Do you ever feel like you are “stuck” and getting nowhere in life? Do you wish you had more hours in the day? Keep reading and get “unstuck” as well as find more time in your life.
Being more productive starts with identifying what is most important to you and focusing your time on those items. Develop a daily schedule and allocate blocks of time for the most important tasks. Make a list of all the things you need to do and score them according to importance. Do the things that matter most first.
You are inundated by information, you are surrounded by things to do, and it can be overwhelming trying to make sense of it all. More and more, you also turn to your “devices” as the solution to your woes. Literally, if you forget your smartphone, you feel lost.
Are you searching for some magic answer to help get organized and stay focused on what matters most? Do you wish you could be more productive and get more done in your life in less time?
Here is how to ‘find’ more hours in your day by boosting your productivity at home and at work.
Should you read a book on productivity? Take a course? Attend a productivity class? There are shelves of books, countless blogs, podcasts, and numerous conferences and training sessions out there focused on getting people to be “more productive.” But do they work?
Yes and no. It really depends on you what you will get out of those things. Some may have a laser-focused perspective on the one topic that can magically increase your productivity, or they may be little more than self-help seminars and motivational recordings that ask you to trust in your own abilities.
Best Productivity Books
Here is a list of my Top Ten Productivity Books.
- Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity, by David Allen
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss
- Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, by Staffan Noteberg
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
- Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done, by Brian Tracy
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering, by Marie Kondo
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller
- Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, by Leo Babauta
- Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Get Results in Your Life, by S.J. Scott
Do you listen to podcasts to make yourselves feel like you are ‘learning’ how to be more productive? Sure, that can help but don’t spend too much time doing it as it can actually become a waste of your time.
Here is a list of my Best Productivity Podcasts.
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- The 5 AM Miracle with Jeff Sanders
- Eat Sleep Work Repeat with Bruce Daisley
- Getting Things Done with David Allen
- Before Breakfast with Laura Vanderkam
There are several ways to increase your productivity. But first think about what you are actually doing in your life right now. It is important to document where you are now so you can get to where you want to be.
How do you Measure Productivity?
Make a List Each Day of What You Actually Get Done
As you go through your day, make an exercise of tracking just how much you actually get accomplished.
This is not meant to overwhelm you or remind you of how you’re falling short. Quite the opposite: try looking at it from the perspective of how much you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.
If you really try hard enough, bring all your focus and energies to bear, and avoid any distractions, you can usually muscle through a reasonably productive day. But such bursts of efficiency are usually short-lived unless you consistently arrange your life to set yourselves up for the greatest chance for success.
Note What You are Wasting Time on Each Day
You take an early phone call while preparing lunch for the kids. You constantly check emails on your phone worrying you might miss something. You promise yourself you will get a few quick errands done before dinner, then have plenty of time to clean the house while the kids are playing.
You study systems that promise to help make better use of your time. You purchase planners and calendars that can keep the family’s comings and goings straight.
You do a number of things to make yourself feel like you are as “productive” as you can be. BUT are you really just wasting lots of time instead?
While productivity can look vastly different depending on who you are, there are a few simple strategies anyone can follow in order to boost how effective their time and work are.
Do Productivity Apps Work?
Is there an App for that? Increasing productivity I mean. Well, yes there are many productivity apps.
There actually are some good free (or inexpensive) apps or programs that can support systems you may already have in place but aren’t using to their fullest potential. The key is using productivity apps properly and keeping in mind they are not a magic solution to your time problems.
First, we’ll explore some of the most popular, tried-and-true techniques to squeezing the most out of your busy schedule. Then, we’ll look at a few of the reasons why technology can be a help and not a hindrance to your quest for increased productivity.
Before we get started, though, remember that productivity does not happen overnight. You may not see the results you want right away. As with anything worth doing, taking the time to do it right and doing it well is key.
Also, give yourself permission to rest when necessary. It is not healthy or wise to run at full speed 24/7.
Tips for Productivity
It is very important to remember that being productive is actually a habit. It takes discipline, focused attention, and hard work to get the most out of your life and schedule.
Here are some tips for productivity that WILL help you become more productive today!
- Make a to-do list. Write everything down – don’t even bother organizing it all just yet, just start writing (or typing). Sometimes, the first step of capturing everything you need to accomplish can be the hardest.
- Get organized. Once you have everything down on paper, put things in order of importance. You can sort your tasks by the amount of time they will take, or by which ones need to be done first. Whatever your system, take a hard look at your list and determine what is going to deliver the best results for your energy and effort.
- Put first things first. The first step in organizing? Put the most important things first. Did I just say this? THIS IS IMPORTANT! Again, this can be determined by whatever system you put in place, but once you decide how you’re going to sort your list, stick to it. Do the most important thing on your list first, not just the easy things.
- Put last things last. As you’re identifying the most important things to do, it’s equally important to look at what things can genuinely be delayed. This doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning those tasks completely, but you’re honestly assessing where your priorities are. You may have a pet project you’d like to devote time to in a perfect world, but ultimately something has to give. Be candid in deciding what to postpone, then give yourself permission to put it out of your mind (for now).
- Watch the clock. Time management can be a mountain many of us think is impossible to climb. We never feel like we have enough time for the things we want to do, and feel swallowed up by the limited hours in a day. However, if we keep track of the amount of time it takes to do something and stay focused, we can find “pockets” of time for just about anything. And proper time management can even give us some extra time for a hobby, or even just to relax.
- Stay focused on one thing at a time. Let’s face it, nobody is actually that good at multitasking. There’s a reason for the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.” You can either do a mediocre job of several things at once, or you can channel your attention and energy and do one thing at a time – and do it really well. Not only do you get each task done better and faster, but you can also tackle more of your to-do list over time.
- Hold yourself accountable, and find fixes for procrastination. It can be very easy to put off a task or chore you don’t want to do, but putting something off simply means it never gets done. Instead of endlessly kicking the can down the road, find ways to hold yourself accountable to your obligations. This is easier in some settings than others; for example, a work project usually has a hard deadline and directly relates to your professional evaluation. But even in your personal life, you can set up reminders or have someone encourage you to keep your commitments – not as a way to shame you for where you fell short, but to spur you on toward success.
- Find time to recharge. It doesn’t do anyone any good to burn yourself out – not your family, not your boss, no one. Self-care is one of the first things we sacrifice in the name of productivity, but too much self-sacrifice just ends up wearing us out even more. Give yourself permission to take some vacation time, or indulge in a hobby when you can. Even if it’s a few minutes a day, allow yourself to recharge in the way that best soothes your spirit and relieves the stress and tension in your life.
- Be flexible. Once you have tried a new system or tool out for a while, take a moment to pause and assess if it’s working out as you had hoped. If it is, you might look for more ways to incorporate your new productivity. If you’re not seeing the results you want, don’t be afraid to try something new. Remember, it’s not a failure if you learned something positive from the experience.
- Learn how to say “no.” Despite the busyness of our schedules, there is always somebody asking more of us. Sometimes this scenario is unavoidable, but when possible it’s crucial to learn “when to say no.” Don’t be afraid to decline an extra project or an added commitment if you just don’t have the time for it. This can help keep your to-do list from growing indefinitely, and in the long run, can keep you focused on what’s most important. You are not being selfish when you say no.
- Remember that nothing happens in a vacuum. You may have found the perfect system for your life, but keep in mind that not everyone thinks in the exact same way you do. Understand that imposing your system on others will not always work, and take their thoughts and feelings into account.
People frequently turn to technology as the “silver bullet” to aid in productivity. After all, no problem can’t be solved by buying a new software subscription, right?
Actually, a tool is just that, a tool. It can’t do anything on its own. Apps need to be used properly, for the right job, at the right times.
This is the most important lesson when determining if a productivity app or software will be helpful in your personal life, or with your employees. Take the time to identify exactly what the problem is before jumping into action.
Benefits of Productivity Tools
There are lots of different apps and software suites that can assist you in becoming more productive. They can help you with the following;
- Scheduling and time management. Knowing the “where” and “when” is critical, especially when there are lots of people involved and many deadlines to keep track of. Knowing due dates and deadlines are critical for filing a report, or even for taking your kids to soccer practice. Time management can also mean keeping track of how much time you spend on a given task and finding ways that you can use your time more efficiently.
- Information security. Much of our lives are stored in computers, and ensuring that our data is secure should always be a top concern. Proprietary corporate data or your own personal information all need to be protected. Create reasonable protections to ensure that you, and only you, have access to it.
- Engagement. Despite all of our technology, we still struggle to build real interpersonal connections with others. It can even be difficult just to get ahold of someone, even though we have phone numbers, emails, social media handles, and more. The right tool can help coworkers stay in touch, and keep family and friends connected and updated. An app is not a substitute for real human connection, but there are times when using technology can help keep us all connected in ways that can serve everyone.
- Collaboration. Just the term “file sharing” can cause stress in some teams. You’ll need to make sure you have the latest version or the one file that incorporates everyone’s notes and comments. If there are any standards or templates to be followed, those will need to be accounted for as well. These may not seem like aspects of “collaboration,” but productivity and effectiveness within your team will rely heavily on how well you can accomplish these processes.
- Project management suites. These programs do all of the above, and more. They can incorporate workflow diagrams, interactive calendars, milestone assignments, scheduling, and a host of other processes and functions. Though it may be tempting to opt for this kind of premium solution, they can get pretty expensive, and they may not integrate well with the systems and software you already have in place. Proceed with caution before jumping in with a larger purchase like this.
Implementing just some of these techniques, and taking an honest look at how technology can support your efforts, you can increase your productivity and feel like you’ve gotten more done in your day.
Productivity software can assist you in streamlining your work and becoming more efficient and productive in your life.
There’s a lot to think about when choosing the right productivity app for you so don’t just pick the first one you see. Matching the right solution to the right problem can really help you in the long run.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Productivity Software
As with all productivity techniques and tools, there are pros and cons. Study the different platforms to see how the best fit with your particular needs before purchasing one.
advantages of productivity software
The benefits of using an app or program to enhance your productivity are many. They can help you keep track of appointments and tasks, centralize and organize your information, and boost your ability to collaborate.
Productivity software can help you implement the necessary requirements of being productive. This includes keeping you on track, focused, and moving forward which are often major pain points in the battle to be as productive as possible.
disadvantages of productivity software
Beware though that there is a learning curve with any software. Some of these productivity software suites are simply complex and take a long time to learn.
Be careful NOT to replace the burden of your work with the burden of your newfound productivity system! The process of setting up these tools can become even more time-consuming than the work itself if done improperly.
It’s also vital to remember that a tool in and of itself is not the solution. How you use that tool determines its effectiveness. Always determine specifically how a productivity tool is going to help you before you start to use it.
Best Productivity Apps
There are hundreds of different productivity apps and software programs to choose from. They can focus on different aspects of productivity, like scheduling, notetaking, and more. Here are what I feel are the best productivity software programs you can take advantage of.
For work teams that need high-level products backing up their processes, it can be a drag on productivity to have to refer to many different resources that may not always align.
It is important to consolidate as much as possible or at least keep everything in a central location for easy access and recall. This requires a project management approach, which, on the technology side, usually involves a specialized program.
ClickUp fits this bill perfectly. It allows you to track your work from a team perspective, including work assignments, calendars, inboxes, collaboration spaces, and more.
You can check on each person’s workload and monitor progress towards key milestones, and have a centralized hub for emails and other messages.
Calendars sync easily to keep everyone on track, and ClickUp can also be integrated into other tech platforms to seamlessly bring all of your resources together. You can also customize ClickUp to meet your unique business needs.
How this helps productivity: Tools like ClickUp are much more robust because they do a lot at once. You’ll pay a premium price for this level of integration, but having a hub for all of your work activities can be a huge asset when working with any team.
It does require extra work upfront to get yourself organized, but this can be worth it if it saves you, even more, time and energy down the road.
Clickup offers a free plan. Unlimited features start at $5 per month with an annual plan.
Many people claim to be “multi-taskers,” but how is it possible to get more done by doing more at once? It seems impossible to try to answer a phone call, hold a meeting, and work on a presentation at the same time. This can mean a lower quality deliverable, or it could mean that a hundred projects are started but none are completed.
RescueTime is a productivity app that can keep track of the time you spend on different activities, which can help you see where your time is wasted and where you can reclaim it.
Installing and setting up RescueTime allows the app to track how much time you spend throughout the day on various activities through manual entry or automatic tracking.
You can then view a rollup report that goes into great detail on what exactly you did throughout the day (for example, 2 hours checking email, an hour on social media, 30 minutes in Photoshop, and so on).
It can also help keep you focused if you have a tight deadline and want to remove distractions. With RescueTime you can set it to block programs or services that are not directly related to the subject of your “focus time.”
It will also prompt you on upcoming deadlines, and send notifications informing you of your progress. The intent is to keep you accountable to your schedule and to allow you to focus on what matters most.
How this helps productivity: Removing distractions is pretty much always a good thing, and services like RescueTime allow you to do just that – “rescue” your time and put it to the best use possible.
RescueTime has a ‘Lite” plan that is free. Hard to find but use this RescueTime Lite link to sign up. Their normal plan is $6.50 per month with an annual subscription. They do offer a 14-day free trial if you enter your credit card information.
To-do lists are the tool of productivity champions. It’s easy to refer to a list that has everything you need to accomplish spelled out, but a simple list of tasks may not take into account things like scheduling, priority, or give you reminders throughout the day.
TickTick not only serves as your to-do list, but it can organize and categorize your tasks in user-friendly ways. You can enter your tasks manually, using voice to text, or by using it through an app or your Siri interface.
It can also record scheduling information like date/time and duration and will set appropriate reminders when a task is due to be completed.
It can also give contextual reminders relative to your location. Additionally, you can tag and categorize your list items to sort them in ways that best serve your life.
This not only helps with personal efficiency; it can also be used in collaboration with friends and coworkers by delegating tasks and reporting on everyone’s progress.
How this helps productivity: Gone are the days of sticky notes lining your monitor or bulletin board. With TickTick, you can keep your life organized and keep yourself on track with whatever needs to be done next.
TickTick has a free option.
Everybody requires a username and password, and it can be tough to keep track of them all. It’s also frustrating to have to change them several times a year, and potentially forget what you changed to.
Enter LastPass, a password repository that securely stores all your login credentials, and provides easy access to your accounts. LastPass can be added as an extension to your favorite web browser on a desktop or laptop, or you can download the app for use on your mobile device.
Once you download LastPass, you will set up your “master account” with a secure pass-phrase. Then, you can add your username/password logins from all of your various accounts. This includes online banking, shopping, social media, work-related services, or whatever sites you want.
Your browser or mobile device will automatically input the credentials stored in your LastPass account instead of forcing you to manually enter them each time you go to a website.
How this helps productivity: Lastpass saves you time and confusion by managing all of your passwords in one central, secure location.
LastPass has free and paid tiers of service, with the paid levels providing increased features and multiple user licenses in one account.
We consume a virtual flood of information throughout the day, and buried in all of that content could be something we want to refer to later. It may be a useful article for a project at the office or a recipe to share with a family member. Whatever the case, it’s unfortunately very easy to simply scroll past something and forget where we found it later on.
Pocket is an easy-to-use service that allows you to store, organize, and retrieve articles and media from anywhere in one central location. It can be integrated into any browser, and can also be connected with a wide variety of other content apps.
For example, you could save a tweet, a news article, a podcast, or a song or video as you browse, then refer to your content later. You can also email yourself content to be saved in your Pocket account through a custom email address.
Another key feature is the ability to use Pocket on a range of devices. It works on Windows and Apple desktop systems, Android and iPhone devices, Amazon tablet and reader devices, Blackberry, and more. This allows you to instantly capture content no matter which device you are using.
How this helps productivity: Pocket helps you capture content you may want to refer to at another time, helping you manage your thoughts & ideas on the go rather than forgetting them later.
Pocket has a free option. Paid Pocket premium plans are $44.95 for an annual subscription.
It can be difficult to remember where you saved a certain file: was it on your home computer, your mobile device, or at your workstation? And if you’re away from an Internet connection for any reason, you’ve suddenly lost access to your important info.
Evernote is an excellent tool to help you organize your notes and provide quick access anywhere, anytime. It not only centralizes your content but also backs up a copy to every device you have connected to your account, ensuring that you have the most recent versions of any note or document in an instant.
It allows you to scan documents into your storage system, and you can also create document templates as well. Advanced features like scanning handwriting to text, integrating with other apps, and spaces for collaboration can add layers of team management and project collaboration as well.
The main benefit to this program, however, is a live repository for all of your information, always kept up to date and accessible no matter where you are or what device you are using.
How this helps productivity: Gone are the days of misplacing your work or referring to an outdated version of a document. Tools like Evernote can help you refer to the latest and best information anywhere, and help you collaborate more effectively.
Evernote has a free plan. Premium plans start at $7.99 a month.
Voice to Text
There are lots of “Voice to Text” tools available to help you become more organized and efficient. Not having to type words on a keyboard is very appealing to many people who simply don’t type quickly.
Voice to text apps allows you to simply record yourself speaking, then your device can convert that audio recording to the appropriate text.
This can work on a simple notetaking app, or in an advanced setting like creating a report or even writing a book. Most devices and web browsers today come with that capability as a standard feature, or as something that can easily be added.
How this helps productivity: Rather than waiting until you can physically write something down, you can record your thoughts on the go and convert them to text. It’s even quicker than typing and can allow you to capture your thoughts in real-time.
best voice to text apps
- Dragon Anywhere
- Transcribe (Apple MAC only)
- Google Docs Voice Typing (Free)
- Gboard App (Google, works with Android and Apple iOS)
- SpeechTexter (Uses Chrome Web Browser which is Google)
Some productivity apps act as full project management suites, while others focus on a particular task. You may want a simple tool just to help get your persona life in order, or you may be on the hunt for a program that will take your team’s work to the next level.
If you are selecting a team-based product, be sure to work closely with others when selecting the right tool for the job. A unilateral decision may make the choice easier for everyone, but if some people have difficulty with an app it can cause more problems than it solves.
Most importantly, know what is going to be best for yourself personally or for your team. Know what is going to solve the problem at hand, then focus on the right tool for that job. And when you make an app work for you (instead of the other way around), everyone becomes more productive.