21 productivity tips that the team at Karbon actually use

Sometimes, you need a spark of inspiration to help you refocus your productivity levels.

You might be struggling to juggle competing client priorities, onboarding a handful of new staff, standardizing your processes, or refining your tech stack.

Whatever it is, a productivity boost can only help. And sometimes, trying something new is the answer to refocusing.

So, the team at Karbon has shared some of their top productivity tips to help.

1. Break your project down into achievable chunks

At the beginning of a project, spend some time breaking it down into achievable sized goals. 

Let’s say you’re building a house. Your daily job wouldn’t be ‘do some work on the house’. It should be ‘dig five foundations’.

Bonus points: Swap out your dot points in your to-do lists for emojis—they make scanning for the thing you are looking for surprisingly easy.

2. Protect ‘the zone’

Time for deep work is important for productivity, but sometimes it's hard to get in the 'zone' and block everything out. 

For these periods of time, I like to communicate to my team where I am and what I am setting out to achieve. You're less likely to feel the need to check in or be distracted if you are transparent. 

Slack statuses are great for this.

3. Invest in… ear muffs

Get yourself a pair of high quality ear muffs to drown out ambient noise. It will be the best $40 you'll ever spend—much better than a $400 pair of noise-canceling headphones.

4. MMPPS — Monday Morning Personal Planning Session

I begin every week with a Monday Morning Personal Planning Session. I use this time to:

  1. Review all of my meetings for the week

  2. Organize my tasks into what is most urgent

  3. Block out time on my calendar for deep work during that week. 

I also plan out more complicated tasks to when I'm most energetic (8am-3pm) and reserve easier tasks into lower energy times (3pm-6pm).

5. Organize your days by tasks

Organize, organize, organize! I am the most productive when I have my week planned. Having certain days that are dedicated to certain tasks instead of doing many different tasks on any given day keeps me accountable and motivated!

6. Write it down!

A simple but very effective task I do every morning is write down (yes, literally write with a pen on paper) the three tasks I need to get done that day. 

If I attempt to work through my long digital list of infinite tasks, I overwhelm myself or get lost in the weeds. Or, I make the mistake of starting and only focusing on one task, which blows out my day and becomes an ineffective use of my time. 

I've found three tasks or projects to be the sweet spot. It keeps the work moving. Plus, it feels really good to actually physically cross things off a list.

7. Use text snippets as email templates

I use a simple automated script technique for creating email templates. This hack is useful if you have a certain script or email that you send multiple times throughout the day.

If you're familiar with the iPhone shortcut of ‘omw’ populating to ‘On my way!’, this is the same concept and execution.

Basically, you can create an email template that will autocomplete if you type in a shortcut. I have created a video tutorial to demonstrate how you can do the same.

8. Plan your ‘today’

I take 15-30 minutes at the start of each day to review priorities and meetings. 

To ensure visibility, I created a simple Karbon simple work item that repeats daily and is built around reviewing priorities and meetings, completing admin work, and updating the My Week ‘Working on Now’ section.

9. Plan your ‘tomorrow’

I take the last 20 minutes of my work day to plan and schedule the following day. I look at my meetings and the top three things that I must accomplish and plan those just like appointments.

10. Shut the door

To work remotely, I have turned our guest room into an office. Too often I found myself creeping back into the office to just take care of one or two things in the evenings and even on weekends. The laptop beckoned me whenever I walked by the room. 

Shutting the door helped me to shut off work. Now, evenings and weekends are to re-energize and spend time with family and friends.

11. Maintain momentum

‘Later’ probably means never. Ask yourself: What’s the next small thing that moves a big thing slightly forward?

If your small tasks aren’t worth it or aren’t contributing to the bigger picture, it might be time to find more resources or cut it from your to-do list.

12. Take ice-cold showers

Taking an ice-cold shower in the morning puts your body through so much stress that going through a million emails and tasks during the day doesn't feel stressful at all.

13. Use 45-min focus blocks

I read somewhere that we're only able to focus on something for about 45 minutes, so I try to use 45-minute blocks to dive into work. 

Then step away from my desk for 10 minutes, to go grab coffee, have a quick chat with a colleague, have a play session with my dog (when working from home), then come back for another 45 minutes of focus. 

This keeps me productive and feeling like I'm not 'just' sitting in front of a screen for 9 hours of the day.

14. Time block your calendar

I like to block time off on my calendar. This way, I know I have the time to do the tasks that need to get done on specific days, which means I can follow up on their progress later in the week.

15. Tackle your pending items first

I have a calendar block every morning that is for my work view in Karbon. I only allow myself to work on work items that are in my queue and ready for me to start or finish. 

No Triage. No Slack. Only pending work items. It also helps me to prioritize my day.

16. Keep notes all the time, and regularly ‘harvest’ them for actions

Keep notes on the go, then revisit them a couple of times a day to compile actions and prioritize them. Your notes should be in a format that’s easy for you to edit and add to, especially on the go. 

I use Slack notes to myself—I have one for work and another workspace for personal use. It's handy if the format is digital, in the cloud, and available on your phone.

17. Work smarter with bulk actions

When working from a large tasklist in a section of a Karbon work item, I use the options menu (...) on the relevant section, select ‘Change Status’ and update it to ‘Completed’, which marks all of the tasks in that section complete in one action.

18. Do one important thing

Do one important thing before checking any communication (no texts, messaging, or emails). If someone needs to contact you in an emergency, they’ll call you.

I try to fit my one important thing into 1-2 hours, so that I am online before lunch. The one important thing can be the most important task of the day or the task that is at greatest risk of going uncompleted (for me these tasks are reading, writing, learning and/ or research).

19. Manage your attention

Write down the top 3 things you want to achieve in a work day before you open your email, Slack etc. This lets you be proactive instead of reactive. Productivity is not about managing time, it is about managing attention.

20. Don’t force it (and don’t stop it)

What’s more productive: staring at a screen while you struggle to focus, or shuffling your day to work on a task you can actually make progress on?

If you’ve set yourself an hour to complete a certain task, but you’re just not feeling it, move on.

And it works the other way around. If you’ve set yourself an hour for a task, but you’re in the zone, stay in the zone. It can be difficult to find that groove, so when you do, protect it.

21. Tame your procrastination

If I have a big pressing task that needs focussed attention, I often fall into the trap of constantly switching back and forth between tabs in my browser, Slack, email in Karbon, and any number of other places. An hour can pass without anything to show for it.

When I catch myself doing this, I set a timer for 30 mins (I use Pomofocus) and force myself to focus on that one big thing and that thing only. Once the time passes, I’m usually deep in the flow state necessary for deep work and can happily keep working for hours, free from any procrastination and distractions.