This is the 7th and final part of Productivity Week.
A quick recap of what we've covered so far:
Part 1: The problem with most productivity advice
Part 2: What is productivity anyway? (Hint - it's NOT getting to inbox zero)
Part 3: Time - we don't have that much of it. Do you know how you spend yours?
Part 4: Prioritization is hard. Here's one method I use to keep my days aligned with my big picture.
Part 5: Execution - how to be sustainably productive.
Part 6: How to supercharge your execution with a very simple principle.
Part 7: In this part I share the tactical setup that I use everyday. The list below includes my favorite tools, apps, and even my favorite underwear. Basically - the key things that add major value and joy to my day-to-day life.
Note: I don't endorse anything unless I have used and tested it regularly for at least a month (but usually much longer) and would strongly recommend it.
So without further ado, here are some of the key components of my tactical setup, by category:
Boomerang - I've been using this app nearly everyday for the last 4 years. It layers straight into your gmail and allows you to schedule messages to leave your inbox and then return at a specified time. It also allows you to schedule emails to send in the future. You can even have a message return to your inbox if nobody has replied within X number of days.
SaneBox - I received 856 emails last week, but was only interrupted by 345 thanks to the magic of SaneBox. SaneBox filters messages you don't need to see right away into a separate folder, which you can check whenever you want. It's super easy to train, so you don't have to worry about missing important messages. It's lightweight and easily integrates right into your email. Give it a shot.
My Favorite Notebook: The Vela S8-C Professional Oversized Lab Hardcover Notebook. This notebook has everything I need. It's hardcover and durable, but lays flat when open. It is graphed, which I like for creating checklists. It has page numbers. On every page there is a place to write the Title, the Project #, and there is a "continued from page" and "continued to page" box so you can easily track ongoing projects that aren't on chronological pages. It's a great feature, for example, for weekly recurring meetings on a specific topic - you can easily reference last week's meeting notes. If you really want to get intense, there is a table of contents you can fill out. I have tried all sorts of task managers over the years, both online and offline, and this notebook is the one that stuck.
My Favorite Pens: Pilot G-Tec-C Gel Rolling Ball Pens, Ultra Fine Point, Multiple Color Pack.I love these pens. They're super fine point, they don't bleed, and they come in multiple colors. I keep one set in my backpack and one set in my desk at work.
If you're interested, I describe more about how I make my to-do lists using in this article: How I Organize and Prioritize.
This Zojirushi Thermos is what I use for coffee or tea on the go. After trying multiple thermoses over the past few years, this is definitely my favorite. You never have to worry about it spilling or dripping, it keeps things hot, and it's slim enough to fit in all cupholders.
I use this $25 standing desk made out of cardboard that you can easily fold up. I have one at work and one at home.You'll need to get an external mouse and keyboard, but if you're thinking about trying the standing desk lifestyle but don't want to to pay a few hundred dollars for one of those fancy ones, start with this and see if you like it.
The Focus App. This app is a one time investment of $20 and it will pay dividends for years to come. It blocks a pre-set "blacklist" of websites for whatever amount of time you specify. It has "hardcore" mode so I can't visit Facebook or the NYT or Amazon even if I close the app and restart my computer. Lots of apps do this, but the thing I really love about focus is that it integrates into your top menu and has a little time. I like to set the time for 60 or 90 minutes at a time and work on a project until it's done. It feels very satisfying.
My Gmail Bookmark. This is a little hack I use. Instead of bookmarking my gmail to go to gmail.com, I have my bookmark direct to a Gmail label called "Do you really need to be in your inbox right now?"- which has no messages associated with it. That means whenever I click my bookmark to go to gmail, instead of seeing all my messages, I see zero messages and the label title, which provides me with a gentle reminder that maybe I don't actually want to proceed into inbox land.
Zapier. I've recently started using Zapier for Green Zebra, and it is amazing. It's basically a robot that allows different apps to talk to each other. If you find yourself doing repetitive tasks, Zapier can probably help. A few examples of things I have set up for Green Zebra:
- All of our instagram photos automatically upload to a dropbox folder.
- People in the company can now send receipts to a certain email address and Zapier will upload the attachment into a dropbox folder and title the attachment whatever the subject of the email is. THEN, it takes all of the attachments in the dropbox folder, and adds the info to a google spreadsheet, so our accounting team can easily track and manage all receipts.
- Our kitchen staff automatically receive text messages whenever a new catering order comes in.
You can try it for free. More automation = more time for you!
Deep Work Wednesday: I've written about it before, and I still do Deep Work Wednesday nearly every week. In terms of doing work that matters, it's better than any tool. Try it.
Headspace: This is what I use for guided meditation. You can do the first 10 days for free.
Amazon Echo: Highly recommended. This is just the beginning of the post-screen era. Thanks to "Alexa" I don't have to look at a screen or fiddle with my phone to play my favorite music, adjust the volume, turn on NPR, buy more olive oil or tea or laundry detergent, figure out whether there is rain in the forecast, set timers when cooking, and more. Not only the Echo eliminate screen time and save you trips to the grocery store, it is a fantastic speaker as well. Highly recommended.
Athletic Shoes: I started wearing running/athletic shoes to work about a year ago after years of wearing more traditionally "professional" shoes and it's been a game changer. It makes standing desk life better. It makes midday walks much more enjoyable. And honestly I love the feeling that I can take off into a sprint at a moment's notice ... you know, just in case. No specific shoe recommendation here, but just a strong suggestion that you should try it.
For the guys reading - this is my favorite underwear. And for anybody reading - these are my favorite athletic socks.
We have a kettlebell at home for a quick and effective workout.
Tea: I stole this one from Tim Ferriss. Every morning I drink a blend of loose leaf Turmeric Ginger and Pu-erh tea, both from Rishi. I stir in a tablespoon or two of extra virgin coconut oil for an extra brain boost. It just feels very good and comforting.
If you don't drink loose leaf often, fear not. The easiest, lowest maintenance way to get started is with this folding handle tea infuser. It sits over the lip of your mug for easy on and off. I use it everyday. Tip - many loose leaf teas are good for multiple steeps. I use my blend two mornings in a row, and if it's just pu-erh you can keep it rolling it for a while.
Alright folks, that's a wrap for productivity week. Since this last part is all about tools and tactics, I think it's important to end with a massive reminder that at the end of the day it's not the tools that matter, but your approach and framework for doing good work.
Peter's Three Rules For Doing Work That Matters:
- Do 90 minutes of work on your hardest, most important project (they're often the same) before your first email check or anything else.
- Do at least one day of offsite deep work per week.
- Cultivate and practice focus. It is a daily practice - a muscle that takes development.
Thanks for reading. If there are any productivity topics I missed that you would like to hear about, or anything you would like me to get more in depth on, just let me know.
P.S. That photo at the top is from a recent podcast interview that Keeley and I did with Anthology Podcast. If you're interested, you can listen here or anywhere podcasts are found.
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