4 Essential Tools – Productivity Ecosystem Part 1: The Basics

As much as I love technology, I do have other passions (yoga, dance, running, hiking, playing, inverting and being outside) and strive to make time for them. The easiest way for me to “make time” is to create a system, sorry, an ecosystem that works its’ symbiotic magic and makes work (and play) on electronic devices more time effective. That being said, I have had the disease of being a perfectionist and have given up a lot of the negative connotations of said disease. I am now easing into being slightly (or largely) less than perfect and make room for setbacks (even failures) so that I can continue to learn. Oh, and I like to run sentences on. Or is it run-on sentences?

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1. Email – I use Mail on the mac as well as the default mail client on my phone and tablet. I have all my accounts synced and keep reaching for the myth that is Inbox Zero! I avidly use shortcuts to minimize my use of the pesky mouse. I receive all email accounts into the same inbox so that I don’t have to sift through different browser windows, or perform more clicks than are absolutely necessary. In any of my accounts I generally don’t have more than 8 folders. The three most important ones are “Action” (put email in here that take more than 2 minutes to complete), “Waiting” (emails that I’m waiting for someone to get back to me – I’ll check it every so often and send a reminder email), “Reference” (For easier searching capabilities).

calender
2. Calendar
– I use Google Calendar as well as iCal. Sharing is a key feature that keeps my personal and professional life synced and gives me a sense of what my day/week/month looks like. I put into the calendar events such as “Call Comcast: 6 month promo expiring in 3 days – tell them I’ll switch to AT&T unless they give me the same or better deal” (by the way, that works almost every time. If it doesn’t, hang up and try again with a different representative, or ask to speak to their manager).1. Email – I use Mail on the mac as well as the default mail client on my phone and tablet. I have all my accounts synced and keep reaching for the myth that is Inbox Zero! I avidly use shortcuts to minimize my use of the pesky mouse. I receive all email accounts into the same inbox so that I don’t have to sift through different browser windows, or perform more clicks than are absolutely necessary. In any of my accounts I generally don’t have more than 8 folders. The three most important ones are “Action” (put email in here that take more than 2 minutes to complete), “Waiting” (emails that I’m waiting for someone to get back to me – I’ll check it every so often and send a reminder email), “Reference” (For easier searching capabilities).

3. Lists Wunderlist is absolutely wünderful (umlaut added for extra wonder)! Best of all, the sharing and task delegation features are all included in the free version. Some of the lists I have in there include “Shopping” (shared with my wife – helps when we divide and conquer Costco together), “Blog Ideas” (I can jot them down anytime, anywhere), “Virtual Assistant” (share with, who else, but my VA – who, btw, rocks!),”Movies” (again, share with my wife). You can assign a due date to a task and put in comments under the notes field. Really an easy to use and awesome tool!

notes

4. Notes – Evernote is really the place to go for this. I’ve upgraded to the pro verso because I was needing the ability to share my notebooks. For longer ideas than would be appropriate to put in Wunderlist, I always jot things down here. I’ve written and used this as a reference tool for most of my meeting notes as well as any personal resources and references that I need. Many of the other applications I’ll be mentioning in Parts 2 (and maybe 3), push directly into Evernote so that I can reference them when needed. The search functionality here is really tremendous.

Each of these tools really fills a very specific need in my e-life and really adds value to the fact that I can dump all the loose ends that float around in my brain into this ecosystem that has been created to act as a easily searchable container for that detritus.

Do you need help in organizing your electronic life? Send me a message. Perhaps I can help. If you have advice, please share as well!

Adnan Iftekhar

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