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10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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