Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 10, 2018

Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time

Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time

Being productive isn’t about which apps, tools, and frames of mind you use to get things done. Enhancing your productivity is about using a set of tools and processes that can make up a full blown productivity system, becoming comfortable with and relying on those tools, and then using them to get important things done in your life and work.

Instead of recommending the best app or scanner or type of paper, it’s better to give you the top 10 tools that anyone who wants to stay productive can use.

Here are the top 10 productivity tools that you can use to achieve more in less time:

1. Task/Project manager to organize works

Task and project management of some kind is essential to making sure that you are getting things done as well as getting the right things done.

It’s very difficult to know that you are working on the thing that you should be working on if you don’t have all the stuff that needs done organized somehow. We try to be tool agnostic here at Lifehack, but here are some great applications to get you started:

2. Ubiquitous capture device to store your ideas

Another important aspect of being productive is to make sure that you always have some way of capturing “inputs” in your life. That is, if you have an idea or cool new thought about a project you are working on, you have to make sure that you can capture it so you can process that information later.

I carry a GTD Notetaker wallet because I’m a total geek. You can use anything you want though to capture like the following:

  • Smart phone with any notes apps such as Evernote
  • Pen and paper

3. Set boundaries to take control of your life

To be able to stay productive day-in and day-out, you have to set and keep boundaries. You have to protect your time and energy so you can work on the things that are most important to you.

Advertising

What are some of the things in your life that you want to do? To get those important things done, set up boundaries so you aren’t side-tracked and taken away from your goals.

Not sure how to do it? Learn from this guide:

How to Take Back Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

4. Know when and how to say “no”

This goes hand-in-hand with number three. Once you have boundaries set for what you want to and don’t want to do in life, you can now know when to say “no” to other less important things that make their way into your life.

The best way to decrease the stuff that you “have” to do is to say “no” to the things that don’t really matter to you and that won’t further your goals.

Here’s Leo Beobauta’s guide on The Gentle Art of Saying No.

5. Set realistic deadlines and expectations

I’m a developer by trade so I know how to set unrealistic expectations. A good rule of thumb when trying to set a deadline is to double however long that you will think it will take.

Of course, this is good for “light” planning, not exact planning that some jobs may need.

Advertising

Learn to make effective deadlines with these 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines.

6. Use calendar wisely

A calendar is used for the “hard landscape” of our lives. Use it to set due dates and reminders for things that are date sensitive.

Your calendar can either be analog or digital, but having a digital calendar is nice because of the ability to search, move things around easily, as well as send invites to people.

You can find some nice calendar apps here. Also, take a look at this article to find out more tips on how to use calendar to work efficiently:

How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

7. Check your inboxes and organize information

I can’t remember what life was like before I had my inboxes set up, but I can imagine it was pretty messy.

It’s important for you to have places for incoming information and potential projects to sit so you can then process them later.

Inboxes can be in several forms like these:

Advertising

  • An inbox section in your task / project management software
  • A physical, paper inbox (one for home and work)
  • Voicemail box
  • Email inbox

Then make sure to check and process these inboxes on a regular basis.

While you can filter your emails with these techniques, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you achieve inbox zero:

How I Achieved Inbox Zero in 4 Steps

8. Make use of a great scanner or label maker

Or both, really. Having a scanner like the ScanSnap S1500 has totally changed the way that I file things (I don’t).

All I do is scan documents in and throw them in a generic area folder, like “Work” or “Financial”, and then simply run text searches if I need to find something.

If you are still doing paper filing, having an awesome, trusty labelmaker is something you can’t live without and won’t once you get one.

Basically any labelmaker is good.

9. Utilize office document software (and their shortcuts)

It’s pretty standard now that you need some sort of document creation software to get things done. The ability to create spreadsheets, documents, presentations, etc. is a must.

Advertising

You can use a free suite like Google Docs or Office Web Apps.

If you want to get “serious”, you can get Apple’s iWork suite or Microsoft Office.

Don’t forget about the free and open source OpenOffice.org.

More importantly, you need to know all the shortcuts when using these softwares. Here’re some tricks you should know:

You are only as good as your tools. Even though you have some good software and systems in place to support your productivity efforts, without solid working knowledge of you OS of choice (whether it’s Windows, Mac, Linux, or some other weird thing), you will always be losing time when trying to get things done.

10. Start to journal

There is no better way to keep track of and understand the who, what, where, when, and why of your productivity than through journaling every day.

Whether you write a full 750 words or just take down a log of your time and tasks completed, journaling is a great way to look back on what you have accomplished, your hangups, and other metrics that are important when you are trying to be more productive.

Here’s a how-to guide on how to start journaling:

Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

CM Smith

A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Ways to Beat It Once and for All To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

Trending in Productivity

1 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits 2 How Your Attitude Determines Your Success 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

Advertising

But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

Advertising

The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

Advertising

I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

Advertising

More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

Read Next