Today I would like to share my very own productivity routine. I’ve refined it by reading about other people’s working habits and I’m overdue in sharing my own. Here we go!
How to plan your day with productivity in mind
The first thing I do when I enter my home office is plan my day. I change the position of my sitting-standing desk so I can work while standing up, and I devote around 15 to 20 minutes to reviewing any urgent emails, looking through my current to-do list, reviewing the tasks I completed the day before, and capturing any follow-ups that stem from the previous day’s work.
My desired outcome is very clear. I want to have all the information I need to write on an A4 sheet of paper everything I want to accomplish during the day. I will draw boxes of different sizes on this sheet to signify the amount of time that each task requires.
This list contains work-related tasks, any errands that I need to run, and even dinner plans. Sometimes the tasks have not been defined yet: in this case, I simply add the need to clarify, brainstorm, or model this new project.
Every time a task is completed during the day, I take a marker and color the whole box. It gives me pleasure to look at the colored boxes at the end of the day and visualize how much I have accomplished.
I put this daily to-do list on the window to my left. That way I can easily approach the to-do list and mark tasks as I complete them during the day.
How to make the most of your whiteboard
To my right I have a large whiteboard. It’s perfect for sketching projects, analyzing ideas, understanding and interpreting one’s thoughts, or brainstorming in a group. The images and the text on my whiteboard end up in a specific notebook in Evernote. This way I can always go back and find anything I have sketched.
The whiteboard also hosts a couple of quotations that change from time to time. Right now I have a quotation from Rob Brezsny’s forecast for my 2019: “I want what’s beautiful, useful and amusing.”
How to setup your desk for maximum productivity
I have my desk at a standing position, my to-do list at a standing position, and my whiteboard at a standing position. I can walk between my productivity devices, and while I activate the body, I’m also activating my brain power.
Right next to me there are some empty A4 sheets of paper. These are for taking quick notes, sketching smaller ideas (the big ones would require the whiteboard). They also get scanned and uploaded to Evernote before they get recycled.
I enjoy using single sheets of paper because they are super easy to scan.
I strive to keep my workspace tidy. To keep it neat, I have my signature coasters, my device organizer, my pen holders.
I try to keep the rest of the space totally free, except for a few files representing the most current projects I’m working on. These are allowed to stay on the desk only for the limited time that is required for me to process them.
Eventually, they will end up in my filing system (more on this in a second).
Having a beautiful desk helps me to keep it as uncluttered as possible. I would never want to miss the view of the beautiful cedar wood because there’s too much junk on my desk.
My top Mac apps to avoid distractions and focus on work
In front of me sits the computer. In order to avoid distractions, I try not to use apps that live inside the browser. I use Kiwi to load Gmail and I’ve disabled all email notifications.
I use Firefox as my main browser. Here I open as many tabs as I need for the stuff I am researching. The two apps that keep me organized are Fantastical and Remember The Milk; I have the paid version of both and they each sit in their own full-screen window.
I often need to take a quick note, so I always have Sublime Text open. Parallel to Sublime Text, I have iA Writer. While Sublime is for quick notes (and lives in a small window), iA Writer is for capturing writing like this article and sits in another full-screen window. I love how not seeing any apps and menu eliminates the potential for distraction.
Evernote is also frequently open, as it stores all the random bits of information that don’t belong to the file system. On the other hand, all my personal documents live in Dropbox, while the collaborative ones live in Google Drive. In order to keep things neat, I only use Google Drive on Safari. Keeping browsing on Firefox and documents on Safari feels very orderly.
My Getting Things Done setup
Right next to my desk I have my GTD inbox and my super simple filing system with a very limited number of hanging folders organized in alphabetical order. Next to those you can find the stapler, scotch tape, glue, scissors, ruler, and a penholder with some more pens and pencils together with a marker, paperclips, and highlighters.
All of these very useful objects are within reach, but thanks to my standing position they don’t need to sit on my desk.
You will recognize that all of these tools belong to the list that David Allen strongly suggests having as an integral part of your work environment as you apply the Getting Things Done methodology.
The role of the standing desk in making me more productive
The centerpiece of all of this productivity is my standing desk. I got asked recently, “But how does a desk make you more productive?” The answer is: it supports my world of productivity. It does not make me productive by itself, but it’s the North Star to which I align the universe of objects and techniques I have highlighted in this article. In that sense, it’s the one thing that makes me most productive.
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