My high productiveness instruments and methods for managing my each day workflow (2022 version) | ZDNet

This text was initially printed in October 2014. It has been up to date yearly or so since then to mirror new instruments and workflows.

Keep in mind the previous productiveness and workplace suites all of us used to make use of? I don’t learn about you, however my mixture of productiveness instruments has actually modified through the years. What I exploit right this moment is vastly completely different from my each day productiveness “suite” of years previous.

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Earlier than I take you thru each the instruments and my “course of,” let me level out that these things is completely different for everybody. My work as of late consists way more of teaching and speaking, and much much less time spent residing in spreadsheets than again within the days after I ran startups.

Immediately, I coordinate with groups, slightly than handle them. I’ve college students slightly than staff. I analysis initiatives slightly than launch merchandise. My each day productiveness stream displays the modifications in profession as I’ve advanced from founder to advisor, supervisor to professor, and writer to columnist.

I exploit an incredible variety of instruments for my initiatives, they usually typically change from undertaking to undertaking. However what I’m going to debate listed below are the instruments I exploit each day to handle my “stream”.

What do I imply by my stream?

I divide my work day into two important chunks of time: Communications and data gathering time, and undertaking time. Daily has just about the identical communications and data gathering actions, which follows a comparatively constant sample that has confirmed to be extremely productive for me. These are the each day productiveness actions I’ve been speaking about.

In my case, morning to mid-afternoon is that each day productiveness time. That’s after I join with and follow-up with all my constituents, college students, editors, producers, and so on., after I do my each day studying to maintain up with each information and new know-how, and after I handle my schedule, schedule my duties, make calls, and write and reply to electronic mail.

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That complete course of is my stream. Over my many different iterations, I’ve managed to optimize this course of so I’m in a position to get an incredible quantity executed in a comparatively brief period of time.

The opposite half of my day is undertaking time. That is after I work on every thing from educational papers to the shows, white papers, and webcasts I do for ZDNet to creating code to a lot of the initiatives I write about for DIY-IT. I are likely to work on initiatives within the late afternoon and the late night, with a break within the early night for household time and lunch or dinner.

Modifications because of the pandemic

The final time I up to date this information was in early 2019. Clearly, just a few issues have occurred since then. By way of my each day productiveness, I’m going out quite a bit lower than I used to. Again then, I used to be typically operating from place to put and needed to construct up an on a regular basis carry (EDC) that would permit me to dive into any undertaking or work with any crew regardless of the place I used to be. I had EDC kits for a espresso store programming run and EDC kits for week lengthy convention work. I even constructed an EDC for emergency evacuation of an indeterminate time.

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Now, principally I’m dwelling. If I’m out, it’s a devoted out-and-back with a particular goal. There isn’t a meandering, shopping, or schmoozing. Sure, I do know different individuals could really feel comfy going again to the pre-pandemic regular, however I’ve causes for enjoying it a bit extra secure than most may.

In any case, what meaning is that as an alternative of my escalating rating of telephones, tablets, Chromebooks and laptops, I simply carry my iPhone 12 Professional Max. It’s going to maintain me up to the mark till I get again dwelling and may decide up the place I left off.

Instruments for my each day stream

Now that you simply perceive how my working atmosphere has modified and the way I construction my work day, let’s talk about the instruments I exploit in my each day stream. All of it begins with Gmail…

First morning Gmail

It’s been fairly some time since
I made the change from Outlook to Gmail

, and I’ve to inform you, my productiveness has improved tremendously, and after greater than half a decade of use, I don’t remorse the transfer one bit. Having the very same electronic mail interface on all my machines, with tight integration into my iPhone, iPad, and computer systems, has made all of the distinction.

I not have 1000’s of unruly objects filling my inbox. In truth, that’s a giant a part of what this each day productiveness course of is all about.

Additionally: Assist! I’ve 100,000 unread messages in my Gmail inbox. How do I get to Inbox Zero?

My day begins with my alarm going off. From underneath the covers, I normally attain over to my cellphone, painfully crack one eye open, faucet the Gmail app, and scan to see if there’s something on fireplace. 

Really, scratch that. I not take my iPhone to mattress with me. As an alternative, I put on my Apple Watch. Once I get up, I can nonetheless look at my notifications, however by leaving the tiny computer systems outdoors of the bed room, I’m not tempted to examine on work, learn my mail, or play Wordle after I must be sleeping.

The boy

The best way I’ve Gmail arrange, solely an important messages present up on my watch. Identical with Slack notifications. Principally, except there’s one thing pressing from considered one of my editors, I can begin my day in peace. If there’s nothing pressing, I hit the snooze button. After repeating this ritual two or thrice, I rise up, do my morning necessaries, and zombie-walk to the espresso maker.

As soon as I’ve espresso in hand, I navigate
the pet’s

tower protection technique for the morning, making an attempt to not get my toes bit, spill my espresso, or step on considered one of his well-chewed stuffed animal buddies. Finally, I attain the sofa, flip on my couch-side monitor, and as soon as once more examine my electronic mail.

At this level, I are likely to be aware of what’s in my inbox, however I neither course of it, nor reply to it. I need to let the espresso take maintain.

I additionally take a fast take a look at my calendar and my to-do checklist to ensure I do know what’s on deck for the day.

Each day must-reads with Pocket

Subsequent up, I hit my each day most-reads. In fact, this begins with ZDNet, then normally Drudge and Techmeme. I do a fast headline scan and something that appears price studying, I right-click and save to Pocket.


A few of my reads for later right this moment.

Earlier than I used Pocket, I used to open all of the fascinating headlines as new tabs. My browser was typically overwhelmed with browser tabs, typically to the purpose of crashing. If I switched computer systems, I needed to strive to determine what tabs I had open, and in any other case by some means coordinate 10-50 open tabs. It was a large number.

Now, I simply save every thing into Pocket, for later evaluate. I really do that in two phases. I exploit ZDNet, Drudge, and Techmeme as a fast option to discover out what the large information of the day is. Later within the morning, I’ll open up Feedly, and deal with as many websites as I really feel I’ve time for, from my massive checklist of feeds. Or, I’d dig right into a story that’s fascinating and trending, and search for extra content material, which I’ll additionally save into Pocket.

The great half about that is I can simply do that whereas consuming espresso. I can get a really feel for the day from the headlines, however I don’t have to have all my mind cells on-line fairly so early. Then I’m going and make my oatmeal. I now eat oatmeal for breakfast day by day. Why didn’t I do that after I was youthful. It’s so good for you.

By this level, I’m someplace between 30 and 60 minutes into my day, I’ve had one or two cups of espresso, and I’ve a reasonably stable really feel for each what’s happening in my very own varied domains in addition to what’s happening in the remainder of the world. It’s an excellent, very fast option to come up to the mark whereas waking up.

Relying on the significance and urgency of the messages in my Gmail inbox, I’ll both go straight into my morning electronic mail cycle or start my morning studying. I want to do morning studying earlier than electronic mail, so I’ll talk about that subsequent.

The Pocket-read-post-archive cycle

I learn. Rather a lot. I have to maintain updated on an incredible quantity of data, each breaking information associated and deep technical or educational info. Because of this, a very good proportion of my morning is spent studying. I additionally watch a variety of YouTube movies. I’m virtually at all times studying about new stuff, and plenty of YouTube movies present nice introductions to each how these issues work and what they do. With out YouTube, I by no means would have gotten my CNC up and operating and executed my first profitable construct.

As a result of I’ve already chosen the articles from my high sources, I can open up Pocket and begin studying. I like this quite a bit, as a result of I now have all my content material in a single location.

What’s notably good about Pocket is that it runs on not solely my couch-side internet browser and on Chrome, however there are variations of Pocket for iOS and Android. Because of this, I can learn articles wherever — even within the necessarium or after I’m out and about.

A part of my morning stream is posting to the social networks. Sadly, this has modified. It was once that at any time when I discovered an article that was fascinating in my Pocket assortment, I tapped the Share icon in Pocket after which chosen Buffer. Buffer then took the article, scheduled it, and posted it to Twitter, Fb, and LinkedIn. Two clicks and I was in a position shared one thing fascinating.

However Fb broke that. Fb not permits instruments like Buffer and Hootsuite to to submit to non-public Fb pages. I’ve spent years increase my private Fb web page following and don’t need to begin a company web page (or orphan all my followers), so when Fb broke auto-posting, it harm. Now, I hand submit to Twitter after which do it once more on Fb. LinkedIn will get quite a bit much less consideration, and, frankly, I submit much less often.

One other side of my morning studying that’s modified is I not save articles to Evernote. I used to save lots of off articles that may serve me for both initiatives I’m engaged on or basic analysis assets. Whereas I exploit Evernote to write down articles, I not use Evernote as my hub of every thing. Pocket handles archived articles simply high-quality. And Notion (extra on that later) handles notes.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

I’m comparatively holistic about my morning studying course of. I do it till I’m bored or hungry, or really feel like switching gears and shifting on to managing my electronic mail and schedule.

The important thing level to all of that is that ever since I moved to this Pocket-read-post-archive cycle for my each day studying, my productiveness and suppleness has gone up tremendously. I’m getting extra executed, and the standard of the method is much extra nice. I’m not tied to my desktop browser, as a result of all of those instruments work on all my gadgets.

Connecting and scheduling

Assuming there’s nothing on fireplace that I’ve needed to deal with very first thing, sooner or later throughout the morning, I’ll change from studying to speaking. I’ll change out of Pocket and into Gmail and work my method by my electronic mail.

Gmail does an incredible job of filtering out spam, however I’ll undergo the Updates and Promotions tabs and delete or mark-as-spam something that’s not vital. That is normally a reasonably quick cleanup.

Typically, there’s one thing in my Updates part that signifies there’s an motion merchandise. For instance, if considered one of my web sites has pushed out a safety warning, relying on the severity I’ll both go proper to work fixing the issue or sending the e-mail to Todoist as a to-do merchandise.

That is the place the combination of Todoist and Gmail is so good. All I have to do is faucet the Todoist icon, and I can flip the e-mail message right into a to-do merchandise, full with a hyperlink again to the unique electronic mail message. As soon as I’ve scheduled it as a to-do merchandise (both for that day or a later date), I can then archive the message and it’s out of my inbox.

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I exploit the identical course of for the remainder of my electronic mail. If I can reply instantly to a question from somebody mailing me, I do. If not (for instance, if it should require extra analysis or it’s actually an motion merchandise disguised as an electronic mail message), I’ll ship it over to Todoist as a to-do merchandise and clear it out of my inbox.

I do the identical with calendar-related objects. For instance, I’m on the Data Programs and Administration Certificates Advisory Board on the UC Berkeley extension, and after I get an electronic mail that there’s a scheduled assembly, I can right-click on the date proper in the midst of the e-mail message and schedule it to the calendar. As soon as once more, the unique electronic mail is accessible as a hyperlink, so I can take away it from my inbox and archive it.

On this method, I can energy by my inbox, responding, assigning to to-do objects, or to calendar. Inside a really brief time, I’ve my inbox cleared.

Now, to be truthful, I’ve a slight electronic mail fetish, so I do examine again in to my inbox, a couple of times (or 20 or 30 occasions) a day. However now that my inbox is usually clear and empty, that follow doesn’t have a lot to seize onto, and it’s solely a waste of a second or two.

In truth, now that I’ve electronic mail notifications built-in into my watch, I’m discovering I’m really breaking myself of the behavior, as a result of except I hear the notification tone, I don’t have any vital emails coming in. I’ve really gone just a few hours with out checking my electronic mail inbox, which is one thing of a file for me.

Managing my each day educating alternatives

Because it seems, supporting customers is quite a bit like educating on-line college students.

Some years in the past, I adopted a bunch of WordPress plugins as a side-project that helps me maintain my coding abilities sharp. One of many (sudden) side-effects of that’s that I now have customers to help. Yep, even free plugins require some quantity of help time.

The best way I handle that is I’ve added a help ticketing system to my lab notes web site. I exploit a cloud service known as Assist Scout. Customers submit their questions and I get an electronic mail notification. All the main points for every customers’ state of affairs is stored in a single thread on the location, so after I return to the dialog days or even weeks later, I can see what beforehand transpired, multi function place.


Assist Scout additionally has nice crew options, however I’m a programming military of 1.

I simply consider these customers like extra of my college students. If any questions present up in my inbox, I’m going into the ticketing system and reply questions. I’m not assigning customers letter grades, however in any other case the method is just about the identical.

By the best way, that is additionally a good way to consider customers, which I initially was a bit sad about including to my each day workload. However the reframe is that this: I’m an educator and these are extra individuals in want of help whereas they’re studying to make use of these plugins. So, slightly than fascinated by offering consumer help as an added workload, I consider the customers as extra of my college students and their questions as merely extra educating alternatives. It’s additionally a good way to maintain up on what persons are doing on the market, and provides me a way more “on the road” dialog with customers, which is invaluable as a tech journalist.

Right here’s one other little trick I exploit: I get a variety of function requests (which I name “cool function concepts”) from the plugin customers. The go into the bug monitoring system I handle in Notion.

To-doing my to-do checklist

By this level, I’m normally a lot of the method by the morning. My electronic mail has been processed and actions have been moved to my to-do checklist and schedule objects to my calendar. I’ve executed a substantial quantity of studying, and I’m up to the mark on the assorted points I’m answerable for following. I’ve graded college students and supported customers (and added any bugs or key follow-up objects to my to-do checklist).

Now, it’s time to deal with the to-do objects. Like Pocket and Gmail, Todoist runs on my cellphone, my tablets, and on my desktop in a browser window. It even runs on my Apple Watch. So I can manage and handle my to-do objects from wherever.

The very very first thing I do is go down the checklist and transfer objects round. Some objects are not a right this moment precedence, whereas some have elevated in precedence. I’ve some repeating duties (like grading college students for every of my sections) that pop up when they should.

Earlier than I’m going on to the remainder of my day, which is doing my to-do duties and slowly migrating into undertaking time, I’ll inform you my latest secret weapon for managing to-do objects: Notion. I used to make use of Trello to do that, however hit a few partitions. Notion, which is a bit new and a bit bizarre, has a complete pile of potentialities.

Additionally: Notion app evaluate: Why (and the way) I depend on this highly effective productiveness instrument

Notion solves a traditional to-do checklist downside: Too many objects on the to-do lists. All of us undergo from this follow, the place something which may should be executed, even sometime objects and “I’ll get to it after I can” objects, future undertaking concepts, and all the remainder all wind up on the to-do checklist as low-priority objects that fill the checklist to the brim.

Some days are spent merely taking all these objects that had been beforehand scheduled for the, say, fifteenth of subsequent month, and shifting them to the next month as soon as once more.

I gave this downside a variety of thought and realized there are objects I have to do, which are actionable within the close to time period, and objects that simply should be on a listing someplace, that don’t have any particular precedence.


Managing initiatives in Notion

Notion is a mix whiteboard, checklist supervisor, undertaking supervisor, app engine, and database. It’s really fairly odd and fairly great. It takes some time to get your arms round all it may well do, however when you do, it’s extremely useful. Sadly, it’s bought a foolish identify, a comparatively uninspiring icon and advertising and marketing web site, so I fear about its survivability. That mentioned, it does have some severe funding behind it, so I’m hoping for the very best.

You’ll be able to create boards of sure classes, and inside these boards, you can also make lists. Every checklist merchandise is a card on a board, and you’ll write notes and work together with different members of a crew on the again of every card. It sounds complicated, however it’s amazingly intuitive.

Notion can be out there on Android and iOS in addition to internet platforms, so as soon as once more, I can work on my work from wherever.

I’ve arrange a bunch of Notion pages and all of the objects that “must be on the checklist” however aren’t actionable this week or subsequent go onto a Notion. I frequently dig into these pages, notably after I’m engaged on a corresponding undertaking, and pull objects from the web page and assign them to Todoist — however provided that I intend to work on them instantly, that week.

That, by the best way, is the whole key to preserving your to-do checklist underneath management. When you really intend to do an merchandise inside a fairly brief time frame, put it in your to-do checklist. When you anticipate to do it sometime, it’s not a to-do checklist merchandise, not an actionable merchandise, and it’s best to write them on one other checklist someplace. I exploit Trello for that.

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I’ve additionally arrange Notion pages for every 3D printer, and for managing and monitoring my opinions and video initiatives. It’s nice as a catch-all for many particulars, however in contrast to earlier catch-alls like Evernote, Notion means that you can assign some construction and format to the stuff you’re working with.

Blocking out time for my initiatives

I exploit Notion for managing the main points of my initiatives, however I visualize them utilizing Google Calendar. I’ve three particular calendars I arrange: DG Planner, Planner Tentative, and Mission Due.


I turned off my common appointments so you’ll be able to see how I block out chunks of time. It is a busy month.

I begin with Mission Due. Every deadline is positioned on the calendar in a full-day appointment. These deadlines are displayed in purple, so I can’t miss them. These calendar objects signify the day I want to show in a deliverable of 1 variety or one other.

Subsequent is DG Planner. I exploit this to dam out a set of days for every thing that has a Mission Due entry. If a undertaking will take me 4 days, I exploit 4 full-day appointments. If three days, I exploit three, and so forth. This manner, I can see how busy I’ll get, and I can be sure I don’t double or triple-book any of my busiest manufacturing occasions.

Lastly, there’s Planner Tentative. That is the place I block out the approximate time a undertaking I’ll or will not be engaged on will most likely take. That method, if I’m taking with my crew a couple of bunch of initiatives, I can block out some tentative time and see how my month is shaping up.

With this technique, I hardly ever lose observe of initiatives and likewise hardly ever overbook myself. It’s labored fairly nicely for a bunch of years now.

Rethinking your stream

Each few years, I rethink my productiveness stream, normally after I discover myself getting too far behind, or getting that baaaad feeling that I’m letting issues slip by the cracks. This newest optimization, the place I added Notion, has been working for just a few months now, and to date it’s the best stream I’ve used. Many of the components, notably how I exploit Gmail and Pocket, have been productive processes for years.

As I discussed earlier, your stream will likely be completely different, however I strongly advocate you concentrate on your work processes and optimize your each day actions. You’ll discover you’re simpler and likewise that your days are extra nice.

That’s just about a pleasant win-win, isn’t it?

P.S. Surprisingly sufficient, there’s no Microsoft software program in my each day instruments, nonetheless. Was once, I lived in Outlook. I nonetheless use PowerPoint closely for shows, however my each day productiveness is now utterly non-Microsoft. That wasn’t a political choice or assertion. I slightly like Microsoft. I simply regarded for and located the very best instruments for doing my job. If I had been at Microsoft, I’d suppose lengthy and arduous about that.

You’ll be able to observe my day-to-day undertaking updates on social media. Make sure you observe me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Fb at, on Instagram at, and on YouTube at

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