Productivity Tools - 31 May 2016

With the new responsibilities that come with being a parent, I’ve been thinking more about how to maximize my productivity and mental space. Here’s a couple tools/tricks I find the most helpful for my day to day life.

Inbox Zero

One of the best things I’ve done for my productivity and mental capacity was a move towards inbox zero. If you have 5,000 items in your inbox, it’s impossible to tell what you still need to respond to, or act upon. If your inbox has 6 items in it, it’s easy to see what tasks you need to do, or who you need to get back to.

By archiving all of the e-mails that I’ve “completed”, I’m able to quickly see what items need my attention. If there’s a pull request I need to review, it sits in my inbox until I’ve had the chance to do so. If my wife sends me a chore list, I can leave it in my inbox until I’ve completed all of the items on it. Since I’m always looking at my e-mail during the day, it’s an easy way to keep track of what needs to be done.

I never have to worry about forgetting to respond to an e-mail, or ignoring a comment on a project management tool. It removes a lot of the stress I used to feel that came from managing a messy inbox.

Aggregated News

For a while, I found myself struggling to keep up with all of the news and information related to my interests. I was checking Hacker News daily for programming news, TeamLiquid for the latest Starcraft discussions, etc.. A while ago, I decided that I was spending way too much time checking news sources and I needed to cut them out of my daily routine. I decided to settle on Twitter and E-mail as my primary sources for news.

I signed up for newsletters for Hacker News, Ruby Weekly, Node Weekly, EmberJS, and many others. I now get a curated list of content once a week from each of the sources I used to spend time on daily. This allows me to check a bunch of interesting articles at once, dismiss uninteresting ones, and save good articles to Pocket for later.

I follow an assortment of developers on Twitter, and I find it a useful resource for keeping up with the latest trends and ideas in programming. Since I didn’t see myself being able to cut out Twitter from my daily routine, I decided to pipe in content from non-developer interests to Twitter. To this end, I created a Twitter Bot to tweet the top posts from subreddits I used to follow. I no longer spend hours on reddit checking news and reading discussions, the top content I care about is sent to my Twitter feed.