work-tulips-laptop-productivity life hacks

Making Deep Work a Priority in a Distracted World

 Sub-Optimal Work
Spending 6 hours wandering in Ikea while perhaps fun, is not the best use of time. In Cal Newport’s Deep Work,  not all work hours are created equal – deep work is that which is spent optimally working in concentrated efforts without interrupted. Cal suggests that deep work spent on cognitively demanding tasks is best done in the morning and free from distraction so that the brain is naturally rewarded with a sense of accomplishment earlier on.
In reality, we can call resonate with the fact that much of our workdays get sunk into emails and meetings; and the insanity of it seems to be that we spend countless hours going back and forth sending emails to schedule meetings. Those hours wasted could be spent securing deals, creating great products and hiring the best talent. A full 70% of a typical CEO’s schedule is spent on sub-optimal work instead of “deep work.”
Reducing the “Noise”
Of course, there are several other awesome productivity tools such as Slack, Bluejeans, Basecamp and others that help teams collaborate and communicate more effectively, but at the end of the day, it’s important to be able to have something to show for your time. Communication tools are just that – tools. They can be used to simplify processes, steer a team in the right direction and breakdown necessary tasks, OR be used to create more, “noise” which in turn creates friction and miscommunication.
“Noise” is the unnecessary and distracting chatter, content or anything in the way of getting you to achieve your one goal. “Friction” is any thing or activity that impedes your ability to complete a task such as hurdles that you have to jump through unnecessarily to get to your end objective (more on creating a frictionless product here). Most of UX/UI design is centered around reducing friction for customers.

If you want to make something happen in your life, chances are good that you’re not doing it already because of friction.

Some friction is inevitable – the very act of tracking productivity may be defined as friction. Don’t get me wrong, I do think making everyday tasks as frictionless as possible is ideal, but friction in itself is not bad.
Did you know that some of the best UX is actually wrought with friction? Ikea is one of the best examples. Ikea stores are intentionally designed full of friction like I mentioned earlier – you have to meander through a maze of departments in order to get to the item you want. They WANT you to take your time looking at the latest trends in housewares and design before you get to the checkout. This is very intentional. It’s as if to say, they want you to be counterproductive.
However, if you ask Bill Gates or Arianna Huffington one thing they have in common, you’ll find that they both have an affinity for the word, “focus.” This I emphasize to say that those who become the best at focusing in a world full of constant distractions will be the most successful.
As an Executive Assistant, I find myself pining over the best tools and processes to help C-suite executives focus on the tasks that matter most in order to make every work hour count. Think of how much more profitable companies could be if their senior management’s days were centered around this approach?
With that, here are a few articles on productivity in the workforce:
Got a productivity hack or app to share? Share in the comments below!
life hacks

Sites I Love

  • Get Pocket – save all of your favorite websites to be viewed at a later date. Easy to bookmark your favorite news articles, how-to guides, etc.
  • Self Journal  – hand writing may seem faux paux, but it’s the best way to remember. The SELF Journal motivates and lays out your days for success by utilizing a 30-day roadmap structure to hold yourself accountable and create habits that stick.
  • Coursera – For a low monthly fee, you can pick up virtually any new skill from an accredited university online. Skip the expensive diploma and hack your way to an advanced degree.
  • Skimm – I Skimm my mornings with this witty and sarcastic app that hand-picks the news for the day. Unlike other news sites, Skimm seems to know it’s audience is young professionals so it delivers a mix of news on business, world affairs and the occasional entertainment gossip. Btw, it goes great with a coffee and donut.
  • Hello Gorgeous Blog – Just a midwest gal with sassy style on a budget. She is constantly delivering cute outfits that are easy to curate.
  • LE Tote – new fashion delivered to your door. Get as much or as little as you’d like. My favorite aspect of this delivery platform is their unlimited rental option for $39/month (compared to Rent the Runway’s $60+ option). I’m a big proponent of this because it allows you to try new fashion every month without cluttering the closet with fast fashion purchases. Plus, it’s really cheaper than buying to keep up with the latest trends.
  • Like to Know it – This is an instagram service that allows you to find the pieces from outfits of your favorite Instagram fashionistas. After signing up for the service and liking their pictures, you’ll get an email telling you where to buy each piece.
  • 10xTravel – Follow Bryce’s advice to hack your way to free trips by strategically planning points offerings. He is always up on the latest deals and is incredibly creative with combining the best offers.
  • Airbnb – Make sure you use the Delta Airbnb platform to get SkyMiles every time you book. You have to book through this portal:
Well-Being & Happiness:
  • Shipt – groceries delivered to straight to your door for the cost of an Amazon Prime membership.
  • Blue Apron – the best meal planning service yet; although I prefer to hack my way to meal planning (by organizing and planning out my own meals).
  • ClassPass – $10 fitness classes anywhere (not in every city though)
  • YNAB (You need a budget) – Easy way to track your personal finances and get on with it so that you can save up for that lake house!
  • Real Food Bar – My favorite ‘go-to’ meal replacement when I’m crammed for time. It’s filling enough to get me through my afternoon AND I have zero guilt eating these nutritious bars since they are made from just 9 simple ingredients and zero added sugar.
  • GoodReads – The most successful people read….a lot. Bill Gates alone devours 50 books per year. Not that I am anywhere close to that, but I do value having a constant revolving reading list and reading reviews from others.
  • Canva – Design without being a designer! Easy-to-use templates for social media posts
  • Hubspot – The CRM dream team. Integrate your CRM with your email platform and get the best advice for optimizing your website & SEO score
  • Sumo  – Deals website for entrepreneurs & amazing email marketing advice and tips for generating online traffic, etc. The best advice out there.
  • MailChimp – Ridiculous automations, APIs and tracking links to measure effectiveness of anything from FB to website pop-ups. The best on the market with plans starting at $10/month.
productivity-flowers-computer-work entrepreneurship

6 Productivity Hacks to a Happier Life

I have been thinking about the topic of productivity a lot lately. The more productive you are not only at work, but in your personal life through daily habits, the happier and more successful you can be (more on habit-creating in another post).

With that, I bet you’ve never heard of these top productivity tools.

My Top 6 Productivity Tools:

  1. Trello: Great for organizing and compartmentalizing separate projects into “boards.” Each board allows you to visualize separate to-do lists, create check lists. I’ve found the boards to be very helpful if you are a visual learner and need to switch gears from one project to the next.
  2. Pocket: I frequently go back to Pocket to read and reread articles or reference websites that I meant to read thoroughly but didn’t have the time. In this day-in-age, it’s less about finding an answer to your question and more about filtering out the junk answers, distractions and noise.
  3. Calendly: Calendly is great for reducing the back and forth inbox clutter and hassle of trying to coordinate calendars. Simply set preferred blocks of time, sync your Google Calendar and send over a link that allows anyone to book increments of time for your next conference call, meeting, etc.
  4. RescueTime: Literally track your activities in the background of your device and get a daily dashboard of how you spend your time. If knowledge is power, than the ability to know how and where you spend (or waste) your time is important to improving your productivity, work-life balance and overall happiness. It can even send you alerts when you spend a certain amount of time on an activity.
  5. PomodoroOne: Work in concentrated spurts. By working hard at just one thing for a concentrated period of time, the brain is able to focus completely without outside distractions. Not to mention, you can provide yourself with little rewards throughout the day for completing your goals. I find that I am most productive earlier in the day when it is quieter, but I simply can’t avoid the coming and going of people throughout the afternoon. The pomodoro technique helps to create a cycle whereby you block out the inevitable distractions of a workplace and breakdown large tasks into manageable smaller ones.
  6. Zapier or Alfred: Create workflows for common activities you do each day or automate tasks between web apps by creating “zaps” through Zapier.


2017 Goals, Lessons Learned & Creating Habits that Stick

I never enjoy making new year’s resolutions. I’ve struggled with the fear of not having achieved that “thing” that I put on my bucket list or my resolutions for the year. Even though this fear is completely arbitrary, that perfectionist in me is reluctant to place on paper something for which I’m not sure will be achieved; even worse, I fear not being good at something.

Looking back on 2016, I’m glad I challenged that fear in new areas of life. This past summer I signed up for my first half marathon with a group of friends. I ran cross country in high school and had mildly kept in shape here and there, but nothing consistent. Training for a 13.1 mile race forced me to hold myself accountable to train on days even when I wasn’t feeling up for it, push through when fatigue was setting in or when I began to question my decision to run 13 miles straight. Like much in life, I believe that those who succeed are individuals that become really good at mastering their time and habits. In other words, they don’t let the day control them (the inevitable meetings and distractions that pop up throughout the day). They incrementally improve on repeatable day-to-day habits with focus on the long term goal.

One of my favorite quotes I heard recently was from Arianna Huffington, “Fear is like a muscle, the more you work at it, the better you are at facing new challenges.”

I’ve been told that it takes approximately 3-4 weeks to make a habit “stick.” So, for example, if I keep waking up at 6am for a few weeks, my body will eventually think of it as second nature. Instead of asking myself why I’m up so early, my mind will be trained to think of that time as just part of my daily schedule (in other words ingrained into what I do).

2016 in Review

In 2016, I invested time in new friendships (we joined a young married small group), family (my brother got married!), travel, moving (we live on a lake! woo hoo!) and development of a new business. Our relationships became richer, our experiences traveling, deeper and our lessons learned in business development/career path, more defined.

2017 Goals

I created a list of goals I’d like to achieve for 2017; some of which are habits, some personal enjoyment, some skills and others just for cultivation of knowledge/general health.

Goal      How am I going to achieve it and when will I start?
Workout 4x a week 45 minute workouts during lunch hour – Spinning, BodyPump and HIIT Mon. – Thurs., occasional Fri.
Read and or yoga/pilates in the morning; eat breakfast Set alarm for 6am and wakeup – make a reading plan of books I’d like to complete per month/a countdown of days I have left to complete each book.
Business Development Set 1 goal per week or day that answers this question: What is the single most important thing I can do to move the needle? Focus on 1 high-value thing per week.
Dedicate 1 night per week toward the development of a skill or hobby Sunday nights. A new hobby each quarter. I’m currently learning to play the piano!
Go to bed at 11pm (currently, sometimes I fall asleep around 10pm and other days I fall asleep after 12am) Drink a cup of coffee in the evening?
Go on 5 vacations (atleast 1 international) Booking vacations further in advance around major holidays. I made a list of all the places I’d like to go at the beginning of the year in order to strategize the timing of the bookings, how much they cost, if I am going to use points to pay for the trips
Learn financial modeling, UX Design and other digital marketing techniques Weekday evenings. Signed up for a few short term classes.
Create a personal website and blog about career development, personal finance and travel hacks. Deepen my writing skills and demonstrate my general knowledge to a captive audience Here we go!

Struggling with setting your own goals? Think of them like little everyday habits. If you’re able to breakdown long term goals into everyday habits, you’ll be more likely to sustain the pace.

Here’s three resources for creating habits that stick: