I’m a visual learner. While I can stumble my way through learning something new on my own, I learn best by watching others work and figuring out why they do things the way they do. In that spirit, we at ChurchMag thought it would be a good idea to let you peer into the work habits of some of our writers with the hope that you’ll pick up some new ways to get things done.
I’m a Production Designer for the student ministry at my church. Things are always busy, and as one of my rather brilliant coworkers likes to say, “I find that Sundays come around with an alarming regularity.” My time is a limited resource, so I’ve learned that I have to budget it accurately and appropriately to have any hope of accomplishing tasks. As a result of this realization, I’ve developed a few key tenets about the way I get things done.
- Know your context. There are plenty of tasks that require me to be at a specific location in order to take action. If I’m not in that location, it’s a waste to think about those tasks. Focus on what you can do when and where you can do it.
- Use what works. Efficiency is key. I don’t care what avenue I use to get work done as long as it’s fast & effective. This is why I am on a nearly 3 year old OS and still sometimes use a freeware video compressor.
- No distractions. When I watched this TED Talk from Jason Fried a few years ago on Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work, it totally shaped the way I work. I do everything I can to eliminate distractions from my life because interruptions completely disrupt my workflow. The rule is hard and fast: No clutter; physical or digital. The only notifications I receive are for things I deem necessary: Phone calls and text messages. No notifications for games, social media, or even emails. I’ve found that e-mails rarely require immediate attention, and all the other distractions in my life are still there when I’m ready to deal with them.
Working within this model, I’ve found a few tools that help me to really focus and stay organized when it’s time to work.
Living on the Keyboard with Alfred
As crazy as it might sound, using a mouse to navigate a computer is incredibly inefficient. Using the productivity app Alfred, I can go anywhere and find anything on my Mac in less than 5 seconds, no matter how deeply a file may be hidden. I can also launch applications, quickly access Google & Amazon, and even execute system commands like locking my screen or emptying the trash. For a more complete rundown of everything that can be done with Alfred, check out this article on LifeHacker.
Taming Email with Mailbox
As web cartoonist The Oatmeal once stated: “My email is a monster.” Email is the task that always needs doing but can never be officially “done.” As such, I’ve found that the most efficient way to deal with email is to treat it as just that: a to-do list. Using Mailbox, I sort & archive all emails that require no further action on my part. This way, the only emails in my inbox are items that still require my attention. Where Mailbox really shines in helping get things done is the “snooze” feature: Any e-mails that can’t be dealt with right now can be “snoozed,” and disappear from my inbox until the time & date I specify. This really helps keep unnecessary clutter out of the way and helps me focus on what I can do right now.
Managing Tasks with Wunderlist
There’s no way I would remember everything I need to do without having it written down. Wunderlist is my app of choice for keeping my to-do list straight, particularly because of its ability to keep my tasks synced cross-platform. I have separate lists based on locations (or “contexts” in the Getting Things Done methodology) so that I can keep track of what tasks are actionable based on where I am.
Working Anywhere with Dropbox & TeamViewer
I have three different work machines, which can make it a hassle to keep up with files. To deal with the issue of file management, I keep all of my current projects in Dropbox so that I’m able to work on any project on any computer. Occasionally I need an older file that I don’t currently have in Dropbox, so I have TeamViewer installed on all of my machines to make sure I can always log in remotely and retrieve a file at a moment’s notice.
Everything Else with Evernote
I have to confess: I hate pen & paper. I can’t stand losing a hard copy of something, so I digitize everything in Evernote: Project notes, blog posts, recipes, manuals, potential ideas, even my browsing bookmarks. Like Wunderlist, Evernote is available on a number of platforms, so it makes it a breeze to keep all of my notes in sync across all my devices.
One of my productivity heroes, the late Monty Oum, said,
“The only thing that stops us from doing really cool things is time.”
Productivity is king in my work philosophy because I know that my time is limited. The goal is to create as much as I can as quickly as possible while doing it excellence, so I’m always open to tools that will help me create a more efficient workflow. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s important to find a healthy balance between work and play, but when it’s time to work, I’m ready to get things done.