Category Archives: Productivity Experts

To-Do: Find a Better To-Do List

Whether you write it out with pen and paper, or use an app, you probably use some kind of to-do list to keep on top of your work. After all, the to-do list is one of the best-known and most frequently used productivity tools – but does it actually make us more productive? Sure…if we’re smart about creating and using our to-do lists. But it’s a big ‘if’:  all too often our to-do lists are over-long, over-ambitious, poorly prioritized, and guilt-inducing. If you’re starting to feel like your to-do list is controlling you, rather than the other way around, here are some alternative to-do lists that might change the way you plan and prioritize your time:

The If/Then List

Here’s something we’re all guilty of: writing unrealistic to-do lists that start with a 5am workout session and have us filing taxes, drafting crime thrillers, and getting down to inbox zero all before the end of the day. Sometimes it’s possible to tick off all the items on lists like this, but other times life gets in the way, and our carefully constructed to-do lists fall apart. Enter the If/Then List:

  • If the meeting goes long, then I’ll draft one report chapter instead of two.
  • If I get in early, then I’ll take 10 minutes to organise my desk.
  • If a client cancels, I’ll use the time to follow up on invoices.

This list ensures you’ll have an achievable task on your agenda no matter how badly, or how well, the rest of your day is going

Tip: Brainstorm a wide range of ‘if’ scenarios when you make your list. That way you’ll have more bases covered!

The 1-3-5 List

1-3-5 – three small numbers that could make a big difference to your workday. Working with the 1-3-5 list, each day you should identify and plan to accomplish 1 big thing – say, preparing a presentation, 3 medium things, like working out the agenda for an upcoming meeting, and 5 small things which can be as easy as sending off an email. By narrowing your day down to 9 tasks, the 1-3-5 list forces you to identify essential tasks and focus your time on them. Working with lengthy to-do lists means you’re more likely to switch between tasks without ever finishing them. With this whittled-down list you’re far more likely to cross off each item.

Tip: If you work in a dynamic environment where tasks often arise unexpectedly, factor that into your 1-3-5 list and leave a few items blank each day.

The Have-Done List

There are two key differences between the to-do list and the have-done list. Typically, you’ll write your to-do list at the start of your day, whereas you should aim to write your have-done list at the day’s end. And, while the to-do list consists of tasks yet to be finished, the have-done list notes down the tasks you completed and shows what you’ve accomplished. Doesn’t that sound nicer than looking down a list of mounting chores yet to be done? But it’s not just a feel-good exercise. A have-done list can not only reflect what you have achieved – it’s an excellent tool for evaluating what still needs to be done. If your have-done list shows you’ve completed a big project, for example, then it’s time for the next step – passing it on to a client for feedback, for example.

TIP: Revisit your have done lists at the start of the next day. You can take stock of what you’ve achieved and plan accordingly.

By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.

Doodle for Teachers and Students

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Doodle is the premier scheduling tool for educators and students.

We get feedback all the time from teachers and professors about how much they love Doodle and how useful it is for them. Here are a few of our favorite tips!

One-to-ones

Lots of teachers and professors use Doodle to schedule one-to-one meetings with their students. It’s simple. Create a poll with all the available 15-30 minute time slots and send it out to your students. You can set a limit on the poll that each option can only be chosen once, so you avoid double bookings. The poll can also be hidden to keep everyone’s names and choices anonymous. Create a Doodle poll and let those one-to-one meetings schedule themselves. If you have recurring meetings, you can just duplicate the poll and reuse the same email addresses. What a time saver!

Classroom voting

If you need to take a classwide poll to find the best day to go on a field trip, for example, you can send out a poll with all the options and let the students decide. If you use the hidden poll feature, you can remove any bias. Date polls are a great way to make decisions collectively.

Teamwork

If everyone needs to get together for group projects, free text polls are the best way to go. Create options like Group 1, 2, etc. and let everyone choose their own. Don’t forget to set limits, so the groups don’t end up too big! You can also print the list, or export it as an excel file, and have all the information down on paper.

These are just a few examples of how Doodle is employed in the classroom. We hope they’ve given you a little inspiration for creative scheduling and polling for the classroom.

Manage Your Workspace Manage Your Life

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

The Great Debate

People with tidy workspaces are more persistent than their messy peers according to a study by the Harvard Business Review. It may seem that a cluttered desk might make you appear as if you’re working harder, but you could be undermining your own ability to stick to a task. Two groups of students were placed in two different offices, one clean and orderly and the other cluttered and chaotic. The students in the clean office stuck to the directed task for on average 1.5 times longer than the other group. So perhaps your colleague with the empty desk is on to something. When you limit your distractions, you end up getting work done.

But what about the opposite? Does clutter spark creativity? As it turns out, individuals placed in a messy room generated more ideas than those in a tidy room according to a recent study by the Association for Psychological Science. The ideas generated were also deemed more interesting according to neutral judges. Scientist Kathleen Vohs also found that disorderly environments encourage freedom from tradition, which can lead to fresh insights.

Clutter Styles

So which is true? Perhaps both approaches are true simultaneously, lending credence to the concept of ‘clutter styles.’ Whatever the case may be, a tidy desk or a cluttered one, it’s important to understand in which environment you work best, and then take steps to develop a system around it. By recognizing your clutter style, you can identify what you need to do to optimize your productivity. If your piles of papers and books keep you comfortable, then make a space for them. If you need a tidy environment to keep those ideas flowing it’s best to keep those papers and books on the shelf where they belong.

Something to Agree On – Phones Away

As it turns out the presence of your smartphone may occupy some of your limited-capacity cognitive resources which leaves less room for other cognitive processing. If your phone is on the table you could be paying attention to it even when it’s not ringing, and this is preventing you from focusing on the task at hand. The research by Adrian Ward et al. transcends the tidy versus messy debate; putting your phone away is something everyone can do to better stick to the task at hand.

Whether your productivity is enhanced by a bit of chaos in your environment or you’d rather keep a neat desk to stay focused, it’s best to understand how your workspace contributes to your overall productivity. Furthermore, keeping that phone out of sight is a surefire way to gain a little more focus.   

 

How Slack Made Doodle More Productive

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Slack is the premier communication tool for us at Doodle. It’s hard to imagine what work was like before it. Now our workspace is more than just our offices in Zurich, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Belgrade. All of us are connected on another plane, where work, communication and progress, are streamlined. We love Slack for all kinds of reasons, but here are the top 5.

And for all you Doodle fans out there that aren’t already on board with Slack, you can check out a special offer and get started today.

Channels

Slack channels are fundamental to our work. We use channels for everything. A general one with everyone included. Channels for our different teams; backend, design, apps, and so on. We have channels going for relevant tech news and even the weird stuff we stumble across on the web.

But what makes Slack so vital to our productivity as a company is that we create channels whenever a new topic arises. New project or idea? Start a conversation and add the relevant teammates. Inside of 5 minutes, we’ll have more ideas outlined and overall progress than if we’d scheduled a kick-off meeting and had to wait for a conference room.

Remote work

With the Doodle wheels turning in four different offices, we’re no strangers to remote work and conference calls. We use Slack to communicate in threads rather than emailing back and forth all the time, and we also use it for video instead of Skype or Hangouts.

You can use it for one-to-one meetings, or you can invite others to join. Our favorite part is the nifty sketch feature you can use when you share your screen. The sketch feature facilitates a little more back and forth between teammates when you’re presenting or communicating an idea. It’s funny how often you wish you could draw what you mean instead of describing it. Problem solved. 

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Apps

Slack offers hundreds of app integrations. When you can integrate all of the other tools you use on a daily basis with Slack, it becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. 2+2=5 right?

Google Drive – It’s so easy to manage all Google Drive needs from Slack. There’s no need to toggle back to email to approve access requests or find some lost comment notification. I’ll get every update on the documents I’m working right on my desktop.

Desk.com – When a user contacts us with feedback on a new feature, the message is automatically sent to our support channel in Slack. Our product team can have a look at it and discuss the next steps for implementation. There’s never any shortage of great ideas, and this Slack app helps to keep them coming.

Meekan

Our favorite app for Slack gets its own section. Meekan.

Meekan is the world’s smartest AI scheduling assistant. Meekan can connect everyone’s calendars, and propose the best times to meet, all through chat on Slack. Meekan learns your habits and the times you typically meet with certain people and bases its suggestions on that. No more early meetings or anything after 6. And it’s not just you either, Meekan will do its best to make your whole team happy, having already learned everyone’s schedules.

But Meekan can do more than just set meetings. It is your assistant after all. Ask Meekan to edit, reschedule, rename, or move meetings around too. If you’re late to the office, pull up Slack and ask Meekan to push your first meeting back 15 minutes. It’ll send out a notification letting everyone know. You can ask Meekan how many meetings you have tomorrow or next week, and it’ll give you a breakdown of your schedule.

We Doodlers are flying between our offices all the time. To help us out, Meekan can also check the world’s flight database and find the earliest arriving, shortest, and cheapest flights anywhere.  

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Mobile

All of these great features are available on the go with the Slack apps for Android and iOS. The Slack app is a great way to catch up on what I missed yesterday or to get a start on my workday while I’m on my commute. If you need to alert team members, you can tap the @ to bring up a list of teammates and groups. They’ll get a notification that they need to check out a thread or take a look at a document. With the app, it’s just as easy to swipe and set your status to away if you’re not taking your work home with you.

Slack enables us as a company to share our ideas, our creativity and our progress. It also helps us to send cat videos and weird gifs to each other the second we see them.

Here’s a selection from our random Slack channel.  

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Not using Slack? Get started with $100 off by using a special discount from our team at https://try.slack.com/doodle.

One Problem Everyone Has and How to Cope

Heart-pounding, knee-knocking stress. Your palms sweat and your head gets light.

It’s the fight-or-flight response that kept our ancestors alive when they were out hunting to make sure that they weren’t the ones being eaten. Nowadays, we don’t have to worry about being chomped in two by a T-Rex, but we do have bills, family matters, or upcoming deadlines.

Job stress is the primary source of stress in adults. And it’s been increasing in recent years. It’s not that surprising considering the sheer number of projects (30-100) the average business person has at one time or the fact that you’re interrupted up to 7 times an hour on average.

If you’re one of the 40% of workers reporting that your job is very stressful, you could be experiencing:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep trouble
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • And the list goes on and on

We’re all staring down a heaping pile of TPS reports. Everyone feels stress, but it’s what you do with it that matters. You could cope using methods that have a negative effect on your life like binge-eating fast-food or overindulging in alcohol. Or you could adopt some ways to manage that stress.

Identify what’s causing it

If you identify stressors in your life, you can better assess what is important and what needs attention, and what doesn’t. Put everything you can control into one box and everything you can’t control into another. Shawn Achor refers to this as the Island Experiment in his book The Happiness Advantage. He suggests that you take effective action on the items in the first box and throw out everything in the other. Seems liberating doesn’t it?

Get together

We all need some help sometimes. Find someone in your life to chat with about what’s stressing you. You can talk to a colleague about a problem they can help with. Or maybe you can vent to a friend about an annoying colleague. I find that the sheer act of talking about your problems helps to reframe them in a way that makes them seem more manageable.

Stay positive

Stress is influenced as much by what’s happening inside as by what’s happening outside. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for and reminding yourself of it throughout the day is one way to stay positive, even when things aren’t going so well. You can also reduce the negativity around you by keeping better company. Negative people and their negative thoughts are only going to exacerbate the stress you’re already feeling. You can put them in the ‘forget about it’ box I referred to earlier.

Everyone feels stress, but that doesn’t mean that it has to control our lives. Identifying what’s causing it, relying on your friends, and staying positive are all great ways to keep stress from taking over.

One Trick to Improve Your Quality of Life

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Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash

*Yawn*

*Sips coffee*

Sleep is serious business. Your sleep patterns (or lack thereof) can have a dramatic effect on your life and your work. The nature of work is changing, and technology is intruding more and more upon our body’s natural circadian rhythm, so it’s more important now more than ever to reclaim this most precious resource.  

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7 hours of sleep per night needed to promote optimal health in adults. There are numerous other factors (such as genetics) that can influence exactly how much sleep you need, but 7 hours per night is optimal. A lack of sleep is associated with all kinds of negative health effects.   

More than the overall health trouble a lack of sleep can cause, it can have a significant impact on your performance at work, resulting in a lack of focus and more errors on the job. It can even impact your performance as much as alcohol according to this research from the Harvard Business Review. Too little sleep can be dangerous, and that’s pretty scary stuff.

A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that regular sleep patterns resulted in higher academic performance in university students compared to their peers with irregular sleeping patterns. The difference in performance was not affected by the total duration of sleep. Even if these two groups of students ended up sleeping the same amount, those with a sleep routine tended to have better grades. So when you get your 7 hours, make sure they’re part of a routine. Catching up on sleep doesn’t factor in.

Your sleep habits affect your quality of life, your work, and your overall productivity. So what can you do about it?

  1. Try your best to stick to a regular schedule. Go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. When you get into a proper rhythm, you’ll feel more awake and focused. Even enjoying the luxury of sleeping late on the weekend can throw off your routine.  
  2. Set an alarm if need be. Schedule your sleep. We’re big on scheduling here at Doodle, so trust us with this. Plan a little reminder to get you to hit the sack at a decent hour.
  3. Exercise. The three pillars of a healthy life are sleep, diet, and exercise. They’re all interrelated. A proper workout will not only improve your overall health, but it will also leave your body ready to recuperate, as exercise helps reduce stress and improves sleep quality.  

 

How to Avoid Productivity Pitfalls

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Photo by Fleur Treurniet on Unsplash

Buzz buzz. Buzz buzz.

You better check that that, it could be important. It’s okay; I’ll wait.

So where were we then?

I was about to say that it’s easy to lose focus on important work with the world demanding our attention. However, all is not lost! Even in a world with constant distraction, there are steps you can take to get back your focus and sharpen up your mind.

Limit distractions

Email notifications, Slack pings, and constant digital chatter is making us multi-taskers less effective according to Stanford research. If you turn off or tune out most of the distraction and focus on one task at a time, you’ll no doubt be more productive with the work at hand.  Make doing one thing at a time a habit, and let it seep into the rest of your life.

Email wrangling

Refrain from repeatedly checking your email. It can bring you out to of that creative flow (I referred to yesterday). Set a time for email checking, perhaps during a mid-morning slump or at the end of your day. You could be working intently on a project, get a notification and respond to an email, and then spend 10 minutes trying to find the place in your work and get yourself back up to speed. It’s best to choose a time to check email when you’re not already performing at your best. This leads me to my next point.

Know thyself

A little self-examination would do us all a bit of good, wouldn’t it? Go ahead and ask yourself two questions. When are you most productive? When are you most distracted? Use this information to sort out your day. If you’re most productive in the morning, then use that time to get your most pressing/important work done. Use the time when you’re most distracted, in that after lunch coma perhaps, to do mundane tasks. Combine with #2.

Journal away distraction

Blank paper, endless possibilities. Author and venture-capitalist Tim Ferriss, often discusses his habits, productivity and otherwise, on his well-regarded podcast.  He points out that the practice of journaling is also a great way to ‘cage the monkey mind’ and get those persistent nagging thoughts out of your mind and onto paper, where they’re locked down and do no more harm. It’s important to recognize that distraction also creeps up from within. Journaling is also one of the best ways to get your head together about important projects and make sure your time is used effectively.

Do yourself a favor and adopt at least one of these suggestions to help avoid those typical productivity pitfalls. You can do it right now.

Again, I’ll wait.