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5 Tips that Doubled My Productivity Last Year

5 Tips that Doubled My Productivity Last Year

Goals give you direction, make your calendar look less intimidating, and tell you when to celebrate your achievements, but no matter how many goals you have and how good you are at achieving them, productivity can be a major issue. That’s why, in 2012, one of my major goals was to improve productivity across the board. I experimented, changed sleep habits, shifted when I focused on certain tasks, and tested a dozen different theories to see what worked and what didn’t, and while the vast majority of my “genius” ideas turned out to have very little (or negative) impact on my productivity, a few things worked quite well.

Here are five of the things that worked best and how they can be quickly and effectively used to boost your own productivity:

Working Fewer Hours

When things get really busy and it seems like you’ll never, ever get caught up, the knee jerk reaction of most is to work more, not less. On a strictly logical basis, it makes sense: when you work more, you get more done, right? As I found last year, this may not be the case—I’ve always noted that on days when I have a LOT of time to get things done, I tend to get less done overall, and In 2012 two things happened to confirm this.

First, I started taking half-days twice a week to spend time with my son. On those two days I would work from 7am until 1pm; about 3 hours less than my normal schedule. It was immensely stressful at first, but with time I noticed that I was actually getting just as much, if not more, done on those days than I did on the days I worked until 4pm.

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Second, I installed RescueTime. Recommended by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week, Rescue Time installs in the background of your Mac or PC and tracks how much time you spend on certain tasks. You can use it to block certain tasks or provide advanced analytics if you pay for it, but I use the free version just so I can get a weekly email telling me how productive I was in any given week. Every Sunday an email shows up that includes the number of hours worked and the percentage of productivity I reached that week.

The first week, I worked 45 hours and was 73% productive, which Rescue Time told me was better than about 75% of the people using the site. I made it my goal to get that number up to at least 80% though and the only way I could do it was by working fewer hours. As I started to work less—at first to do the Dad thing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and later to ensure I had weekends for yard work and family time—I noticed that my productivity increased greatly. It reminded me of Parkinson’s Law; If you give yourself a set amount of time to complete a task, you will fill that time to completion, so when I gave myself 45 hours to get a week’s worth of work done, it took me 45 hours. When I only gave myself 35 hours, I still got everything done, plus I had a lot more time to myself, which in turn reduced stress and made me even more productive.

Unplugging Once a Week

Around the same time that I realized I was wasting close to 12 hours a week at my desk reading email and watching YouTube videos, I started to wonder if I was spending too much time in front of a screen. On Saturdays and Sundays I would quite literally groan whenever I needed to log on and send an email; my brain and body were worn out with screen fatigue. As such, I decided to turn everything off for one day (on a voluntary basis—I was still available if there was a work emergency) and spend time working outside, running errands with my family, or playing board games with friends.

Not only did this help me get over the anxiety of screen fatigue on the weekend, it made me much more productive when I logged on Monday mornings. I didn’t dread the thought of turning my computer on; I embraced it.

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Automating as Much as Possible

Everyone has a handful of tasks they spend entirely too much time working on; the little stuff that eats time out of your day with very little or zero benefit. Whether it’s a maintenance task like updating your financial spreadsheets or a communications task like sending emails, you’re losing anywhere from 5-10 hours a week doing stuff that is either A) boring or B) low return. I always knew this, and while I hated it, I couldn’t do much about it. Automation took to much time, or money, neither of which I had.

In 2012 I made the investment and started automating key tasks. Things like:

  • Email – Instead of having it open all day dinging at me, I closed my mail app and only checked it twice a day. I leave Skype on in the interim and everyone knows that if it’s important they should just call or Skype me.
  • Accounting – I set up a new Freshbooks account, installed the mobile app on my iPhone and started sending invoices and updating expenses while on the go. Combined with Quickbooks for general accounting, it now only takes 20 minutes a week to update all my financials instead of the hour or two I was spending every Friday before.
  • To-Do Lists – For the heavy-hitting GTD apps, you’ll need to spend some money. There are some great freebies like Wunderlist, but most of the bigger, multi-platform, cloud-syncing tools cost money. That said, they are well worth the investment; I estimate I’ve saved dozens if not hundreds of hours the last 18 months with Omnifocus on my phone and computer.
  • Outsourcing – When I outsourced before, it was an ordeal: Either I spent all day answering emails and phone calls, or I received a finished product that was nowhere near what I had asked for. I invested some time in creating training materials for contractors, such as videos, style guides, and templates that ensured outsourcing was MUCH easier to get done right.

Automation, when implemented properly, can provide an immediate boost to productivity and finally help you reclaim some of the mental energy you’ve been spending on routine tasks.

Recording and Revising Key Work Habits

One of my favorite books of 2012 was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In it, Duhigg talks about everything from how habits work to the amazing things people have been able to accomplish by changing small keystone habits.

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After reading the book, I became significantly more aware of the things I would do every day that took a bite out of my productive hours, such as when I was most likely to read movie reviews or surf Facebook, why I would go downstairs two or three extra times in the afternoon, and the many things that would hold me up in the morning and cause me to start work late. While I haven’t fixed everything, simply being aware of those small issues was a huge first step.

It begins with observation: spend two or three weeks just making notes of what you do. Keep a journal on your computer or buy a notebook and jot down quick notes. Nothing is too small. Write down when you eat, when you take breaks, when you look at websites you shouldn’t, etc. (RescueTime can help here too). After a couple weeks, you’ll have a much keener idea of what things are getting in the way of your productivity. Then, look at those habits and identify the cue, the routine and the reward. The cue is the trigger: the act, thought, or moment that makes you want to follow that habit.

In my case, I noticed that whenever I finished a work task I would immediately surf a website that had nothing to do with work—a sort of mental cleanse. The cue was finishing work, the routine was visiting IGN and the reward was that I didn’t have to think about work for 5 (going on 15) minutes. To change this habit, I started getting up and doing some stretches whenever I finished a task. The cue was the same—I wanted to do something different after writing 5 articles—but the routine changed, and not only did it improve productivity, it got me out of that chair.

Look for similar moments in your day and ways you can change those habits to boost productivity.

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Setting Aside Review/Thinking Time Once a Month

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Every day, for at least a few minutes, I would get distracted by some “big picture” task. Finances, scheduling, email, clients—whatever it was, I would stop writing and start taking notes and thinking about my next steps. I like to be organized—very organized—but as a freelancer, organization only gets you so far. You also have to be flexible, so those planning exercises would pop up every day of the week. I was probably spending 1-2 hours a day looking at my calendar and to do lists; not actually doing anything, but certainly thinking about it a lot.

I decided to set aside two hours every Friday and one day every month on which I would think about those bigger, overarching goals, and the rest of the time, I just worked. Whether I had a clue about what I was doing or not, I just worked. Not only did this cut down on the amount of time spent tweaking my schedule, it improved productivity by cutting out distractions and forcing me to just get things done.

Productivity Is Getting Out of Your Own Way

It’s not easy to be productive all the time. There are moments when you just want to be lazy and do nothing for a few minutes, and that’s perfectly normal. The most productive people are the ones who have a system in place that allows for those lazy moments and jumpstarts them back into high gear the moment they are ready.

As I get more done in less time, automate time consuming tasks, and change my habits more in 2013, I expect to become not only more productive, but happier in what I do. While not every tip in this post is right for everyone, I guarantee that implementing even just a couple will help you get more done.

What strategies have you used in your life to get more done? How do you boost productivity without setting unrealistic expectations? Sound off in the comments below.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2019

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2019

The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

1. Cal Calendar

    Cal Calendar has recently appeared on the market of mobile applications (Android, iOS). It is the brainchild of the development team of Any.do that features impressive functionality and well-thought-out design.

    The application comes with many great features, including support for Exchange and Google Calendar, widgets, voice recording, and many more.

    Cal Calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

    Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

    What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

    Cal Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

    Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

    Available for iOS and Android

    2. Google Calendar

      Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

      Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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      Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

      The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

      Available for iOS and Android

      3. Jorte Calendar

        Jorte Calendar is one of the most popular calendar applications in the Google Play store.

        The program features a wide range of configuration options, with many design alternatives. You can adjust display mode to your needs and view calendar entries sorted by month, week, or day (by hours). It is convenient for quickly picking the desired date, using task bars, and setting reminders.

        Apart from its ordinary information storing function, this application can be a special cloud service, Jorte Cloud, allowing you to synchronize calendars, schedules, and task lists on multiple devices. The application also supports data importing from Google Calendar.

        For those paying attention to the program design, there is also Jorte Store, where you can buy styles and icons to personalize the calendar. This feature makes Jorte is one of the brightest calendar applications.

        A basic version of the app is free of charge, so if you do not want to spend money on a calendar application, it is a good option.

        Available for iOS and Android

        4. Business Calendar

          Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

          The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

          You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

          The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

          Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

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          Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

          Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

          A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

          Available for Android

          5. aCalendar

            aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

            Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

            Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

            When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

            Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

            The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

            The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

            Available for Android

            6. DigiCal Calendar

              DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

              With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

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              Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

              The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

              Available for Android

              7. SolCalendar

                SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

                The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                Available for Android

                8. Calendar

                  Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

                  A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

                  Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

                  Available for Desktop, iOS and Android

                  9. Today Calendar

                    Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

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                    The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                    If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                    Available for Android

                    10. Calendar Widget: Month

                      Sometimes people do not need a heap of calendar applications. They would prefer to have one efficient calendar widget.

                      Calendar Widget: Month perfectly fills this niche and meets all the needs of a modern user. It has some features of an ordinary calendar, but the real great thing about this software is that it has 80 or more themes in its library.

                      The design of the application is great; the themes are perfectly tuned. There are options for almost any theme of your smartphone. The only drawback is the fact that the widget memory is not too large, and you should be ready for it.

                      This simple calendar widget was created in the image and semblance of widgets from Yahoo. The widget window displays one calendar month with the ability to go to the previous and move to the next one.

                      If you need a simple and affordable calendar to plan your tasks and affairs for one month, this widget is ideal for you. Calendar Widget: Month is so simple that it does not even have Google Calendar support.

                      At the moment, it does not have the function of connecting any third-party calendars and services. Developers allow the possibility of introducing support for Google service as an addition to the widget, if users request to have this opportunity.

                      Available for Android

                      Our Verdict

                      Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                      Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                      Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                      The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

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                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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