“No Meeting Wednesdays” and other good advice

Dustin Moskovitz, the co-founder and CEO of Asana and former co-founder of Facebook holds, “No Meeting Wednesday’s.”

Moskovitz says that, “No Meeting Wednesdays” is something he borrowed from Facebook. “With very few exceptions, everyone’s calendar is completely clear at least one day out of the week whether you are a maker or manager.” He goes on to explain, “this is an invaluable tool for ensuring you have some contiguous space to do project work. For me personally, it is often the one day each week I get to code.”

He explains further in a internal document you can read the full post here.

Tech CEOs Favorite Productivity Hacks – Julie Bort, Business Insider

I think this is my favourite of all the advice in Julie Bort’s Business Insider article – and not just because today is Wednesday. (I do have meetings today, by the way.) But she’s collected productivity tips from many CEOs and while they’re all bosses of technology companies so, as you’d expect, tech tips score heavily with this group, there is much for everyone. Read the full piece.

Thirty productivity tips you might not have heard


If I weren’t such a nice guy, I’d steal each one of these thirty and claim them as my own, once a day for the next month. And actually many of them are ones that I do so, you know, if they pop up again from time to time, it’s coincidence. But this collection of short tips is a smart read and it’s also got several tips that I did not know before and fancy using now.

Such as the very first two of the thirty:

1) Buy an hourglass.

Lots of us use timers to break up our tasks into manageable chunks. But how many times have you turned over your cell phone to panic about how little time you have yet? Invest in a couple of hourglasses that measure different times. You can see immediately how much time you have left, without having to calculate what you can get done.

2) Get a clock.

Did you know that the subtle sound of a ticking clock could make you more productive? The tick-tock gives your subconscious a sense of urgency so you work faster. If you don’t want a clock, there are plenty of timer apps that allow you to turn the tick-tock sound on.

30 Productivity Tips You Might Not Have Heard Before – Sasha Graffagna, SuperheroYou (20 August 2014)

I’ve got a ticking clock and it isn’t ticking so much for some reason, but I’ll look into that. I’ll also look into the hourglass, maybe as a Christmas present to myself, as asking Siri to set a timer on my iPhone for an hour is so passé. I’m looking at that Koch 11000 1-Hour Hourglass Renaissance, pictured above. I’m just looking.

Read the full piece.

Tips for working from home

These aren’t mine. Though I do work from home and I have a lot of thoughts about it. Probably chief among them is that it’s easier to have a boss telling you what to do all day. A lot easier.

This fella acknowledges the benefits but cautions about the problems and has a lot of advice:

You have the freedom to do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do if you had to head to an office every day.

But that’s not to say that working from home isn’t without it’s disadvantages to. Most notably, it’s easy to get caught in a routine that is not overly productive. If you’re feeling tired, the couch is right next to you.

Another danger that I experience is that if I’m not careful, I’ll go days without leaving the house, affecting both my mood and my productivity.

After working from home for a few years, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to help me become a more productive entrepreneur.

1. Establish a Morning Routine
I found that my morning has a profound effect on my entire day. It affects my focus, my energy level, and yes, my productivity.

You can say that if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I’ll be perfectly useless for the rest of the day.

Productivity Tips for the Home Based Entrepreneur – Greg Digneo, Biz 3.0 (Undated)

Read on for the rest of number 1 and all the other tips.

Career advice from successful women

I hesitated over that headline because I think this collection of quotes is smart advice for anyone and so surely the gender of the speakers makes no difference. But some of it does address issues that especially affect women, such as sexism in the workplace.

Also, the more I thought about it, the less I thought it was necessary to use the word career in the headline. This is all ostensibly about work and careers and business but I’m taking general life lessons from it.

Actually, what exactly does successful mean either? If it means being successful at being a woman then if you’re a woman, success. I’m a man, so I’ve failed already.

And if I were the type of man who ignored advice because it’s from a woman, I would truly be a failure then. So I’m taking this advice.

I just suspect the better headline would therefore have been “Advice From”.

It’s Advice From a longish blog post that specifies it has 15 such tips, though I note they come from only 11 women: Tina Fey gets quoted four times. But my favourite of them all and the one I think is most relevant to us as writers is one of hers in which she says:

The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30…What I learned about bombing as a writer at Saturday Night is that you can’t be too worried about your “permanent record.” Yes, you’re going to write some sketches that you love and are proud of forever—your golden nuggets. But you’re also going to write some real shit nuggets. And unfortunately, sometimes the shit nuggets will make it onto the air. You can’t worry about it. As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.

Tina Fey quoted in 15 Career Tips from Smart Women – Joanna Goddard, A Cup of Jo (16 September 2014)

Do go read the other 14. They are smart quotes. But then also go buy Tina Fey’s book Bossypants: I’ve never met Fey and don’t really know her work beyond a few episodes of 30 Rock yet the book feels like she’s sitting there with you telling you these great stories. Fantastic writing style and a huge amount to say.

Don’t touch anything twice

Get it, see it, do it:

I will adopt the Touch it Once Principle more often, especially when I’m using my smartphone (which makes it oh-so-tempting to simply read emails but not deal with them). I am ok scanning for urgency, but I will only read an email once.

Top 10 Productivity Resolutions – Ann Gomez, Clear Concept Inc (7 January 2014)

That’s actually Gomez’s number ten in a top ten list of productivity tips and I like it already. Read the full piece for the other nine.

Search Twitter by number of retweets

This is a clever idea: if you want to find something on twitter, it stands to reason that the best information is the one that has been retweeted the most:

Go to the Twitter search box, type any search term and append the operator min_retweets:[number] or min_faves:[number] to filter your search results. For instance, here’s a sample search that will only shows tweets pointing to the labnol.org domain that have been favorited or retweeted at least 5 times.

labnol.org min_retweets:5 OR min_faves:5

If you are brand manager trying to find out the most viral tweets generated for an event or a content, the min_retweets and min_faves search operators may save you several hours. You can also archive tweets to a Google Spreadsheet automatically.

A Twitter Search Trick You Didn’t Know About – Amit Agarwal, Digital Inspiration (25 July 2014)

The full article explains that you can do this most easily on Tweetdeck, the twitter client that includes a feature specifically for this, but the trick works everywhere with a bit of effort.

Hat tip to Lifehacker for spotting this.

You can be Siri-ous

Hand on heart, I love Siri. I use it continually for setting timers when I’m cooking, for scheduling or rearranging meetings, for sending text messages and always, forever, constantly for adding tasks to OmniFocus.

Hand on heart 2, though, it is as if Siri has good days and bad days. There are times it just won’t work for me and they are exasperating. So far the days it has worked well have outnumbered the problem ones and the new discovery of something else Siri can do has kept me using it a huge amount.

I use it so much that there isn’t anything in Re/code’s top ten Siri tips that I haven’t used but still it’s a fine list and if you’re only ever aggravated by Siri, take a look at their full article for ideas big and small.

And as much of a Siri fan as I am, I can’t resist this:

Now this is handy – iOS compass trick

I don’t often publish what you might call tips and tricks here. Too often I read features called something like “10 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do” and one of them will be “It can make phone calls!”. But I read this one and actually said aloud: “That’s handy”. So I want you to know it too. It’s about the compass in every iPhone with iOS 7:

With the needle locked into a position, straying from the set (locked) direction will cause the compass to turn red, indicating the degree of sway and helping to course correct. Whether you’re directionally challenged or not, this is helpful for navigation for many reasons.

Lock the Compass Needle Position on an iPhone for Better Navigating – OS X Daily

So I just pointed my iPhone toward Birmingham city centre, tapped on the compass and turned away to one side. This is what the screen shows me now:



So you line up on what you want to get to, tap on the centre and every time you deviate from the route, you get that big red warning. OS X Daily goes through the instructions in more detail but that’s it really, open Compass, point, tap, walk.

Force your To Do app to have start dates

Most To Do apps don’t have this but you need it and there’s a way to fake it on any software:

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 16.52.19

This is the ideal: you write one task and you give it both a start date – called “deferred until” in that screenshot – and a date that really have to do it by. All in one. (Actually, no, the ideal is to not use either start or end dates, especially not end dates. But that’s another story.)

There’s a good, solid, practical reason why this is the ideal when you have a deadline and there is a more nebulous yet enormously more important reason too. First, the practical one:

Having one task with start and end means you’ve one place to go change its details if you need

The nebulous one is:

Software that has start dates will keep your task hidden away from you until then.

It’s in your system, you won’t forget it, you just won’t have to consider it at all until the time you’ve said you should start.

Set it, forget it, get on with the stuff you have to do now.

I mean it when I say this is enormous. It’s the difference between a To Do list that you will use and one that just becomes this enormous long stupid hateful damn bloody list of a million things you still haven’t done yet, you total failure.

So it’s a shame that not every To Do app does start dates. My beloved OmniFocus does. (The screenshot above comes from OmniFocus for Mac where start dates are now called Defer Until dates. Apparently people got confused. But start dates are so crucial that the term is now burnt into me.) Other apps have it too: the online one Asana, the iPhone one Appigo To Do. It’s hard to give you a definitive list of what does and doesn’t have it because it changes a lot – and because some software firms look like they’ve only added start dates because customers wouldn’t stop shut up about them. The feature is there but, my lights, it’s hard to find.

You’d think you could just google like “omnifocus start date app review” or somesuch and get the answer for any app, but you simply can’t. Do try it. If you’re considering a particular To Do app, definitely google whether it has start dates. Be prepared to dig through articles. If the app is free, just get the bleedin’ app and try looking in that. But look for it, hope to find it, be prepared that you may not.

And if you don’t, fake it.

Do this:

  1. Give your task a deadline, a due date, that is really the day you should start it
  2. Call that task something like “Do that thing which is due on 1st May”
  3. Create another task called “Do that thing” and give it a due date of 1st May or whatever the the real deadline is

It’s two tasks instead of one. And you may see both on your list every day, but typically your app will at least put them at the bottom of the list until the first deadline appears.

It works. It’s not elegant. There’s a strong chance that it’ll go wrong: if you tick the first one, the starting task, when you begin it but you don’t finish on that day, you have to remember to continue it tomorrow.

Have you noticed that I’ve avoided saying oh, to hell with it, just buy OmniFocus?