Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

My top 5 tricks to improve your productivity almost instantly


Today’s post will be very productive and practical. When I talk to people about time organization, they ask me for a few simple tips they can start using right away. That’s why, a few years ago, I decided to create the “10 Steps to Maximum Productivity” course. But, because we’re all looking for shortcuts, today I’ll focus on five key tips you can start applying today to see how they’ll improve your workflow. What’s more, they’re closely related to each other.

My top 5 tricks to improve your productivity almost instantly

Note: The following article appeared first in the May ‘17 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I’m a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

The short version: write things down, learn new apps and use them on all devices you have, remember about your weekly review and focus on priority zero. These are my top 5 tips, and here’s more detail:

Trick 1: Write down all ideas right away.

When I come up with a new idea or have a “stroke of genius,” I immediately write down everything I come up with. What’s more, I “save” it on the tool I currently have at hand. So, for example, when I’m using my iPhone, I use a widget or the 3D touch menu to quickly add something to my favorite app (for example, Nozbe or Evernote, or Notes…). When I see something cool, I immediately take a picture of it to make sure I don’t forget about it.

Thanks to this habit, I can trust that if I’ve thought about something earlier, I have it “saved” somewhere. I don’t rely on my own memory which is sometimes fallible – instead I rely on the memory of the device I’m currently using.

Trick 2: Learn keyboard shortcuts and get to know your tools.

This point is related to the previous one. It’s useful to learn keyboard shortcuts for your favorite apps. On iOS you just need to press and hold CMD to view available shortcuts – something I’ve been using regularly while working on my iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard. On the Mac it’s worthwhile to learn global shortcuts for apps like Nozbe or Evernote to quickly add tasks or notes at any time during work.

It’s also worth taking the time to study the capabilities of the apps you use the most. Most apps we use on a daily basis have a lot of great and useful features that can improve our work and consequently make our life easier. However, if we only use some of them, we won’t be able to fully utilize their potential.

Although learning keyboard shortcuts may seem like a waste of time, you’ll quickly notice results in terms of increased work comfort.

Trick 3: Use the same apps across various devices.

Although this one seems obvious, I often find myself with an app on my iPad that I don’t have on my iPhone or Mac. That’s a mistake. If I’m using an app regularly, I should have access to it on every device and, thanks to cloud synchronization, to data stored on them. Currently, synchronization either through iCloud or Dropbox works amazingly.

Although I have apps like Nozbe, Evernote and Ulysses installed on all platforms, I just noticed that I don’t have my favorite app for creating mind maps (iThoughts) on the Mac. As a result, I have access to my mind maps only on the iPhone and iPad. Recently, however, I was working on the Mac and wanted to change something in one mind map and I couldn’t do it. I had to switch to the iPad, which took me more time and knocked me out of my work rhythm.

It’s also a good idea to have frequently used apps in a similar (or even the same) place on each device. That’s why my home screen on the iPhone resembles that of the iPad.

Trick 4: Do a regular weekly review.

I repeat this like a mantra – once a week review your tasks, projects and goals, and clean your desk and devices. Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t take that much time and allows you to prepare better for the upcoming week and have a better week in general.

Recently, we’ve introduced “TGI Fridays” at Nozbe. Every Friday everyone is obliged to do a weekly review, after which we can spend time on learning new things or getting to know our tools, which I’ve mentioned earlier.

In order to do a thorough review, I recommend changing your “surroundings.” For example, I often take my iPad to my favorite café and don’t leave until I finish my review.

I’m not perfect and sometimes I don’t do a full review or don’t have time for it at all… which unfortunately comes back to me during the following week when I’m not prepared for it as well as I should be.

Trick 5: Forget about “inbox zero,” focus on “zero priority.”

Many people focus on “inbox zero,” which means having a clean inbox by the end of the day… but somehow they don’t manage to complete their most important tasks.

That’s why I propose to use the term “zero priority” instead, which means completing all task with the highest priority by the end of the day.

At the end of the day, I identify my 1-3 most important tasks for the next day – tasks whose completion would signify that “it was a good day.” In this way I can focus most of my attention on them and make sure I complete them. All other tasks for this day and the inbox I mentioned earlier are just an addition.

After all, my life’s mission is not “cleaning inboxes” but doing something that has meaning and pushes my business and life forward, right?

I strongly encourage you to start applying these productivity habits right away and you’ll see how much they can improve your workflow.

And if you want to learn even more tips, check out my free course “10 Steps to Maximum Productivity” on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 /top5/