Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • @mbravo started a great conversation on Roam productivity software and I think there’s interest to continue the conversation on productivity hacks and tools.

      Panelists, please share some of the productivity tools and strategies that you use to get more things done in your life.

    • To state the obvious, I'm far more productive doing the parts of my gig I that I love doing than I am with the parts I find onerous.

      I get paid for photos and video and I could efficiently crank out production all day. Fast and quick. I also get paid to record and transcribe interviews and I'm hiding from one of those jobs right now, by being here on Cake. Zero efficiency and will drag myself to the task at the very last possible moment before deadline.

      So - that would be my tip for enhanced productivity. If you are lucky enough to find a job that you love doing - the productivity sorta looks after itself.

      If you hate a job find a way to get yourself one you love - and that's going to be a different challenge and level of difficulty for everyone.

      Now, I have a magazine write-up to confront.

    • I’m a productivity junkie, so this panel is right up my alley! I homeschool five children, and much of my day involves repetitive tasks (laundry, dishes, cooking, teaching the next lesson, etc.). I’m always wanting to increase efficiency of those things, so I have more time for spontaneity, memory-making, and delight.

      Here are a few things that work for me:

      - Timers! I will often work hard on something for 15 minutes and call that “enough.” This is great for dishes because it can seem like an endless task, but in actuality rarely takes more than 15 minutes of concerted effort. I also use timers for the opposite purpose, to help me from going down an unproductive rabbit hole. If I’m shopping for a new toaster, it might well be worth 10 minutes of reading reviews, but it’s not worth more than that (to me!)

      - Routinize everything possible to eliminate on-the-fly decisions about things that don’t actually benefit from precious brain power. We have the same thing for breakfast every Monday, the same (different) thing every Tuesday, etc. Bath nights are always the same from week to week unless somebody comes in from the yard in need of a bonus bath. Nails get clipped on a schedule. It seems like overkill writing that out, but I used to play whack-a-mole with nails, always discovering at inopportune times that someone’s had been overlooked and having to stop and clip them before I forgot. Not thinking about breakfasts is awesome for me.

      I’m looking forward to learning more here!

      Definitely a bonus bath candidate in the photo right here... but I’ll go as far as to encourage the kids to feel free to get dirty on bath days. Also pictured: he needs a haircut but that’s on a simple (Google cal reminder) schedule too so I know it’s around the corner already and I don’t have to wonder or get taken by surprise about predictable things.

    • I was planning on writing something similar but you beat me to the punch, @StephenL 🤣

      When it comes to questions like this, I feel the same way I did back in my degree days when my friends would ask me how I study, since I used to do quite well in exams. My answer would always come with a disclaimer, that the way I study might not work for everyone, and so if I were to answer the question "how to be more productive?", it would come with a similar disclaimer because I'm certain they way I keep productive won't work for others, though it could work out for a few.

      I find it hard to focus on work for long periods of time. Some people focus on work and only work, before rewarding themselves with a break or some fun after accomplishing a certain task. Me, I like to mix things up from the beginning. I'd work for a while, then I'd do something leisurely, then go back to work. While I'm working in the lab I'd often do so while watching a YouTube video on my phone if I'm not listening to music. If I'm doing some writing, I'd maybe write a paragraph or two, then watch a YouTube video or play a game on my phone, then continue writing. Sometimes I just go all in and alternate between three things, like you can see in the attached image. I don't know why, but I find myself able to work for longer if I mix in some leisure while I work.

      Might work for others, might not, but this is how I usually do it.

    • My productivity approach is a thousand little hacks. I’m always looking for ways to get things done with less effort or less thinking required.

      For example, at work our phone system emails us a copy of every voice mail message, which I rarely need since I already listened to it on my phone. I also get some minor notification emails that I don’t need to read but have to hold on to for a bit. In both cases, I created a rule in Outlook to automatically identify new emails from these addresses, mark them read and file them in their appropriate folders.

      I also use the Outlook Calendar for to do reminders, especially for one offs in the future that will just clutter up my to do list for two weeks. I used to use their Calendar only for meetings and appointments, but when someone mentioned they used it for todos it was definitely a 💡 moment.

      At home, I own vertical bookshelves. In a matter of moments I can find a book I’m looking for or discover what I own. I read more as a result and avoid the bibliophile’s lament of buying the same book twice because you have no idea what you currently have.

    • I’m constantly astonished at all the things you accomplish. Home schooling 4 kids while pregnant AND DESIGNING EVERY DETAIL OF A NEW CUSTOM HOME, among many other things like offering temp foster care for families in need.

      For me, I feel like the world changed and it disrupted my productivity. I used to have set times of deep focus, no distractions, but the iPhone happened. I want to be responsive to texts, emails, etc. When I have something really important I put my phone on do not disturb. But then hours later when I check I feel bad about the things I missed. So that distracts me even when my phone is on do not disturb because what am I missing?

    • I used to have set times of deep focus, no distractions, but the iPhone happened. I want to be responsive to texts, emails, etc. When I have something really important I put my phone on do not disturb.

      I used to have that problem at work where I would randomly have an email notification pop up on my screen, completely distracting me from work that required deep concentration, or it distracted me to take care of something less important that felt like an immediate concern because of the pop up.

      So then I turned off the notifications and was much more productive; however, people started complaining because I could go most of the day without checking emails.

      My solution was to create recurring Outlook calendar alarms for multiple times a day to check emails. A few in the morning and a few in the afternoon allow me to work in uninterrupted blocks of time without worrying that I cut myself off from the world: most emails can wait an hour without a response in my workplace—if it’s urgent they’ll either call me, track me down, or make a decision without my input if necessary.

    • According to the Urban Dictionary 'Bac'n' is Spam that you signed up for.

      There was way too much Bac'n in my diet.

      I have unsubscribed from about 20 mailing lists in the last few days. They seemed like a good idea at the time. Then it became a flood of distraction. Now I only get work related notes.

    • I have unsubscribed from about 20 mailing lists in the last few days. They seemed like a good idea at the time. Then it became a flood of distraction.

      I think in the same way that we curate content here by sharing a creator’s specific YouTube video or podcast episode, I may create a conversation for sharing especially great “issues” of e-newsletters.

      Today I learned (TIL) that you can view most emailed newsletters in a browser.

      For example, here’s a good issue from the New York Times’s weekly Climate Forward newsletter.

    • I'm not sure exactly what I can contribute to this conversation. I do need to be more productive, but just about all of the "hacks" that I have heard and read about seem to involve too much and so actually make me less productive. For example, setting a timer sounds like a good idea, but the process of actually setting the timer just makes more work. And then if I have a timer set, I will be constantly wondering just how much time I have left on the timer which will take my focus away from what I am doing. Then there's the problem of getting interrrupted by children asking me a question or wanting me to do something with them.

      My biggest problem with being more productive is keeping my focus on what I am doing. I think something like meditation would be good as it would help me clear my mind and would therefore allow me to think more clearly, but I don't have time to meditate. That's one of the things I enjoy about riding a bike, as being on my bike allows me to think about things and refreshes my mind, which allows me to get more things done when I get home. The problem with it is that cycling takes up quite a bit of time, and so even though I might get more done, I have less time to actually do it.

    • I think something like meditation would be good as it would help me clear my mind and would therefore allow me to think more clearly, but I don't have time to meditate.

      I’m not sure who on Cake meditates regularly. I used to do guided meditations for around ten minutes at the end of a group yoga session—it’s pretty standard with most yoga classes. From my experience, if you’re physically relaxed then a ten minute meditation can be extremely effective to cleansing your mind of the day’s stress buildup. I’ve also done Qigong, which is a Chinese movement and meditation practice similar to Tai Chi. In Taiwan, a Friday night class could do wonders for clearing your mind.

    • I love that you mention exercise and meditation, as a truly refreshing break makes me more productive afterward. Having mental space to think about a problem clearly often leads to a simpler solution.

    • Productivity hacks & tools?

      You might not think you need them in retirement, but that's not completely true.

      I've become a bit more persistent in putting things on my calendar, and am trying to get my wife to do the same.

      It's a slow process - even at this stage of our lives.

    • My productivity approach is a thousand little hacks. I’m always looking for ways to get things done with less effort or less thinking required.

      This is probably the absolutely best description of my productivity practices :) also, my role model is the protagonist of the Robert Heinlein's story-within-a-story

      With time, I found that the most important thing about my productivity is awareness. Because for me, there is no fixed meaning of what productivity is, and to find the current working definition takes discipline and certain internal work. In rough strokes, one day I might be super efficient if I completed and closed 15 Jira tickets at work, done several chores at home, played with the kids, greased my motorcycle chain, reconciled family budget and refactored my HomeAssistant config ; and another day I would be super efficient if I slept in, read a book for 3 hours, cooked and ate some comfort food and then spent the evening on the couch with my spouse watching Ugly Delicious with a pint of crisp cider or maybe a glass of sherry. Or maybe just spend the day grinding my Warframe's equipment or saving people stranded without fuel in Elite Dangerous, all on PS4 :)

      I have dabbled in many productivity systems but I mostly end up adopting just some bits and pieces that stick, almost never a complete system. Little routines help. A little bit of a kind of tongue-in-cheek hylozoism has also helped me immensely over the years. For that matter, I re-watch this brilliant, brilliant short movie by Gus Van Sant, based on William Burroughs short story, at least once a month, just as a reminder:

      The above works for me, because, in my life, and without any biblical or religious influence, I have became quite convinced that the biggest human power is to leverage belief into action. Our brain allows us to take a belief and then rearrange itself, and the things it controls, biologically, biomechanically and otherwise, in the best possible way to achieve whatever it is you genuinely believe in. Including whichever your current understanding of productivity is.

    • To not just wax philosophically, let me try and list some of the things that I find helpful in reducing entropy around me.

      Paper-based Bullet Journal method has become quite useful and sticks around, as long as I have the stamina to maintain it, and is always pleasant to return to even after a break.

      I am a heavy user of Google calendar, for personal, work and family organisation. Especially family, - I understand we have nothing on @amacbean16 , - but with 2.5 and 10 y.o kids running around and all the other stuff going on we usually just forget everything unless it is calendared.

      I used to have multiple IFTTT integrations but those have kind of dissipated over the years save for one - I still use Foursquare/Swarm as a kind of captain's log - when I check in somewhere (I don't do bank branches or spam every bus stop - just restaurants, landmarks and such), it gets logged in my Google calendar as well, so it is very easy to see at which interesting place or nice eatery I was on some particular day.

      I am a heavy user of timers, alarms and reminders on all platforms - Slack, Amazon Echo and occasionally Google Assistant

      As you already know from the other thread, for primary note-taking and organisations I am between Notion and Roam, but I have been a regular user of Evernote, Google Keep and occasionally Notes on the Mac (mostly as a giant scratch pad though)

      I also run a pretty extensive home network but its probably not exactly about productivity.

    • Thank you for the invitation! I’ve been focusing on improving my productivity for the last 7-8 years, here’s a quick summary of my toolset

      1) General archive of stuff to-do: Jira. Jira is a project management tool that we use internally at my company but i’m killing two birds with one stone and use it also for tracking personal projects. Alternatives: Trello, Todoist

      2) Daily workflow: Jira’s Board feature can give you a kanban-style view for backlog, in progress and done items

      3) Planning: Confluence. This is a tool from the same company as Jira for documenting pretty much anything. I mainly use it to keep a weekly set of goals in a Bullet Journal (https://bulletjournal.com/ 1) style. Basically this acts as a higher level of organisation for the task list, with planning for the next 2-3 weeks. Alternatives: any kind of editor (even Word :)), paper (some people get addicted on that though)

      4) Progress tracking: Beeminder https://www.beeminder.com/ In short, Beeminder allows you to setup goals, track progress and financially commit yourself towards those goals. My Beeminder goals are the things a) I want to be doing in life (personal and work) b) have determined to be important to be doing (work but not so much fun). Alternatives: nothing really :)

      5) Time tracking: RescueTime https://www.rescuetime.com This serves three main needs: a) blocking sites when trying to focus, b) tracking time spent on specific projects (and these are fed to Beeminder), e.g. tracking effort, and viewing this in real time (you can set goals on time spent per day and view these as small browser popup windows), c) tracking mobile use (in a beemindable way). Alternatives: there are a few other solutions for either a or b or c, but not all together at the same time i think.

      6) Pomodoros: PomoDone https://pomodoneapp.com It’s a pomodoro timer with plenty of integrations. I can start a session related to a Jira task and this triggers a status update/away mode on Slack, starts a FocusTime session on RescueTime and adds a time log entry on Jira as well on the end.

      7) Integrations: Zapier and IFTTT link stuff together to reduce manual entry to a minimum.

      How this all ties together: Beeminder is basically my “high altitude” overview, weekly/month planning is done on Confluence, backlog and daily mode is on Jira. These are aided by RescueTime and PomoDone to fight my procrastination tendencies.

      Hope this helps!

    • Thanks for invitation, it's a very interesting topic.
      I work in the quality department of a big company, in a large open space. You understand how difficult it is to stay focused with other people who talk, sometimes screaming! I had to do something!! So I worked on my brain and taught him to close "the doors of curiosity" to everything around me. It works so well that sometimes my colleagues talk to me but I don't answer because I don't listen (sometimes they scream my name to get my attention 📣😄😄).
      My work is sometimes boring so sometimes I have to stimulate my brain to get the maximum, which is why I set goals to achieve, so for me it becomes a challenge and since I adore challenges, "you're done"!
      This also applies to my passion for bricolage, every time it is a challenge with myself, I have to succeed, I have to reach my goal, but at home the distractions are other, so I turn off the phone, turn off the TV and put the wireless headphones, listening to my favorite music at full volume and every now and then to stretch my legs I get up and start dancing 😁 keep in mind that all this happens at night, during the day I don't have time for this activity.
      At work I help myself with the various Outlook settings so I can remember all the appointments and meetings but if I have a long list of activities to close I prefer pen and paper. The alarm on my mobile has saved me many times, I would not give up on this, with all the commitments I have, I would not be able to remember everything

    • I thought you were pulling my leg when you said you watched this old black and white short film every month. It almost seems ludicrous in its simplicity, but I think a lot of us are guilty of moving too fast when we should be taking the time to think slowly and to be more present in the moment. One of my hacks is to add an interesting web page to my iPhone’s home screen; it then launches like an app. I’ve done so with this video: the icon is now next to the Cake app, which will remind me to rewatch the video periodically.

      ++++++++

      So many great ideas shared by everyone, btw. I think it will take several days to digest @MarkG ’s systems but I do expect to have a few questions since there’s a lot of complexity to it.

      @margot you are my hero and I am envious of your ability to tune out everyone else in an open plan office. A conversation in the office across from mine is enough to have me scrambling to turn up the volume on my headphones.

      And @kwthom , I may not be retired but I would be in the doghouse significantly less often with my spouse if I remembered to write appointments on the calendar AND to check the calendar more frequently.

      @amacbean16 you are a beast of productivity. We are all in awe.

    • In Taiwan, a Friday night class could do wonders for clearing your mind.

      Aah, but Friday nights are spend with my family. I don't get much of a chance to see my wife and children much during the week.

      Those meditations look good. I’ll take a look at them.

    • Paper-based Bullet Journal method has become quite useful and sticks around, as long as I have the stamina to maintain it, and is always pleasant to return to even after a break.

      @MarkG I have tried on two different occasions to keep a Bullet Journal but the first time I tried it I couldn't stick with it. I did a good job with sticking with it the second time, but I found the upkeep of it was taking away too much time. I was putting more time and effort into maintaining it than I was gaining from increasing productivity in return.

      It's maybe not the same thing but in terms of keeping track of things and making sure something important doesn't slip my mind, I've taken to carrying a Field Notes Memo Book (https://fieldnotesbrand.com/products/autumn-trilogy) with me everywhere and just writing everything down. I find it's much easier to get things on paper than it is putting it into my phone. Later, when I have time, I can then take what I wrote down and file it away somewhere else. When I do, I use a red pen to leave a big check mark over top of it so I know I filed it away somewhere. As I keep everything in my memo book by date, I don't have to worry about losing anything: If I don't get around to filing things away today or tomorrow or even the next day, I don't have to worry about it because I know it's not going anywhere.

    • @MarkG I have tried on two different occasions to keep a Bullet Journal but the first time I tried it I couldn't stick with it. I did a good job with sticking with it the second time, but I found the upkeep of it was taking away too much time. I was putting more time and effort into maintaining it than I was gaining from increasing productivity in return.

      In general, any productivity system that works for you is the best one.

      As mentioned, bullet journal is on a weekly/monthly basis, usually consisting of about 20 items per week and around 10 items per month. It takes about 20 minutes to setup the next week and about 5 minutes at the end of the day to update it / re-arrange stuff.

      The best part of the bullet journal process for me is marking which planned items have not been done and need to be transferred to the next week. Eventually you can see some patterns on stuff you procrastinate on or just don't consider as important as initially thought (so it might be a good idea to drop it).

    • One of my biggest productivity hacks of late has been adding apps to my phone so that I can bookmark content to read later: New York Times, Medium, Twitter, etc. I actually read a lot more of my bookmarked content than if I bookmark to Safari or Chrome; I rarely if ever review my bookmarks on those browsers.

      For Cake, I’ve been using @mbravo ’s suggestion of roam to save comments that I want to mull over before responding. I can also add notes to each bookmark such as key points, quotes and links to articles. It’s helped me to avoid forgetting a great comment that, after reading, I didn’t have time to respond to.