You don’t get to be one of the largest companies on the planet without knowing a few productivity hacks. And that’s not counting the many productivity tools made by Google.
Google has some of the best leaders in its staff, like Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page. The company has been famous for practices like asking employees to spend 20 percent of their time on a personal project. And there’s a lot more where that came from.
1. Use the Four Quadrant System to Organize To-Dos
No, productivity gurus, this isn’t the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your to-do list, even though it looks similar. Thomas Davies, the Director at Google for Work, has a new system to divide your work responsibilities and get things done.
Start by creating four quadrants. Three of those quadrants will be about three of the most important parts of your job. The fourth quadrant will be “transactional tasks.”
Transactional tasks are any activity that you need to do once, and they are quick. It can be something as small as calling a client or replying to an email. If you’ll get it done quickly, the task goes here.
The process isn’t about having four quadrants that you each spend 25 percent of your time on. This system, Davies says, is meant to make you mindful of the tasks in different aspects of your job, and do them while maintaining balance.
This is an activity that would be perfect to organize in Trello, or one of the best Trello alternative kanban boards.
2. Solve the “Zero-Million-Dollar Research Problem”
As the CEO of Alphabet (the company that now owns Google), Larry Page’s perspective is broader than most people’s. But you can still learn a lot from how he thinks.
In an interview with Fortune, Page spoke at length about solving “zero-million-dollar research problems.” The idea is to find an interesting problem that no one is working on, and then solve it yourself.
There are thousands of such small issues in any team or office, no matter the size. By and large, you complain about them but ignore them. Have you ever tried solving the problem?
3. Do a Weekly Review and Set Weekly Goals
One of the earliest practices of Google has been extremely beneficial to other companies. It’s called Snippets and it asks employees to take a minute to review what they are doing.
Every week, all Google employees are asked to write a Snippet and email it to their manager. The Snippet has all they accomplished in the previous week, and what they hope to achieve in the next week. Their next week’s plan is then posted for anyone to see. As we know, sometimes a public to-do list can work for you if nothing else does.
The Snippets system was extremely popular and adopted by other companies too. While it’s inconvenient to type and send, it’s a practice that helps you be more accountable. Overall, you will gain a better understanding of what you’re doing and where you’re going.
4. Set Public Goals and Measure Them With OKRs
Since 1999, Google has used a goal system called Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to drive teams. It will change how you work.
In Google’s OKR system, teams set ambitious objectives within a time frame — it should seem almost impossible. Then, identify measurable and quantifiable key result areas that will take the team to that objective. Ideally, you need three objectives and about 3-5 key result areas per objective.
Once that’s done, make the OKRs public so everyone can see them. And then each team member updates the results as they are achieved. It’s a strategy backed by the science of successful goal-making.
For a personal project, you can still use OKRs. These aren’t meant to be shared to-do lists, after all, they are shared objectives. For any further information, Google has created a guide to set goals with OKRs.
5. Follow Eric Schmidt’s “9 Rules of Email”
Few people know more about email and email etiquette than Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and former CEO of the company. Schmidt wrote nine rules to better manage your inbox.
- Respond quickly.
- When writing an email, every word matters, and useless prose doesn’t. Be crisp in your delivery.
- Clean out your inbox constantly.
- Handle email in LIFO (last in, first out) order.
- Ask yourself, “What should I have forwarded, but didn’t?”
- When you use BCC, ask yourself if it’s necessary.
- Don’t yell. No all-capitals.
- Forward important emails to yourself and add keywords that you might use in future searches.
- CC yourself on emails you need to follow up on and label them Follow-Up.
6. Create a New Mental Habit of Compassion
Chade-Meng Tan, a motivator at Google, has said that the company’s success lies in how it builds a culture of compassion at work. Part of that, he adds, is building a new mental habit for yourself.
“Imagine whenever you meet any other person, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, ‘I want you to be happy.’ Imagine you can do that,” Tan said in his TED talk. “Having this habit, this mental habit, changes everything at work. Because this good will is picked up by other people, and it creates trust. And trust creates a lot of good working relationships.”
No matter what your job is, it will involve interacting with other people. If you were better at these interactions, the entire environment would be more helpful and productive. It’s why compassion is one of the happiness tactics to start learning today.
7. Protect Your “Make” Time
A long time ago, Google segregated its workforce into “makers” and “managers”: managers handle teams while makers create products. Since then, some of its employees have found their roles to overlap. It’s time for everyone to be “makers” and protect their “make” time, says Jeremiah Dillon, the Head of Product Marketing for Google Apps for Work. It’s a philosophy we can all apply.
No matter what role you do in your organization, creating new things is usually the best use of your time. Dillon says we all need to be makers so that we are all creating new things, instead of trying to only manage what already exists. While managing is important, it isn’t as fulfilling as making. And with that perspective, you need to change how you manage time.
For makers, time management is crucial, Dillon says. No matter what you do, you should schedule a “Make” time in your workday and not compromise on that. This is what will lead to growth, whether as a person or as an organization. Even the internet can make you more creative than ever before.
A quick experiment within Google found that a dedicated “Make” slot helped everyone involved. Once you do that, the next step is to protect your own “Make” schedule, and not infringe on others.
8. Meetings Need Goals, Before and After
Every office worker is accustomed to meetings that go nowhere. By the end of it, you are left wondering why you are all gathered in that conference room. At Google, all meetings have a goal before and after.
Googler Lisa Conquergood told Fast Company that at Google, they knew the objective of each meeting before going in, and after the meeting, what action steps they needed to take. Can you say that about your company?
9. The Formula to Get Paid What You’re Worth
Work is about compensation. If you aren’t being rewarded appropriately for your efforts, you will lack motivation and will. How do you ensure you are getting the right pay? By framing your worth correctly.
Google’s Human Resources Chief Laslo Block says that in any resume (or appraisal), you need to adhere to a simple formula. This will ensure you are paid what you deserve. Block told The New York Times:
“The key is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”
Your productivity is linked to your motivation. If you are motivated by pay, make sure you get the right compensation. Talk about what you did, give a comparison to others, and show how you are better.
What Google Productivity Hacks Do You Love?
There must be thousands of other excellent productivity hacks from Google or its employees. Given that it’s the subject of so many books and documentaries, there’s plenty to learn.
What productivity hack did you learn from Google?