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Productivity and Process – Our favorite ways to get work done

By:
November 1, 2012

Here at Crux Collaborative, we have dozens of projects in various states of completion going on at any given time. How do we make sure all the moving pieces don’t become overwhelming? Which tools and methods we use to stay focused on the task(s) at hand? Since motivation is a uniquely personal thing, I asked each person on our team a few questions about their process and workflow. It was a fun way to learn something about each person, but also see the productivity landscape at Crux Collaborative!

Question 1: Do you have a favorite productivity methodology that you follow or partially incorporate into your workflow?

There’s no shortage of books and blogs about personal productivity. But when I surveyed the office, many of us agreed that there’s one clear leader:

Getting Things Doneby David Allen

  • The most popular methodology among us at Crux Collaborative is called Getting Things Done (or “GTD“). In fact, everyone is encouraged to read it, even if they choose not to follow it. Some of us have even attended seminars about it.
  • I recently fell in love the GTD methodology, myself. I’m fairly new to it, but I do my best to maintain “Inbox 0”. And if something takes less than 2 minutes to complete, I just get it done. Those fairly simple practices made an immediate impact on de-cluttering my mind!
  • TIP: If you haven’t read Getting Things Done by David Allen and need a new way to think about your productivity, we can’t recommend this book enough!

GTD

Question 2: Are there any applications that you use to help you stay focused or prioritize your work? Do you have any helpful tips for these apps?

There are a few productivity apps that really stand out in our office:

OmniFocusby Omni Plan

  • With all of the GTD followers, it doesn’t surprise me that many of us use this application. This Mac-only, multi-device app was designed specifically with GTD in mind, and is perfect for organizing dozens of projects and tasks that we work on every week.
  • OmniFocus allows fast and easy syncing on all of our Apple devices, which means I can enter a new to-do on my phone and it automatically shows up on my laptop, too.
  • I also love the fact that I can use keystroke commands to add new tasks to OmniFocus while I’m working in another program, so I don’t have to skip a beat. My new tasks will be saved in to my inbox, where they will be ready for me to sort later.
  • Adding comments, context, due dates and priority to tasks makes it easy to know what to do and when to do it.
  • It’s like having an external hard-drive for your brain so you can focus on what you are doing, instead of worrying about your to-do list.
  • TIP: Here’s a fun little trick I learned. You can have Siri add items to your Omnifocus inbox by syncing iOS Reminders with Omnifocus! It’s my favorite use for Siri and helps me update my inbox when I’m not near my computer.

omnifocus

ToDo

  • Similar to OmniFocus, ToDo is a task tracking application that syncs across many devices.
  • It is available online and can sync to Apple devices with a paid subscription (sorry Android fans).
  • ToDo also offers Dropbox and iCloud synchronization.
  • Mike likes ToDo because, “When the inbox and the brain is full, I break down and use software. Todo syncs nicely with my iPhone and sends alerts based on deadlines I create.”

todo

Evernoteby Evernote Corporation

  • This FREE multi-device software application is awesome for taking notes. I have the worst chicken scratch imaginable, so taking hand-written notes is a lesson in futility because I know that I won’t be able to read 80% of it later!
  • I love Evernote because I can bring my iPad to a meeting, open the application and take notes (even without immediate internet access).
  • When I get back to the office, I just have to open the desktop version of Evernote and my notes are ready for me to review, refine and post.
  • Emily loves using Evernote in combination with OmniFocus: “I use OmniFocus for anything that will eventually have a ‘done’ status. I use Evernote for everything else.”
  • Mahtab also uses Evernote in conjunction with GTD. “I use Evernote to create and maintain my various Weekly Review checklists and checklists for other recurring activities that are complicated or require multiple steps. When Omnifocus tells me a recurring task is due, I open the corresponding Evernote checklist for that item to help me way make my way through it and not forget any steps.”

evernote

TextExpanderby Smile Software

  • I recently discovered TextExpander by Smile Software. By using custom “Snippets” I can instantly fill-in common phrases and save tons of time.
  • I use it a lot for common greetings, status update templates, signatures and website URLs. It’s amazing how much time adds up for little things like that!
  • TextExpander has some great features that let you insert date/time stamps, specific formats, links, and images.
  • It even tracks how often you use your Snippets so you can see how much time you save. As a data nerd, this makes me happy!

textexpander

Question 3: Even though we live/breathe/sleep digital, is there a manual process that you just can’t live without?

Believe it or not, most of our technology-driven team goes analog pretty regularly:

Behance Action Journalby Behance

  • Another universally popular product in our office is the Behance Action Journal. The pages are designed for easy note-taking but have dedicated space for action items and “backburner” details that you don’t want to forget.
  • These simple notebooks integrate very smoothly with the GTD method by calling out the specific things that need to get done.
  • After a meeting is over, we add the action items to our OmniFocus tasks.

behance

(The classic) Post-It® Notesby 3M

  • Post-It notes are popular around here as well. They are most often used as a tool for sketchboarding sessions when we talk about our favorite features and ideas.
  • We use different colors to indicate features to highlight and ideas to table for later.

postits

Everything else

We all have little things that make a big difference to our personal productivity. Here are just a few of them…

  • Tony: “I must have coffee and something engaging to listen to while I code. Three times per week at the gym is a must. I also must get time unplugged… read fiction from a paper book, fishing, camping, etc.”
  • Annette: “I may be ‘old school’ but I am a note-taker – with pen and paper. I think there is something about the process of writing it down and committing it to memory. I have always been a visual learner so the act of writing and reading my tasks helps me process it and commit it to memory.”
  • Jennifer: “POST-ITS – preferably lined, or graph printed. I have a notebook that includes a calendar and, well, let’s just say I’m particular about my writing instruments!”
  • Teri: “Notebook and pen – I carry it around with me all day and create a daily checklist with my tasks… there’s something satisfying about being able to check a task off my list.”

Question 4: Just for fun… Is there a particular playlist/album/song that helps you to get “in the zone” at work?

Make your own Crux Collaborative inspired playlist and check out what inspires our work!

annette-gustafson-med

Annette: I listen to music all day. Only exceptions are meetings and when I am proofreading. Wearing headphones is ideal for me to drown out surrounding noise, plus I love music. My current Spotify playlist includes a mix of artists and genres to fit my mood: Metric, The Gossip, Santigold, Polica, Phoenix, Tribe Called Quest, Florrie, Paul Oakenfold, and more…

katherine-block-med

Katherine: Spotify is my new best friend. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of electro-swing such as Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace. Other artists that pop up a lot are Gramatik, The Glitch Mob, Amon Tobin, Florence + the Machine, Fun, and Infected Mushroom.

mike-mcclure-med

MikeLove is the Drug – Roxy Music.

tony-johnson-med

Tony I get the most done listening to atmospheric music (The Album Leaf, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Tycho, Bon Iver) but sometimes I need a kick (Queens of the Stoneage, Interpol, The Kills). I’m also a podcast junkie: This American Life, The Nerdist, Risk!, The BS Report, Fresh Air.

Lest those of you reading this who don’t do well with music feel alone: don’t. John, Mahtab, and Jennifer find music distracting while working and prefer to work without it.

By Katherine Block
User Experience Consultant

Katherine is a jack of all trades with nearly every aspect of the UX process. Her broad approach enables her to fill gaps between the different phases of interactive design including Information Architecture, Development, and Project Management.

View Katherine's Bio

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