the rest of the time to respond to emails and get ahead of the week’s tasks. To combat interruptions, I find using a Pomodoro timer, and turning off email notifications in 30 minute batches works for me. I used to feel guilty for scheduling out every hour of my work day, like a robot, but ultimately scheduling in both deep work and time for distractions allows me to feel “finished” at the end of the workday, and to quickly unwind right when 5 o'clock hits. Cal Newport suggests having a shut-down phrase for when you’ve completed your schedule, something he was previously embarrassed of, but now embraces, like “Schedule shut-down complete.” I am totally stealing this and adding it to my workflow. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Chrome extension for using multiple Gmail accounts

I have multiple Gmail accounts that I use throughout the day and I developed a bad habit of keeping them open and constantly clicking through tabs to check the status of my inbox even though I know nothing’s changed. Checker Plus is a chrome extension that lets you preview, delete, star and archive email without opening up Gmail or leaving your current window, and it works with multiple accounts. Since I’ve been using it, I have definitely been more productive. — CD

Death checklist

I came across this checklist and immediately bookmarked it. It’s a list of what to do after a death occurs. I compared it to other lists floating around online and liked this one best because of it’s practical reminders to take care of unpaid bills, contact the post office, etc. May be a bit morbid, but I like to be prepared. — CD

Conquering the to-do list

Two things have kept my to-do list on track lately. The first is this notebook previously recommended by Mark in issue 80. I bought 4 to stock up for the year. And the second is committing to the habit of asking myself the four questions from this Ted article. The most effectual being, “What’s the most important thing I can do today that would make tomorrow better?” and “Should I do this task now or can I do it later?” — CD

Use Dropbox within Gmail

If you use Dropbox, installing the Dropbox Chrome extension is a timesaver. I no longer have to search for files in subfolders to copy and paste share links. With the extension, I can access all my folders and recent files and attach them in a message without having to leave Gmail. If someone sends me a dropbox link, I can download it directly to my computer without being redirected to another window — all these saved clicks add up! — CD

Productivity trance

I discovered a number of years ago that playing one track of music in an endless loop helped me write the difficult first draft. Some writers and coders use white noise, but another group (I am one) prefer a single musical track in a loop. The kind of music varies by person (I use one specific Russian choir hymn); after a dozen loops the music disappears and what I get is a feeling of comfort, which helps me focus for hours while it repeats. Try it with your song. — KK

Add Weather to your Google Calendar

I like using Google Calendar’s “month view” to plan my life, and I realized it would be helpful if I could see a weather forecast while I’m scheduling hikes and social outings. The easiest way I found to add a weather calendar was here. Now I have a two-week forecast always visible. — C

Quick unsubscribing

I get signed up for a lot of newsletters and PR lists without my consent. I used to take the time to scroll down to the bottom of each email newsletter and click the unsubscribe link (if there was one), but now I just use Gmail’s “Block” to send them forevermore to my spam folder. — MF

Free file conversion

CloudConvert is a free conversion service that supports more than 200 file formats and you don’t have to download any software to use it. I mostly use it to convert Google WebP files into JPEGS so that the images are usable in WordPress and Adobe products. — CD 

Quickly scan pages using your phone

The FineScanner app ($9.99/year) makes it so easy to scan and share documents using only my phone. Batch mode auto-captures and crops pages in seconds turning them into a readable, black & white PDF that I can immediately upload to my iCloud or Google drive. There’s a lot more features and more ways to share that I haven’t explored yet. — CD

Less, More and None

Jacoby Young, who works at an elementary school in Hawaii, created a list on his website called “Less, More, and None,“ which categorizes activities he wants to do less often, more often, or not at all. It’s a great idea. I want to make a similar list for myself. I’m starting with less Twitter, more time outside, and no working on holidays. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Focused daydreaming

I am giving up social media and other distractions for the 2 hour rule, which encourages setting aside two hours each week for purposeful mind-wandering. The author of this article touts this method as used by Einstein and other geniuses. He says that while it helps to focus on specific questions, the biggest benefit comes from the time spent after you’ve run out of things to think about. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Make better decisions

Upgrade your pros and cons list by assigning additional value. Rate how important each list item is to you from 1 to 5, and when you’re done add them up to find out which has more points. You might find that even if you listed more items in one column the other might affect your life more. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson