Over the past two years, I’ve explored various tools and strategies to boost my productivity. However, none of them truly made a significant impact until I discovered the two game-changing solutions I’m about to share in this article.
Actions are louder than words. ~ Mark Twain.
The Friction Problem
One common issue I encountered with many productivity tools was the amount of friction they introduced into my workflow. I craved a streamlined process, one that required minimal clicks and interactions.
For instance, the process of adding a simple to-do item often involved opening an app, clicking a plus icon, inputting text, clicking “save,” and then returning to my original task. In team meetings, I would often commit to tasks, only to forget them later (our brains are not ideal for storing such information). Five steps to add a to-do seemed excessive.
Research has highlighted the importance of reducing clicks to improve the user experience, as exemplified in “User Experience and the Double Diamond.”
The Inertia Problem
Newton’s first law applies not only to physics but also to our daily lives. It states that every object will remain at rest or in motion unless compelled to change its state by an external force.
If you find yourself engrossed in scrolling through Instagram, you’re in motion, and interrupting that flow requires effort. But why would you? It’s effortless entertainment. So, what provides the necessary force for change? It could be a phone call, an impending assignment, or a looming deadline — external factors that can jolt you out of inertia.
Likewise, if you’re idling or engrossed in gaming, you need external motivation to shift your focus to more critical tasks.
To address the friction issue, I turned to Todoist. Todoist offered a clever way to reduce friction through shortcuts. With just three steps and virtually zero clicks, I could add a task. After installing the app, I accessed Settings > Advanced Tab > Quick Add Task and customized my shortcut (mine’s cmd + option + A).
Now, I simply use the shortcut, type the task, and hit enter — it’s done. We’ve slashed the time and friction from 6–8 seconds to just 2 seconds. This rapid task capture helps me remember my commitments and enhances my image within my team.
Todoist’s natural language processing (NLP) parses text and can set reminders and deadlines for tasks. The pro version also offers enhanced reminders and notifications.
As for tackling the inertia problem, I enlisted Google Calendar (or any preferred calendar app) as my external force. Every night before bed, I consult my calendar and Todoist and schedule dedicated blocks of time for tasks, treating them like meetings with myself. These blocks fall into two categories:
- Routine Tasks: These are recurring daily activities like exercise, meditation, writing, and journaling.
- Ad-Hoc/Important Tasks: I review my Todoist and transfer tasks to the calendar, scheduling them for when I intend to complete them.
Now, while I’m engrossed in Instagram or another activity, calendar notifications serve as reminders and external forces to shift my focus.
Notifications aren’t just distractions; they can also be valuable tools when used strategically.
With this setup, you never have to feel anxious that you are not doing enough. If you ever feel like this, skim through Todoist, pick any task, and just do it.
- Reducing friction in your workflow, even for seemingly minor tasks like adding a to-do item, significantly increases your chances of completion.
- Seek opportunities to minimize steps and streamline processes.
- Remembering, external nudges and reminders can assist you in transitioning from rest to motion or redirecting your focus from one activity to another — especially if that other activity is important work.