Refresh Button Pt. 2: Streamlining tools and processes

I write about aligning all my tools to streamline the process of taking thoughts to actions.

This is part two of my Refresh Button series where I document my reflection of the attempted optimization of the macro and micro aspects of my life. Part two focuses on the day-to-day processes and use of tools to get things done.

Part one was about creating a system with which to compare my current projects against my long-term goals. If you’re an entrepreneur looking for their next venture, or someone looking for a change in career, Part one would be very helpful.

Let’s get started 😃

So many tools!

I’m a sucker for good productivity tools. Shift, Airtable, Notion, you name it.

But I realized I need to focus more on how I’m using them to actually make myself productive.

A bunch of features doesn’t mean anything if you don’t invest the time to learn how to use them to save you time.

What do I mean by tools? It’s a wide range of things. Some tools I use to forward my goals on a day-to-day basis:

Communication

  • Gmail
  • Shift (I’m typing this in shift right now)
  • Slack

Organization and Content Creation

  • Airtable
  • Notion
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs
  • Good ole pen and paper
  • Whiteboard
  • Headliner

Social Media

  • Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Later

Web Design & Development

  • VS Code
  • Figma
  • Github

I probably use more than that, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. My point is, there are thousands of tools out there for note-taking, organization, and creativity. It’s really easy to get lost. Especially when you have tech geek friends who recommend new tools daily.

The process of optimization

So, what did I do to optimize my use of all these tools? A few activities standout for me:

I didn’t check, post, or look at social media for a week. This helped me cultivate my relationship with my social media tools that I use to build an audience for my podcast and articles. We all get that automatic impulse to pull out our phones and start scrolling mindlessly, and taming that automatic impulse for a week did a lot for my habits around social media use. Now I’m able to resist the impulses more easily and be more mindful of my intentions when I use a social media platform. A few concrete things for you to try out:

  • Make a habit of asking yourself: “Why am I on this platform?” when you open any social media.
  • Write down 2–3 simple goals for your social media use to make your engagement more intentional.
  • Be active in searching for opportunities to connect with like-minded people instead of just scrolling past content.
  • Create your own content to sharpen your writing, message, and attract like-minded people.

I just released an episode centering on productive and fulfilling social media use that goes into these methods in more depth. Check it out here

Social media really matters as a tool for conducting business. I tried to treat it as such. Next Up:

Whether it’s scheduling your day, planning out content for the week, or simply doing laundry, we all have consistent processes for certain tasks. The results of writing the process step-by-step and looking for shortcuts to make it faster can really surprise you. This activity really helped me in creating and organizing content for the week. Creating daily content for 3 social platforms is hard. There’s a lot of things to organize. Currently, I use Airtable, Later, my whiteboard, and my notebook. I thought about and wrote step-by-step what the optimal process would be (not my current process — as it wasn’t consistent). Here are the meat and potatoes 🥘 of the outcome:

  • I write down ideas I have during the week wherever I can get them down as I have the idea. Usually, I’m out and about and I’ve found that setting reminders through Siri and speech-to-text is super useful to get an idea down.
  • On Sunday, I compile all the ideas I had for the week and put them in Airtable. Depending on if I have the time/motivation that day, I might write out the full copy and add media. Here’s how I organize my content in Airtable (this is my archive so it might not be super clean):
  • During the following week, I use some free time to record videos, add photos, and schedule the posts using Later. The biggest thing that’s helped me is to add a week start column which allows me to place 5–7 posts in each week. This makes the scheduling part much easier.

That’s my new and improved process for content creation — now on to the last and most significant change I made:

My task management process was…meh. Things were slipping through the cracks, I was using Google tasks, an add on to Calendar, and they weren’t feature-rich enough.

So, I came back to my playground for organizing, Airtable. I created a custom calendar view to organize my tasks. I then popped into Zapier to wire everything up so when I create a task item in Airtable, it automatically shows up as an event in Google Calendar 😎. It took me a few days of experimentation to come to this solution and is still a work in progress.

I’m juggling 5–10 different projects and sub-projects concurrently in different areas in my life which led to a lot of confusion on whether to separate these different projects in my task management system. I ended up giving myself the option to link a project to a task but keeping all the tasks in the same area.

Now, every night before I go to bed (or every morning), I put all the tasks I want to accomplish in Airtable, write some details in the tasks, and the next morning I wake up and schedule out my time based on the tasks in my Calendar!

This helped me greatly in organizing all my different projects and making sure that my tasks for the day were visible in multiple places, so less would slip through the cracks.

The key takeaway after this optimization process for me was the following:

  • Have consistent places where you put your todo’s. It can be multiple places (so you have at least one accessible at all times). But, the key here is to know where to check for things you need to get done.
  • Experiment for a few days! Look at different tools. Focus some time on finding and using new ones.
  • When you decide on something, try it for at least a month. You need to find a groove with whatever you end up.

Now, for the tools I used throughout this process:

The right tools for self-organization are essential. Since I seem to perpetually have 5–10 different parallel ideas and projects, paper notebooks don’t cut it for me. I need the ability to easily access many different streams of thought within a few clicks.

Airtable — a tool for organizing anything. You can create spreadsheets with all kinds of data types, and re-arrange them in a calendar, kanban, list, or gallery view. My favorite aspect of Airtable is the power of grouping — it’s really useful for things like creating social media content, as you can group by platform.

Notion — I bet you’ve used Google Docs to organize documents and notes. Notion is like that, but supercharged. It’s an incredibly feature-rich application where you can create different “blocks” of content. The main advantage it has over Google Docs is that you can embed pages within each other — no more jumping around the 10 tabs with different docs in each one! You can also embed fully functional google docs, which makes transitioning easier.

Shift Pro- Shift basically brings all of your Google accounts and services into one place. I can switch effortlessly between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Calendar in all my Google accounts (Jesus, Google is really taking over everything).

With Shift, you don’t have to look through your tabs like:

Here were the main takeaways I got from this process:

  1. Create habits around your processes for task management. If you’re going to put your tasks somewhere, make it a habit to check that place weekly or daily.
  2. Set time aside to write down and analyze your methods for task management and other repeating processes you have in your life. Odds are, you’ll find a way to make them more efficient.
  3. Some tools, like social media, can become distracting. Create habitual mindfulness when using tools like this in order to mitigate the downsides.

So there you have it! I hope this article gave you a few ideas to increase the efficiency of your daily processes and task management.

How do you manage your tasks? Do you have any hacks for saving time, suggestions for tools, or anything to add? Let me know in the comments 💬

Did you enjoy this article? You might enjoy my podcast at applyingawareness.com and my social media content on
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Want to chat? Reach out to me at adam@applyingawareness.com.

Social Impact + Marketing + Design. If you need marketing or design for your social impact venture, hit my line at adam@emote.design.