My Productivity Tool Stack for 2023

My Productivity Tool Stack for 2023

Due to my nomadic status, I have officially embraced a primarily digital workflow in 2023. I wouldn’t say I’ve gone “paper free,” but being able to check up on the status of a project from anywhere has become critical. Having key documents in the cloud makes it easy for me to keep tabs on what I’m up to, no matter where I am in the world.

All that to say, my productivity tool stack has evolved a little since last year. Here’s what I’m now using.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

I stuck with my Samsung Galaxy S7 since 2016. But in May 2022, I finally decided to upgrade.

I wasn’t sure which phone I’d ultimately pick, but I was leaning towards the iPhone because of its camera. And, in the end, the iPhone won.

So far, I couldn’t be any happier with this choice. Adapting to the workflow didn’t take long, and since it is a brand-new phone, it’s a lot faster and smoother than my previous device, and it has a bigger screen too.

From social media and Kindle to Notes and Gmail, I find I’m able to do a lot more on my phone than I was previously able, whether scheduling meetings, documenting ideas, or reading Kindles.

My iPhone is my go-to tool for capturing video too.

iPad & Apple Pencil

Hard to believe – my iPad & Apple Pencil have been with me since 2019. But somehow, they still feel new to me.

I have used this combo extensively for journaling and digital art. I like to read Kindles on my iPad as well.

I like that I can sync up my iPad with my new iPhone, and even my older MacBook Pro. Make no mistake, though – I’m still a hybrid PC / Mac user.

ClickUp

Evernote is out and ClickUp is in.

Not that I don’t like Evernote, but for some reason it has fallen off my radar more times than I can count. If it doesn’t stay in my workflow, it usually means there is too much friction to using it.

ClickUp is a thorough project management tool, but I basically use it as my digital to-do list.

Notion

As with ClickUp, Notion can be used as a comprehensive project management tool (though I think ClickUp does to-do lists better).

I find Notion works best as a central, communal holding place for project related information. If I have any collaborative projects, my first instinct is to set up a new teamspace inside Notion, complete with mission, objectives, deadlines, stats, meeting times and Zoom links, links to relevant documents, and the like.

Dropbox

I think I’ve said it before, but at this point, my workflow is so enmeshed with Dropbox that I barely even notice it’s there. But I would certainly notice if it wasn’t there, as I have multiple book projects stored inside.

Google Workspace

Gmail, Drive, and Calendar. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’d do without them.

Last year, I got to discover the utility of the Updates tab in Gmail. I love it because it moves a lot of emails I only want to check occasionally into a separate tab.

My LifeSheet, of course, exists in Drive, and my Calendar is timeboxed.

Microsoft Office

I still do most if not all my writing inside Word. I know there are a lot of other great tools out there, but because I’m used to Word and all its quirks, I’m better able to adapt to changes. I even layout my books in Word.

Excel comes in handy around tax time.

Final Thoughts

If you want to be as productive as you can possibly be in 2023, ensure that you’ve got the right structures in place. Using the right tools can make a difference, but you’ve got to create processes for all the tools you use too. I suggest keeping your workflow as simple as possible.

If you need any guidance setting up systems for your career or business, feel free to get in touch for personalized coaching. I don’t come cheaply, but I always deliver value.

5 Must-Haves for a Productive 2023

5 Must-Haves for a Productive 2023

Happy New Year!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays.

Today, I’m going to cover a few essentials to ensure you have a year surpassing all others.

Don’t feel like you need to implement everything now. Simply take note of where there might be a missing in your processes and get into action when you’re ready.

1. To-Do Lists

In 2023, many “gurus” are going to tell you to throw away your to-do lists. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Your to-do lists are key to keeping your daily activity aligned with your goals.

You will need to prioritize your list, of course, because it’s easy to waste time on lesser tasks while ignoring the big, scary ones.

But if you’re guided solely by intuition, you will make mistakes, drop the ball, waste time, or worse.

If you prefer to create digital to-do lists over hardcopy ones, I suggest ClickUp.

2. Goals

In 2023, many “gurus” are going to tell you not to set goals. Nothing could be more ridiculous.

At all times, we should be crystal clear on what we’re aiming for in business, creativity, and life. We need a target. We need to know where the bull’s eye is if we have any hope of hitting it.

So, set goals and put them somewhere you will see them every single day.

Don’t be discouraged by failures or resolutions not kept. Close the chapter on 2022 and start fresh.

3. A Timeboxed Calendar

Your to-do lists and goals must be reflected in your schedule. Otherwise, your goals will be reduced to wishful thinking.

If you want to write a book, for example, block an hour in your calendar, every single day, to write and edit.

If you require examples, and a step-by-step process for creating your own timeboxed calendar, refer to Nir Eyal’s article on timeboxing.

4. A Notion Page

Is there a central space your team can go to see exactly how a project is progressing?

Even if you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, or independent artist, there is massive value in capturing the key details of your projects and updating them as you make progress.

If anyone can look at your Notion page and know exactly what you’re up to without having a single conversation with you, you’re on the right track.

Notion is a simple to use tool that allows you to display and organize a variety of information. I can cover how I organize mine in a future article, but either way it should not take you long to set up a new account.

5. Journal

With the amount of journaling I do, I’ve found my iPad and Apple Pencil to be the best tools for the job.

Whether it’s for note-taking, goal setting, or brainstorming sessions, your journal entries can form the foundation of new strategies, content, discussions, and more.

Your mind is not a great place to store information. So, get in the habit of capturing key information in your journal as your days unfold. Don’t forget to review your entries as well (sometimes, there is gold hidden in there).

Protecting Your Time

Protecting Your Time

Put more stringent measures into place to protect your time, and there will be immediate pushback from your partners, colleagues, collaborators, clients, and peers.

“Who do you think you are? Do you think your time is more valuable than mine?”

“Does this mean we can’t have three-hour conversations sorting out all the details of our next event?”

“I never knew you took your time and boundaries so seriously. Has this always been a concern for you?”

What your colleagues don’t appreciate is that you’re looking to create a workable, sustainable schedule for yourself. And by the time you’ve established a tenable plan, your productivity isn’t going to suffer. It’s going to increase. The people around you are the ones that are ultimately going to benefit from you setting more rails around your time.

You know yourself better than anyone else. That also means you are more qualified to devise a plan and stack the deck in your favor than anyone else. No one else can tell you how to live. They may have helpful suggestions, but at the end of the day you’ve got to make up your mind for yourself.

If you want to achieve next level productivity, then it’s all about setting yourself layers behind the frontlines. It’s about batch processing your email, returning texts when it best suits you, selectively ignoring communication as you see fit. It’s about delegating tasks and activity that are below your paygrade and handing off tasks to other capable people.

God forbid you might get a book written if you had an hour to spare in your day.

Fundamentally, most people aren’t going to be onboard with you opting to protect your time, and that may well be one of the greatest challenges you’ll face in setting up a moat around your castle.

But it must be done. You can’t get to where you want to go in life if you’re distractable, interruptible, contactable at all hours of the day. Someone will always be there to add to your to-do list.

Certainly, take on anything that’s aligned with your goals. But do it on your own terms. Choose when you return communication. Don’t let someone else tell you how it’s supposed to work. You make the rules.

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

The Parable of the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

I thought this parable was something every personal development fiend or ambitious person had heard of.

But today, I talked to two people who had never even heard of it. So, clearly, not everyone has been exposed to it.

As I begin to rethink my schedule again, this is the parable that has been running through my mind.

So, what is it? And what can it teach us about prioritization and productivity? Read on.

Rocks, Pebble, Sand, and Water

A University professor wanted to illustrate how each of us can better prioritize and manage our time.

He brought several items with him to class – a jar, rocks, pebbles, sand, and a glass of water.

The professor filled the jar with the rocks and asked the students whether the jar was full? They answered “yes, it’s full.”

But he then proceeded to fill the jar with the pebbles. He shook the jar until the pebbles neatly arranged themselves in between the crevices left by the larger rocks.

“Is it full now?”

This time, his students were sure the jar was full.

The professor then filled the jar with sand, which filled the remaining space left by the rocks and the pebbles.

Without skipping a beat, he also poured the glass of water into the jar as everything neatly settled inside.

The class was astonished.

“Try to fill the jar with the sand first,” said the professor, “and there would be no room left for everything else.”

The Moral of the Story

There are different variations on this parable. But the message is the same:

The rocks represent your greatest priorities.

The pebbles represent important priorities.

The sand represents minor priorities.

And the water represents everything else.

When prioritizing what matters to you, you must put the rocks in the jar first. They will not fit later. And so it is with the pebbles, sand, and water. They only work in that specific order.

For an entrepreneur, that means putting revenue generating activity first thing in your day. If you put it off until later, you will not get around to it. But if you start with it, you’ll either have plenty of time left over for everything else you need to do, or the act of completing a “rock” project will make all other activity irrelevant.

See what else I’m up to.

3 Simple Email Productivity Tips

3 Simple Email Productivity Tips

So, what’s the state of your email inbox?

If you’re like most, you have hundreds if not thousands of unread messages. You’re selective in what you read (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and you might even feel stuck in perpetual email hell, depending on the nature of your work.

It is possible to achieve inbox sanity, though it’s going to require a different way of looking at things. Are you ready to be challenged?

Here I explore three simple email productivity tips to help you recover lost time.

Create Rules for Your Emails

At some point, you will be bombarded with opportunity. How you handle it is going to have a massive impact on your overall productivity.

Thus, the need for rules.

Do you accept guest posts on your blog?

Your answer needs to be a hard “yes” or hard “no,” so you can triage quickly. At the very least, you want to say, “we’ll accept guest submissions when X conditions are met.” And X conditions should be clearly defined, so you know when to say “yes.”

I open every email with the intention of deleting or archiving it. That’s one of my rules (you will find some of my other rules in this article).

Takeaway: set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. When you’re clear on next actions for each email, your productivity will increase.

Set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. Click To Tweet

Utilize Templates

The least efficient way to respond to email of a certain type, especially those where a request is being made, is to write out unique answers individually. This will have an impact on your productivity.

The least efficient way to respond to an email is to write out customized answers one by one. Click To Tweet

Instead, I suggest setting up templates. These templates should be customizable to the extent that you need them to be. But you should never start with a blank page or reinvent the wheel.

Apps like Gmail let you save messages as templates, and even if your provider doesn’t boast such functionality, you can still save your canned responses in plain text files.

Takeaway: whether you’re aware of it or not, you respond to the same kind of email all the time. And most of the time, your response is the same, too (if not, review the last point on creating rules). So, create templates for your most common types of responses and save them for later use.

Delete Last Year’s Emails

I’m probably about to make you a little nervous, though I’m not about to share anything I haven’t shared before.

One of my rules is to clean out last year’s emails. Sure, if there’s something specifically, I want for my memories, safekeeping, documentation, or otherwise, I will save it to the appropriate folder. Same goes for important contacts (don’t forget to save those before deleting your emails!).

But otherwise, your emails are just taking up space (even if just virtual space), and you’re basically never going to get around to responding to or reviewing those messages ever again.

Yep, you dropped some balls. You didn’t get back to some people. Projects fell through the cracks. You should have responded, and you didn’t.

But because of that, you live in a perpetual state of incompletion, and your mental RAM is over capacity. It’s time to complete what has already happened and live in the moment instead of recalling yesterday’s trauma.

Takeaway: Remember – one of my rules is to archive or delete every message, and the goal is to get to inbox zero. So, ideally, by the time a new year has rolled around, I’m already on top of last year’s messages. I do this so I can be complete with last year and focus on this year.

Recommended Resource

If you like the idea of causing more completion in life, and need actionable steps you can take to engage in the present fully, you will benefit from a reading of my Start Your Year the Right Way. There are plenty of great tips, prompts, and journaling exercises to help lead you to clarity.

Start Your Year the Right Way

Final Thoughts

It’s going take some work, and a stronger will to get your inbox sorted. But you can do it.

What did you discover here? What step will you be taking towards inbox sanity today?

See what else I’m up to by checking out my link in bio.

Your Sunday Routine

Your Sunday Routine

How do you like to spend your Sunday?

I understand that some people don’t have the weekend off, or don’t necessarily take it off. In which case, substitute “Sunday” with whatever day you have off.

The question is, what do you do on your day off, do you have a routine you follow, and if so, what has worked best for you?

For me, my Sunday routine has basically followed one of three trends in the last few months:

Scenario #1

Scenario #1 is where I spend a third of the day outside, a third of the day reading, and a third of the day playing guitar.

Going outside might look like going for a drive, having lunch, getting a bubble tea, maybe do a bit of shopping.

Reading is self-explanatory. I will get into some good books.

As for playing the guitar, I’ll work on something new, to keep developing my skill on the instrument.

I do find this routine somewhat energizing, and I feel accomplished after completing it. But I usually wake up feeling tired the next day.

Scenario #2

This is basically where I do nothing. Spend most of my time in bed watching Netflix, potentially while playing something on my Nintendo 3DS.

This has been a good way to spend a day off from time to time. Everyone needs a break. But on a more regular basis, it doesn’t work. I usually wake up tired the next day.

Scenario #3

Scenario #3 is what I stumbled on yesterday.

I stayed in bed until about noon, at which point I prepared to go outside. I loaded up my laptop bag with my computer, iPad, book, and newsletter (No B.S. Letter).

First, I went to the bakery for my breakfast. Then, I went to Starbucks and read for a couple of hours.

Then, I went shopping for a bit before returning home with a pizza and spending the rest of the night laying in bed and watching Netflix.

I woke up today feeling refreshed and energized.

Lessons

While I don’t know if I have my Sunday “dialed in” yet, I know I’m getting close. Here are some of the things I’ve realized:

  • Organizing and cleaning up does make you feel better
  • It’s always good to get more sunlight and limit exposure to screens when possible (get out into nature)
  • Breakfast is more enjoyable when it’s healthy and something that tastes good (the bakery I went to largely serves healthy breads and pastries)
  • Catching up on your reading is a great way to reflect and find inspiration for your current projects and life circumstances
  • Taking care of odds and ends takes a load off the mind – just don’t overspend in the process

Thanks for reading.