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3 tricks that saved my productivity sanity

One of the biggest pain with working in digital media is how easy it is to get distracted. Since I am always ‘connected’ it’s not always easy to remain focused. I’ve been testing with a few new approaches lately and these 3 are working pretty well.

1. Set up E-mail filters

15th June 2013 Update: GMail’s new tabbed layout seems to more or less function the same way as how I recommend setting up filters, their solution is a lot more elegant, so I suggest you try it out. Check out this handy article at
I am literally subscribed to tens of newsletters, some to do with my job and others on areas of interests and it was getting incredibly distracting. I’ve since unsubscribed myself from a good chuck but there are still far too many for my liking. Whenever I see that number pop up next to the gmail tab, it’s impossible for me to resist checking it, just in case it’s an emergency with something I have to fix. Then there are the emails with an incredibly interesting subject lines that I just have to read there and then.
It was just too much, so I’ve started using Gmail filters. ALL the “essential” newsletters now skips the inbox and are stored  inside a News folder that I only check when I am on a break. It’s been fantastic!
Here’s a wonderful post on on Mashable on using GMail Filters

2. Keep a to do list but keep it simple!

Don’t waste your energy in trying to keep a todo list in your head, write it down, either on paper or use my fav project management app – Trello. but make sure you keep your tasks list short. Anything
Make sure you don’t over do your to do list. If  something is more than 3 months old, than it cannot be important – so JUST DELETE IT or create a back burner list  elsewhere, such as on Evernote. The aim is to keep your list short so you can scan all the items and more importantly to make sure you don’t ever feel overwhelmed by the list and end up doing nothing.

3. Limit the time you spend on social media

Control the time you spend on social media and ONLY allow your self a limited time slot. I only allow myself to go on Facebook and Twitter between on the hour and 5 mins past the hour (9am – 9:05am, 10am – 10:05am, 11am – 11:05am…etc) and If I miss the slot, tough! I will have to wait til the next slot.
I do admit I have a very bad habit of going on to facebook or twitter when I have a lot of work to do. It’s a bit like, if I don’t start the problem it doesn’t exist. This method helps me keep my social media addiction under control. There’s even an asap science video on this very unhelpful habit.

Other methods

I have flirt around with other techniques such the pomodoro technique which separate your tasks into 25mins slots. It can work wonders for some tasks, but other times it’s not particularly helpful when you get in “the zone”.
Do you have any productivity tips? Please share with us using the comment box below.

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Stop thinking and start using Trello for your project management

I have a geeky confession to make. I actually enjoy testing out different tools. I went through a long process in deciding which note taking app I should use (It may not be too surprising to hear Evernote ended up taking my heart.) I felt a bit guilty for taking so much time running my tests to see which would suit me most. However, my argument is that by wasting a few more minutes now I could potential be a much happier person later on. Not am I in search of a suitable tool, i’m also investing my energy (and sometimes money) in the team behind the tool. The same app we use today may be completely different in a year’s time, I have to trust the direction the developers are moving in is same as my own requirements.The purpose of this post is to give you an understanding why I found Trello so amazing and why I would highly recommend it as your project management tool (I am not financially affiliated with Trello in anyway)
I like to think I have done my fair share of research for project management tools. I really wanted to allow myself in taking the time to really understand my own requirements and pick the right project management service for me. The following is a list of tools I have tried and a very quick summary of my findings:

  • Basecamp – I love what 37 Signals does, really enjoyed their insightful book ReWork but basecamp didn’t feel right to me.
  • TeamBox – By recommendation from fellow web developer, very systematic approach but slightly confusing to use, maybe it’s just me.
  • Wunderkit – Beautifully designed App, worked a little slow for me and frankly I felt the heavy graphic slightly distracting.
  • Action Method – A very well designed platform by Behance, my absolutely favourite in terms of visual design, yet its too rigid
  • Trello – The very tool this post is based on, carry on reading for my thoughts.

As I’m sure you have worked out by now I ended up chosing Trello as my project management tool of chose. It’s flexiblily is absolutely amazing, it’s as close as you can get to having a whiteboard with stick notes, you can change the titles how ever you like, restructure boards if needed and assign members of your team to task with a simple drag and drop, this is an absolutely fantastic tool. I really like how the team really take their time to communicate with the community, exchanging ideas, reporting progress and milestones to each new feature, conveniently by using a Trello Board. Although it’s currently free, like DropBox and Evernote I would gladly pay money for their excellent service.
The recent addition to the Android App is also a plus (Along side their iOS and Mobile Web app), a little slow on the load but I have faith in the team. So, like I said in the title stop wasting time and start using Trello now. If you need further convincing, have a look at this article on Trello over at ReadWriteWeb

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New Gems – PM tools and HTML frameworks

It’s been an exciting week for me. Please bear in mind I am rather geeky! Found a number of gems for my work – both in terms of Project Management tool and HTML frames works.

First of all, I had a very clear winner for my hunt for a good project management tool out of the following shortlisted application:

I was on the look out for a user friendly and flexible project management tool. Something that can handle several projects and possibly even my everyday live stuff. The clear winner for me is Trello, it was just so easy to use and had a great way showing lots of information. For me the whole experience is just so much nicer then Teamlab and Podio.
Then out of the blue I got a beta invites from WunderKit, a project management tool by 6WunderKinder, the same folks that created the gorgeous productivity app wunderlist. By the time I knew about wunderlist I was already fairly comfortable with the 2 task management I use everyday Catch and Spring Pad (Service no longer available) and didn’t fancy transferring everything over. So I was very excited to hear about WunderKit. So far my experience it’s good. As expected everything is beautiful, It had a very clean way of structuring projects, keeping everything very clean. I wonder if there would be an Android app for it later on. I just confirmed there is a iOS app but not Android…. which of course makes me very unhappy.

HTML frameworks

As I have previously mentioned, BOOTSTRAP from Twitter ROCKS. I also stumbled across the Foundation Framework, which I’m very excited about working with. But recently I haven’t had any projects that will allow me to make use of it. So that will have to wait.
Luckily i do have a wordpress project coming up and I would 2 Bootstrap based themes:

I will of course keep you all updated on how I get on.


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Project Management Tool

I have been testing a number of project management methods and tools for sometime. I’ve tried using my current note taking Apps:

  • Evernote (Work related items)
  • Spring Pad (Service no longer available) (Everything else)
  • Catch (Food Diary)

But as you can imagined it’s not really doing the trick, so I went on to try new methods and applications. Due to budgetting reasons, I wanted it to be something open source. So i tried a number of them following:

***Please click here to see the result***

Podio had a nice interface and looked very nice but the flow of use didn’t feel right. Despite the flexibly it has with customisable “apps” it still had a rigid structure for the various entries. The views were also very limited, I couldn’t explore the various projects and tasks like I wanted them, nor could I work out the difference between the Tasks and Deliverables. I also wanted to see the various tasks together in one view, which it couldn’t do.
TeamLab was my second attempt. It was ok, not as nice as podio, but ok. Again it didn’t allow me to view my various projects together, but it did allow me to see the big picture without being assign to the task it self. The views were also kinda boring. Not that’s a bad thing, just not flexible enough for me.
So in comes Trello, which I’m very much at the testing phase for, but i have to say it looks very promising. I first heard about it along time ago, I remember watching the video and thought “that’s a nice idea, but i don’t need it yet” I thought I bookmarked it, but I was wrong… I actually thought Podio was Trello when I found it from various google searched for “Open source project management” So I was very happy when smashing magazine’s facebook fanpage had an articles about them. So here I am, just signed up and designed my first Broad, I haven’t deleted my Podio and Teamlab accounts just yet, but it’s feeling pretty good so far. I like how it lets you handle it how you like. It feels more like a selection of flexible tools more then a rigid “fill in the blanks” diary.
I will keep you all up to date on how I get on. I am also very interested in 6wunderkinder’s but unfortunately’s its only in closed beta at the moment, I look forward to giving it that a try once it’s open
*I am not endorsed by any of the companies or services I mentioned above