Productivity hacks for scientists #3

February 1, 2017 Academic, Business 0 Comments

What eats up most of your time? Email. This is the third article in a series of productivity hacks for scientists. I will tell you my strategies on how to

  1. Get your email inbox to zero and
  2. Get things done by using to-do lists

Get your email inbox to zero

Email inbox zero

Some people are comfortable with a lot of emails in their inbox – I’m not. I’m one of those people who is relieved if the inbox is at zero, means there are no emails left to deal with.

To achieve inbox zero, I use email clients (= apps to collect my emails) which offer the possibility of

  • moving the email to an archive (= not interesting)
  • reschedule an email and make it pop up later (= not interesting right now)
  • safe email in evernote (= email contains a to-do)

There are many email clients out there, I use spark for Mac and iPhone. Different swipe actions ensure that I deal with every email only for some seconds, deciding if I need it now, later or never.

In combination with evernote I can deal with emails that contain tasks. I forward these emails to a special evernote email address which will put them in an inbox folder inside evernote. Every email results in a different note that can be turned into a task inside evernote by providing a due date, checklists, etc. If you have never used evernote I can highly recommend it – I’ve been using it for years as a database for work related things and it’s like my second brain.

Get things done by using to-do lists

I’m a great fan of the pomodoro technique but I need to-do lists in order to keep the things I need to be doing in one place. There is of course an endless stream of to-do list apps out there and in order to choose the right one for you, you basically need to decide on one thing: Do you want to work on your things alone or in a team?

to-do list

To-do-lists for personal and team use

Here’s a list of my favourite To-Do-Lists applications. Most of them are free for private use and if you would like to work on tasks in a team (e.g. assign tasks to different people) you have to pay for their services. All of these have applications for the computer, as well as your mobile phone (or even our smart watch).



  • Wunderlist (by Microsoft)
  • Omnifocus 2 (very powerful and detailed, but no team functionality and no free version)
  • Swipes (clean and simple, great evernote integration, no team function)
  • ToDoist (good cross platform sync)

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