Bimonthly Productivity Top 5: Slack and Tomatoes







May 2, 2015

In the Bimonthly Productivity Top 5, I look back at the most important productivity hacks I’ve implemented in the past two months. This one covers March and April of 2015.

In the Bimonthly Productivity Top 5, I look back at the most important productivity hacks I’ve implemented in the past two months. This one covers March and April of 2015.In the past two months, I’ve had to pinch myself several times: “Is this really happening?”. We’ve gone from a half-finished idea to getting up to speed with hardware and software development, and, most importantly, being with a team of more than ten people. You’ll notice this change reflected in this Top 5, with more tools and tricks related to communication, collaboration and recruiting.

1. Slack

Without a doubt, this communication tool has made the biggest impact over the past weeks (it’s not valued in the billions for nothing). At first sight, it seems like merely an Instant Messaging app for teams, but there’s more to it than that...Well, to be honest, it is just an Instant Messaging tool, but it is the setup and flow that makes the difference. The on boarding process is smooth and easy. The search function is powerful. You can throw in any file type or link you like. For a distributed team like ours, having a virtual meeting place is essential. Your team can have conversations around certain topics (or files) within designated channels, but others from different areas of expertise can jump in when they like. This fits well with our aim to be as transparent as possible. Some words of warning though: if you don’t tame your notification settings Slack can become a big distraction. I’m even considering deleting the mobile app from my phone completely. Here are our internal Slack guidelines for your reference.

2. Return of the Pomodoro

Over the past six months, I’ve been a big fan of the so-called Ultradian work rhythm: 90 minutes of undisturbed work, then a longer break. This has changed over the past weeks. As you start to manage more people, a lot of the deep-focus tasks (designing, writing plans, copy writing) are picked up by the team. Instead, you are now there to help your team members, give feedback, make sure all different activities are synchronized, and so on. For this type of work, I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of work, five minute break) to work better and I've gravitated back to that rhythm.

3. job listing

Arguably, this is not a “traditional” productivity hack. But it brought us great people and lots of attention, which indirectly affects the companies’ and my own productivity, so I’m listing it here anyway :)As a startup, you’re usually tossing and turning over every dollar. Placing a job ad for $150 on with unknown results was therefore a bit of a risk. Boy, am I happy we did it. Not only did we find two amazing people through that ad, we also got press coverage and many more people writing in, who are now checking out our site and product. It has changed my perspective on job ads from merely finding the right person to fill our vacancy, to being a great marketing tool as well.

4. 15Five

On the outset, the proposition of this tool seems a bit strange: "I’ll ask your team members some questions every week and it will help you to manage better.” In a physical office, you would do that in a one-on-one meeting. But with a distributed team like ours, this is as good a replacement as one can find. The strength shines through when you actually start to use 15Five. The question bank with predefined questions is great, filling out your answers is a breeze and reviewing your team’s feedback and doing follow-ups (likes, comments, mark for follow-up) is intuitive and fast. Just like a real one-on-one, it has already uncovered some problems and good ideas, that otherwise might have gone lost in the busyness of daily work.

5. The Next Big Worry List

As I’ve described in one of the latest installments of En Route to Saenthood, I’ve recently implemented The Next Big Worry List. When you get caught up in the day-to-day stuff that comes with building a company, I find it difficult to keep an eye on the long term. The Next Big Worry List solves this problem. How does it work?

  1. Envision your next biggest worry.
  2. Take action to address that worry.
  3. Repeat from point number one.

If you ensure you spend at least some time on this every week, you’ll get further and further ahead, with addressing problems that might come up in the future. This reduces the severity of the issues when they do arrive and makes you more productive, as you’ll mind be less occupied with worries! More details in En Route to Saenthood: #10 My Next Big Worry.

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