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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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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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