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Readers Respond: Your Stumbling Blocks

Readers Respond: Your Stumbling Blocks
Your Stumbling Blocks

About 10 days ago, I accidentally posted a question I had meant to schedule for later this month, and as I’m coming to expect, your responses really got me thinking. The question was simple: What one big productivity block do you most struggle to overcome? But the issue it raises — how can we keep ourselves on track? — is really complex, and speaks directly to why a site like lifehack.org exists and continues to attract a daily readership in the six figures.

We talk a lot about goals, motivation, and self-development. All of these things share a common root: desire. The desire to fulfill our destinies, maybe, or to attain for ourselves something that’s missing, whether that’s security, luxury, meaning, or even just a sense of completion and closure.

Planning our own absence

But things get in the way of us attaining the things we desire. Sometimes those things are external factors — a harsh government, a poor economy, bad business choices by our employers. But much of the time, what keeps us from fulfilling our desires is internal. Some things we have no control over — health problems, for instance. Boris left a particularly touching comment last week:

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I do a very good job at managing most activities related to my business. However, no matter how well I planned… I have chronic health problems that get in the way very often.

I don’t have chronic health problems, but even something as simple as a cold or a toothache can derail all my planning and send me into a tailspin of depression and self-doubt — I can only imagine what it must be like to experience that on a regular basis.

The thing with health issues is that, although we can work really hard to keep ourselves fit, we are always under the threat of a sudden flare-up, whether of a chronic illness or a new infection or injury. No matter how much we tell ourselves that we are captains of our own destinies, our bodies can betray us, laying us low in a matter of moments.

The answer to this lies, I think, in planning. I’ve been strongly inspired by Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week. Ferriss devotes a large part of the book to describing systems that continue to work even when we’re not there to run them. The point, for Ferriss, is to allow us the time to gallivant around the globe in search of tango lessons or extreme sporting events (or, I suppose, enlightenment), but the lesson applies to those of us worried about a sudden illness knocking us out of commission for a week, a month, or a year. Set up systems that require as little attention as possible, so you can commit your time to activities that serve your self — whether that means spending six months seeking the latest thrill or six months recovering from an injury.

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Strengths, Focus, and Vision

There are also internal forces that act as stumbling blocks that we do have some degree of control over, or that are within our power to change. Tom Gray says his biggest stumbling block is not playing to his own strengths:

I spend too much time working on things that would be better delegated or farmed out and not enough time in activities where I shine.

Kevin X says he struggles to maintain focus, keeping his attention on the things he’s doing instead of the things he wants to do when he’s done:

When I am on one project, I start to think about another. When I move on to a new part of the day, I find myself thinking about something in the past. Even when I am trying to sleep (the best time of the day) my mind wanders so much and I think of great new ideas (which I have to quickly write down) or of the past day and the next day.

And gstar writes of the importance — and difficulty — of keeping one’s vision in mind:

maintaining the “big picture” of where you are ultimately trying to go. I’ve heard it said, “Take care of the details, and the rest will take care of itself” – How do you narrow down what those details are, while not losing track of the overall goal?

What these three things have in common is a lack of self-reflection — taking the time to sit down with one’s self and really thinking about who one is and what one should be doing. This is, I realize, a tall order, and one that Western society, at least, doesn’t make much space for.

Which is why it’s so crucial that we make that space ourselves, that we insist on the time to explore our own needs and desires. This isn’t touchy-feely, hippie stuff — this is what it takes for us to realize our fullest potential, and in that light, it’s what makes us human. We need time to figure out what are strengths are and how best to develop and use them, time to make sure that the things we are doing are really the best use of our time, and time to see our lives in the big-picture view so we can work out where we’re headed and why we’re headed that way.

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I think it’s telling that virtually every productivity guru, every organization coach, and every successful leader advocates some sort of ritualized self-awareness time, whether that’s a yearly retreat, daily quiet time, or a weekly review. What they don’t tend to say is how hard it is to really think about this stuff! To discover your strengths it’s necessary also to think about your weaknesses, about ways you can improve, about things you’ve done wrong and things you need to do better. To think about your vision it’s necessary to escape all the myriad demands on us to perform, produce, and prepare. To really focus we need to have something worth focusing on — and finding that special thing can be a lifelong calling.

Instead, we procrastinate. Marina says, “[My stumbling block] is always waiting until a “better” time to write that book/blog post, launch that program, etc.” Brian Yuong says, “Any time I hit a complex section of a project my mind tells me I could be more productive if I shift to another project that has been on the back burner for awhile.” Tracey says, “I put off things that I find unpleasant, such as returning phone calls, and in doing so make tasks much more difficult than if I’d just done them in a timely manner…” And on and on.

Why are so many of us working on things that either don’t make best use of our strengths, don’t engage us enough to hold our attention, or don’t advance us towards any vision of what our lives should be like? I realize there are things we have to do to pay the bills, take care of our responsibilities to family, friends, and society, or just get through from day to day, but they shouldn’t be the majority of our actions!

We need to take these moments of hesitation, these “procrastinable” tasks, as warning signs that we’re running off-track — or, worse, stalled out. And when too much of our lives is pushed to the “back burner”, we need to see that for what it is: as a sign that change is necessary.

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For most of us, that doesn’t mean shaving our heads and running off to Angola to herd sheep. It means making time — not finding it, but making it — to recapture our strengths, focus, and vision. Figure out one thing that needs to change, and change it. Repeat as necessary, until life is on the front burner.

More by this author

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

For Getting Things Done

1. OmniFocus

This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

Download it here.

    2. Forest

    Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

    Download it here.

      3. Things

      Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

      Download it here.

         

         

        4. Any.Do

        A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

        Download it here.

          5. PocketLife Calendar

          This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

          Download it here.

            6. Asana

            We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

            , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

            Download it here.

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              7. ToDoist

              This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

              Download it here.

                 

                 

                8. Calendars 5

                This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                Download it here.

                  9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                  A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                  Download it here.

                    10. Due

                    A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                    Download it here.

                      11. Checkmark 2

                      I use this app

                      for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                      Download it here.

                        12. TeuxDeux

                        Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                        Download it here.

                           

                           

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                          13. Nirvana

                          For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                          Download it here.

                            14. Priorities

                            An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                            Download it here.

                              For Building Habits

                              15. Productive

                              With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                              Download it here.

                                16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                Download it here.

                                  17. Streaks

                                  This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                  Download it here.

                                    18. Remember The Milk

                                    Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                    Download it here.

                                      19. Day One Journal

                                      When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                      Download it here.

                                        For Files Organization

                                        20. Evernote

                                        Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                        Download it here.

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                                          21. Pocket

                                          You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                          Download it here.

                                            22. Sync.Me

                                            This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                            Download it here.

                                              23. Droplr

                                              One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                              Download it here.

                                                24. Dropbox

                                                Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                Download it here.

                                                   

                                                  For Working Smarter

                                                  25. Captio

                                                  A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    26. Drafts

                                                    A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                      27. NoteShelf 2

                                                      This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        28. Doodle

                                                        This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

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                                                        Download it here.

                                                          29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                          I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            30. Launch Center Pro

                                                            A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              31. GoodReader

                                                              This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                32. LogMeIn

                                                                Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  For Improving Security

                                                                  33. 1Password

                                                                  There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                    You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                    All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      35. Truecaller

                                                                      Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                        Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                        Reference

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