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Do 'productivity hacks' really help you get stuff done?

Kara Swisher, Lauren Goode and The Verge’s Dieter Bohn discuss on Too Embarrassed to Ask.

woman on laptop Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Can tech actually make you more productive? Or is it all just a distraction?

Unsurprisingly, your answer might be different from someone else’s. On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode and Dieter Bohn discussed what works and what doesn’t for them and shared tips from the audience about getting stuff done — a tricky feat for many in the post-election haze.

For example, Bohn said he swears by a virtual assistant application for the Mac called Alfred. Advanced users can teach it specific skills, like searching a website or adding items to their to-do lists, which are activated by special keystrokes.

“I spend way too much time programming stuff into it,” Bohn admitted. “But there’s a surprising amount of cognitive load when you’re trying to task-switch.”

Not all of the best productivity hacks are about using more technology, however. The group heard from co-workers, readers and listeners about habits like bullet journaling, and of course the classic advice: "Turn it all off and get a good night's sleep.”

Goode said the No. 1 tip for people like her is, simply, getting up early.

“If I don’t do it, my day is adversely impacted,” she said. “Maybe it’s because we work in the news, but I feel like I’m missing things [if I don’t].”

“I recommend not picking up your phone,” Swisher suggested.

Bohn agreed with Goode that waking up early helps, “whether you’re a morning person or not.”

“Saying, ‘This part of the day is going to be for me and what I want to do,’ even if that’s watching TV or staring at a newspaper or a book or the wall, having almost every day a time when you are not accountable to anybody else, I think is a really important productivity hack,” he said.

Have questions about or suggestions of productivity tricks that we didn’t get to in this episode? Or have another tech topic on your mind? You can tweet any questions, comments and complaints to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. You can also email your questions to, in case Twitter isn’t your thing.

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

You can listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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