Google Apps

8 Productivity Tips for Work (that pay off forever)!

If you find yourself performing necessary yet repetitive tasks at work, chances are there’s a process you can set up once that will make your life much easier in the long-term.

So in this post we’re going over my 8 favorite set-and-forget productivity tips for work that are huge time-savers in the long run.

Let’s get started!

Watch it in action

Tip #1 - Challenge the Status Quo

The rule of thumb here is if I change a default setting for something 3 times in a row, I should change that default setting.

For example in Google Docs I never liked the Arial font, so I change the default font to Verdana.

  • Highlight the text and select Verdana
  • Normal Text > Update normal text to match
  • Options > Save as my default styles

Now if I open up a new doc (doc.new) the default font has been updated to Verdana.

Another pet peeve of mine is receiving notifications on documents I own but the comment is not directed towards me. So I click the comment history button > Notification bell > Select Comments for you and select “None” in the “Edits” section.

Pro tip: You can also manage notification settings in Google Slides, Google Sheets, and the Microsoft Suite of tools as well.

Tip #2 - Grouping for Efficiency

At work, you’re probably part of multiple email aliases: everyone@company.com, marketing@company.com, nsfw@company.com, which I’m told “stands for no seriously, feedback wanted” 😏

The tip here is to add group aliases to calendar events directly so you never have to add or remove individuals who join or leave the team. Similarly you can grant file access to the entire alias instead of adding individual team members.

Pro tip: If you’re the group owner, set a reminder for yourself to update the membership list on a regular basis. Managers can also assign team members to be the manager of the group while still being the group owner.

Spending 5 minutes once a quarter going into Google Groups is much more efficient than having to make changes to multiple events and file permissions whenever someone joins or leaves.

Tip #3 - Automate Back-and-Forths

Whether you organize weekly office hours, host regular coffee chats, or provide consulting services as a side hustle, you want to cut down on the number of back-and-forths needed for time slot to be confirmed.

If your company or school uses the business version of Google Workspace, you can use the “Appointment Scheduling” feature found in Google Calendar. Simply create a new appointment schedule, follow the instructions, and at the end, you’ll have a shareable link you can send to people who want to book your time.

If you use a free alternative like Calendly, you can still block off a slot on your calendar, change visibility to Public so others know when you’re available, and title it something like “Weekly Coffee Chat (sign up link in description)”.

Pro tip: If you use the Google Workspace version I recommend changing the minimum time before the appointment from the default 4 hours to 24 hours

I also recommend adding 2 reminders for the scheduler of the appointment: one for a day before, and one 15 minutes before the appointment start time.

You can add your appointment or Calendly link to a text expander tool so you never have to dig around for the URL.

I personally use the snippets feature in the alfred app, so when I type “:schedule” it outputs my link. Alfred is MacOS only, check out my tutorial video.

Tip #4 - Filter Out the Trash

Similar to the first tip, if I find myself digging into my inbox to find a certain type of email 3 or more times, I create a filter and label. For example I have a filter that tags all confirmation emails and invoices from airlines and hotels with a “Trips” label for easy reference.

Pro tip: If you use gmail, the next time you book travel, you can leave your “username+trips@gmail.com” and you’ll still receive emails as normal

Another tip, if you use Google Calendar, create a new filter, in the “has the words” field write “filename:invite.ics AND accepted” > Create filter, check “Skip the inbox”, check “Mark as read” and create filter.

Now you’ll never receive an email after someone accepts your invitation, but you’ll still be notified if someone declines your invite. This makes sense because after someone accepts, there’s no need to follow up. If someone declines, you need to take action and find a new time.

Tip #5 - Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse

In his best selling book Atomic Habits, James Clear states:

…the best way to get rid of unhealthy habits is to introduce friction.

In his mediocre blogpost, Jeff Su states:

…the best way to get colleagues to promptly respond to work requests is to decrease the friction as much as possible.

For example, instead of just sharing document access when you need input, use the “@” symbol to create a bookmark in Google Docs, or right click on a cell in Google Sheets to get the link to a specific cell, or go to a specific page in Google slides and copy paste that URL.

Tip #6 - The Self-Serve Checkout

In short, if you own a process at work that relies on input from others, you want to both:

  • Decrease the amount of time you spend on maintaining that process
  • Minimize the probability for errors to occur

For example, instead of asking colleagues to give input on a spreadsheet directly since they might make mistakes that mess up your later workflow, use something like Google Forms or Typeform where you can control the inputs for each field.

I also like to use the “=importrange” function to import the raw data into another tab to make adjustments without messing with the original data. You can check my 15 Spreadsheet Formulas Working Professionals Should Know youtube video.

Pro tip: If you end up using Google Forms you can go to Responses > 3 dots > and enable email notification for each new response.

Tip #7 - Consistent File Management

If I were to ask all of you what’s the “best” file management system for work, I would receive over 50 different responses. So I recommend finding an organizational method that works for you, and apply that consistently across all your files.

For example, this is the “Level 3” view in my Google Drive. I have a folder for Overall strategy, and a folder for all my marketing campaigns. Within strategy I break it down by years.

Alternatively I could have the years folder as my level 3 view and separate strategy folders for each year.

Pro tip: I have a standalone meeting notes folder, I always create a shortcut (this does not duplicate the document) and add that shortcut to the corresponding project folder.

Tip #8 - Two Minute Rule for Your Inbox

So we all know the 2-minute rule:

if something takes 2 minutes or less to do, do it right away. - David Allen, Getting Things Done

But you might not know there’s an entire email workflow called Inbox Zero that’s built around this concept.

You start the workday with a lot of emails but instead of treating them equally, first, only tackle the ones that take less than 2 minutes to deal with, then label and archive the rest into 3 buckets:

  • Follow up
  • Waiting
  • Read through

You can check out My Complete Inbox Zero Workflow video.

Pro Tip: If there’s an email requiring you to take action more than a week from now, it’s best to snooze that email for a later date so it doesn’t clog up your inbox

Want a promotion and/or raise?

Check out my Succeed in the Workplace playlist!