Swamped? Try These Productivity Tips

April 21, 2011

Inbox Zero: A beautiful sight

There’s a ton of stuff going on around Fast Horse these days. We’ve had a small army preparing for a major event in California, there’s a team putting the finishing touches on a two-month research project for a new client, we’re making great strides on agency marketing projects, and so much more. Lots of people putting in lots of hours.

The busier I get, the more important it is for me to keep a clear head and clear workspace (both physical and digital; I am quite particular about keeping my computer and files and notes and such in order, and I delete without mercy). My productivity depends on it.

While I’m far from a productivity expert, I thought I could do some of our readers — including, perhaps, some of my colleagues — a favor and share some of my tricks and methods for keeping insanity to a minimum and keeping myself as productive as possible.

Inbox Zero. Learn it, live it and love it. The core idea is as simple as it sounds: keep nothing in your inbox. Never touch an email more than once. If it’s junk, delete it — and unsubscribe from the source, if you can. If it warrants a reply or some other action, do it immediately if it’s quick, easy and practical or add it to your to-do list. (Don’t to that “mark as unread,” “I’ll get to it later” trick.) The bottom line: Your inbox is not a to-do list.

To-do list is not a wish list. Your to-do list should not include all of the stuff you want to get done today. It should include all of the stuff you need to get done today. If your task list is too full, the true priorities get lost, you get frustrated, you don’t know what to do next, and your life sucks. Pare it down to essentials.

Get organized. Effective organization has little to do with just being able to find stuff; it’s all about productivity. Use folders on your computer (and subfolders in your inbox, if you store information there) in a way that makes sense, and use subfolders to further organize. Label files well so you know what they are without opening them and so you can search for them. And don’t keep paper unless it’s absolutely necessary. Get a scanner and start using Evernote.

A closing thought: Do your damnedest to get your stuff in order before the end of each day. Be prepared to start the next working session at full speed.