My favorite tools for increasing productivity that you haven't tried yet
Productivity is important, but before you go ahead and burn the candle at both ends, you may want to re-think your approach.
Like most people, I aim to be as productive as I possibly can because that is when I feel my best. For a long time that meant crafting an incredibly long list of to do’s, following through on any and all of commitments, and never saying ‘no’ to a favor asked of me or additional work. For me, being productive was synonymous with finding ways to do more.
Eventually I came to realize that taking on too much work quicker led to exhaustion than feelings of accomplishment; because a lot of the time, I mistook being busy for being productive.
What's the difference? When you're busy, you fill your time with tasks that tend to drain your energy, disrupt your focus, or cause you to neglect work that you could be doing to further your big picture goals.
Most of us don't need to work harder or longer to achieve more - we simply need to work smarter. A big step in that direction is to develop routines that allow you to steer clear of busy work, so that you can focus your efforts on the aspects of your life that you want to improve or become more accomplished in.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, which is why I'm sharing a few tools that I've come to depend on to keep me organized, focused and honest about the work I’m doing.
I love tools like E.gg Timer to improve my focus. It's a simple online timer that I set for myself when I need to get things done. Using a timer to drive your attention to the task at hand is not a new concept, but I purposely use this hyper-specific tool instead of my iPhone as a way to disconnect and avoid all of the distractions that a phone usually brings.
For those days when my to-do list is a mile long I use Fancy Hands, which provides access to a U.S. based virtual assistant that can help with a wide variety of personal or business tasks. You can send in a request on any of your devices, for a range of needs including help with scheduling, research, online gifts and purchases, local services, etc. Fancy hands is also a highly cost-effective option if full or part-time assistance at work or home isn’t exactly feasible.
I use Evernote to keep all of the 'little things' in my life in order. It's a multipurpose app that offers a very wide range of features; I use it mostly for creating to-do lists, scanning images, note taking, and saving online articles. You can also use it to save quotes and passages from your Kindle, which is probably my favorite feature. Personally, I like to think of Evernote as a digital filing cabinet where I can store and organize random information and documents. Less obvious but equally valuable perks of this app are that it helps to keep your desk/desktop clutter free; and the search function locates stored items in seconds, which is huge time saver if you often misplace things or tend to be unorganized.
I recently stumbled upon the Best Self journal, which is an all-in-one daily planner that helps you align your day-to-day work with your big picture goals. It helps you achieve your major goals by breaking them down into manageable tasks and daily activities, and gives you the tools and structure that you need to measure your progress on a daily and weekly basis. It even includes space on each page to free write, practice gratitude and daily reflections. What I love most about it is that it empowers me to plan for my goals; offers a perfect blend of structure and flexibility for crafting my routine; and it encourages me to be mindful and gracious each and every day.