Over many years, I’ve developed a series of systems and shortcuts to manage my life. For the first time, I’m going to write them all out and share not just what I use, but how I use them. A few simple tweaks to each secret system allows me to address emails, remember tasks, and organize files in the most efficient way possible. Most importantly, they don’t let me forget to-do’s, things I want to remember for later, or emails I need to answer. In the modern world, you better find a system that works for you. Feel free to use any or all of mine. It’s centered around two main hubs that constantly remind me of what I need to do- my desktop and my inbox. The four main programs to enable this are:
- Chrome: Let’s start with the easiest. Install Chrome as the main browser on all of your devices, and change the Preference so that downloaded files go to your Desktop rather than a Download folder. Hit Control-T to open a new tab and immediately type any search you need, hit Control-W to close that tab once you’re done. Anything you download goes to your Desktop, where it’s waiting to be opened, reviewed and then sorted in Dropbox.
- Dropbox: Many people use Dropbox to back-up and share select folders, but here’s the key to my system- My entire computer is in my Dropbox folder. It’s well worth the $100 investment annually to gain the storage you need. All of your files should be organized using the principles of MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive… Google it to learn more) so that you always know whether to drop a file into an existing folder or create a new one within Dropbox. No more Mac HD or random folder for where your files live, your goal should be to constantly clean your desktop by addressing and then sorting files over to Dropbox. This not only forces intense organization, it syncs all of your files across all computers, and it’ll enable you to use your Dropbox app on your phone to access and share your entire computer on the go. HINT: The Dropbox app’s “email a file” function is amazing.
- Gmail: The key to hyper-efficient Gmail usage is to enable selected Google Labs, archive religiously, and aspire towards inbox zero. First off, here are the labs to enable: Auto-advance, Background Send, Canned Responses, Inserting Images, Mark as Read Button, Right-Side Chat, Undo Send. Each of these Labs is a gamechanger, but right-side chat is an especially great tweak. Also, in the General setting make sure that Send and Archive, and Keyboard Shortcuts are both on. Just so we’re on the same page, your inbox is now your to-do list. Nothing stays in there unless you are purposely saving it to address later. With Keyboard Shortcuts enabled, click on an email to open it, once you’ve read it press R to start typing a reply (or F for a forward). As soon as you’re done typing, hit TAB, then SPACEBAR. This will Send and Archive that thread. TAB and SPACEBAR will become a part of your typing habit. You’ll learn to love that one-two punch when you’ve finished an email. If you don’t need to reply at all, just press E and the email is archived. Gone. You’ll learn to love this one too. Your inbox will start to function as your list of top-priority items and future to-do’s. If your inbox gets above 10-15 items, it’s time to send out those email responses you’ve been saving for too long and need to write. HINT: Download the Gmail app for your phone. It’s light years better than the standard mailbox for finding old emails.
- Captio: Captio is an iPhone app that lets you type a note and quickly send to your own inbox. Keep Captio on your phone’s front page. Anytime you have a quick thought to remember, hear a song you want to download, or observe something worth remembering, quickly open the app, type in the name/idea/thought, press send, and you’re done. Now that item will stay in your inbox, driving you crazy until you handle it.
For Twitter I use Tweetbot on my phone. For daily emails, Newsle and Upworthy are interesting every day. TextExpander and Moom are great tools for general computer usage. And Pocket is great for saving long articles via Tweetbot that I read when I’m on flights, trains or cab rides.
That’s Part I of my system, feel free to share yours!
My iPhone front page screen. What’s yours look like?