Simple Productivity Boosts for 2017
Happy New Year from VIVO360!
Yes, it is February, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get a jump on making some positive changes in your life. In our fast-paced world, we all have so much content vying for our attention; technology makes media of all kinds available at our fingertips, driving us to become more compulsive about checking our phones, emails, and social media. This is not to say these developments are negative in and of themselves, but they can be severe distractions in our productivity. They can also drain away our time, taking seconds, minutes, and hours away from the people and activities which hold higher priority. We decided to share a few tools and techniques that can move you towards getting more out of your day, so by the end of 2017, you’ll feel more accomplished and be closer to whatever goals you want to achieve.
Check that list!
Having a fixed “To Do” list is one way to free up your mind so you can focus on the task at hand. It takes a lot of mental energy to remember all of the stuff you need to do, and it’s so easy for something to slip through the cracks if you don’t have a list going. If you already have a reliable process for keeping track of all of the things you need to do, then you’re one step ahead in the game; however, if you haven’t quite figured out a solid organizational plan, there are many options out there for helping you keep things straight.
If you like to experiment with apps, there are a number of list ones out there…probably too many to count. Here are a few that rise to the top of the heap.
- Google Keep: While primarily a list and note-making app, Keep really helps you build a single repository of any sort of content that you find interesting and useful, so you can access it later. Since it is part of the Google family, if you have a Gmail account, you just use that to sign up and get started. You can have multiple list items going, and set reminders on them. There’s also an extension you can add into Chrome to pin links to your Keep for easy reference later.
- Todoist: This is a free app you can download from the app store, but certain features (such as Labels) require you to upgrade. In this app, you can create different lists, set reminders (which can, based on your settings, remind you via push notifications), and see your productivity progress via a graph which keeps track of items accomplished. You even get an email in the morning letting you know which things are due that day.
- Sorted: This app costs $3.99, but it was chosen by LifeHacker as “the task-juggling app you’ve always wanted”. This app makes it very easy to create lists and then drag items to put them in order and assign due dates. It uses a tickler file system, a mainstay in the productivity world, to assist in prioritization of your activities. You can easily personalize with themes, and if you use iCloud, you can sync it, so it appears on all your devices.
If you don’t want to download another app, you probably already have organizational tools at your disposal that can be used to keep your “To Do’s” on a list and not on your mind. Reminders, notes, and calendars are standard apps on smartphones, and email apps such as Google and Outlook have their own calendars to which you can assign tasks. Even if you don’t consider yourself an organized person, familiarizing yourself with these features can help streamline your activities. The benefit to these types of tools is that they are easily accessible, since you are already checking your email and phone throughout the day.
As with any tool, it doesn’t work if you don’t use it, so it may take a little time to get a system down for adding your items to these lists and calendars.
Keeping your focus = stretching your time
We all know that person about whom we wonder “How do they find the time to do it all?”. Sure, we all have the same 24 hours in a day, but there are just some folks who manage to stretch their time a little further. One important aspect of this is that distractions abound, and each time our attention is taken away, we lose focus from what we really need to be doing. Here are a few methods to keep you on track.
- Move that phone: It’s too easy to become a compulsive creature of habit with our mobile phones. Different researchers have acknowledged that the habitual checking of your phone can lead to addictive behavior, setting off the same reward centers as other types of addictions. It can also be detrimental to personal relationships, making other people feel ignored or unimportant. Beyond these harmful effects, notifications from texts, emails, and social media really can eat away precious time from your day. Proximity is often an issue; just moving it out of sight and reach can make you more conscious of how often you check it. This means you may also need to turn off notifications, so the alerts don’t bother you. Checking your phone (and emails) once an hour for five minutes is certainly less distracting than checking every five minutes.
- Stay on track: Piggy-backing on the previous tip, uninterrupted work time is key to keeping your mind focused and getting more done. The Pomodoro Technique is one method for helping increase your productivity by training you to dedicate short but targeted blocks of time to your activities. The premise is that by using 25-minute increments where you focus on a single item, you can improve your efficiency, focus, and overall quality of work. Use a kitchen, watch, or phone timer to start your 25 minutes, and then work through, uninterrupted, until the timer goes off. At that time, you can get up to stretch, check your phone or email, or whatever you need to do to stay fresh and productive. There’s even an app called ForestApp, where you set a timer, and as long as the app is not disturbed, a virtual tree will grow, so as you use it, your dedicated time will create a forest.
- Where does the time go?: If you lose track of time while on your computer and end up wondering where it all went, there’s RescueTime https://www.rescuetime.com/. It runs in the background on your computer, and can tell you what percentage of your time is going to different categories, such as Design & Composition, Social Networking, and Reference & Learning. You can also write out your goals for the day and lifetime milestones, so it acts as a motivational tool as well. It can be a real eye-opener once you see what percentage of your time is spent on distracting versus productive activities, but as they say, knowing is half the battle.
We hope these tips motivate you to take charge of your time and make the most of it in 2017!