What’s your best productivity hack?

I’ve been thinking about productivity a lot lately. As an investor, time is always the scarcest resource. I can’t add more hours to the day, so the question is what can I be doing differently to make the best use of my time.

My best productivity hack is to touch every email only once. I read the email, then immediately need to reply, forward, delete, file or flag as “follow-up.” 99% of all emails can be dealt with right away – just a few will require more time, so I’ve created a follow-up folder in Gmail where I push these emails.

I recently shared this hack on Twitter and asked everyone to share what works for them. I got great responses, ranging from disabling notifications to getting more sleep.

For those of you who missed the thread, here’s a collection of the responses. And you can keep it going by sharing your own hacks in the comments below.  

Better prioritization

  • Evaluate what’s actually necessary…ask yourself ‘what happens if this doesn’t get done?’
  • Straight up say no to requests for your time (meetings, coffee, etc.) with candid, but polite, explanations (Note: I can see this working for many of you, but as an investor, I’m always interested in meeting new entrepreneurs!)
  • Set aside time on the calendar to identify daily and weekly priorities.
  • Kanban-style to-do lists
  • Go over the next day’s priorities the night before and order them. That way, when you wake up, you already know what to focus on.

Reduce the distractions

Not surprisingly, tips for handling the plethora of digital distractions were very popular!

  • Only keep as many browser tabs open as is necessary for the task you’re doing at the moment.
  • Leave only two apps with push notifications (any two).
  • Don’t take any unplanned phone calls (you can use Google phone screen to help with this).
  • Mark all emails as read.
  • Block all news sites with Chrome extension BlockSite: no exceptions, no time windows.
  • Disable badges on social media apps and deactivate all notifications except Slack.
  • Disable all notifications on your phone except calls and iMessages.

Hacks and tools to improve efficiency 

  • Use Trello. Create high, medium and low priority silos on a single board. Then, use it as virtual sticky notes for tasks you can categorize and move around. 
  • Take a few minutes to learn keyboard shortcuts for Gmail, Google Calendar and other heavily used apps.
  • View your calendar as space…Everything takes time. So everything needs to be on your calendar. Read Devi Parikh’s post about this. 
  • Ask for an agenda and goals for any meeting – the number of meetings reduced massively (most things don’t require a coffee chat or internal meeting).
  • Use Siri to set reminders for follow-up items after a meeting.
  • Touch every email only once – with a link to an article about this: “One-touch to Inb0x Zer0”
  • Use the Pomodoro approach (becomes a bit of a productivity game to see how many you can get done in a day) – and a recommendation to use Pomello, a simple Chrome extension that links to Trello tasks.
  • Use @ImmersedVR to instantly enter a mode of Deep Work for longer and more often.
  • Anything that takes less than five minutes is immediately auctioned on the spot and never makes my task list.  

Focus on your physical and mental wellbeing

  • Prioritize sleep. Nothing wrecks productivity like a lack of sleep.
  • Leave the phone/tablet/laptop out of the bedroom while you sleep.
  • Meditate
  • Restrict yourself to a certain number of work hours per day. I get way more done than I did before and I feel way better about myself at the end of the day.
  • Exercise. Get away from the desk. Take care of people I love. So when I’m in work mode, I’ve got nothing else on my mind.
  • Make decisions that energize you, not drain you.
  • Saw a psychiatrist to determine whether I had ADHD (yes) and then made a plan to manage it… a trained driver can’t win a race with one wheel mounted wrong.
  • Go for a 20-30 minute run before a.m. – your brain will thank you at least until noon. And call your Mom every Sunday so she doesn’t have to call you randomly

Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts and advice – definitely some great ideas here for us all. And if you’ve got a great hack, add it to the Comments!

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