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Supercharge Your Productivity: 7 Best To-Do Apps for 2014

Supercharge Your Productivity: 7 Best To-Do Apps for 2014

Deadlines: you can’t stand them, but you also can’t live without them. Start your new year resolutions early and kill the procrastination demon by turning to these highly useful and intuitive apps to create your to-do lists.

1. ToDoist (Free, or $29/year for Premium Version)

todo list

    Why it’s awesome: ToDoist’s layout and interface has been created to mimic your email inbox’s. ToDoist Karma, its newly unveiled feature, lets you track your productivity so that you can improve in areas like task management in the future. And in case you’re wondering, the basic ToDoist app is free but will cost you $29 per year if you’re enamoured with expansive features, such as 24 additional color codes for projects and 13 for labels.

    Availability: This is the mother of all to-do apps! It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, Firefox,Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird and yes, on the web too, so there’s no reason not to use it, regardless of which platform you’re on.

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    2. Any.Do (Free)

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      Why it’s awesome: Any.Do has impressed me for a long time now, thanks to the story behind the app and its founder. The app is powerful, flexible and superbly sleek, something that not every to-do app can boast about. One favorite feature among its many users is the missed call reminder: users will be prompted by Any.Do to return a call if you ever receive them (and believe me, I receive A LOT during deadline days).

      Availability: Android and iOS

      3. Carrot ($1.99)

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        Why it’s awesome: Who doesn’t love games? Carrot capitalizes on this fact and presents you with a to-do app with a personality. I love the bossy the app is, constantly coming on to me with phrases like “Greetings, lazy human”, “I am your new task master” and my favorite: “You don’t want to make me upset”. As you complete the tasks one by one, you’ll receive rewards (all 400 unique ones!). Instead of constantly tweaking your Facebook covers on 123covers.net, you’re better off spending time productively with Carrot.

        Availability: iOS

        4. Wunderlist

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          Why it’s awesome: Wunderlist actually lets you focus on completing tasks in your to-do list rather than organizing and re-organizing them again. Its elegance is much-appreciated, and the beautiful interface makes it a joy to work with. The premium version, Wunderlist Pro, is actually very useful if you want to share to-dos among team members or siblings. Anyone can give this a try, albeit through limited access to files and lists.

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          Availability: iOS, Android, Windows, Kindle, Web

          5. Calvetica ($2.99)

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            Why it’s awesome: Calvetica may be feature-rich, but it isn’t in any way sluggish at all. It syncs smoothly with your iPhone or iPad’s calendar, but works faster than the default one. With Calvetica, you’ll never need another notebook or calendar in your journal again. Users heaped praises on it, and I have to agree that the stylish UI design and cleanliness is very appealing. The regular updates rolling off the app shows how diligent its makers are–this is definitely an app to watch in 2014.

            Availability: iOS

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            6. Pocket Lists ($4.99)

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              Why it’s awesome: At $4.99 a pop, this app is certainly not one of the cheapest ones in the market but it’s certainly one of the most feature-rich apps that has almost everything you need to up your productivity to an all new level. Like ToDoist, Pocket Lists come with color coded lists, but with a twist–instead of mere colors, the latter has easily identifiable icons to accompany the lists in threaded view. I am impressed by its “multiplayer” mode that lets users share their to-do lists and collaborate with other people (think: planning parties together or going shopping with your spouse).

              Availability: iOS

              7. 2DO ($9.99)

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                Why it’s awesome: Mac users will love this app if they are constant users of iCal, thanks to its ability to sync the calendars and to-do lists between these platforms. Even without syncing, this app can charm your socks off with its intuitive and polished user interface. Another benefit that seems to be absent in most free to-do task managers is the push notification feature. Being able to add alarms also makes me more than happy paying $4.99 for the app.

                Availability: iOS, Android, Mac OS

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                Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                The Neurology of Ownership

                Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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                Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

                Reference

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