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10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work
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It seems that today everything is about productivity. It is one of the buzzwords, so we hardly ever take a moment to consider its meaning. Of course, it may vary individually, but for most of us, productivity is about avoiding distractions and keeping a focus on the thing we do, while we do them, which at times can be a challenging task. Even if we are determined not to procrastinate and finish the task as soon as possible, the very means of our work can be distractions galore with all the incoming emails, instant messages and social network updates. The tools below will be a helpful addition to your desktop, tablet or phone optimizing your workflow.

1. Rescue Time

Compatibility: Android, Web platforms

Rescue Time is browser and application time meter that runs in the background and gathers information about how much time you spend on work, networking, reading news, etc. It gives you an invaluable insight into your daily habits and helps to boost your productivity. If you feel that you, perhaps, spend too time on a particular app, you can set reminders, urging you to leave it after a specified period. You can also block the most distracting apps and sites if you want the maximum focus for some time. This product has definitely earned its self-explanatory name: using it leads to some unexpected revelations about the amount of time you waste.

2. TickTick

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

This simple task management app is notable thanks to its ability to integrate and synchronize across multiple platforms. It also has a number of unique features, such as for example, the possibility to set location-based reminders. They will be triggered by your leaving or arriving at a predefined location, so you will never forget to finish everything before you leave the office and will always remember to pop into the supermarket to complete your grocery list. This to-do app is not limited to lists: it can help you meet deadlines and boost your productivity thanks to customizable reminders, shared lists, voice memos, tags and priority ranking of the tasks.

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3. Workflow

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch)

This productivity app was created to streamline your work by making shortcuts between the apps you use most often to complete certain activities. There is an unlimited number of possible connections and combinations, so Workflow watches you work, learns, and then teaches you how to do it more efficiently. It creates your customized unique workflows, which you can save as new widgets on your home screen or try out the workflows other users have created. This versatile personal automation tool will also help you to manage your social media accounts, calendars, maps, media and more.

4. Trello

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

Trello is a project management tool with dashboard, lists, notes, tasks, calendars and more. Its kanban-style system is visual and fun to use. The application of the service varies from personal use to project management on a larger scale. The cards and lists can be shared for collaboration or assigned for task delegation. Although there are many other project management services out there that are more powerful, Trello is perfect for personal use thanks to its flexibility and customizability, which makes the work well-organized and enjoyable.

5. Pumpic App

Compatibility: Android, iOS

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Sometimes we fail to concentrate because our mind is miles away occupied with all kinds of worries. Pumpic will take care of one of them that is the most important – the safety of your loved ones. Wherever you are, with this monitoring app for parents, you can always be sure that your child timely arrived at school or returned home thanks to the GPS tracker. It will also track your kids’ phone activity taking care of their online safety by blocking inappropriate content and applications you find objectionable. With this parental app, you will kill two birds with one stone – put your own mind at rest to be more productive, and help your children to concentrate on their homework, by eliminating all the usual distractions.

6. Pocket

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

How much time you waste daily because while surfing the Web in search of relevant information, you come across some interesting and useful articles and cannot help but read them, even if their topic has nothing to do with the task you are currently working on? The probable answer is way too much. On the other hand, you would not wish to miss all those exciting facts that may come in handy later. With the Pocket app, you can save and store everything from the Web and social networks you find worth reading or viewing for the later. Now you do not have to choose between pressing tasks and some useful video, and your curiosity is no longer a time thief.

7. Boomerang

Compatibility: Gmail, Outlook, Android

Boomerang is a mailing service that is helpful in many ways, but its best feature is scheduled email sending. For example, you are working late and composing an elaborate letter, but you wish it to be sent during business hours next day. Or you have colleagues on the other side of the globe and you wish to send them reminders just before their lunchtime. This is all possible with Boomerang – set the time and is will mail your letters for you, and the built-in AI will assist you in writing better. Another useful feature – the reminder service can make a very apt CRM tool – now if you do not get a response to your letter, Boomerang will not let you forget about it. On top of this, there is an “Inbox pause” option – you can hold the incoming emails, so they won’t distract you while you are coping with something urgent.

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8. Gero Time Management Companion

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone and Apple Watch)

To be productive, we should work smart, not hard. If you have a habit of plunging into work and emerging 8 hours later exhausted and burnt-out, Gero Time Management Companion is definitely, what you need. This app is a stopwatch of a kind and its main goal is to nudge you to take your well-deserved scheduled breaks. On default, it is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of downtime, but you can set it to whatever intervals suit you. You can also use this app to remind you to do the eye exercises to prevent vision problems, to take medication or simply to refresh yourself.

9. Reporter

Compatibility: iOS

Reporter is a pocket big-data collecting tool for personal use. This app quizzes you on every aspect of your life, asking questions, such as “How did you sleep?” or “Are you alone?” several times a day, collects data from your GPS and step-tracker, and provides quite an insightful feedback into your daily habits and activities. It cross-references everything, so you can see how your mood influences your productivity and so on. The questions and suggested answers are customizable, so you can tweak your Reporter to make self-tracking and building up a personal database quick and seamless.

10. SaneBox

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

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In essence, SaneBox is another time savior and it works with any mailbox. It sorts your emails basing on their priority, which it learns from the way you handle your mail. SaneBox watches which kind of messages you open quickly and leaves them in your inbox while moving less urgent emails to folders you have created. This filter also notes which messages usually stay ignored or end up in a bin. There are many other useful features, such as auto-download of attachments to the cloud, “snooze” that postpones letters until the time you are ready to read them, and various notifications. This service is paid, but it does not require installation, so you can use it on any platform.

Productivity is a skill of making the most of our working hours, so there is more time to enjoy other important things. Hopefully, these tools will be a boon to your productivity and will help you improving your life.

Featured photo credit: Ryo Hirosawa/Flickr via flic.kr

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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