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21 Online and App Resources to Help You Boost and Improve Productivity

21 Online and App Resources to Help You Boost and Improve Productivity

Keeping your life on track to meet certain goals can be hard. If you have kids, are in a relationship, have a demanding work schedule, elderly family member whom you have to take care of, or just about anything else, it can be hard and give you the excuse not to pursue your goals and be productive. As a writer, I know that I sometimes need help with things like attempting to be creative (I get writers block), sticking to a writing schedule, finding articles of interest for myself and being self disciplined. Here are some web and app resources that I use to help me daily to improve productivity.

1. Wunderlist: Web & App (Free)

Wunderlist-Screenshot1

    Wunderlist

    is the best list app and web resource that I know and use. I can share certain lists with group of people like my family and another list with, let’s say, my boss. The best part is neither of them see any other list I am sharing.

    A great feature of Wunderlist is the reminder and due date. If it is on your phone or tablet, it will send you reminders (push notifications or emails) as well as have the due date next to the item. It frees up your mind so you are not worrying about what has been completed or not and lets you move on to more important things you want to do.

    Wunderlist is cross platform and synced not only for your devices, but also the others you share lists with. I seriously suggest and highly recommend using this tool.

    There are some pay features – including adding a background, unlimited assigning, unlimited files and unlimited sub-tasks. But I have not had any issues with the free version for the amount that I use it on a personal level.

    2. Trello: Web and App (Free)

    Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.48.10 AM

      My second favorite all time web resource and app is Trello. A simple to use layout helps set clear goals and you can create lists to achieve these goals. Trello is like Evernote and Google Keep (mentioned below) but something about this one just really makes me feel organized and lets me do things in a way I understand for myself.

      So basically you create a “board” and then add a list. Inside this list are “cards.” Each card can be very different from the one before, but is still essential to completing the list. You write the description of the list on top. One list I have is “Work on Financial Goals.” Inside that I create a card “Payoff things” then inside that card I have 3 items to check off. 1. Payoff Amex, 2. Payoff Car 3. Cut Student Loan in half to $XXXX. As I complete a list item, Trello tells me what percentage I am to completing this particular goal. My next list is “Things to Try.” Inside that card I have “Join a Dodgeball Team” – I listed some links to local places that are advertising a Dodgeball league.

      There are some pay features, but I do not need use them and you can try them out by recommending to a friend.

      3. Evernote: Web and App (Free)

      Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.09.34 AM
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        Evernote is simple and easy to use, with a very user friendly interface. With Evernote, there is no excuse to forget anything important again. I notice with Evernote that the user has to be a little more self disciplined then most of the applications that I use. It takes some effort to organize your thoughts, but it is an okay mind mapping tool (Simple mind is a mind mapping app listed below.)

        As an example of how it works, I assist a guy who installs alarms and he’ll call me up and tell me that he just left ABC store in blank town. I then go in and start writing up the job ticket, estimate, and other documents that are going to be needed. I also place notes that he rambled off to me and share that Evernote note with him.

        4. Google Keep: Web and App (Free)

        GoogleKeep

          Google Keep is Google’s Answer to Evernote. I recently just started playing with this to see how I like it and as a Google Fan (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Drive) I am liking it so far. The design is like a board with sticky notes. I think of this as my answer to not having to carry a pen and small pad on me anymore to jot down numbers, notes, or a take a quick pic of something that I want to think of later.

          I do not like that everything is where ever it lands and there is no real organization except to move the notes that I have found,  but when you are on the go just wanting to take the quick note, it does it’s job.

          5. Pinterest: Web & App (Free)

          blog-pinterest

            Everyone I know uses Pinterest in one way or another. However, most people I know don’t use it to boost their productivity or creativity. I even have boards that are just random ramblings like Puppy Love – it’s about puppies. I have boards that are secret. These boards are titled with project names I am working on and contain images and notes for how I want to use them for said project.

            Also, this year I started posting more meaningful items, creating a board called Making You a Better TomorrowI have many different items on this board, but they are all related to making me a better tomorrow; some are just random quotes, articles I find interesting and want to share with people who follow. Be it inspiration that I found for myself personally or for a project, Pinterest keeps everything pretty organized in one place.

            Make sure to have Pinterest on your phone, tablet, and the add on widgets for your computer and browser. It makes it a lot simpler to Pin.

            6. 1 Second Everyday: App Only (Free to try Pay afterwards)

            1 Second Everyday

              Stupid and crazy as it is, I love this app. For 1 second everyday I take a moment to shoot beautiful video – be it of my dog, a city street I am walking on, a dinner with friends, whatever the case may be. I learned that when you take in your surroundings, even if it is just for a second, you can clear your mind of the clutter and learn to prioritize things into 3 categories Must Do, Want to do and Don’t even worry about.

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              7. One Word: Web Only (Free)

              One Word

                One Word  is very simple, but gets my productive brain juices flowing. One of my first morning activities is to go on this site and write a blurb about the word they give me – you only have 60 seconds.

                8. Diaro: App and Web (Free to Use, $3.99 to Sync across platforms)

                My Diaro

                  There are many great reasons to love Diaro appYes, I use it as a Diary/Journal of sorts, but it is so much more. First off, it is private! Second, the app sends me a reminder everyday to write.

                  I write about many different things, but the categories feature I can use help me to go above and beyond and collectively organize my thoughts where they need to be about a particular topic.

                  Negatives: paying the $3.99 to Sync, but it is worth it if you are going to keep up with your journal and writings. You cannot customize the website version to look like the one on your phone or tablet. Support for Diaro says they are going to be adding this feature shortly.

                  9. Google Hangouts: Web and App (Free)

                  Google Hangouts

                    Google Hangouts is one of my favorite apps. This is a universal answer to Apples Facetime with added features. You have video chat, texting/chatting, sharing of docs and pictures. Most people I know have a Google account, so I am seeing more and more people using Google hangouts with me in one fashion or another.

                    10. SimpleMind: App (Free)
                    simplemind-droid

                      I like using the Simplemind app when I know I am going to have to give a presentation, start a big project, or start a story that I want to tell. Apps like these let you see everything – like a big brain storming session and then help to organize it from there.

                      11. Google Fit App (Free)

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                        Basically Google Fit is a glorified pedometer, and considering I always have my phone on me it is nice to know how much I walked even on the days I do not go to the gym. It helps me to prioritize and organize my exercise routine.

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                        12. Budget Simple Web App ($4.99 a month)

                        Budgetsimple

                          I like Budgetsimple but wish the app was free. It is simple and easy to use, but just a little time consuming if you are only using the web version like I am. If the app were free, then I could be sitting in my car while the guy is pumping my gas and enter everything right then and there. But I have yet to find a good app and website that is a cross platform finance app that I like. It is very helpful with creating details and showing you charts of how your life really is working out on a monthly basis.

                          If you know a good cross platform finance app that is user friendly and easy to use, please let me know so I can play with it.

                          13. Pocket (Free)

                          Crossplatform Pocket

                            Pocket is one of the apps that I like to use when I am traveling. But if I am not traveling for awhile, I sort of forget about this app. The best thing about this app is the ability to read certain articles offline. It is perfect when you are on an airplane or the subway system in New York. So if you do not have an offline article app, think about getting Pocket.

                            14. Google Maps (Free)

                            Google Maps App

                              Who wants to waste time trying to find a location? The Google Maps App is great because it not only gives driving directions, but other alternative ways to get somewhere like on your bike or by public transportation.

                              15. I Heart Radio (Free)

                              iheartradio

                                I Heart Radio is another one of these apps that you think might be a waste of time and has nothing to do with productivity. However, I find that listening to music helps me relax and get into my own personal projects. I like I Heart Radio because I can listen to people having “Hot topic” conversation and it gives me a snipet of what is going on in the world.

                                16. TED Ideas Worth Sharing Web and App (Free)

                                Ted Ideas worth Sharing

                                  I love the Ted app and website. I like going on either the app or website to become informed and taught to think outside the box or see something from a whole new perspective. That is what Ted does. I’ll watch a video during my lunch break if I am eating alone. Many of them I find so inspirational.

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                                  17. Soundhound (Free)

                                  soundhound

                                    Music helps get my creative juices flowing most of the time. If I need to be in a certain mood music can get me there. Soundhound makes life easier by easily telling me the name of a song that is playing on the radio. How does this app make one more productive? It eliminates the search for a song you heard in passing. I can be sitting in a doctors office and then on comes a song that I never heard before that I find inspiring and instead of me searching for it later and wasting time, I just tap the Soundhound app and learn the song. Later when I add that song to a playlist, I have wasted little time.

                                    18. Spotify App and Web (Free and Paid)
                                    Spotify

                                      So you know how to listen to actual radio stations, you know how to find songs when you are in an analog setting, but how about taking your playlists with you. SPOTIFY! I don’t know about you but I hate to carry the computer, the tablet, the smartphone and iPod (Mp3 player,) then making sure the songs I want to hear are on whatever device they need to be on.

                                      With Spotify you can take your playlists with you, but you will be online for the free version (meaning it will use your data plans if not connect to wifi). If you want to take them offline, Spotify has a paid version and will download the songs to your device, (most of them anyway). Again, music helps add to creativity, boost productivity and give you energy – think about going a spin class and listening to classical. Yes, I am a big believer in the idea that music can help you achieve your desired goals and objectives.

                                      19. Words With Friends App (Free)

                                      Words with Friends

                                        I believe you should have one game app that you indulge in and I choose Words with Friends. This app helps boost productivity too. If you are blocked on a project and cannot work through it this app can help. This app, as fun as it may be, helps unblock your brain. It makes you think and see things a different way by rearranging letters. Sometimes even the words that are created by you or the other person might give you a spark to solve the puzzle you are working on.

                                        20. Cable Provider Apps

                                        080911-Cablevision-App-iPhone

                                          You might on this one be telling me how does watching TV make you more productive. It is not the TV shows you are watching but the app that lets you program your DVR. Do you stop reading that article to watch your favorite TV show? Maybe you are doing something liking pinning to your Pinterest page then get caught up in show that was playing in the background. Maybe a bus you are on has an ad for an educational program you want to see that will inspire you.

                                          Whatever your reasoning is, get the app from your cable provider. Don’t stop living your life because you want to watch a show, and don’t go searching on your cable guide to find the show or rerun of your show. Cable provider apps make searching for a show easier, setting your DVR and then moving about your life.

                                          21. Inspirational Quotes (Free)

                                          For my last app and resource that I use is Inspirational Quotes. This kind of resource has to be one that fits your personality. Someone might want a bible quote, a joke of the day, funny quotes, do a picture of the day, painting of the day. This is another one of the moments in your day where you look for the beautiful in all this craziness you face and have to do.

                                          Happy hunting with your apps. Remember Apps can be time wasters (many social media ones and of course games), or apps can make and help you do things. How you choose to use those free in between minutes between life’s obligations is up to you. What are your top apps and resources for improving productivity?

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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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