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The Power Of The Master List

The Power Of The Master List

My brain functions in overdrive mode 99% of the time. It is as if I have a 6th gear just beyond my reach which it auto slips into, without me willing it in that direction. I am highly responsive to stimuli in my environment and I find that most events, people, and discussions spark a myriad of ideas off inside of me. My brain races with these concepts, builds legs onto them and before I know, a fully fleshed out, actionable plan is making itself at home. If this crazy web of ideas is not contained or channeled, my productivity nosedives and I struggle to pull myself back into a place of focus and directed work time. I have learned to develop a system that helps me to not only manage the flow of ideas, but also to stay focused to get the critical work out the door.

The master list is the most important part of the system I have developed:

The master list has come to define my every day working life. It has in fact come to form the very backbone of my week. The master list is the list of all lists, the list that ties all other smaller lists back together. It is the place of consolidation where your brain can dump its over-stimulated, multitasking self and have a cup of tea.

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A Master List Needs to Be:

  • Accessible at all times
  • Within easy reach
  • Easy to edit

Think: “What object is always with me?” In most cases, it will be a diary or mobile phone. My preference is a digital list on a mobile as notebooks and diaries often get left behind on desks, in drawers, next to beds and in vehicles. Your mobile tends to be with you for the greater part of every day.

I use my Master List as follows:

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  • I add every possible item in my life that needs doing onto it (yes, it’s a long list).
  • In order to clear my mind, I jot down ‘to-do’ items systematically according to work/business/clients, family, relationship, friendships, home, fitness, admin, hobbies, and travel.
  • Every Sunday evening or Monday morning before I do anything else, I take out my master list and determine which 10 items relating to work and business I am going to focus on for that week.
  • I then create a new ‘to-do’ list specifically for that week and transfer these items onto it.
  • I prioritize these items according to their revenue value, the closer they are to revenue generating, the higher prioritize they are.
  • I then transfer five other admin or personal items from the master list onto my weekly list.
  • Every Friday I review my list to either carry forward or mark complete the items that were done.

I own a business so sales and revenue are very important for me. If you work as a creative director in an advertising agency, other activities such as client briefings, brief write-ups, sourcing of artwork suppliers and team management will be the core functions within your workweek. These core work functions are what should be priorities on your list no matter what your vocation is. To determine what your core work functions are, ask, “What was I employed to do?” and “Why am I here?” Make your core functions the highest priority in your working week. After this, you are able to pad up the week with peripheral ‘to-do’ items that matter but are not critical to your core job.

I choose to transfer 10 items at the start of every week because I have found this to be my optimal productivity space. If I complete two highly critical tasks for the day that lead to revenue and then attend to less urgent matters, I am able to bring in a good revenue stream and still experience a work/life balance. You will need to analyze your own rhythms to see what your optimal space is. This takes time but soon becomes very apparent when you are either completing your to ‘do-list’ by Tuesday or only getting to three items out of the 20 you listed every week.

I have discovered many benefits from using this system. The benefits specifically related to productivity include:

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  • I can empty my mind of everything that is whirring around inside of it
  • I can focus on what really matters on any particular day without stressing that I will forget something
  • It is always with me
  • It syncs up to all my electronic devices when I update it on one device
  • I can easily share it with other people who need to be kept up to date with a particular list
  • I can assign lists to freelancers and employees that I am working with
  • I can create multiple lists in one place without losing any of them
  • I can back my lists up
  • I can share interesting lists with blogs and Twitter people who highlight interesting lists
  • I can use a tool like idonethis.com to see visually over a year how many items on average I cross off every day, which are my most productive days and which are my least productive days.
  • I can view the word clouds in idonethis from my lists to see what activities dominate over others.

I use two tools to manage my Master List:

  1. Wunderlist: This is an iPhone application that allows you to very easily create, share, and manage lists.
  2. idonethis: This is an accountability tool that sends you an email at the end of every day, asking you what you did for that day. I decided to use it to keep myself accountable. I look forward to replying to the email with all the items I ticked off of my list for that particular day.

Implementing this system has not come naturally to me but I have increased my productivity (which I track using Rescue Time) by 34 percent to date. That has reflected back onto my revenue that has also increased by approximately 30% since I have deliberately become more sales focused. I find that I have to keep reminding myself to come back to Wunderlist and idonethis. My natural inclination is to revert to sticky notes, scraps of papers and journals that all just amount too many plans and no actions. However, I remind myself that this way, I am happily moving forward ten steps every week.

Tell us about your lists. Do you use them and if so, how do you manage them? (Ed: We’re building Listible to help you create lists)

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Featured photo credit:  Young dark woman writing on notepad via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on November 3, 2020

20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day.

What Makes For the Best Productivity Apps?

Beyond productivity tips, there are dozens of productivity apps to choose from too. With that in mind, here are some of the core aspects of ideal productivity apps that have formed this list.

  • Non-intrusive – you want a productivity app to weave seamlessly into your workflow and not cause disruptions. From using the app to the overall display, it shouldn’t cause any interruptions.
  • Good interface – Again, you want to be able to use these apps easily and have them benefit you. The easier you can navigate around these apps, the better.
  • Fair pricing – Many of these have free trials that allow you a good chance to test before you buy. If you do decide to pay for it, the monthly pricing plans should be reasonable for what you are getting.

1. Todoist

    Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

    Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

    If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

    Download: Todoist

    2. 1Password

      You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

      1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

      You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

      Download: 1Password

      3. Bear

        Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

        It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

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        Download: Bear

        4. Hazel

          Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

          For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

          Download: noodlesoft

          5. Alfred

            Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

            For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

            It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

            Download: Alfred

            6. TextExpander

              TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

              For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

              An individual account is $3.33 per month.

              Download: TextExpander

              7. Backblaze

                If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                Download: Backblaze

                8. Keyboard Maestro

                  Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                  Download: Keyboard Maestro

                  9. Snagit

                    There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                    Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                    10. Bartender

                      Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                      If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                      Download: Bartender

                      11. Otter

                      Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                      Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                      Download: Otter

                      12. Flux

                        Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                        Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

                        Download: Flux

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                        13. PDFpen

                        If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                        PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                        Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                        14. OmniFocus

                          OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                          It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                          A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                          Download: OmniFocus

                          15. Franz

                            It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                            Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                            Download: Franz

                            16. MindNode

                              If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                              The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                              Download: MindNode

                              17. Focus

                                The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

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                                This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                Download: Focus

                                18. CleanMyMac

                                  Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                  Download: CleanMyMac

                                  19. Grammarly

                                    A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                    This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                    A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                    Download: Grammarly

                                    Focus To Do

                                      Focus to-do is one of the top productivity apps for your iPhone around. It even has a desktop client that you can connect to effortlessly. The app is built around two things: the Pomodoro technique and task management. It achieves these things with amazing balance. All that you have to do is create a task and then set the timer right within the app itself.

                                      There is also great flexibility with the Pomodoro technique as well. You can choose whether to take a 5 minute break, take a longer one, or even skip it. On the task management side, you can also create reoccurring tasks, reminders, and place a priority on tasks too.

                                      Download: Focus To Do

                                      The Bottom Line

                                      These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                      Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                      More to Boost Productivity

                                      Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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