Arrange your to-do list, calendar, and workspace for maximum productiv

I’ve been on a 10-year quest to seek out the right option to manage myself and my groups. Positive, it’s been a crooked path, dotted with unsuitable turns and missteps, however during the last three years at Zapier I’ve developed a system that works properly for me—and taught me quite a bit about what doesn’t work.

In the event you’re firstly of your personal productiveness quest (and even someplace within the center), I like to recommend focusing efforts in three broad classes: calendar administration, duties and initiatives, and work-life steadiness.

Why goal these? First, as sustainable productiveness guru Carey Nieuwhof has written, they contain the three belongings everybody brings to work: time, priorities, and power. Simply as necessary, these three areas symbolize the very best alternatives to enhance your productiveness with low-effort, high-impact automation.


This was tailored from a session given at ZapConnect, Zapier’s person convention. Watch the presentation and browse different periods from the event.

Hack your calendar with timeboxing and swimlanes

Since I can’t wait for know-how to create extra hours in a day, utilizing time extra deliberately is a good jumping-off level for creating an efficient productiveness system. Truthfully, I am keen on my calendar. I reside and die by Google Calendar, and it’s true: if it’s not in there, it’s not occurring!

However even my beloved calendar has a darkish aspect: it’s simple to overload or overcommit. It’s not simply me: A recent study by Atlassian revealed that “45% of meeting-goers have felt overwhelmed by the amount of conferences on their calendar.” Ring any bells?

To optimize my calendar, I depend on two methods—timeboxing my duties and utilizing swimlanes to create each day routines.

In an early blog post on the subject, Cal Newport says timeboxing made him 50 p.c extra productive. Generally known as time-blocking, it’s the method of accounting for all your duties in your calendar every day, allocating a selected period for every. See the screenshot beneath for an instance.

I’ve discovered two important advantages to timeboxing:


  1. First, it holds me accountable to finish a selected activity on a selected day. I hate dragging an unfinished activity to a brand new day,

  2. Second, timeboxing is nice for estimating degree of effort. It is a nice venture administration talent to have. You assign your self an period of time for a activity and test your self on how lengthy it really took.

Anxious you may find yourself spending an excessive amount of time shifting your duties from your to-do app to your calendar? My colleague Pedro, a Assist Staff Lead, makes use of Todoist. He recommends this Zap that means that you can create a activity in Todoist when a brand new detailed occasion is created in Google Calendar, permitting you to dam time in your calendar and work from Todoist on your duties!

Utilizing swimlanes has been a game-changer. Within the instance beneath, discover the rectangles in yellow borders that run throughout the week? The intention is to create a constant, versatile each day routine for myself. The swimlanes I take advantage of reserve particular instances for conferences, targeted work, interviews, and breaks. I nonetheless have flexibility in my day, however I do know the place I should be at any level of the day, and it helps me to really feel in command of my time.

Upon getting your swimlanes arrange, use this Zap to ship your self a textual content message earlier than the following calendar occasion is because of begin. That is useful when you could have a gathering that begins after lunch or a break—only a nudge that your assembly is because of begin. It’s a easy two-step Zap with one set off and one motion utilizing Google Calendar and SMS By Zapier. Better of all, the advance discover time is configurable.

Polling time varies based mostly on your Zapier plan. In the event you’re on a free or starter plan, set the advance time to be at the least quarter-hour to make sure your textual content comes earlier than your assembly.

Hacks for to-dos, notes, and initiatives

Researchers at Microsoft report that “info employees swap home windows, on common, 373 instances per day—or round each 40 seconds whereas finishing their duties.” Yikes! Frequent context-switching exacts an enormous toll on your focus, will increase distractions and can undermine your priorities. How are you going to hold your self and your workforce on activity?

My first easy piece of recommendation is to categorize duties with a restricted set of lists—and use the identical app to retailer all your lists. As an example, I at the moment hold three lists in Google Tasks:

  • My essential checklist is for greater items of labor and helps me plan weekly priorities.
  • My second checklist is for work in progress (WIP)—for instance, all of the duties wanted to finish this text. This one helps me zoom in on quick motion gadgets.
  • The third checklist—and my all-time favourite—is “Fast Actions – 5 minutes or much less.” I take advantage of this checklist to quantify reactive duties like Slack replies, emails to ship, and many others. I spend about half-hour every morning knocking out gadgets on this checklist, clearing the day for extra targeted work.

You possibly can combination duties and notes in your list-keeping app with automations. As an example, a variety of my to-dos come from Slack and it’s necessary to maneuver them to the correct lists in Duties. This Zap will create a activity from a Reacji on a message, and I’ve three Zaps and three Reacjis, every comparable to one among my three lists. It is a enjoyable, easy Zap that may enable you to remain organized and quantify fast duties that eat into your time.

The subsequent tip is much more easy. Cease multitasking. A recent survey by Go Remotely confirmed that multitasking can diminish your productiveness by about 40 p.c. We’re not wired to do two issues directly and research present that fixed switching from one activity to a different is demanding for the mind, making us much less environment friendly. Retrain your mind to give attention to one factor at a time.

One option to hold targeted is to jot down incoming info for later processing as an alternative of coping with it within the second. I take advantage of this Zap to make a fast be aware within the Zapier Chrome Extension and ship it to a desk in a Coda doc. On the finish of my day, I test my each day notes in Coda. Do I have to act on any of those (if that’s the case, transfer them to Duties)? Or had been they notes that I simply wanted out of my head to pay attention?

Do you ever really feel such as you’re juggling a lot of totally different initiatives or duties directly, for lengthy stretches of time? My third tip applies to venture administration and dash planning. With a worldwide workforce, it may be difficult to remain in sync with out always leaping into progress conferences and a variety of office stress—44 p.c, in line with a 2020 survey—outcomes from delays in venture completion.

Two-week sprints will help managers plan and prioritize asynchronous work. Working throughout the similar time interval, with the identical completion dates, creates a way of camaraderie – and accountability.


At Zapier, we use Geekbot firstly of every dash to outline and decide to deliverables. Every individual on the channel completes a report and these responses are maintained in a Google Sheet. Particular person responses are additionally despatched to Small Improvements, which is the app we use to create notes for our 1:1 check-ins. Doing this manually can be onerous, however happily, I’ve bought a Zap that automates the method and makes use of Paths to make sure that the correct stories are attributed to the correct individual on the workforce.

Hacks for your work setting

By no means underestimate the significance of your work setting and happiness—corporations that promote work-life steadiness document two instances extra productiveness than these that don’t!

The primary piece of recommendation I can supply is to schedule your exercise on the finish of the day. Even should you’re not figuring out, engineer a transparent break from work—what Newport calls a “system shutdown” course of. Quite a lot of distant employees don’t have a standard commute to separate work life from residence life and can discover it exhausting to modify off.

Transferring my exercise has been exhausting, but it surely has made an infinite distinction in my life. Right here’s an awesome Zap that can change your Slack standing and change the colour of your Philips Hue bulbs at a scheduled time to immediate you to wrap up your day and prepare for your new “commute!”

Lastly, have fun your workforce. Creating enjoyable automations to be intentional about celebrating is an effective option to ensure that everybody – irrespective of their timezone – can take part.

I take advantage of a weekly “Brag Bot” on Slack to ping my workforce to share their wins for the week. It’s a improbable option to get individuals to follow advocating for themselves and these may be helpful in efficiency critiques.

We additionally use an “Ice Ice Breaker Bot” throughout onboarding to encourage workforce members to get to know one another higher. Listed below are my zaps for the brag bot and the ice breaker bot.

I hope these concepts save time and impression you and your groups instantly. To summarize:

  • Apply estimating ranges of effort to precisely ship work on time.
  • Preserve distractions at bay by discovering a spot for them (however not in your head!).
  • Create versatile constructions that promote consistency however allow adjustments when wanted.
  • Be strict – and type – about your personal work/life steadiness

And with regards to automation, hold it easy, revise when vital, and make it work for you!

This article initially appeared on Zapier’s blog and is reprinted with permission.