As a gamer, I’m always looking for ways to streamline my play and be more efficient with my resources. The same is true with my creative work. I’m always looking for the best way to optimize my time to create the best games in the least time while having the most fun doing it. I wanted to share some of the tools I’ve found most helpful and some simple descriptions of how to utilize each one best:
Email is my command center for everything in my work life. Boomerang supercharges that command center with several powerful tools. The plug-in ensures things don’t slip through the cracks by returning an email to your inbox whenever someone doesn’t reply after a specific time. In addition to this, there are several other unique features, including:
- In-email scheduling: Create a calendar that live-updates and links to your availability so you can schedule meetings with one button click directly from an email.
- Scheduled Return to Inbox: A feature that allows you to clear an email from your inbox but make sure it comes back when you need it (e.g., concert tickets can return to your inbox an hour before showtime.)
- Send Later: This is a feature that I use uniquely by emailing myself book notes, inspirational quotes, and habit reminders set to send at a “random interval” so I will be reminded of important lessons and values in my life.
Workflowy is a wonderful and lightweight nested list. I use it for mind-mapping, brainstorming, task tracking, and as a central reference for nearly everything important in my life. There are other similar tools, but this one I’ve used this product for years and love its speed and versatility.
- Use # and @ signs to quickly tag and link items for quick reference and organization.
- Smart time and date systems let you look for past due or upcoming events or tasks.
- Share lists with family members, friends, or colleagues
- Mirror or copy lists to be able to repeat similar tasks or templates easily
This lightweight app quickly lets you email yourself a text, photo, or audio note. Since one of the keys to creativity is capturing your ideas so you don’t lose them, Braintoss is an integral part of my daily process. Sending ideas and reminders to email ensures they get processed correctly.
Impulse distraction can bog down your day without you even realizing it. News Feed Eradicator replaces the home screen on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc., with an inspirational quote. You can still go to those sites and search for something important you need, but you won’t get sucked down rabbit holes by an algorithm trained to capture your attention from what really matters.
The more heavy-weight version of New Feed Eradicator, Freedom lets you block specific apps, websites, etc., for pre-set periods of time to ensure you won’t get distracted. (This is especially helpful if you use focus blocks—more on that next!) They even give you the “nuclear option” to block the entire internet!
Speaking of Focus Blocks, this journal is the best way I’ve found to stay focused on the tasks that matter. It gamifies the process of getting things done. At the heart of it is a simple daily task page to keep you focused on your top three goals and top three habits every day. Check them off when they’re complete, and reward yourself each week for staying on task.
As you may have noticed, most productivity tools on this list are hacks to stop the internet from distracting you. A non-digital journal is a great way to keep focus. Having a pocket-sized journal with your most important goals is a game changer for solid focus and productivity.
A more digital and detailed tool that uses similar principles to The Level Up Journal is Habitica. This app lets you earn levels and gear for your adventurer by completing tasks, quests, and habits. I loved Habitica and used it for years, but eventually, I spent too much time playing with my character and upgrades rather than just getting things done. While that may be a distraction for me, Habitica has a lot of value for someone motivated by a shiny new virtual wizard hat.
If you’re the kind of person with lots of unnecessary tabs open while you work, get One Tab. With it, you can put everything into one linkable page, which you can sort, label, export, and easily search. This one is so simple, but it changed my life.
They say what gets measured gets managed, so if you want to manage your time well, you have to measure it. Rescue Time gives you weekly reports on how you spend your time, which can be a shocking eye-opener when you first see it. I suggest you spend some time thinking about what your top priorities are in life (i.e. what you should be spending most of your time on). Then check out rescue time and see how your time spent aligns with those priorities. With your time measured, you can begin to make adjustments as needed until your time spent matches what really matters to you.
I hope you found these useful! If you have other tools you love, let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Justin_Gary
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