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14 Productivity Hacks to Increase Work Happiness

We asked around the office for people’s best tips for improving productivity, and here’s what they said.

Articles by Betterment Editors
By the Editorial Staff Betterment Resource Center Published Dec. 12, 2014
Published Dec. 12, 2014
3 min read
  • Strive for inbox zero. To help get there, rely on apps and plugins.

  • Use search engine shortcuts to get the most relevant search results and reduce the time it takes to get them.

Automation and efficiency: We take these things seriously at Betterment, not only as core product and investing values, but also as a way to get our work done during the day and live happier lives.

By being more efficient, we allow more time for the good stuff: ideating new products, creative brainstorming, lunches together as a team. We asked around the office for people’s best tips for improving productivity, and here’s what they said. (Note: While we use several different types of software mentioned below, this is not an endorsement.)

productivity hacks

Inbox Zero

I use Inbox Pause to block, batch, and deliver my email four times daily. That way, I can focus on my highest priority tasks, rather than the most recent requests. I work toward inbox zero—but I am okay with getting away from zero for weeks or months at a time. My task list serves as my guide, rather than my inbox. Sometimes a task is to get to inbox 75 or inbox 40, rather than inbox zero.” – Jon Stein, Founder and CEO

I keep a zero-unread inbox. Everything is read and then archived, deleted, or starred in order of priority: red (top priority), yellow (medium priority), and green (low priority). If I want to work on a yellow email, I’ve got to clear my reds. Them’s the rules.”  – Dan Egan, Director of Behavioral Finance and Investing

“Inbox zero. I look at emails when they come in to make sure they’re not things I need to answer right away (if they are, I answer them). I then set aside time specifically to reread and answer as necessary.” – Sarah Kaufman, Growth Manager

“I’m all about striving for inbox zero. I aggressively use Gmail keyboard shortcuts to help keep my inbox below 20 (ideally zero). I move any longer-term follow-up items into Evernote or my calendar so I can deal with them later.” – Andrew Glenn, VP of Core Systems

“I use the Mailbox app and practice inbox zero.” – Dan Chan, Software Engineer

“I use the Trello plugin, my Evernote account’s email address, and Sunrise calendar to achieve inbox zero. When I get an email, I try (and sometimes succeed) to immediately do one of four things:

  • Deal with it right away (respond, save in a folder, etc.)
  • Create a Trello card to put it on my to-do list
  • Create a note in Evernote to save info for later reference
  • Create a calendar event

– Alix FitzGerald, Operations Manager

More Email Tips

“Use Rapportive, a Gmail plugin, to learn more about whoever’s emailing you. Great for pre-screening applicants, introductions, investors, business development partners, and salespeople.” – Jon Stein, Founder and CEO

“I have a few templates stored in Google Drive for things like creative briefs so that I don’t have to rewrite them every time.” – Isabelle Berner, Product Marketing Manager

“I use Boomerang for Gmail to help me manage my inbox. It allows me to send emails back to myself when I need to remember to respond, or check to see if someone else has responded, without having to keep them in my inbox.” – Samantha Ceppos, Acquisition Marketing Manager

“I put everything in folders. And I don’t take anything out of my inbox until it’s completed.” – Chelsea Nenni, Team and Office Associate

Search Engine Shortcuts

“I use Chrome search engine shortcuts. I assigned ‘maps’ to searching in Google Maps, ‘conf’ for Confluence, and most importantly ‘ud’ for urban dictionary. I also have two separate Chrome accounts—one for work and one for personal. That way, work bookmarks and logins stay in one window and personal can stay in the other.” – Andrew Glenn, VP of Core Systems

General Productivity Hacks

“I do everything the night before. In the morning, I am ready and out the door in 20 minutes or less. I also love The Skimm and the CNN mobile app—I can quickly read news during my commute.” – Sarah Kaufman, Growth Manager

“I use FileThis to pull all my credit card and bank statements, insurance bills, utility bills, Betterment statements, etc. It’s an incredible add-on to my Dropbox account and really helps keep me paperless.” – Alix FitzGerald, Operations Manager

“I use my iPhone to take pictures of everything I want to remember or that I need to refer to in the future—forms, addresses, business cards, insurance cards, receipts, screenshots. In a perfect world, I have each photo tagged and filed in Evernote.” – Catherine New, Content Manager

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