This post was originally written by Justas Janauskas, CEO of Vinted, edited for publishing by me and Marek Ivanovskis
In this post I want to share with you my way of getting things done. It works quite well for someone who has to communicate a lot, but others might find it interesting as well.
I will start by listing rules for dealing with my three main channels of information:
Taking control of them is half the battle. Efficient management of incoming information leads to having more time for other important matters.
Apply the Inbox Zero philosophy to email. The number of emails in your inbox is the number of tasks that have to be done. I deal with them the following way:
- Commercial email? Unsubscribe and delete.
- An email requiring me to work for up to 15 minutes? Do the task immediately, reply and archive it.
- Proposal for a meeting? Immediately check my calendar and allocate time for the meeting. Or, propose a new time, but then mark it in my calendar until I receive a response, so that new meetings aren’t scheduled at the same time. Mark proposed, but not agreed upon time slots with a question mark. This allows me to keep up with all agreed and proposed meetings and never turn people down :-)
- A task that someone else is better suited for? Immediately forward the email to that person and ask for assistance. One problem though: this person may ignore your request. You can’t control it and the whole thing could be forgotten. Solution pending :-)
- A task that takes time? Respond immediately with the date of when you’ll get back in touch regarding the task. Put this task into OmniFocus with a deadline and a link to the original email. Archive the email.
- Discussion brewing? Move it to GitHub, reply to all with a link to GitHub and archive the email.
It’s an awesome feeling to see 0 emails in your inbox! Further tips:
- Gmail Meter provides weekly reports on the number of received/replied emails. The goal is to have these numbers decrease over time :-)
- Send and Archive saves you two extra clicks when you want email to be sent and archived.
- Undo my sent email will save your ass dozens of times!
At Vinted we use GitHub for project hosting, bug tracking and most of our internal discussions. That’s a lot of information to deal with.
Start by setting up GitHub to not send any emails. Check it once in a while, when your mailbox and calendar don’t need attention.
Go straight to notifications and only read the stuff you’re participating in. Skim through the rest of the titles to get a general feeling of what’s going on. When not very busy, feel free to browse around and subscribe to interesting topics. And don’t forget that there’s a “unsubscribe” button! ;-)
After opening a notification, always respond immediately. Otherwise, it will just get lost and be forgotten. If it requires more time/thought, put a link to it in OmniFocus.
Apply the Inbox Zero philosophy to notifications, just as you do with emails :-)
Try to minimize the number of meetings whenever possible. While it does take time getting used to, I prefer Skype instead of face-to-face meetings with people outside of the office. Time spent driving could be spent doing something else.
Do your best to avoid meetings with 5+ people. Having 5+ participants makes diving deep into specific problems difficult. Before you plan a meeting, start by using GitHub for discussions, and only have a meeting if the issue is not resolved on GitHub.
Keep public meeting notes in GitHub and review them before related meetings. If you come unprepared, it’s better not to participate at all. If any tasks arise during the meeting, put them into OmniFocus.
Choose a calendar that syncs with your phone to always be aware of what’s going on.
OmniFocus is simply an advanced to-do list. You can create your own projects and break them down into tasks with deadlines.
You can easily view tasks with approaching deadlines, which let’s you deliver on what you promised. Alternatively, just dive into any project that you think should move forward. For example, everyone hates paying bills, so just put them into a folder “Bills”, and sit down once per week/month to pay all of them quickly, instead of getting distracted by them every day.
If you see that a task can’t be completed within the deadline, move it, open the associated email and inform that you’ll deliver on another day.
OmniFocus has a cool feature called “Inbox” which is actually just a pool of ideas. When you have a new idea, which you want to work on later, just enter it into “Inbox”. Later on, when you have more time, assign more information to these ideas, set deadlines or move them to other folders. For example, a while ago I had an idea to share my GTD strategy, so I put it in the “Inbox”. That helped me not to forget about it.
Mark a task “Done” in OmniFocus is a truly great feeling, especially if it is under the deadline.
Additionally, when I am confused by too many things to do and don’t know where to start, I simply go to any urgent task and just get the shit done :).
I always try to begin task descriptions with a verb, e.g. “call the garage to arrange repairing my Rover”, or “write a post about how not to get lost in Google Drive”, or “download distimo data” - you get the idea. If the task is too abstract/wide, like “figure out transaction drop” and I know that it is hard to complete, I typically break it down into simple tasks that cannot take more than a few hours. Then I am motivated to do a small piece, rather than climb the whole mountain in one go.
OmniFocus is also great for seeing how many things are “hanging” and if I have too many deadlines looming, I can stay professional, postpone some of them and inform people in advance, rather than just being “super busy in silence”.
Skype, Facebook, Phone, Social networks
I have turned off all notifications from all services that can ping me (including SMS and call ringtones on my phone). I have configured Skype to never ping and be silent. I also rarely return missed calls, since I don’t want people to think that they can reach me anytime they want to. If something is urgent, they will call again or write an email. My goal is to minimize the number of incoming/outgoing calls from my phone. I have around 10 calls per day - this is already too many for me.
I want to choose what I do by myself, not let someone decide. I usually have very little or no time left for social activities.
The fastest way to reach me is email.
If you suffer from the problem of “too many tabs in my browser”, this will be helpful for you.
I use Google Chrome with the Tab Wrangler extension that automatically closes tabs that are inactive for longer than X minutes (30 minutes in my case). It cleans up my browser tabs very well, so that I never even notice that some tabs were closed, meaning that if a tab is inactive for more than 30 minutes, it’s really not that important for me anymore.
On the whole
This allows me to:
- Have very clear communication with everyone.
- Keep my promises to other people.
- Get more things done.
- Do not keep thousands of things in my head and leave all of them to my software :) Life becomes a whole lot easier then.
Basically, my work priorities are the following:
- Email processing until 0. Making sure I respond to everyone very quickly.
- Meetings I have scheduled.
- GitHub from time to time.
- All the remaining time is spent on tasks in OmniFocus. I always aim to have 25%-50% of my day to focus on them.
Sometimes not all of these things work as perfectly as I have described and it took me some time to work out this flow. There is still a lot to improve, but what I’ve outlined here definitely helps me ace my way through all the things that need to be done.