Getting Ahead with Life Hacks

Anant Sharma, CEO of Matter of Form, experience design and e-commerce agency, tells us how he stays connected...

I’m a little disorganised. I’m disorganised because I’m overly obsessive about things, processes and formats of organisation being perfect. I never quite achieve Mecca so I find myself spread between tools. The internet is full of topics around better organisation: ten ways to be a better leader; five things successful people do before breakfast; three key things to think about on the loo; twelve steps to a six-pack in three days... They go on, and it’s easy to think that you must live like an uncomfortable hybrid of Pat Bateman and the Dalai Lama powered by Goop to get anything done.

Amidst all the suggestions and noise, it’s important to find a format that works for you. As CEO of design and e-commerce agency Matter of Form, I’m constantly exploring new tech and ways of working. But for the basics, I find the following works for me.


It sounds ridiculous but I use a combination of ways to view email and trust me, it’s ok. I use the Mail App with an extension called Mailhub. It auto-suggests folders to move messages into for quick and tidy organisation, as well as allowing you to schedule emails. So when you write a bunch of messages Sunday 2am, they’re all lined up ready to get sent Monday 6.45am. You can happily revel in the deception.


On my phone I use Inbox by Google instead of Mac Mail. Why? It allows me to schedule emails to come back into my inbox when I’m on the move. It also organises all travel arrangements and finance transactions into a convenient folder, with key details easily available and summarised for reference. No more searching for flight times, train reference codes or receipts.


I use the standard Gmail web app, because it has some nifty plugins. Sidekick allows me to quickly add people to Hubspot CRM, which in turns integrates to Mailchimp (via Zapier) for our newsletter list.


At the beginning and end of each week, I turn on a plugin called Sort’d, which turns your entire Gmail into a Trello board. I quickly arrange things that run the risk of being completely forgotten into a back-burner list.


I need an app for my lists. I can’t stand doing things in a web browser. I have enough tabs open on a daily basis and they give me claustrophobia. I like Wunderlist. It's simple, the app looks nice, it doesn’t take up too much room or try to be too clever. I do, however, use Trello for managing aspects of our marketing calendar.


I funnel everything into Slack. It integrates with anything. I’ve made it my dashboard for business life. I’m naturally drawn to the app because I enjoy chat and dialogue between colleagues. It’s the best place to consolidate all notifications. With Slack, I can send marketing tasks and content theme ideas straight into a shared Trello board, assigned to an individual and with a due date. I can do it easily via prose, not hundreds of clicks between apps.


We use Zendesk for support and issues raised by clients logged in one central channel. And Jira

There are some other amazing add-ons. If you run a business, try Growth Bot (from Hubspot Labs) which allows you to ask things like “Where did most of Matter Of Form’s referral traffic come from last week’ or "Show me sites that use Magento", to provide smart answers fast.


I use an app called Charlie, which scans my calendar, and creates a mini report of all meeting attendees’ recent Twitter updates, their career history and other published info. It also gives me some top-level stats on the financials of the company they work for. I walk into meetings well prepped and without having to remember to research.

That’s it really — that’s my weird little spaghetti web of apps that are loosely shackled together to provide some sort of infrastructure to my largely haphazard life. Just the way I like it. I don't feel the need to be 100% in control of everything.

November 2016