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19 Best Web Resources To Enhance Productivity

19 Best Web Resources To Enhance Productivity

These days, there’s no shortage of web resources to choose from. And although options are wonderful, they can also be the bane of our existence. Too many options have often been the primary cause for a total lack of productivity.

For example: let’s say you want to learn how to make a good martini. You google search: “how to make the perfect martini”. Boom. You get back enough how-to articles on martini-making to make your head spin. You click one of the results…. It’s not bad. But maybe there’s something better. You go back to your Google search results and click another one, opening another tab in your browser. This one’s okay. But not as good as the last. Then you go back and look for another article.

You repeat the same cycle again. And again.. and again. Until next thing you know — you’ve got so many open tabs on your browser window that you’ve forgotten what you were trying to do in the first place!

How’d you go from searching for the perfect martini recipe, to watching a Justin Bieber video on YouTube?

This, my friend, is the double-edge sword of the world wide web and the many resources that it offers us to make use of… and if we waste too much time using the wrong ones (i.e. Justin Bieber videos on YouTube), then we end up sabotaging our own productivity as a result.

So without further ado, I present to you the 19 best web resources to enhance productivity. Save the martinis for after you’re done reading this article.

1. Evernote

This is the juggernaut of web resources to help with productivity. Personally, it’s my primary way of staying on track with my daily projects and tasks. Super charge this resource by integrating it with the Getting Things Done productivity methodology and you’ll be setting yourself up for success for a very long time.

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2. Spreeder

Learning to speed read can be massively helpful when you’re trying to plow through piles of documents and books in search of a vital piece of information. Luckily, there’s an app for that, and it’s called Spreeder.

3. Wunderlist

Wunderlist is the bucket-list-building app you’ve always wished for. Fast. Intuitive. Shareable. Whether you’re creating a “someday/maybe” list or pounding away at a project filled with tasks you need to accomplish, you just can’t go wrong with Wunderlist.

4. Coffitivity

Researchers tell us that people work better when there’s white noise in the background. That’s where an app like Coffitivity comes in handy by generating the buzziness of a cafe’ in the background while you’re working.

5. Tomato Timer

Tomato Timer is based on the Pomodoro technique, which is an incredibly popular productivity method that requires you to incorporate specific periods of rest and renewal into your workday by breaking it up into 25-minute chunks of productive time. After the 25-minute chunk of time is up, you get a short break before repeating the same cycle over again.

The Tomato Timer will alert you when the 25 minutes is up so you can get up and take a quick moment to recharge your batteries before getting back to work again. The fact that you know you’ll be able to take a break when the timer goes off will help you beat procrastination once and for all.

6. GetFlashNotes

Too busy to read that pile of books on the bedside table? Start using GetFlashNotes book summaries and you’ll be done reading them, all in under 20 minutes flat. The fact that you can read the best self-help and business books in mere minutes makes this a productivity resource that you should never leave home without.

And since their summaries come formatted for every device, you’ll never have to.

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7. Do Nothing For 2 Minutes

If there’s one thing modern professionals don’t get enough of, it’s short periods of rest. You work hard. Bless yourself with 120 seconds of peace via this simple but powerful productivity resource. You’ll feel better for having done it.

8. Doodle

Never go back and forth about when to schedule a meeting, and forget about wasting time email-polling your friends about whether they can make it to your birthday party on this or that date.

Instead, use Doodle to identify a few potential windows of time that work best for you, and ask everyone else to fill in what works for them within those windows. Doodle makes scheduling things easy.

9. Feedly

Organize everything you love — from blogs, to news, to websites and more — all in one place that you can go back to whenever you want, via Feedly.

10. Podcasts

Listening to a podcast can be a vital productivity resource if you’re doing it with a purpose. Want to learn how to quit smoking or how to be more confident? Listen to a self-improvement podcast on iTunes.

Want the big ideas from that business book your co-worker told you about? Listen to a non-fiction literature podcast. Take advantage of podcasts. They’re free, fun, and can teach you tons of productivity hacks within a very short period of time.

11. FocusWriter

A simple tool that provides a clean on-screen writing environment for the essentialist. FocusWriter comes complete with other small but useful resources to enhance productivity, like timers, alarms, spell checking and goal-setting functionality.

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12. Hootsuite

Automate all of your social media, rather than dividing your attention, when you could be productively getting things done instead. Let’s say you’ve just written a great blog post and you really want to capitalize on the power of social media to spread that blog post as far as possible. Rather than sharing and tweeting about it on all of your social media platforms all at once, you can use Hootsuite to pre-populate exactly when – and how often – you want your blog post to be spread around on each of your individual social media accounts.

If the best time to self-promote on Facebook is on Tuesday mornings between 8 and 9 am, then set up your messaging with Hootsuite to ensure it goes out on that specific day. Rinse and repeat for your other platforms.

13. IFTTT

The acronym stands for “If this, then that”, and it’s an app that allows you to create little chains of productivity using simple “recipes”. The “recipes” act as Triggers and Actions to prompt you to stay productive.

For example, you can make a recipe that automatically turns every email you start in your Gmail into a reminder in your iOS Reminders app. Pretty cool, eh?

14. Lift

Get push notifications to remind you to stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Prompt yourself to “drink more water” at various times throughout the day. Remind yourself to stick with your gym habit every morning.

Use Lift as you constant companion to help you harness the power of habit when you need it most.

15. Productivity Owl

Productivity Owl is a Google Chrome extension that keeps you on track by letting you know when you’re not being as productive as you should be. The productivity owl literally gets in your face, too. Every time you’re browsing pages that you know you shouldn’t be, the little Productivity Owl swoops down from the corner of your screen to let you know that it’s time to stop checking Facebook so you can finish up that presentation that’s due tomorrow.

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16. SelfControl

What if you could block yourself from succumbing to the luring urge’s to constantly check your social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Well, now you can. SelfControl’s application lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers and pretty much anything else on the web.

Just preset a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you won’t be able to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

17. Audible

Every book you read is a deliberate investment in your personal development. But what if you’re not a big fan of reading or don’t have the time to? Don’t fret. You can listen to audiobooks instead.

With Audible, you can listen to books while you run, walk, or drive to work in the morning. Easy peasy.

18. Unroll.Me

See your favorite newsletter subscriptions “at-a-glance”, rather than in an endless stream of spam-like emails that never seem to end.

19. Sleepy Ti.me

Last but not least, we have the Sleepy Time app. Because there’s absolutely no productivity hack, trick, or tool that’ll ever replace your body’s need for sleep. Sleepy Time is a bedtime calculator that’s meant to help you maintain a steady snoozing schedule.

Clock in when you want to sleep, and let it calculate how many Z’s you need to catch for your body to perform at peak levels of productivity throughout the day.

Time to get productive

So there you have it – 19 of the best productivity web resources available today. But beware of awesome-app overload. These resources are only as powerful as you allow them to be.

So print this list out or save it somewhere you know you’ll come back to, so that you can try a couple at a time until you figure out your favorite from the bunch. Stay productive.

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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