Our generation is more distracted than ever with the constant “ping”, buzz” and the ever so present red notifications that we love to click on as we check our social media accounts, “Just one more time!”
The truth is, being distracted is a choice and we do our best work when we’re the most focused and engaged.
While it’s always tempting to multitask, an overwhelming amount of studies have shown that being present and centered on one task at a time, is always the best path to productivity and efficiency.
There are many tools out there today that can help us stay on track, save us time and make sure we get the most out of the little time we have each day. Here are some of my favorites:
There’s a constant debate between paper planning and digital planning. I believe that we need to find systems that work for us and stick to them. However, if you’re a paper planner, then I highly recommend The Passion Planner. Made by a millennial for millennials, it uses goal setting and being intentional with your time to make progress in all areas of your life, not just work!
I recently stumbled upon this app and have found it very useful. So often, while I’m working on a task I’ll get stuck and find myself creeping over to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc to just take a break mentally, instead of pushing through and accomplishing that task or just finishing that email. This app is not free (but it does offer a free trial), and it blocks certain websites (that you choose) during certain times of the day or during specified amounts of time, freeing you to be focused on the task or project at hand.
An oldie, but a goodie – it’s still the best calendar app out there. There are so many features that are now available with Google Calendar and I really don’t know how our team would get by without it! It syncs with many other apps and project management systems out there now as well. My favorite feature is being able to see multiple calendars at once (including colleagues calendars), so I can make appointments accordingly to our team meetings and my personal meetings as well. The reminders can be very helpful too, to make sure you’re getting to meetings/calls/appointments on time. (The extension in Google Chrome is a must if you use Chrome!)
This app works with Gmail to send out emails at a certain time. If you’re up early in the morning or up late at night, it can feel odd to send an email to a colleague at such an unusual time. Boomerang holds the email in your drafts and then sends it at the time you set. You can also use it to “boomerang” an email back into your inbox if you want to follow up with someone or remind yourself of a certain task at a later time and date.
This app has been a lifesaver with all the passwords I need to track throughout the day with work and my personal life. It tracks when you add a new username/password for something you sign up for and automatically asks if you want to save it. Its Autofill feature saves me so much time, as I log in and out of the various programs and software we use each day. (Again, if you’re a faithful Google Chrome user like me, be sure to install the extension!)
Using “applets” that really just act as recipes, IFTTT has proven to be the app that ties it all together as it syncs and coordinates with just about every app or software you can imagine (and they add more each day). Some examples are: automatically creating new reminders on your iPhone for emails you star in Gmail, pinning new WordPress posts to a Pinterest board, saving your favorite tweets in an Evernote notebook and so many more.
Again, a classic but so helpful. You’ve probably heard of it before and there’s a reason. Evernote acts as a digital notebook that allows you to capture information, articles, and lists in one place and then allows you to separate these notes into separate digital notebooks. My personal favorite feature is being able to forward an email to my Evernote as it automatically creates it into a note for later use or reference. It also syncs wonderfully with Google Drive.
All these are project management softwares that can help you achieve the same things, just in different ways. Some have lots of features with the free version and others are strictly paid only. I’d encourage you to explore and see what could work best for you or for your team. My advice is this, pick one and commit to using it for at least a year. It always sets us back when we jump from system to system. These 3 happen to be the most popular and recommended.
No, this doesn’t allow you to slack. If anything, it gives you some slack with your day! Acting as a virtual, “knock on the door” or “Hey, I just had a quick question”, it features a basic instant messaging platform for you and your team to converse throughout the day. Admittedly, it’s easy to get caught up in a conversation discussing a project, launch or task because of the instant messaging foundation, which makes me grateful for the “snooze notifications” feature for those days when I need to focus and be very productive. It also allows you to see who is, “in office” and who is out with the away and active settings. Working with a team that’s entirely remote, I don’t know how we would get by without it! It’s saved us and many other teams many emails or texts of those small, pesky, but important questions.
I know it may seem odd to have a sleep app in this list, but sleep is HUGE when it comes to our productivity. For a long time, I was fooling myself into thinking that I was getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night based on my sleep and wake up times. I still struggled with fatigue though and that afternoon crash we all get after lunchtime. This app showed me that I really was only getting 5-6 hours of good solid sleep each night. No wonder I was so tired all the time! It tracks your REM cycles and wakes you up at your lightest point of sleep within a half hour period, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and rested. I started going to bed an hour earlier than I normally did and that extra hour of sleep was a game changer for my productivity. I look forward to my afternoons now, instead of dreading them.
If you travel a lot, this app will be your best friend. It syncs with your email and automatically imports any flight tickets, hotel reservations, car rental reservations, movie tickets and other travel receipts into one app. I love it for when I need to catch multiple flights and then drive to an Airbnb. I don’t even have to think about loading all those details into an app or writing out an itinerary, it automatically does it for me. (The paid, Pro version alerts you of delayed flights as well.)
While this last of apps can be overwhelming, I’d challenge you to think about your various routines and your day to day life. Where are the pressure points for you? Where do you experience the most stress? What are those small tasks or menial routines that you can set up in an app to achieve for you? As cheesy as it sounds, there is probably an app for that. Use technology in life to help you achieve and serve, not against you to make you more stressed and frazzled.
Productivity, I’ve found, ultimately comes down to this, find what systems work for you and stick to them! It’s ok to try them out and test and tweak until you’ve gotten them into your routine, but consistency helps our brains recognize patterns and know automatically where to put what information where.