5 Tips That Help Me Work Efficiently

Working at a start-up since day one generally means you end up taking on a lot of responsibilities outside of your job description and title. As one of the first employees at the company, not only was I responsible for design tasks, but as the only front-end developer in the company meant that I was also responsible for jobs that normally would've been handed off to two employees in two different fields.

As the company grew, my role changed and expanded in multiple different directions, covering for tasks normally assigned and divided into multiple people at other companies while we were in the process of finding someone to take on that work. The work I did ranged from graphic design, front-end development, client management, team management, HR and IT, and spanned three different time zones (Los Angeles, New York and Paris). With such a vast range of work and requirements, it meant that I had to adapt my work process and thinking so that I was flexible enough to meet all my deadlines.

Here are 5 tips that I swear by that helped me tackle the various work I had to take care of.

1. Organization

I have a pretty bad memory which makes juggling different tasks tricky. I rely on 4 tools to help keep me organized and to stay on top of things:

  1. Google Calendar - All my meetings, calls and events are noted in my calendar, and I make sure that my notifications are turned on. My calendar is synced across my computer, my phone and the Alexa devices in my home. I have a rough idea in my head of what my day looks like the next day, but I rely on notifications from my device to remind me when something is coming up. It's like having a personal assistant when you need one.
  2. Project Management Tool - I use project management tools to keep a list of my to-do list and its statuses. My current tool I use is the one I use at my company, (to be honest, I'm not a fan of the name), but we chose it because it was easy to pick up across all members of the team and while it doesn't have all the features I would want it to have, the fact it was easy to onboard new team members made that worth it. We've also used Trello and Wrike.
  3. Apple Notes - Sometimes the solution to a problem will come to me at the most random moments, such as when I'm in line at the grocery store, or when I'm on my way to the office. I like using Apple Notes because it syncs across my devices and it's quick to use for jotting down notes.
  4. Email Organization - I'm not the best at this yet, but I have several email accounts, mainly for work, personal and marketing/transaction emails (I'm an avid online shopper). My work emails are usually organized by clients -- which I use tags and filters to sort them into folders -- and I make sure to archive and trash emails religiously to keep my inbox at zero. There are definitely better ways to organize your inbox, but this works for me. By the way, switching between Google Accounts can be pretty annoying to log-in and out, so I like to use something called Shift. It's such a simple thing, but it has definitely made my life a lot easier.

2. Delegation & Prioritization

Every new task that comes my way, I quickly filter on the spot:

  1. Will this task take me less than 5 minutes to complete and am I working on anything urgent at the moment? If the answer is yes and no, then I'll finish the task right then so I can go ahead and forget about it.
  2. Will this taks take a long time to complete, or do I not know? If I'm working on something urgent at that moment, then I'll add this to my to do list to follow-up on later on the day.
  3. Can this task be done by someone else at the moment? If yes, then I delegate it to someone else at that moment, and make a note of it so I can follow-up on it later on. This frees up my mental capacity to focus on the tasks that need my attention.

3. Automation

Anything that can be automated, should be automated. For example, I've set up filters on my inbox to automatically sort my email based on keywords and clients so that I don't have to spend time sorting my email. On, I have automations so that when statuses or certain things happen, I get notifications based on triggers so I don't have to always check back on my project management. I also have automated reminders for weekly items that I tend to forget -- Alexa reminds me every Thursday and Friday to move my car for street parking. This frees up a lot of mental capacity to things that do require my attention.

4. Google / Search

I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating that my memory is terrible. I'm really bad with names, remembering specific details to conversations -- my excuse is that it's human nature -- however, what I also know is that a lot of things exist on the Internet. What I do put effort in is remembering the types of keywords or patterns of searching that I would do to get information that I've stumbled upon. Since a lot of my conversations happen on Slack, I rely on remembering various keywords, rough timeframe and situational information so I can always pull information that I forgot.

5. Mental Models

Sometimes being able to juggle multiple different types of task is really a matter of switching the mindset and thinking about something from a new perspective. I like gathering a different toolkit of mental models from different fields and applying them to a different field. For example, I've found that applying developer-like thinking to a design problem really helps me speed up my design process by creating a library of reusable design elements in a variable-like way. This means I save time on a lot of the menial setup work, so again I can devote more of my brain-power to more unique problems.

BONUS: A Supportive Team

One thing that does make juggling a lot easier is to work with a team that is equally flexible. This way, you can always pass items back-and-forth. I'm fortunate enough to be working with a team of people who understand that if one person on the team is struggling, then the entire team is struggling and so there's always a flow of give-or-take that makes things easier!

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