I didn’t know what I was expecting when I left a buzzing party of 300+ people at a gaming lair called Punch Bowl Social. There’s something to be said for the warm, inquisitive audience of people anticipating the onset of a big conference, but when the question was put to me – are you going to the productivity meetup? – my intuition clicked into the affirmative. The person putting the question to me was Garrett Gee, a friendly guy and security expert. The combination of a split cab and intuition said I should go, so I bundled out of the bustling party and hailed a cab with Garrett.
Garrett was an interesting guy, he had written his own book, left a big corporate role, ran a estore, and had been to both the World Domination Summit and Pioneer Nation (both in Portland) before. I had only done two of those five things, so I sat and listened in the cab as he gave me tips on how to get the most out of the conference.
A buzzling hive of efficiency
…is not the image the Green Dragon, Portland evokes. It looked like two steel barnyards smashed together. The vibe was laid-back, and the array of craft beers on tap was mind-boggling. One of the organisers put a free drink ticket in my hand, and before I knew it I was quaffing an Epic Armageddon IPA from a very friendly barkeep. The beer was spec-tap-ular. But I had come to discuss productivity, and that’s when I bumped into Charles.
Charles NGO was a pretty unassuming guy who entered our conversation circle, but then knowledge bombs started dropping. Again and again. Charles is an affiliate marketer and works hard at his craft and at being as efficient as possible. He was a really fun guy to swap ideas with, and before I launch into some of the techniques he shared, here’s some of the things I have done to keep productive:
- Read Getting Things Done by David Allen -when I was working at Google, this book was consistently recommended as the primer for anyone dealing with project management. But the principles contained within hold you in good stead for all walks of life. David talks about maintaing an in tray for containing your thoughts, approaching it with a do/delete/defer/delegate mentality, tracking contingent tasks, and so much more. The book was an eye-opener for me and I’ve been using an adapted version of his system for almost two years.
- Get Evernote -I’ve been using Evernote for three years and despite the steeper-than-usual learning curve, this cloud-based application has changed the way I work and organise things. Evernote lets you jot notes and access them from your laptop, mobile, and tablet. However, once you grow comfortable with it, it becomes quite a powerful organisation and memory collection tool. If you ever followed the Harry Potter series and liked the concept of Albus Dumbledore’spensieve – then this is what you’ve been looking for!
- Read The Secret Weapon Manifesto – this guide takes the above two concepts and combines them into pure, organised awesome. It’s an instruction guide for combining the two systems and I incorporated it into my life shortly after reading Getting Things Done.
- Get Self Control – this is an app that lets you blacklist certain sites you frequently visit in order to get yourself to focus during intensive tasks. You can add the usual suspects to the list and scale accordingly based on timing. I set mine to 30 minutes and smash stuff out. I learned this one from Nerd Fitness.
What I learned from the meetup
Pretty helpful stuff right? Charles was across most of the above stuff, so here’s some more advanced level concepts for efficiency.
- Asana – is a workflow tool that’s free and great for managing tasks, setting reminders, and keeping track of flow. During the meetup, a few members said they used it for solo-purposes as well. The beauty of this is that if you ever do have to manage a remote team, they can see the historic thinking behind tasks.
- Kanban technique – this is a method pioneered by one of Toyota’s lead engineers. It’s based around minimising the ‘work in progress’ tasks and determining what tasks are contingent on each other.
- Managing flow – as you get a hang of your system, you’ll start to get a read on types of tasks and what time they suit you. For me, heavy thinking/labour intensive tasks are better suited to the morning, whereas meetings, phone calls, and admin usually sit better with me in the afternoon. Once you have a bead on what tasks and timings suit you better, you can allocate resources accordingly
Charles writes extensively about productivity on his blog, a nice introduction can be found with his 30-minute method.
That you’re not a machine. Remember that nothing replaces good sleep. You can read all the guides, tips, and techniques in the world and still not be able function at optimal levels at all times. I’m quite aggressive with my sleeping habits and try to clock up 8+ hours a night. You don’t want to be relying on coffee!
If you’ve got some productivity tips, or would like to hear about something else on this blog, give me a shout in the comments.