NOTES ON PRODUCTIVITY: How to work more efficient and not get distracted

In this article I’d like to share my methods to be able to do more than usual. Those who know me are aware that i’m cracked about being effective, but at the same time I’m a very lazy person. This is why I think this should only make my notes more practical since after time I left only the necessary minimum (cuz I’m lazy duh) which at the same time works perfectly.

Step 1. Set yourself a rhythm.

To get into the regime of doing thing fast and productively, no matter how weird it sounds, I find help at doing small (not too important) things. It is a rare occasion when I have just somthing one planned for the day. Mostly it looks like a pile of small tasks, a couple of average ones and a couple of biggies. Yeah, I should keep in mind priorities and all that..

Practice showed after some time that, of course unless there’s a crisis situation, it’s better to start with few small things. Since the volume is not grand, they can be done in first 30-60 minutes, but as bonus they give a feeling “oh I already did so much!” and it keeps the speed level for the rest of the tasks with a feeling of a slightly better self-esteem on the background. Don’t underestimate this.

Step 2. Speed up the time spent on unnecessaries

I would as well rename this one as – learn all the possibilities of the keyboard. Apart from a simple course of typing with 10 fingers, a keyboard can provide a bunch of other options. Practically any program and for sure operational systems have shortcuts – combination of keys – that save time.

Among the most useful and most often used:

1) Switching between languages

Of course not everybody use more than 3 languages on everyday basis but from personal experience even switching between those 3 is not comfortable. As I result I used advanced setting of language bar setting up CTRL + number of language and don’t even think when I need to switch a language. Fingers simply find the keys’ combination.

2) Switching between windows

Windows allows few variations how to work with a desktop windows but after time the most simple and fast proved to be this one

– pin to taskbar the programs I use in a specific order; my advice – the more you use it the more to the left it should be

– use WIN button + number of the pinned program instead of clicking there with a mouse

Like this I have WIN + 1 for file explorer, WIN + 2 for Google Chrome, WIN + 3 for Skype etc. I use 6-7 programs on super regular basis, using the rest online. As a result when I need to switch between different windows of different programs, without losing a thought, fingers open it automatically.

3) Switching between tabs of browsers

While working online I think it’s a must have.

CTRL + TAB – tab forward

CTRL + SHIFT +TAB – tab backward

4) Working with emails

At work I use Outlook, but this is applicable for the rest of email clients (if not – it’s tunable in settings)

CTRL + R reply a letter

CTRL + SHIFT + R reply to all

CTRL + F forward a letter

CTRL + ENTER send a letter you’re composing

The last function is not in Outlook by default but after applying it once Outlook suggests to remember it as an option for sending all mail.

This list can be longer and more adapted for other software but the ones mentioned above could be useful for merely anybody online. Don’t waste your thoughts and precious second on this nonsense each time, it’s simply not worth it. It might take a week to get fully accustomed to all shortcut, but it’ll save more time in future.


The most used folders and files can be pinned to taskbar like this by adding them as a new toolbar through right clicking

Folders in Toolbar

Step3. Don’t get sidetracked while working.

I consider getting distracted the enemy number one of productivity. Partially I even enjoy crisis situations because they force you to stay focus on solving one main thing otherwise it’s doomed.

But.. living in constant crisis is bad for health and mental stability, so there should be ways to go around the brain that’s curious about everything in the most inappropriate time.

1) Dump social networks and Skype

Don’t keep tabs of social networks open because they show notifications directly in the tab and lurk into checking new alerts and messages.

Funny story: A director was angry with one employee because every time he passed her work place he saw her browsing social networks, he went to IT admin of company and asked him to cut of girl’s internet access to social nets. Admin was puzzled. On one side he got a direct order from director, on the other – the girl was community manager of their company.

Skype, no matter how it gets worse since after being bought by Microsoft, has a wonderful feature – a status “DND” (do not disturb). While having it on, it’s still possible to receive all messages but not to see the number of them waiting for reply on the taskbar. It’s ideal for “yeah, i’m online, but i’m busy, so i’ll reply when i get to open it”

2) Limit programs and tabs in which you work

Sometimes it’s impossible due to job specification, but it’s still worth trying.

For example it’s possible to delete tabs that are there “to read later” (you won’t, face it), tabs from another task, other junk. If deleting is not an option, it’s possible to open new window or browser.

Extra two helpful things:

– fullscreen (off and on by F11) – super when working just in one specific thing

– hide windows taskbar; to prevent it from distracting appearing notifications from other programs must be off (for ex Skype in DND status)

3) Reschedule notifications before meetings from 15 minutes to 5 or even 3

If automatic notification says there’s 15 minutes till next meeting there are two dominant options:

– I’ll forget about this notification and return to work, being late for meeting in future

– I won’t start anything major from now on since I’ll think I don’t have time for it left

From one point of view taking a break is good. One of editor of famous online magazine was explaining how she finds system of 45-15 the most effective for her. This means she is working her ass off during 15 minutes and then relaxes for 15 min by doing smth super easy and not important or reads.

For me 15 minutes is kinda too much, 5 or 10 minutes of job related article or going through mail can do the trick.

Everybody has his own style, but I wonder how many things I prolonged till next time thinking “I won’t be able to finish it anyways..”

4) Set up a time frame

After all the gadgets tried this one stayed

It can be kept in bookmarks or added through Chrome Store. It can:

– do the countdown

– set up alarm (countdown + awful though changeable noise)

– stop watch (great for checking how much time something took)

It has few amazing outcomes:

– it shows how much time is left directly in the tab do even when there’s a thought about distraction, it’s possible just to take a quick look and the app sort of says “no-no-no, 20 more minutes and then you can go grab that coffee”

– if the task is done before countdown is over, it gives a good feeling

– timer will send notification when the time is out which is good if you have to run somewhere afterwards and it’s not possible to dedicate to the task more time than planned

– timer gives an effect of competing with one self; if I used to spend 3 hours doing that, it’s good to know that now it takes only 1

Step 4. Planning

The last step can be as the first one as well as the last one, but as the most hard to do I left it for the end.

After years of trying notebooks, postits, to do lists, online to do apps for what I have to do, I ended up having just to:

– calendar

– to do notes

Speaking about the last one, it’s quite optional. I still enjoy writing with a pen for some reason and writing an actual list for me is pleasant, plus it’s handy for meetings and random note taking. Mostly I make this list on friday afternoon or monday morning brainstorming as a approximate plan what I must do this week.

Then there’s a turn of calendar.

For some time I was OK with Google Calendar interface, but with time I got sick of interface and some extra stuff I don’t need, so I started to use Sunrize Calendar. Its interface is sort of googlish but cleaner and same effective. Bonus: it’s possible to connect other calendars and online tools to it (for ex Trello), also it has mobile app, which turned out to be comfortable note taking mobile tool and user friendly Android Calendar.

To orient myself better in the planning I chose three colours:

yellow – work tasks

blue – work meetings

green – personal plans

As it’s visible from screenshot I had a busy week on evenings with work 😛

Firstly, why have work meetings scheduled there if I might have invitations in work account anyway. It simply helps with planning in advance. If I know that somewhere this week I need to talk with this person for about 1 hour and discuss another thing with these people for 3 hours total during the week, it’ll make planning of other stuff more objectif.

But generally blue and green colours are easy to get, so I decided to explain a bit more the yellow one.

It’s the yellow part that is connected to planning in the to do list mentioned above. Sometimes I just skip to do list if there’re not many things.

When I plan the week I can already dedicate some approximate time frames for the tasks. For example, if I know there’s a 3 hour meeting in the morning, I won’t put some brain damaging task after that preferring some more operational activities and nothing involving creativity. Another option – I have some not-so-urgent task that I find appropriate to leave aside till wednesday, but during planning of the week seeing all other tasks and meetings few times it happened that by postponing the task till wednesday I wouldn’t have proper time left to finish it until next week when it might be already too late.

Also practice showed that it’s better not to plan for 8 hours but for 6, since the unexpected tasks and appointments will ruin the initially perfect schedule. 6 hours planning proved to be more objective.

This way of planning helps to put priorities and balance work load during the week more equally.

At this point it’s about it for now.


Super useful gadgets that I use not all the time or stopped using after some time but they’re still cool and practical. They are all for free or have a free package option.

1. Evernote Clearly – gives the page you read a neutral custom design. It creates a no-banners no-images clean page of content to read.

2. Yast – track what you spend your time on.

3. Trello – categorized notes or tracking a project online. It’s possible to use it for basically anything.

4. MindMeister – creating mind maps.

5. WorkFlowy – in a way it’s a minimalism of a to do list combined with dynamics of Trello.

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