How Captain America Helped Me Go From 97 Unanswered Emails To Inbox Zero

Over the course of 24 hours, starting on Sunday and ending Monday, I went from having 97 unanswered emails in my inbox to sweet, victorious inbox zero.

When the inbox count hit zero, it represented freedom from a 2-month cycle of misguided optimism, anxiety, and guilt. And I’ve got my favorite Avenger to thank for the liberation.

This post will explain how I did it and why Captain America played a vital role, but first I have to make an admission – as much to myself as to any of you reading this:

I am not the Hulk. *sheds silent tear* Read More…

Two Whiteboards, 24 Post-It Notes: My Physical Task Management System

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly shifted a lot of my content planning and task management onto real, physical whiteboards.

This is a pretty marked change, as I’ve traditionally used computer-based systems to manage almost everything. I still use these for certain things, but I no longer keep my task management exclusively electronic.

In this post, I’ll show you my new system based on whiteboards (and Post-It notes), and explain why I’m liking the change.

Who knows – maybe you’ll find it useful as well! Read More…

Develop A Morning Ritual To Prime Yourself For A Productive Day

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If your answer was either:

  • “Run out the door with toast in my mouth and hope I don’t miss the bus.”
  • “Eh, whatever I feel like, maaaaaan.”

…then you should seriously consider developing a morning ritual.

The writer Leo Babauta gives the following reason for having his morning ritual:

“The reason I like having a morning routine is that not only does it instill a sense of purpose, peace and ritual to my day, but it ensures that I’m getting certain things done every morning … namely, my goals.”

My reason for building a morning ritual is similar: It’s full of small, productive habits that act as quick wins. Starting my day out with these habits builds up momentum, which carries me throughout the day while I’m working on my bigger projects.

I find that it’s a lot easier to get into a state of flow with my main work this way, rather trying to sit down and start “cold”. Read More…

Dragonfly-Level Efficiency: Quick Capture Techniques To Instantly Store Ideas

David Allen – author of Getting Things Done and probably the most well-known productivity nerd alive – aptly describes the purpose of your mind:

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” | Tweet This

In this case, I define the concept of an idea somewhat broadly: An idea is anything that might cause you to take action at some point in time.

This means an idea could be:

  • An actual, creative idea you come up with
  • An article or book you find that you’d like to read
  • A task that needs doing later
  • An event you need to attend
  • A person you’d like to get to know

Most of these things are not ideas themselves, but your mind holds ideas of them – and that’s the problem. Even though your brain is essentially a giant parallel processor that can do many things at once, it generally works best if you’ve got it pointed at a single task at a time.

Trying to juggle a bunch of ideas which require future action only hampers your ability to execute on the idea you’re trying to work on now.  Read More…

How Buffer Forces Me To Wake Up At 5:55 AM Every Day

For the past two months, I’ve been using a simple trick with Buffer that forces me to wake up early every morning.

This is a habit I’ve always found extremely hard to get into, so figuring out an external system that actually works is awesome. The fact that it hinges on Buffer is a bit weird – but trust me, it’s effective.

“But wait – isn’t Buffer that social media scheduling app?”

Yep. If you haven’t heard of it, Buffer is a tool that lets you schedule tweets and Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+ posts ahead of time. With it, you can enter your tweets and posts whenever you want, knowing they’ll be spaced out over the day and be posted at times when people are more likely to see them.


A pre-set daily schedule defines your posting times, so you don’t have to manually choose the time for every tweet. New ones just fill the next time slot.

Buffer is great because you can schedule updates that you want people to see later. Of course, this also means you could easily schedule updates you don’t want people to see later.

That’s the thinking behind this method – I use the threat of social shame (and monetary loss, as you’ll see) to make myself wake up on time.

Here’s how you can use it too. Read More…

13 Email Apps To Help You Tame Your Inbox

How would Batman deal with his email inbox?

Well, knowing how paranoid Batman is, he probably wouldn’t use normal email at all – he’d figure out how to code some form a ultra-encrypted email that’s unhackable and can detect the DNA of any villain accessing it.

If Batman was careless enough to use normal email, however, he’d probably adopt the same mindset he applies to his utility belt and use a suite of tricked-out apps and extensions to make his email processing time more productive.

After all, that Bat-viagra spam isn’t going to delete itself.

I won’t pretend to know exactly what Batman would use to keep his inbox clear, but I do know of a good number of apps you and I can use. In this article, I’ll go through them.

When it comes to email, my goals are:

  1. Be at Inbox Zero as much as possible
  2. Respond to people within 24 hours
  3. Spend the least amount of time possible dealing with email

Hopefully you share these goals, because digging through an full inbox sucks. Read More…

Building Concrete Productive Habits Through Conditional “If-Then” Logic

“21 days is all it takes to form a new habit!”

Ever heard this old adage? Well, it turns out that it just might be… total bullshit.

But before we grab our debunking hammer and start swinging at every barrel of adages we see rolling toward us, let’s get down to the real business at hand.

Yes, I’m talking about habit formation.

We’ve talked about how beneficial it is to build strong habits before; essentially, doing so lets you use your limited amount of willpower on other things, ensuring you get more done on any given day.

What I didn’t talk much about before is how difficult it can be to build those habits.

Even if the whole “21-day” thing were true, that’s still three weeks you’d have to spend forcing yourself to do something before it became a habit.

Three weeks forcing yourself to get up at 6AM.

Three weeks forcing yourself to go to the gym every day.

Three weeks forcing yourself to write 1000 words a day.

Three weeks forcing yourself to jump off the roof of your apartment so you can become a professional stuntman someday. Thanks for the health insurance, dad!

Every habit you try to build requires an initial commitment of willpower that you weren’t having to spend before. Read More…

30 Lightning-Fast Productivity Hacks To Help You Work Better

They say Leonardo da Vinci was a lot of things – a painter, sculptor, mathematician, inventor, cartographer, and writer, to name a few. Without a doubt, he was a great man – but I’m certain even he had unproductive days.

We’re all human, which means we all suck at getting things done at times – especially when we’ve got freedom to work how we want. Productivity-killing demons constantly lurk on our shoulders: distractions, boredom, decision fatigue, etc.

Luckily, there are ways we can improve our productivity and banish those demons. Today I’m dropping a pile of 30 productivity hacks on your lap, and I’m going through them at lightning speed.

Try to implement just one of these today, and see how your work sessions improve. Let’s go!

1. Have a reason for working faster. 

Whether it’s wanting more time with friends, a hobby you’re passionate about, or anything else, find something that you’re passionate about that gives you a reason to work harder. Don’t work harder just so you can work more.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t decide what to work on, use the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one thing as hard as you can, with no distractions. You’ll likely trick yourself into working for even longer.

3. Try out the 30-30 Method.

This is all about working in chunks. Work for 30 minutes, then take a break and do something fun for 30 minutes. I’ll often read a book or just play a video game during these breaks. Going outside is good as well. Of course, you can experiment with the time blocks to find what works best for you. Read More…

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