Productivity - How to Streamline Your Workday
How crazy is your day-to-day?
In almost three years of business, I've learned that you've got to have some tools in your toolbox to keep your day-to-day manageable. I've tried all kinds of systems, paper to-do lists, etc. and I'm always trying new ones.
Since I imagine you might be like me - seeking some kind of structure that can stick for managing your day - I am sharing two of my favorite best practices.
Here's a look at what you could put into action. All you need is Google/Gmail (which are free if you aren't currently using) and a free site I'm about to tell you about.
1. Freedcamp Project Timelines + Google Calendar: or as I like to call them, Homework for Future Annie
In "3 Ways to Find More Work/Life Balance," I sang the praises of using project timelines for all of my client work.
Not only do I use project timelines for every project, I use a free tool calledFreedcamp to host the timeline as to-do lists. Freedcamp (similar to Basecamp, but free as the same suggests) is great because I can invite clients to collaborate and check off tasks for progress. The biggest thing I love about is that you can sync all of the milestones with Google Calendar.
I use Gmail and Google Calendar for my business email. By syncing all of my projects on Freedcamp with my Google Calendar, I can see everything coming and even set up email notifications to remind me that specific client work is due.
This is huge for me. Having a calendar notification for every sub-task across every project I'm working on is incredible. Doing this basically tells me exactly what my "homework" is every day to accomplish and stay on track. It helps me make sure I never miss a beat. And all it takes is setting it up at the very beginning of the project.
You can even make an excel sheet of all your tasks + their dates and then upload it one fell swoop! For a project of 30+ tasks, I'm up and running in just a few minutes. When I invite a client to join, if they have gmail, they can sync the dates on their calendar too just by hitting a button!
You don't have to have clients (or even a business) to use Freedcamp and your calendar this way and to keep a meaningful project moving forward. For example, my in-laws are using it currently to manage a home renovation project. I'm thinking of using it for a few personal projects with my husband, too.
You can check out and get Freedcamp here.
2. Having a System for "Inbox Zero"
I've been the worst about emailing myself ideas, notes, and to-do's as individual emails. I find it's the easiest way to get an idea down. These email notes used to sit in my inbox and just stare me down constantly - keeping me from ever hitting that elusive "inbox zero."
One day, I'd had enough and devised a system that's actually worked and gotten me to inbox zero most days of the week!
What I did was this: I re-organize my Gmail to display my inbox in a specific way, including displaying specific labels (folders marked with a label) on the main page.
- I created two labels that I would use for specific purposes: "A Reply" / "Make Happen."
- I label emails with "A Reply" if they are from someone I need to reply to
- I label emails with "Make Happen" if it's an idea or something I need to take action on
- I send all other emails to Trello (a visual card desktop/mobile app for capturing ideas; I'll share more on Trello in a later story!)
Once I created these labels in Gmail, all I had to do was organize my inbox so it would display them all for me on the main page. Here's a screen capture of how that looks in Gmail, under Settings.
With this set-up, I see everything come in the inbox. All I have to do to make sure I reply to something is label it "A Reply." I'll still see it on the main page, but it's not technically in my inbox.
This has allowed me to stay organized, focus on the day-to-day work, and still make sure I can power through and reply to important emails.
Learn how to set up labels in Gmail here.
So what's helps your day-to-day?
These are a couple of the things that keep me sane.
I'd love to know if you have any best practices or things you've figured out in the daily struggle of it all.
Let me know what you swear by and we'll make it through together!