Practical Productivity

Brian’s self-sabotage admission sparked discussion in the team. How you manage your time is something only you can figure out, but there are tools to support any workflow. These are the tools I use; it's not an exhaustive list, but the tools that work for me. I’m executive assistant to our VP of engineering, I produce videos, organise events, manage day to day calendars. My tasks can span hours, weeks or months.

Todoing

Most of my workload is tracked with Azendoo. I keep my to-do list for any one day in view all the time, adding any new tasks to the list as soon as they arrive. This keeps me focused as soon as I start in the morning. Items I can't act on bother me, so having them constantly visible keeps me pushing to get them off the board.

Azendoo is a great fit for me:

  • Quick and frictionless to add tasks, with the option to add more detail if necessary.
  • A desktop version to keep on screen as a reminder.
  • An archive, it’s easy to reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Good collaboration with the rest of the team.

Though not a perfect fit (there’s no prioritisation of tasks just yet) I’m excited to see where they go. Azendoo use Intercom too, so I know it’s easy to get in touch when I need to.

My detailed planning happens in Google Docs. Docs killer feature is effortless collaboration. Traditional desktop office suites might have a plusher editing experience, but you’re on your own when it comes to editing with multiple people. Nothing comes close to the fine-grained sharing and collaboration features of the Google suite.

Inbox organisation

I divide my inbox into two buckets: active and ongoing. This beats the unpredictability of Boomerang’s snooze feature for me. I’ve had several snoozed emails come back at once and bamboozle an already planned day. Having a separate bucket frees me from potential distraction while not dropping them completely from sight.

The multiple inbox lab in Gmail lets me structure my mailbox in the following way:

Active

  • Item to do 1
  • Item to do 2
  • Item to do 3

Ongoing

  • Ongoing item a
  • Item awaiting response b
  • Receipt not yet filed

Active contains messages I haven't responded to, or will require a to-do item before I can archive. I try to keep this below 20.

Ongoing messages don’t require any action from me, but may need to be recalled quickly. Travel itineraries, for example. Once the project, trip or task is complete I'll submit the receipts, and archive. This generally runs a little higher, around 40-55 messages.

Like a good engineering approach, how you work should iterate and evolve. Reflecting on my process, and its effectiveness, means what I use today is very different from six months ago.