Article Contents

The EWOR team had the pleasure of sitting down with Julia Zhou, an impact investor, ecosystem builder, and productivity expert. She gave us her top five tips to boost your productivity and build a routine that works for you.

Julia is the Co-Founder of Tidal Impact, an impact management and investment company catalyzing companies that prioritise social and environmental performance and supporting them in measuring their impact. As well as running her venture, Julia Zhou is also on the board of the Sigma Squared Society, a global entrepreneurship community that brings together the world’s most ambitious entrepreneurs under 26. 

With all her commitments, Julia is constantly working on ways to keep herself accountable. Ever since the end of high school, she’s been studying productivity and time management methodologies, and over time, she was able to identify which methods worked for her and which didn’t.

Julia’s Top 5 Productivity Tips

Julia was kind enough to share her top five tips to increase productivity and create a system that works for you. Read on to find out more about her insights!

Build a routine.

For Julia, that’s a morning routine. She recommends doing things in the morning that make you feel accomplished: “It’s proven that if you accomplish something in the morning, even something as small as making your bed, it increases your willpower, motivation, and mood during the day.”

Julia’s morning routine is about two hours long, but she told us that even 20 minutes a day of scheduled habitual activity can be very beneficial. During her routine, Julia meditates, exercises, reflects, plans her day and prepares a healthy breakfast. If you’re very tired when you wake up, don’t start with meditation – exercise can be a good way of increasing your energy, says Julia. For meditating, she recommends apps such as Headspace or Calm, if you are just getting started with meditation – you can also find guided meditations on YouTube.

During her morning reflection time, Julia asks herself positively-phrased questions such as what she is grateful for, what her intention for the day is, what she wants to accomplish or what she’s looking forward to. She then plans out her day, choosing the most important few things she wants to get done.

Track your time, habits and wellbeing.

Julia applies this principle to her personal as well as her professional life. She’s a great believer in the saying “what can’t be measured, can’t be improved”. She likes to know where her time goes, and whether that aligns with what she had in mind.

Julia told us she has an ideal breakdown of time (how many hours she wants to work, spend with friends, etc). She tracks her time in a spreadsheet, inputting activities in half-hour increments; that’s a habit too, she plugs things in manually every day. Quarterly, she plays around with the categories and labels she uses for her time. Roughly, they correspond to things like working, exercising, personal growth, calls, or family time.

As well as her time, Julia keeps tabs on certain aspects of her wellbeing such as her sleep or stress levels. That way, she said, she can cross-compare the things she tracks. Her productivity could decline for a time when she is unwell, for example. For tracking her habits, she uses an app called Habitica. It enables you to get points for tracking habits, gamifying the whole process and making it more fun.

Schedule regular reflection time.

Tracking will only go so far if you don’t set aside time to look back on it. As well as her daily reflection time during her morning routine, Julia reflects on a weekly, quarterly and yearly basis. On Sundays, she looks back on her week and plans ahead for the next one. Every quarter, she amends her objectives and key results (OKRs) according to what she wants to achieve. At the end of every year, she reviews what she has achieved and sets new goals for the year ahead.

Use the GTD method.

GTD stands for “getting things done“. The method was created by David Allen; it’s a way to process your tasks and optimise your time and efficiency. To implement the method, Julia uses an app called Todoist as it’s easy and straightforward to use. However, any software or just a pen and paper will do.

Julia spends some time each day just “braindumping” things she has to do into her inbox or general to-do list. She then considers how much time it will take to achieve each task. If something is going to take two minutes or less, she doesn’t process it and sort it into a category; instead, she does it on the spot, as that will be quicker. The remaining tasks are categorised into projects and sub-projects, breaking down larger tasks. Julia uses tags or labels to indicate which tasks might be waiting for someone else to do something first. If a task comes in during the day, she advised to put it in your “inbox” and process it at the end of the day, during a scheduled time.

As well as for her to-do list, Julia uses the GTD method for her emails. She swears by an app called Superhuman which is designed to get you to inbox zero. Similarly to tasks, she responds immediately to emails which will take her under two minutes. The others go in a to-do folder to go back to during her scheduled email time.

Julia gave us an important caveat: “At the end of the day, tasks on to-do lists are not there to all get done,” she said. About 20% of her to-dos end up being deleted as she didn’t need to get them done. This process is important, as to-do lists can quickly become overwhelming and unproductive.

Use a bidirectional linking strategy to capture notes.

Confused by the name? So were we. Julia explained that this method of taking note actually mirrors how our brains work. When we learn something about a topic, we automatically link it back to something we might have learnt about the same topic before. This means we can retrieve knowledge faster. Taking notes in a similar way is a more efficient way of learning and retrieving knowledge.

To implement this strategy, Julia recommends note-taking tools such as Mem, Roam or Obsidian. Personally, she uses Mem for all her meeting notes – if you type a keyword in, it brings up other times you’ve typed it in and shows you links to other topics. That way, you’re building a knowledge database, a second digital brain of sorts.

Building a Consistent Routine

“With every productivity system, the conclusion is that you actually have to stick to it,” Julia told us. Consistency is key in building a routine. Create something that is right for you, and schedule it for times that work best for your body. If you don’t like exercising in the mornings, go to the gym in the evenings. If you don’t like working out at the gym, do it at home.

While some people love building intricate systems, others don’t. Don’t create something that will be a burden for you – you’ll never stick to it. Get a system that will do things for you. Find an app that will make it into a game, something fun. Enjoying things is the best way to make them stick.

Want to start and grow your own business? We have the perfect solution for you. We built a platform with over 17 courses designed by serial entrepreneurs to help you build a sustainable business. You will get access to hundreds of resources, tools, legal templates, and much more. Save time and money and become more successful by subscribing to our EWOR Membership. What are you waiting for? Sign-up now!

About EWOR

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

Learn More

Article Contents

Our Programs

Fellowship

An exclusive 10-month, fully-sponsored, program designed for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place.

Learn More

Academy

An 8-week online program that teaches you how to start a company with a lasting impact on the environment or society.

Learn More

Membership

Learn how to conceive, prototype, test, and launch an impactful venture with over 17 courses to help you start off.

Learn More

Newsletter

Don’t miss out on future content and subscribe to our newsletter!

Follow Us

About EWOR

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

Learn More

Our Programs

Fellowship

An exclusive 10-month, fully-sponsored, program designed for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place.

Learn More

Academy

An exclusive 10-month, fully-sponsored, program designed for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place.

Learn More

Membership

Learn how to conceive, prototype, test, and launch an impactful venture with over 17 courses to help you start off.

Learn More

Newsletter

Don’t miss out on future content and subscribe to our newsletter!

Recommended

How To Create A Good Image as an Entrepreneur

Elon Musk has always been a divisive figure. After buying a large share of Twitter...

How to calculate Burn Rate

Nine out of ten start-ups fail.  One of the biggest contributors to this number is...

The Best Five Productivity Tips To Increase Efficiency

Finding the best productivity tips that work for your individual needs is something every entrepreneur...

How to Build a Strong Pitch Deck (A step by step guide with examples)

Preparing a perfect pitch deck is strongly linked to the likelihood of you being able...

Effective Retail Strategies to Boost the Sales of Your Store

The number of retail stores is rising, and we have so many places to go...

A Complete Guide to Self-Employment for Entrepreneurs

If you’re miserable in your poorly paid office job, the word self-employment instantly triggers fantasies...

Follow Us

Rate this article

Applications are open!

Remind me about the Application Deadline!

daniel

Daniel Dippold

Michael