59 Tools, 9 Books, and 7 Great Pieces of Advice on Productivity: A #Bufferchat Recap

bufferchatOn Wednesday, June 11, we kicked off a new weekly Twitter chat called #Bufferchat.

In the past, our COO, Leo, hosted #toolschat and found great advice and tools through those Twitter chats. It was definitely time to bring back a Buffer-hosted Twitter chat, and our goal behind #Bufferchat is to further bind our incredible community and create amazing, helpful discussions. We’re aiming to do this weekly and explore a variety of topics that will help all Buffer fans and users!

This week’s focus was on productivity—a favorite topic of ours at Buffer. We were blown away by the response of our amazing fans and all the incredible information that was shared!

Here are some of the highlights:

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The Big List of 111+ Keyboard Shortcuts For Your Most-Used Online Tools

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 10.18.26 AMLewis and Clark discovered the Pacific Ocean. I discovered what a four-finger swipe does on my Macbook.

The discoveries will not go down the same in history, but I have to admit: I was pretty stoked to find mine.

Little epiphanies like these are hugely satisfying when I’m trying to squeeze just a little more time out of each and every day. A second or two here becomes a minute or two there. It’s an awesome feeling to sense that you’re working just as fast as possible.

We’re always open for a good hack here at Buffer, and we often hunt for keyboard shortcuts in our favorite apps, tools, and services. We thought it might be useful to share some of our discoveries (and favorites) with you.

Keyboard shortcuts for all your favorite services

I’ll go into a lot more detail on each of these shortcuts, but if you’re interested in a quick overview of what we’ll cover, here’s an infographic to read, share, and maybe even pin on the wall next to your computer.

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How I Cut My Writing Time From 2 Days to 4 Hours

writingAs I was brainstorming ideas for my last post on the Buffer blog, I started reflecting on what I’ve personally learned during my time at Buffer.

My writing process is considerably different today than it was when I joined Buffer nine months ago, so hopefully you can find some nuggets in the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned that might help you as well.

Slow beginnings

When I first joined Buffer, Leo had been running the Buffer blog pretty much on his own: he wrote or sourced the content, published it and promoted it all. Leo and I approached blogging from almost exact opposite ends of the spectrum; Leo is great at getting something up quickly and tweaking it to fit, whereas I was prone to spend a long time on my “first draft,” which was more like a fourth draft by the time I eventually sent it over for Leo to look at.

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5 More Unexpected Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

to-do listI wrote a post recently about ways that you can work smarter, not harder. As I worked through the list of techniques I’d collected, the post became so long that I had to split it in half. Here are even more suggestions to help you make your day more productive without putting in extra hours.

1. Limit your to-do list

I’ve written about the history of the to-do list before, and how to write a great one. One of the most counterintuitive but effective methods I’ve found for increasing my productivity is to limit how many items I add to my to-do list.

One way to do this is by choosing 1–3 Most Important Tasks (MITs). These are the big, tough tasks for your day that you really need to get done. The ones that will keep you in the office past finishing time or working after dinner if you don’t get through them. Leo Babauta advocates doing these before you move on to other tasks:

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The Science of Failure: Why Highly Successful People Crave Mistakes

race

“I’m delighted to admit that I’ve failed at more challenges than anyone I know.” — Scott Adams

A friend told me recently about a colleague who is entirely open to feedback. When she’s told that she did something wrong, my friend said, she just starts over. She doesn’t take feedback personally, and she doesn’t feel upset about getting anything wrong.

When I heard that story, I thought to myself, “I wish I took feedback that well.” I can’t imagine anything better than an attitude like that, especially when I’m trying to learn new things.

I’m not at that point yet, but I know a lot of successful people are. I love to learn from the advice of others, so I thought I’d take a look at what some successful people say about failure and why they seek it out.

The science of failure: We can’t admit we’re wrong

It always helps to add some context about the subconscious biases we have in our heads before exploring a topic, I think. I looked into some of the research on success and failure, and how we react to them to see what I could learn. These are three of the most interesting points I discovered (they are all, of course, subconscious – so we do them all the time without realizing):

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How to Measure Progress in Your Personal Goals: Daily, Weekly and Monthly

basketball netAlthough there are some people who advocate for dropping all your goals or focusing on systems instead of goals, I’ve never managed to fully give up on setting goals for myself.

In fact, I just finished my monthly review today, where I looked at how well I did on the goals I set for myself last month and set some new ones for the month ahead. As I was doing this, I started to wonder whether I was doing myself any favors by reviewing my progress monthly.

I had a look into the science of measuring progress towards your personal goals and how it affects your well-being, as well as some examples of ways to track your own progress.

The science of measuring progress towards personal goals

Firstly, I found a couple of studies that found that improvements in well-being, satisfaction and happiness can come from making progress towards your personal goals.

The caveat here is that your goals need to be in line with your inner needs and motives. If you’re committed to a goal for external reasons such as pleasing your boss or your parents, you won’t see the same emotional improvements when you make progress.

I think we can take this as general guidance when it comes to setting goals: even if we don’t set goals specifically to achieve those emotional improvements, we can still try to focus on the goals that we’re motivated to achieve intrinsically, rather than what we think others expect of us.

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The Psychology Behind Brainstorming: Why It Doesn’t Always Work and 4 Ways To Get Ideas More Consistently

3263976449_0f346371df_mToday’s post was supposed to be about how to have an effective brainstorming session. Unfortunately, when I started researching brainstorming and what it’s really all about, I nearly put myself to sleep.

I’ve never come across so much talk of meetings and rules and conference rooms in a topic that supposed to be creative. Then again, that’s part of the problem: brainstorming was actually designed to be a method for solving problems. Creative ideas might be needed to solve problems but generating ideas for new, creative projects or initiatives isn’t really the same thing.

As the Wikipedia page for brainstorming says:

Today, the term is used as a catch all for all group ideation sessions.

We’re using the term brainstorming so often, in so many contexts, that it’s starting to become trite. What I did find in my research were some insights about better ways to come up with fresh ideas than a structured brainstorming session. I think these four in particular could be really useful.

1. Spend time alone to generate better ideas

Obviously counterintuitive to the whole idea of brainstorming, New York Times best-selling author Baratunde Thurston points out in this video how beneficial it can be to generate ideas individually before presenting them to a group.

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5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder, Backed by Science

workingOne of the things I love about the culture at Buffer is the emphasis on working smarter, not harder. Our team is all about getting plenty of sleep, exercise and recreation time so that our time spent working is as productive as it can be.

Working harder can be an easy habit to slip into, though. Sometimes it’s hard to switch off at the end of the day, or to take time out on the weekend and stop thinking about work. With a startup of my own to run, I find this even harder to manage lately. Whenever I’m not working on Buffer, I’m working on Exist, and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “always working,” rather than working smart and fitting in time to look after myself as well.

If this happens to you, too, here are five methods to try that’ll help get you working smarter, not harder.

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What Would Happen If You improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains

moreIn 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job.

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day

cogsOne of the most fun and useful things I’ve been doing lately is automating small processes I do all the time. It took me a while to work up the courage to dive into automation, as it always seemed like a really difficult, technical thing to do, which should be left to programmers.

Luckily, there are lots of tools being created lately to make automation much easier for those of us without a solid understanding of how our computers really work.

Sometimes repetition is good for us – for instance, when it comes to developing new skills. But rote tasks don’t serve much purpose. Every time I noticed myself doing tasks over and over now, I try to find a way to automate it the same way we create social media shortcuts at Buffer. And when I do, it feels amazing to watch my computer doing stuff for me, or to see files and text show up in the right places at the right times, as if by magic.

I bet if you really pay attention, you’ll pick up a few small tasks you do all the time. It might be copying and pasting links to previous blog posts you’ve written (I have an example for how to automate that below), adding up specific numbers, visiting the same websites every day or another element of your daily routine. Maybe some of these tools can help.

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