How to Peak Productivity and Your Sanity in the Era of Automation

Beyonce also has 24 Hours in Her Day

Life can be a whirlwind. Endless to-do lists pull you in a dozen different directions and never seem to empty.

We navigate that tempest every day as busy working professionals—volunteering, passion projects, side gigs, family, friends and maintaining a semi-decent social life. And for a lot of people, that’s only half their list of things to-do.

It’s romanticized to work 24/7 but in reality, you have to find a sustainable way to work, reduce burnout and reach a happy work-life medium – while still managing to crush your professional goals. And to do that, you need to be highly productive.

The real secret to getting so much done is focus, organization and some real-good automation. I’ve evolved from the sticky notes full of to-do lists to sourcing better patterns that build healthy work habits.


Start with finding your weekly focus – and set your calendar reminders
If your to-do list is like the average professional, it’s a mile long. Trying to split your focus across 100+ tasks is not only difficult, it’s counterproductive. So, sharpen your focus by honing in on three to five tasks that will afford you the greatest results, and schedule those into your Google Calendar. Trust me, those reminders will alert you until you can’t forget.

Automate your admin (Not your actual work)
We live in an extraordinary time—one in which you can hire virtual assistants for free from Zoom.Ai or anywhere in the world for as little as $6 per hour to tackle the tasks you just can’t squeeze in. I’ve seen people use Upwork and Fiverr, where you can leverage your time tremendously. If you also haven’t yet automated your bill payments, I would highly urge you to save on those tedious minutes, but only if your personal finances are steady.

Keyboard shortcuts –
As surprising as it is, I still come across people who use a mouse to copy and paste instead of Windows and Mac keyboard shortcuts. Small things like this can greatly speed up email, document editing, and more.

IFTTT (If then then this)
With a couple of clicks, I can create custom personal workflows to automate file creation and sharing, reminders, and integrate with almost everything. For example, I get weather forecast everyday at 7:00 AM and all my iphone images are automatically saved into a file in my Google Drive.

Let’s not forget the biggest productivity sin
It’s tempting to open every new email that gets delivered to your inbox, or use your email as a to-do list, but it’s inefficient. Use rules and filters liberally to process messages into relevant folders, avoid spam and notifications to reduce the time spent reading unnecessary messages.

I check email at specific times of the day with the goal of keeping my inbox clean. Start using Unroll.Me to purge old subscription emails and use SaneBox to remove unimportant messages from your inbox.

Understand your interruptions
No matter what environments you’ve worked in, you’ll realize there are always distractions.
To help, install Stay Focused, a Chrome extension that limits time on the Internet sites you know will distract you, and RescueTime, which tracks and provides your productivity scores. After a week of seeing 35% of your time spent on email, you’ll feel motivated to buckle down and close that tab.

Shift from cluttered desks to organized drives
A cluttered desktop is a time sink. It sounds small, but it can eat away at your day. That’s why Google Drive is my productivity heaven. It keeps all my documents in one place so I can easily share whatever I need with the click of a button. And another reason why I love IFTTT.

Take care of yourself
Success isn’t all that sweet when a healthy you isn’t there to appreciate it.

“If you’re going to devote the best years of your life to work, do so intentionally. You can do great things AND live your life well. You can have it all, and science says you should.” – Dustin Moskovitz, CEO of Asana

There will be pockets of inefficiency, exhaustion, and frustration. But with the right amount of focus, removing distractions, and good self-care, you can get more done no matter how cluttered your to-do list has become.

Written by Arabi Sivananthalingam

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