I've had a solid routine in the mornings a while, but there's always room to improve how I spend my time or the tools that I use to get things done throughout the day. In the past, I've been a heavy user of Any.Do and Google apps but have since migrated to new tools and new workflows. Here are a few new things I've been doing for the last couple of weeks to get more done but feel more relaxed doing it:
Using Timeful for Meetings and To-Do Lists
It's hard to find a task management app that also works well with your work calendar but Timeful is filling that void. I talked about it on here not long ago and have kept using it since. I love it. While Any.Do does a great job of telling me what I have to get done during the day, Timeful helps me schedule time in my day to do it. I input all of my to-dos for the day and set time increments for how long I want to work on each task. When I get to the office in the morning, I spend a few minutes dragging my to do items in between any scheduled meetings for the day. The to-dos sync up with my Exchange calendar and drop me reminders to start the next task on my desktop throughout the day.
As someone who bills time during the day, using Timeful to manage when I work on what projects helps lessen the pain of doing my time sheets throughout the day. It may appear that I'm micromanaging my day too much, but I've found that I take more productive breaks during the day and get a lot more done when I am at my desk.
Going All In on Mac Apps
Up until about a week ago, I used Outlook for work email and meetings, Chrome for web browsing, an iPhone for work and personal use, Gmail for personal emails and Google calendar for personal appointments. As an experiment, I recently decided to go all in on using Mac apps for everything. I've discarded Outlook and Gmail and stream all of my personal and work email through the native Mail app on my Mac. I am using the native Calendar app on my Macbook for all of my calendars and have even shifted all of my Chrome bookmarks over to Safari for web browsing. With iOS 8 coming out, a new desktop OS on my Mac and a pending upgrade on our work iPhones to iPhone 6, I wanted to see how much easier things could be keeping everything inside of Apple's ecosystem.
Once the new OS drops on my desktop and allows me to text anyone, not just iOS users, from my computer, I could see this making life a lot easier. I've only been Apple exclusive for about a week and haven't quite landed on how much I like it yet. My only real complaint is syncing Gmail with my Mail app. They don't play well together. In a few weeks once all of the mobile and desktop operating systems get their upgrades, I'll get a better picture on whether or not I made a good decision.
Intentionally Winding Down Before Bed
This basically means eliminating screens before bed - including the TV. I use a Fitbit to track my exercise, steps, water consumption and sleep activity every day. According to my Fitbit, I apparently toss and turn quite a bit during the night, a fact also confirmed by my wife. It explains why I wake up super tired despite going to bed early enough to get a good night of sleep. I've since changed my routine to cutting out all screens (TV, laptop, Kindle at least half an hour before going to bed. I make a hot cup of chamomile tea, go up to my office space and read a book for a few minutes.
This hasn't completely eliminated my restlessness but has definitely improved my sleep. It's amazing the difference in how relaxed I feel just making this one small change. I can tell a huge difference at the office too.
Not Checking Email in the Morning
First thing when I woke up, I used to roll over, turn off my phone alarm and immediately flip through my email app and Facebook app. Now, I try my best to avoid checking email before I get to the office in the morning. There are exceptions to that rule (like client deadlines or crisis situations) but it helps me set the tone for my day. This routine affords me time to walk my dog, read or run in the morning with a clear head before tackling work at the office. Also, when I get to the office...
I Take Ten Minutes to Map Out My Day Before Starting Anything at Work
Not long ago, our COO sent us an HBR article talking about spending the first ten to fifteen minutes of your day planning out your day. Not spending your first few moments reading email, not jumping immediately into your first task - but instead taking a few minutes to plan out what you want to accomplish. I've tried this recently and really like this routine. This is time I spend getting coffee out of our office cafe and placing to-do items inside of my Timeful app in between meetings. I know what I want to get out of my day before I get lost in the weeds of work. Like the email situation above, there are exceptions to this rule from time to time. However, on a "normal" day, this process has done wonders for establishing focus for my day.
What about you all? What are some tools or routines that you've adopted recently to get more out of your days?