Gina Trapani - Personal Productivity is Personal - ETech 2008
Important question - are you obsessed with finding ways to do things faster just because it's faster, or is there an underlying meaning to your optimization?
Gina Trapani's spearheading of the Lifehacker movement is a massive brain dump of solutions for optimizing every aspect of your life. As she emphasizes in her ETech talk, it's important to look beyond being faster for the sake of being faster and actually look at how optimizations are truly making your life better. During the talk Gina runs down a list of what she calls the 7 habits of effective lifehackers (with apologies to Stephen Covey). Here's the list of her seven items in bold, with my interpretation of each item following:
Have a system - Figure out what works for you to accomplish what you need to get done. This could be a system for processing your email daily or something simple like coming up with a surefire way to never forget your cellphone before you leave the house.
Get Things Out of Your Head - When you're lying awake at night thinking about stuff, get up and write it down. Along the same lines if you see something outside during your day that you want to remember, write it down or use your camera phone so you don't have to keep it in your head.
Put Stuff into Your System - You don't need the perfect system, you simply need a system and you need to put stuff in that system. If your system is electronic, you can recover virtually anything later with search.
Parking on a Downward Slope - When you're switching tasks, make it easy to switch back to the previous task. This is especially important at the end of the day - write a note to remember what the first thing you need to do tomorrow.
Build Strong Filters - implement filters to get rid of the stuff you don't need. Whether it's spam filtering or automated sorting, figure out ways to filter down to the stuff you actually need.
Clearing the Clutter - Get rid of the stuff you don't need, only keep the stuff you need. If you have clutter that builds up, put it in a box in your closet or basement; if you don't open that box 6 months later, throw it out or put the stuff on eBay.
Set Doable To Do Lists - Set goals that you can accomplish. Be very specific. Break down goals into subgoals so that you can accomplish parts and feel like you've accomplished something when you're done.
Gina also recommends some great tools during her ETech talk. TextExpander for Mac users does auto replace of text (if you're a Windows users, get ActiveWords for this function). QuickSilver automates a bunch of other stuff for Mac users (and ActiveWords can handle those tasks too). KeePassX (cross platform) is an encrypted solution for managing passwords (I like Roboform better, but also a great tool). And of course you can get a daily dose of great solutions at Lifehacker.com.