The old adage “work smarter, not harder” might be creeping closer and closer to cliché status, but when you need to get a lot of things done in a short amount of time, there are an amazing number of tips, tricks and techniques out there to beat those pesky deadlines. Here are five of my favorites:
Mise En Place
Mise en place, a French phrase for “putting in place,” is standard practice in most professional kitchens where ingredients are prepared and organized ahead of time (think of a cooking show with all of their items pre-peeled and chopped). However, this philosophy can also apply to your work life, not just in the kitchen. For example, if I know I want to knock out an editing job first thing in the morning, I’ll spend 15 minutes before I leave my office the previous day bookmarking the web pages I’ll need, printing out versions of the project and setting up a quick list of tasks. This little bit of mise en place the night before lets me hit the ground running in the morning.
Lifehacker.com is always a great source for ways to work smarter. Belvedere is a great application built by Lifehacker Editor-in-Chief Adam Pash that will automatically move files on your computer. Using Belvedere, you can set a series of rules and keep your computer organized and in peak fighting condition. For example, you can set up a rule that says that if a file is older than two months it should be automatically be moved to an archive folder. Or a rule that says any Microsoft Word file stored on your desktop should be moved to a “Documents” folder. If you have found that your desktop is getting a bit unruly and you can never seem to find a file when you need it most, Belvedere may be the perfect solution.
Don’t worry—it’s not another cooking technique. The Pomodoro Method is a time management method developed by university student Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. Named after the tomato-shaped timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), the Pomodoro method calls for intensive, 25-minute work sessions followed by a five-minute break. Used consistently, the method fosters focus and can be helpful when you need to guard against distractions and procrastination.
Much to my colleagues’ chagrin, I tend to record a lot of meetings and conversations. If you’re like me and need your notes in audio form, DropVox is an application you should check out. What I love about this app is that it just does one thing: records audio right into your Dropbox folder. So when you need to capture important information during a meeting or conversation, just hit the DropVox icon on your phone, press record, and capture everything that’s said so you can sort through it back at your computer.
To-do lists are a staple of any sort of productivity improvement plan, and while many prefer the trusty pad-and-pen approach, there are tons of mobile apps that are worth investigating. So far, Clear for the iPhone is my favorite. The interface is simple and easy to read. Creating a list item is easy and you can quickly add, remove, sort or check off items, which are arranged in order of importance from top to bottom. Items are also color-coded—dark red for the top of your to-do list and fading to yellow toward the bottom. Genius!
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