Productivity apps, work-life balance, and the importance of daily habits

Productivity apps, work-life balance, and the importance of daily habits

I recently did an interview and thought I’d share my response here on my blog. I go over some of my own personal habits and how I balance my work and personal life so I maintain strong work ethics without burning out.

What does your typical day look like?

Cody:   I’ve spent many years trying to find the best way to work, think and do. When I was younger I focused all my free time to learning how to become more productive. I was trying to optimize myself to become the most productive entrepreneur. After years of trying and feeling like a failure I just drudged on working 12 hour days trying to keep up with the pace of my business. I took a step away from my business and looked at myself first. I was drinking red bull everyday, cereal for breakfast and generally consuming way too much sugar. I took time to learn and understand the basics of the habits that form who we are. We can either let habits form the basis for our immediate self interests, or condition them to work for our long term goals. It’s difficult though because we are wired to seek the quick rewards, like playing a video game, over the long reward of finishing that essay paper. I looked at my habits and daily routines with a much bigger magnifying glass than I had before, found great habits, and optimized them to suit me. Today I wake up at 7 am after getting  7 hours of sleep, strength train for 30 mins, do cardio for 30 minutes, followed by a quick shower and a 20 minute meditation. I practice a form of “zazen” meditation which helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and activities (habits) throughout the day. Then I’ll read my kindle using a 30 minute timer to limit (yes, limit!) my reading. Beyond this I’ll work for the next 6 hours practicing varying timed methods of the Pomodori technique. After that, I generally work (no surprise) or spend time planning out my next travel adventure. Oh, I didn’t talk about that yet? Keep on reading…

How do you bring ideas to life?

Cody: We all have ideas; they are constantly coming and going throughout our day. I feel the biggest issue many people have is simply forgetting those ideas and not being mindful enough to realize those ideas even existed. I’ve established methods for every time of the day that will allow me to capture an idea and then put it to action.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Cody: Having core foundational habits is what I believe to be the true key to success. These habits create the success mindset we need to prevail as successful entrepreneurs. I used to be really cynical and looked at every aspect of a situation from a negative point of view. In some respects  as entrepreneurs, we need to always look at the worst outcome of any situation in order to make the best decision. However, they key is to be able to set the negative aside and don’t let worry overtake your thinking.  Beyond looking at how we think, it’s what we do that has a more drastic impact on our overall productivity.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

Cody: I’m really living life to the fullest and that’s what I’m trying to share and promote. I lived ten years of my life, pushing myself to be as successful as possible, but I have been practically in a corner of my room spending that time working. Sure I didn’t get as successful as quickly as I would have liked, but I’ve come to a point where I realize I don’t want to live like this for the next 40 years, retire and go live on a beach. Why give up your young years working yourself to exhaustion? Why not be everything that you can be? Beyond being an entrepreneur, I’m a certified Scuba Diver, taking lessons to get my Private Pilots license and traveling the world to take photographs. This November I’m going to Kenya to meet up with renowned author and photographer, Guillaume Bonn. As one friend one put it “You have fun by optimizing the way you have fun”. And that’s exactly right. Why not try something different, grow on a personal level, and experience life for all it has to offer?

What software and web services do you use?

Cody: I have spent years trying to find the best software to fulfill each role in my company, and how I can integrate the software to work with together. I believe in simplicity over a long list of features and integration over any be-all-end-all type solutions. I recommend the following software with high regard. I’ve tested many competing products and have found the following to be the best in their field.

  • HipChat – an amazing chat client that allows us to have different rooms for each project we have running. It will auto-paste images from links and we often have meme battles in chat.
  • Zapier – This tool will integrate practically any service with another. We primarily use it for sending vendor updates, or tweets about service interruptions from our datacenter to this room. It requires a bit of creative thinking, but if you can think of it, the integration will surely be there. The biggest benefit for us is our ability to set up notifications in HipChat about Raid alerts on any of our servers, in case a hard drive fails.
  • Google Drive – I was using Dropbox but in terms of managing your business Google Drive is the way to go. I’ve been using Dropbox for years and loved it’s simplicity. However I’m sure some of you might have noticed with Dropbox that sometimes your files go missing. This is a Dropbox bug that they seemingly refuse to acknowledge and fix. It’s because their client only operates two protocols: delete and upload. When you move a file from one folder to another, it actually deletes and re-uploads that file. If you created a new file, Dropbox starts to sync that file,  but if you move that file or change the name of that file while it’s syncing,  it might disappear on you. Google Drive doesn’t have this problem and has a full suite of built-in editing tools so you can collaborate effectively with your team. I tried using Evernote Business,  but it lacked that real time editing since you have to wait for the sync to complete. I have several folders for different groups of teams inside my organization: customer service reps have access to a specific folder with FAQ, getting started and internal walk-through videos I created,  while my web developer has access to the web development folder where I keep scripts and html files that go on the website. Everything is compartmentalized and yet the sharing is instantaneous.
  • Redbooth – I’ve used TeamworkPM, Asana, Azendoo, Wrike etc.. You name the task application and I have tried it. I vetted each for simplicity, ease of use and features. While Redbooth doesn’t have everything we need, it’s by far the best at allowing you to delegate tasks and keep track of them. With other task management applications it is much easier to get lost in the chaos from too much going on, and tasks can be missed or forgotten about. Redbooth avoids this by centralizing the dashboard around activity related to tasks you are subscribed to. Say you assign a task to Sammy to update your Facebook page and  he comments that he needs the login details. Instead of getting spammed inside my inbox by every action made inside a comment, I can follow the dashboard  to see  the tasks that concern me and the ones that need my attention without sorting through countless irrellevant posts. After I am done with each task, I simply X out the list item and don’t have to worry about it.
  • Mitro – Password Management for organizations is an absolute pain-in-the-ass. I have tried every team password manager I could get my hand on, and quite frankly, every one has fallen short to my expectations. Mitro is a small startup, but the simplicity, ease of sharing, syncing, and custom control over who has access to what makes it the best company password management I have come across.  For example: I have Marketing logins, Forum Logins, Customer Service Logins, Vendor Logins etc. Mitro allows me to keep track of which passwords are assigned to each team and person. It also gives me the flexibility of assigning individual passwords. Let’s say I need to give my secretary access to PayPal so she can pay a bill – but I don’t want to give her access to my entire financial folder of passwords. I can individually assign her access to that password. You can also prevent employees from copying passwords, which prevents them from being changed. Most of the time systems require the current password to change logins on most websites so this is a good layer of security.

What do you love about them?

Cody: They all help me do one important thing: be more productive and efficient at how I run a business. They are essential at reducing confusion, increasing communication and overall efficacy for the entire team. Small optimizations like these can help you no matter how small your business is because the time saved will add up in the long term and help you reach your goals that much quicker.

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1 Comment Productivity apps, work-life balance, and the importance of daily habits

  1. Pingback: Organization hacks to keep your mind fresh and inbox at zero | Cody McLain

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