York’s productivity tips – how to master information overload

On average I receive around 250-600 messages/notifications a day. You probably receive even more.

Just count whatsapps, sms, facebook notifications, emails (ca. 150 a day for me), twitter notifications, instagram, blog likes, calls etc.

600 notications a day. Each and every day.

That’s scary. That’s beyond scary. Such an onslaught of notifications can easily destroy a large chunk of what would otherwise have the potential to be an incredibly productive day working on your dreams and goals.

So here are my tips – gained through many many many mistakes and trials – about how to handle this attention attack. These are tips (and the corresponding tools I use to handle the issues) that are wholly subjective so read them with a pinch of salt. What might work for you might not work for me.

I appreciate that in today’s world taking a moment to setup a “system” might feel like you are slowing down, but as I learned when I was at Goldman Sachs – sometime taking a step back is not a setback 🙂  (for your info, the week after I joined they asked me to take part in a 2 day course on how to use Microsoft Outlook to actually manage your workflow better… a little exercise that increased my productivity twentyfold),

Here are my tips and tools to be more productive and manage your information overload:

  1. Learn to type faster. Easiest trick in the world. Lots of free online typing games to teach you that. In 2 weeks (30 mins a day) you’ll type probably 30/50% faster depending on your starting levels. The logic is simple: given how much time we spend typing, if you type 20% faster that’s 20% less time spent on the day typing. Easiest productivity gain ever 🙂
  2.  Use Evernote (or Onenote)… but before you do watch a few youtubes about how to use it. You’ll be amazed how powerful those tools are. They are both free (Onenote is truly free while evernote free means you need to be connected – only the premium offers offline usage). One of the reasons I use it? To store information such as logins, passwords, bank details, credit cards, telephone bill details, electricity details, etc. I cannot tell you how much time I have saved in terms of looking for things. I also keep things such as my profile, email replies (especially related to describing my business) etc.
  3. I use Evercontact premium to manage all my contacts. I have ca. 21.000 contacts that I have collected over the last 18 years working around the world. Keeping those up to date would be a nightmare without things like evercontact. It basically monitors your emails and when you reply to someone it looks at the contact details (telephone, email, address, title, company, etc) and auto updates your contact information. That way I don’t have to save contacts anymore.
  4. Dropbox (or Box, or google drive, or Microsoft OneDrive)… I bought the premium version (1 terabyte) and store on it everything I have… from copies of my passport to scanned documents about properties and contracts to every single photo I ever took (of which I still have a copy). I use ca. 180GB. The first time uploading is a bitch, but after that it is complete peace of mind. I destroyed my laptop 3 months ago and because everything is backed up I was up and running and productive within 2 hours on a new laptop.
  5. Use one email account that is paid for… I use google apps (essentially the paid for version of gmail). USD 40 per year. 30GB (very little compared to the peers). I hate gmail look and feel personally and don’t trust google much after the numerous blunders (Google+ a case in point) but love the ease with which it integrates with many email service providers such as outlook etc. Why the paid for version? Because it allows me to slap my domain on top of it so my emails look more professional.
  6.  Use a signature tool such as WiseStamp (the free version adds a microscopic signature to your emails)… so that your emails looking professional. I personally moved away from that and towards emails signatures that sell… by this I mean that just having a email signature with contact details is a little useless… make every email count. Include what value you add as a professional or company… include a cool article you wrote, etc.
  7. I use Waze so that I don’t have to remember all the places I have been.
  8. I use whatsapp but have switched off all notifications and almost always delete a group I am in unless absolutely essential.
  9. Keep any non-crucial app out of your phone. Twitter? Read it on your laptop at home. Games? Delete them. The point is: use your phone as a working tool and not a distraction mechanism. See my other blog.
  10. SaneLater used to be something I really liked
  11. Use a method to your email… Here is what I do: In my gmail app on my phone whenever I see and email I quickly look at it. If it is important but not urgent I click the little star next to it and then archive it. If it is not important I just archive it directly (little button at the top… depending on your device). In outlook I created a new “Search Folder” (bottom of your email folders on the left…) and created “Mail flagged for follow up”. Then I marked that folder as favorites so it shows at the top left of outlook screen. That automatically syncs with my gmail so that I see in that folder all the items marked on my phone with a little star. The cool thing is that with that it also shows me how many (e.g. 160 items)… as I work through them I untick the star and the number drops so I have the feeling of actually accomplishing stuff… a little mindtrick really). It also means my inbox is nice and clean – i.e. zero.
  12. Don’t file emails in folders… in this day and age you don’t need to. Everything is searchable. Save the time you spend filing for other things.
  13. Add your linkedin signature at each email. Auto signature… Make each email into a connection opportunity.
  14. Obviously make a linkedin profile that really achieves what you need it to achieve (no… no-one cares where you went to high school… make your profile SELL you or your company!)


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