I’m obsessed with productivity and efficiency. Sometimes I’m so obsessed with these things that I make myself inefficient in the quest searching for new tools or techniques. Every year I pickup new tools, put others down, but there’s that core group of programs and techniques that I never seem to get sick of. Here are some of those tools and techniques I use daily to help organize, consume, process and share information.
I’m not claiming to be an expert in these things but I’ve read and applied successfully a ton of this stuff from experts like David Allen, Merlin Mann, Gina Trapani who have coined and contributed to some of the greatest techniques including GTD, Inbox Zero or built great blogs and successful businesses through applying or writing/speaking on these things.
Schedule time to read up on new techniques and happenings in your industry.
No matter how fresh or epic you are there’s other things happening that will help to validate, inspire or teach you how you can be better. Many of us these days wear multiple hats so being able to follow people who are niche practitioners and writers on their craft will help get you light years beyond where you are at today sometimes in just a few reads.
For me “industry” means Marketing, entrepreneurship, design and technology. I run a digital marketing agency so being up on and passionate about these things isn’t a hobby it’s a lifestyle.
That sounds great but when do you find the time?
Time is my most precious commodity these days, and I’ve studied some of these topics and am writing this very article in efforts to “hack” how much I could cram and get done each day.
I’ve found mornings, evenings, weekends, or while traveling (when you aren’t driving!) make for the best times to do the reading, curating, learning and sharing of this type of information.
First let me talk about of the tools you will need in your arsenal to be able to adopt any of this.
Some tools of the trade I couldn’t live without.
I’m pretty sure this one needs no introduction, but nothing surprises me these days online. Find people you respect or that inspire you and follow them. They will tweet links and you can either read them now, pocket them to read later, or if the source is a new blog with interesting content you can add it to your google reader or pulse so every time new content gets posted you can follow it without risking missing it in a sea of other tweets.
Pulse is a sexy reader app that you can use wherever you are either via the sexy web app in the browser or iOS/Android/Kindle App. Pulse lets me pack it full of feeds, that I typically subscribe to in my Google reader and displays them in a very sexy way. Being a visual guy I like to be able to quickly rip through headlines and visuals and make my choice for what I want to read based on my mood or needs at that time.
Where the real magic comes in with Pulse for me is in its ability to connect to some of my other tools, since I often have “bursts” of time to digest but often don’t have the time to be able to fully read or digest the content. Luckily I can “Star” something in Pulse and it will also goto my Pocket (formerly read-it-later) account for reading later.
Pocket is a great web and iOS/Android app that let’s you put things you want to read later into a collection that can easily be retrieved when you are ready via the web or mobile app. You can email yourself articles or sites to “read later” or anything you star in your reader app (if hooked up to pocket) will be waiting for you when you have that time to read it.
The whole “Read it Later” concept, does it work?
I’ve heard from many people that “read it later” doesn’t work for them because they never go back and read the things. I know people who literally will keep dozens of browser tabs open for weeks on end with the hope that they will “get to it” and never do. All I can say to that is if something is important enough to you then you will read it. I try to only “pocket” or “star” things that I actually want to read that will either provide direct value to me or my team.
Speaking of my team, I believe in any service based business we are in the business of people. Data and knowledge have always been the currency that I like to trade and live on so adding this discipline into my regiment not only helps me be better at what I do, but also arms my colleagues, teams and social followers with tools and tricks that will hopefully also help inspire and grow their skills.
All these tools have social sharing built in (big surprise) so being able to email, tweet, facebook them to others is super simple.
Buffer is pretty new to my workflow, but its ease of use and integration with my other reading apps makes it a perfect pairing for those times when I want to make sure I’m consistently sharing the gems I discover with those that are kind enough to follow me on twitter and read what I post. What buffer provides me with via the Chrome extension or mobile app is the ability to quickly build up things I want to share and then time release them automagically without me worrying about having to pick a time to post or worrying about over-sharing and pissing off people who follow me. At Digital Surgeons we use hootsuite, and a slew of other social tools for managing and analyzing our clients social accounts but their interfaces are a little too cumbersome for me when I’m simply trying to read an article and share it with people. Buffer gives me that nice “set it and forget it” approach to sharing.
You can see here how items I’ve shared to buffer via Pocket just automagically stack up and are sent out during key times to post based on my timezone and follower-base. If you want deeper knowledge on posting schedules and a ton of tools to better engage your audience that’s what Digital Surgeons is for, after-all this is just an article to help you manage the signal and noise in your life with tools.
We come across so much information these days there isn’t a shot in hell we can remember it all. It’s been years since I jumped on Evernote and it is literally one of the best apps on the planet. You can store everything from meeting notes to recipes or a photos with this app that there is an entire blog on their website dedicated to how people are using Evernote to do the quirkiest of things with it.
I use evernote as a great “catch-all” tool. If I’m reading an article on programming or design and need to store a it for later I’ll use the web clipper to “clip” a part or entire part of a page and I can just forget about it. Lately I’ve been organizing my notebooks (I use the premium version) based on topics, projects or categories so it becomes my big cloud-synced junk drawer for that given topic. Where the magic of evernote saves my ass daily is in this below screenshot.
Back in September 2012 I read an article about some random iOS6 hardware acceleration issue and a quick snippet of code to fix it. I was debugging a client project and couldn’t remember what that snippet was so I turned to google and saved myself minutes or possibly hours of searching for the solution simply by having Evernote’s chrome extension setup to include related results.
To enable related results just goto the extension options and enable it as seen below:
Still not convinced are you? That’s fine try this one on for size. When webpages change or have dead links you can keep the content forever inside your always remembering Evernote. Here’s a real world example I just went through where Evernote saved my ass. A big part of what we do as a digital agency is work with clients on the topic of content strategy. One of the members of my team had a great resource guide on content inventory for web projects that she was trying to share with our client to aid them in that aspect of the product. The problem was the website was now “closed”. Google had released a beta product called KNOL which looked to be a powerful rival to wikipedia in terms of being a knowledge base of freely-available information. This article was something we referred our clients to weekly but now that the site was down the content was gone forever. Luckily I had Evernoted it so all i did was searched google for “content inventory audit” and in my related results was the entire webpage cached in my Evernote.
Notes, Images, Audio notes, Screenshots, whatever you want to place and be searchable later that is where Evernote comes to your rescue.
More tips and tricks on Evernote can be found on their site.
Top things I store in Evernote:
- Website screenshots and images for inspiration
- Tutorials or design/development articles
- GTD and productivity articles I want to be able to reference again after I’ve read them.
- Tools, SAAS products and other things I want to download, use or share with others.
To-do list apps seem to be a dime a dozen these days. There’s tons of them but I like simple and a clean interface. For me to-do lists help keep me organized for what I need to do. Certainly I could use Evernote for this but I really prefer the quick simple interface that Wunderlist provides. In addition to having it synced across all my devices (OSX Laptop, Desktop, iPhone, iPad) I really like the new “push notification” capabilities for sending me reminders.
At work we use Basecamp to trap project to-dos and such but I also have a life outside of work (sometimes) so being able to have my own to-do lists privately help me create and achieve goals without having to share them with others. One big tip if you use to-do lists. Break them down into smaller lists. There is nothing like clicking a to-do done and watching the lists crunch down. The longer the list the more unapproachable it is. This tool is free and awesome and even lets you share to-do lists with other people so you can be tackle it as a team. Note the Xmas list I shared here with my fiance for our families christmas gifts.
One of the best tools for anyone to have is 1Password. If you are using the right kinds of passwords (not password or 1234) it is damn near impossible to be able to remember them all and you definitely don’t want to have them typed out on a post-it note on your monitor for anyone to steal.
Logging into social networks, banks, shopping sites, or any site that requires you to fill in information 1Password can come to your assistance.
Literally by using the 1Password app and browser extension you can visit any site and in one click automate the entire login process. For a test one day I counted the amount of time I spent authenticating websites via login and it took nearly 5 minutes of my day looking up passwords and keying them in. 150 minutes a month, 1800 minutes a year, that is almost an entire work week (30 hours) for some people each year you just got back by using this tool. There’s plenty of information on their website about the security of their app but it’s secure and plenty of professionals rely on this application in their daily lives. You will thank me later trust me.
My brain works like a computer program iterating through if/else logic all day long. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing it’s just how my brain works. What is awesome about this website is it lets you setup “recipes” for automating tasks.
Things like when I update my Facebook profile image update it across all my social networks, or anytime someone tags me on instagram or facebook go get the image and download it to my dropbox.
The power of IFTTT is amazing and how the hell they offer it for free is even more amazing to me. Signup for it and have a look at all the “recipes” that are out there to help automate many mundane tasks you do online often.
Dropbox is a key application for saving and syncing files in the cloud. I use this for work, personal and keeping files synced between my many devices. Dropbox versions your files, backs them up in the cloud and makes your files accesible wherever you are via their web interace. Their pro and team plans make it incredibly affordable to have all your files locally and backed up in the cloud.
Caffeine is a great little tool for preventing your computer from going to sleep or screensaver. This is great for when you are giving a presentation, or working with your computer and don’t want it to goto sleep if you don’t touch it for a few seconds.
Are you looking for a tool or solution to a problem you have? Shoot me a tweet @petesena and let me know. If I know of one I’ll shoot it your way. Well it’s time to get back to doing something awesome with my Saturday hope someone gets some use from this post.