How To // Be a Productivity Ninja

Back by popular demand, this article was originally posted in August 2014. #throwback

At my day job, my number one responsibility is to take care of my sales team. I am blessed to work with one of the most energetic, hungry, happy & most awesome group of people I can imagine, most of whom happen to be in college. My role as the mama bear (mAMaBEaR) of the pack means that I not only coach them through the day-to-day administrative challenges we face, but to help develop them into better humans. I am there to set them up to win. At work & in life.

So when I can show them what a mail merge is, how to sort a table on Excel or how to properly shake hands, I know I'm bettering them for the future & that makes me feel good.

This world moves faster than ever before. If you want to run with the big dogs, you have to learn to work smarter, so you can utilize your brain power towards BIG WINS as opposed to getting dragged down by the minutia of rewriting to-do lists. With the technology we all have access to, there is no excuse for inefficiency.

Whether you're on my sales team, starting your own business, or want to improve the day-to-day management of your life, use these tools to better yourself now.

Gmail // If you have an AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo email address, I judge you. Sorry about it.

Google Calendar & Week Cal // More & more often, when I see people writing- with a pen- into a daily planner- in a book- I want to take it out of their hands & smack them upside the head with it. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! When you set up your Gmail account, you get an extra treat- Google Calendar. If you have a work email account through Outlook, use it. Start scheduling yourself, please. Scheduling means you can't forget. Invite your friends & co-workers to drinks, dinners, vacations & meetings by sending them calendar reminders. Set yourself alarms before your highlight & haircut instead of having 13 appointment cards in your wallet. When you manage your time well, you have a better chance of showing up on time to your appointments, which is the only acceptable way to live. You'll stop forgetting birthdays, since you'll set your BFF's birthday on a yearly repeat with a 7 day alarm reminder, which means you'll be a better friend. Use the Week Cal app to seamlessly merge all of your calendars into one. I've tried all of the calendar apps, and trust me- Week Cal is the best one. I use this so my work & personal life can be viewed on one screen & I like mine to default to the month at a glance page and I input when my paydays are, when bills are due, when I get my period- everything.

Look at that- download one app & your friends will love you more, you'll improve your credit score & never miss a mani-pedi appointment again. I'm already changing your life. Read on, young grasshoppers.

Lift or Streaks // If you are trying to change your life, you do so by taking small steps & mini actions in the right direction. A repeated mini action becomes a habit. Habits become your identity. Pick a small, easy to accomplish task that you need to get done each day. Maybe it's 50 kettle bell swings or a 20 minute run or submitting a report to your boss. Or maybe it's remembering to tell your girlfriend she's beautiful. Whatever it is, this will remind you to do it everyday, and just get it done. The thing that is awesome about this method is that over time, seeing all of the days in a row you've done your habit start to serve as a motivation.. you want to keep your streak going! Don't get caught up in lofty goals, just set small, achievable action items for each day. And use these apps to motivate you to keep going. Good habits help you be a bad ass automatically, so start them today.

The Skimm // Most news is NOISE. Nancy Grace is NOISE. Dr. Drew is NOISE. News channels are NOISE. There is a lot of gnarly stuff going on in the world. Things we should be aware of. Do not live in a bubble, but don't overwhelm yourself by trying to filter through the bullshit to get to the meat of the issues. I LOVE The Skimm for giving me a tongue-in-cheek peek out of my La Jolla bubble, delivering the news in a fairly unbiased, easy to digest format. You'll get an email every morning that highlights what's happening out there. And it's a good ego check. Oh, bad hair day? ISIS has driven a group of Iraqi's out of their towns to the edge of a cliff. Put on a hat, stay informed & be humbled. 

Feedly // To expand on managing the news you are exposed to, follow blogs in your industry or your interest base to get better at your job & at life. Organize the blogs that actually matter to you by managing them in Feedly. When Google Reader was laid to rest I literally tried EVERY news aggregator & this was by far the best one. Bloggers hold a hold a huge amount of power in their ability to post rapidly & give feedback in real time; never be late on a trend again & keep yourself up to date.

Evernote // If you use Evernote I automatically like you 10% more. This cloud-based software is designed for note-taking, list-making & world domination. Access your lists/notes from any computer or your smart phone. I jot down my dreams, take secret notes of things my friends say they like so Christmas shopping is easier, record the maintenance I've done on my car, inspirational quotes, what my next blog post will be, etc. Instead of post-its & miscellaneous notebooks, archive your brain in a more organized fashion. 

PassDiary // If you're like me, your biggest nightmare is the password requirement that looks like this: Your password must have 4 upper-case letters, 3 symbols, 18 numbers & the letter q. With the 10 million online accounts we all have to manage, keep all of your login information, passwords, account numbers & access codes in one safe/secure place. 

Power Hours // Magic happens when you give all of your attention to one task for a set period of time. We can't sustain 8 hours of laser-like focus, our brains would explode. So in my office, when deadlines are tight & we need to #dowork, we have power hours. One hour a day where the 80s pop music gets turned UP & we JAM & focus & POWER through. We give it our all. And at the end of that hour, we stretch, jump, lunge, get silly, or just leave for the day. Or if we can't 'power hour' as a group, one team member will sit away from the phones, in a secluded spot & jam HIIT style. 20 minutes of focus, 5 min break, 20 minutes of focus, 5 min break, repeat until complete. (This is called the Pomodoro Method.) Ask any one of my team members- our productivity is insane during power hour & the music is always the best. 

Prioritize // You need to make a list of what needs to get done. Just do it. If you don't you'll be floundering all day. Then you need to rank the items on your list from most important & most urgent to least important & least urgent. Use the Covey Quadrants. You need to consider that big projects often need to be broken down into smaller chunks that can be delegated or focused on later. 

Take care of yourself // Here I am-standing on my soapbox. I truly believe that I would not be as productive or happy or energetic without eating really well, working our HARD & getting enough sleep. Honestly, don't underestimate the power of good food, especially during the work day. Healthy food with adequate protein & fats will keep your brain functioning at an optimal level. Staying hydrated is going to help your eyeballs from drying out and will keep the functions of your body operating efficiently. Exercise is going to burn off excess movement energy & will exhaust your body physically so you can sleep more soundly at night.  And I don't have to tell you about the difference you feel on a Monday morning after a 48 hour bender vs 2 restful nights of sleep. If you're a boozehound but need to be productive cool it for a month & let me know how good you feel after. I'm serious.

Chill // Working in the red zone all the time is awesome if you want to die of a heart attack at 33. Work hard so you can live hard, and don't live to work. The thing that's great about working hard is you really appreciate time you have to relax SO MUCH MORE. It feels better when it's earned. Your cocktails taste better when they're a treat, not a staple in your diet. We're on this earth for a short time & get one crack at this life. So use the time you have wisely. Working is necessary for most of us in order to support our lifestyles, dreams, aspirations. So leverage the time you have to get the most out of what you put in by working smarter. You won't need to work longer hours if you spend the 8 you have in the office wisely. 

And honestly, in comparison to most people, if you're following these tactics & continue to pursue optimal efficiently, your productivity output will be far and above your co-workers & competitors... so while I'm all for improving all humans, it's up to you if you chose to share these tips with a friend or if you decide to keep them for yourself. Just go be a rockstar.


Amber Nicole