My Lifehacks

Written on 2013-02-10 • conversation (4) • Read in: 3′26″

I am a designer. Thus, I am a control freak. I am by no means the most productive designer you will ever meet. I am definitely no productivity guru and I have no intention of becoming one. But I want control over my life. And I believe that sharing what works for me might be useful for others that want to do more purposeful things with what little time is given to us.

I am convinced that productivity is a fragile balance between the right mindset and the right tools. Picking just one will get you nowhere. It is like buying Moleskine notebooks and Faber-Castell pencils, hoping it will make you a better designer. You still need to have the right mindset and do meaningful things, regardless of the tools you pick.

The Right Mindset

As far as your mindset is concerned, I can tell you what works for me. I personally try to live by two key principles, that influence every other decision I make:

  • Reboot on a regular basis. Force yourself. You will be afraid at first, but the mental freedom will quickly be worth it, I promise. Rebooting can mean tossing out all but the last three t-shirts and pants you wore, removing your facebook account and starting over or getting a new job. Whether mentally or physically, regularly force yourself to remove clutter and get a new perspective.
  • Make resting your mind part of your productive day and get enough sleep. Make no exceptions. (Video warning: annoying American presentation style, but very interesting message.)

After you have succesfully rebooted, go with the defaults for a while. Challenge yourself.

The Right Tools

There are some great tools and life hacks that can help you to be more productive. Do not get lost in the tools though. They will only help you when you also have the right mindset. In random order, here are some great tips I can personally recommend:

  • Buy a stash of exactly the same simple black socks. No more need to sort pairs. (Wim, you are a genius)
  • Get an SSD (€200-€400). Waiting for your laptop and programs to start is just a waste of useful time.
  • Do not iron your clothes. Buy a non iron stylish shirt. I personally love my Seven Seas shirts. The design is lovely, the quality is excellent and they are incredibly affordable.
  • Download Alfred (Free) and use it to start your applications, look up things in the dictionary and make calculations. Keyboards beat the mouse every single time. Make sure you get Alfred’s €18 Power Pack. I have the following Power Pack Extensions installed:
  • Use Caffeine (Free) to keep your Mac from “falling asleep” during presentations.
  • Use Cloud (Free, 25MB/file) to quickly share files. I primarily use it to send screenshots to people. If you find yourself using it a lot: upgrade to pro to easily send people big files.
  • Get Dropbox (Free, 3GB). I use it to share a selected set of files between my Work and Private computer, I use it to receive work from clients, I even have a shared folder with a bunch of designer friends: we can just drop cool stuff we find all over the place in there for everyone to see. Works great!
  • Install F.Lux (Free) to rest your eyes when you are doing some evening reading. You will fall asleep more quickly. Ideally, you would stop using your computer an hour before you go to bed, but we both know that will never happen. F.Lux is a great band-aid. I even leave it on when designing, colours are relative anyway.
  • Get a Philips Wake Up Light (€120). Whether placebo effect or scientifically proven: it just works for me. I can wake up at 6 in the morning and I feel fresh. A feeling I definitely never head before getting one of these.

That more or less sums it up. Maybe some things in here are useful to you as well, I sincerely hope so.

Conversation is closed

Conversations close automatically after six weeks. Feel free to contact me directly if you have feedback on this article.

Get an SSD, and make definitely back-ups! Even SSDs fails. (My personal MTBF record is 6 months)

— Olivier · Sun 10 Feb 2013 · #

@Olivier ha, I forgot that one. Time Machine / Time Capsule is a life saver for worry-free wireless backups!

Xavier · Sun 10 Feb 2013 · #

A few great tools I love for email minimization are Contactually and SaneBox.

Adam Lehman · Wed 27 Feb 2013 · #

Those absolutely made sense. Except replacing cufflinks every time you ‘reboot;’ and, ‘often.’ Changing caffeine providers every 7 minutes has its detractors…

— Steve Nordquist · Wed 6 Mar 2013 · #