This post is a conglomeration of productivity systems, tricks, and tools I use in my slavery, focusing on the digital side.
Part One: Using Technology to Be More Productive, Not Less
Let’s face it: for a lot of people, their devices are simply time sinks, or for leisure. Their phones are for Candy Crush and Instagram; tablets are for Netflix and cat videos; so on, so on. For a lot of people, too, their devices are crucial productivity tools—full of important resources, communications, planning—but definitely still able to become a time sink with the right Wikipedia rabbit hole. For this, technology can get a bad rap. So Part One is how to make your tech focused around being more productive, not less.
Eliminate those time sinks.
If possible, it can be best to eliminate them altogether. Delete social media accounts, games, whatnot. On the other hand, those are perfectly fine things to engage in during leisure time, so in that case it becomes limiting their use to those times. I very rarely use my phone except for a quick check on a ride or jotting down an idea while out and about, but I make sure there are no games on there or certain time-sink apps. No games period, actually. FetLife is my only social media. I don’t watch any videos, TV, movies, except the rare social occasion, and I don’t listen to the radio/podcasts.
If you can’t delete them, app and website blockers with timers can be your friend. Browser extensions are a good option. If you’re more of a general phone user, or use multiple browsers, etc., you may want something more robust to keep you on track during your key service hours.
Additionally, limit your notifications via settings.
Eliminate friction points in your tech use.
Have you ever meant to quickly check an email, and ended up looking at two other emails in your inbox, or running to find a charger for your dying device so you can finish reading that email, or getting linked to a site you forgot your password for, leaving you to get in via a reset email, or having to install an update before your device cooperates?
These are friction points.
I recommend eliminating those issues—and a few more—in these ways.
One, properly set up and use a password manager to save your passwords, so you don’t play the, “Forgot your password? Enter your username! Forgot your username? Enter your email!” game. I use LastPass. Some of these even come with a strong password generator, and it makes it easier to not dangerously repeat passwords. (Another tip, do regular cyber security checks!)
Two, charge your electronics every night. The devices you use basically every day—plug them in before you go to bed. It’s simple, takes just a second, but it makes a huge difference. Take it from someone whose phone and smart watch went from “always dead” to “always charged”. Also, make sure you carry chargers for whatever devices you’re carrying, and consider a charged power bank and appropriate cords for that. The backpack I carry even has USB charging via power bank abilities built in (so you can plug in the power bank on the inside of the bag, and the phone to a port on the outside). (Cool backpack provided by Christmas and TheSprinkles/Frequent_Flyer).
Three, unless you have reason not to (waiting for bugs to be worked out, new pricing, etc.): install updates promptly for your apps and devices. It’ll save you the headache of functionality issues ensuing. I check for them weekly during my weekly review.
Four, backup, backup, backup. Don’t lose your important files to dragging the wrong thing to the trash or a water glass dropped on a device. Set reminders—mine are also during that weekly review—to backup your files, preferably in more than one form—for example, I have things in places which have cloud syncing, and I also export to other places with cloud syncing. And, of course, scan physical files.
Five, embrace digital minimalism. Look into it, and try to reduce files, notifications, apps, services, accounts, devices, and such to the strictly necessary. Less stuff means less to sort through when you’re trying to find something.
Six, keep your electronics physically clean and protected. Use covers, clean them properly, use surge protectors, and keep them cool.
If you do these, you’ll never get ordered to do a quick task on one of your devices and have to go, “Er… one more minute!”
Part Two: Organizing Your Devices and Related Routines
If your digital files are a mess to sort through, or you’re always forgetting something you’re supposed to do on your devices, you’re not going to feel—or be—any more productive. Here are some organization pointers.
A Table of Contents is your friend.
Wherever it can be, something table of contents-like (whatever you like to call it/however you like to organize it) can be a lifesaver, especially if the alternative is just a shambolic collection of files.
I have a general physical notebook with a table of contents with page number, “title”, date, and a color coded tag system that I update daily. Of course, there are digital options as well.
If you use anything where one would be useful: consider it. You’ll find things faster.
Set (and keep) techy routines.
Set a time, however frequently you need, to check the digital things you have that need to be checked. This means you won’t overlook things until they’re urgent (or worse), and it will keep you from compulsively checking things as you remember them.
This can be correspondence, your calendar and to-dos, etc.
I set my times for this as part of my AM and PM routines.
In my AM routine, I also have a note to message Mistress about any questions, plan confirmations, permission requests, whatnot, for the day. This means I hopefully have fewer, “Oh, I meant to ask—” times throughout the day. If a similar note would work for you—give it a try!
Wherever you think they might be useful: try tags. They’re a feature in a lot of productivity software, and you can use them on a lot of email platforms, too.
For example, I use tags on recipe notes—to sort by diet (like vegetarian, gluten-free), main ingredient or cuisine (like chicken, Italian, potato), and meal (like breakfast, dinner, dessert, drinks, sides, snacks). This way I can quickly find something to make for a guest on a special diet, or for a specific craving they’re having.
I also use a form of tagging in my email; I use Gmail’s filters to send emails straight through the inbox to specific labels/tags based on things like who sent them. This way I have an idea of what emails have come in just by seeing the notification number next to those labels, instead of an unsorted mess of emails. Pretty much nothing ends up in my general inbox. I also am very careful about handing out my email address and unsubscribing from things so that I only get a few emails a day, and they’re all ones I want to read.
Have things recur.
I have Daily, Weekly, Monthly lists, so on. There’s also project planning, miscellaneous tasks, lists of things I’m waiting on in some way, and some repeating checklists. I have a life saving Master Shopping List. As a slave, there are services I provide routinely or simply again and again, and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time.
Part Three: Specific Idea – Gifting Spreadsheet
The first sheet in my Google Sheets gifting spreadsheet has six columns: Item, Recipient, Occasion, Purchased (indicated via checkbox), Wrapped (indicated via checkbox), and Notes. I fill it in for every item. For ideas I have but haven’t committed to an occasion for yet, I put “Any”. Under notes, I mostly note items that are DIY projects in nature and thus need more time than the others. Each column is able to be filtered, so I can find all gifts assigned to any one or more recipients or occasions, or see just ones that are purchased but not wrapped (to see what I should go wrap), or purchased and wrapped, or neither (to see what I should go buy and then wrap).
A second sheet has a gifting list (who I gift to for what occasion, to make sure I don’t forget anyone and can plan), a very general ideas list, and an inventory of “Emergency Gifts” (fairly generic gifts bought and wrapped ahead of time with a blank gift tag and a sticky note label of what’s inside, intended for surprise recipients—like ones who give you a last-minute invite to their birthday party, or someone who gets you a gift for a holiday when you didn’t expect one, and you need a reciprocal one for them quickly).
A third sheet is a “have-gifted” reference, where gifts move to from the first sheet once given, to remember for future occasions what has already been given. This is simplified to Item/Recipient/Occasion with filters.
Lastly, there’s a “gifted to me” reference sheet as a reminder for thanks, updates, and so on.
Part Four: Specific Idea – Butler’s Book
I have many notes labeled with the names of people I know. I have a template saved that I use and modify as needed, with the template including places for name, birthday, contact information, health information/allergies, general schedule (for making plans), entertainment preferences, “what’s up in their life” (for conversation topics), food and drink preferences (where I frequently link straight to the recipe notes), a “pre-visit checklist” (put extras of their favorite soda in the fridge from the soda shelf, adjust the lighting to their preference, etc.) I include any notes on things to do the next time I see them—return something borrowed or whatnot. A quick glance at someone’s note before seeing them can make things go more smoothly, and part of my hosting checklist is to look at this.