My 3 Productivity Utilities for 2017

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Is there a better time to think about productivity than the first few weeks of the new year?

There’s something special about it. Everyone is making resolutions, promising to be better, to do better… But, change isn’t built on promises. It’s built on processes.

It’s time re-built (or solidify) your own processes.

To do that, we need to deal with the big guy. The boogeyman that hides in the shadows, keeping you from becoming your most productive self.

Distraction

Distraction is everywhere. Every time you look at your smartphone there’s a new notification. Your email inbox is overflowing. Slack has tried to grab your attention five times in the last 30 minutes.

Facebook and Twitter are always just a click away. Then there are the “productive” temptations like reading countless articles or catching up on your favorite blogs.

We live in a pretty distracting world. Something is always vying for your attention, trying to steer it away from the task at hand. What would you rather do? Balance a budget or watch another video on YouTube? (Clearly, mine don’t count because they enhance productivity.)

This state of busyness has impacted our ability to concentrate for long periods of time. It’s worse when the task at hand isn’t fun.

In the book Deep Work, Cal Newport examines the effect distractions have on our concentration. He found that jumping from task to task actually takes up a lot more time than we think.

Every time you jump off to quickly check your email, it takes your mind a few seconds to get back on task. Track that through the course of a day and the seconds turn into minutes.

We’ve become accustomed to jumping from thing to thing engaging in seemingly “harmless” distractions. 

Distraction used to be a huge problem for me. I’m still not completely ‘cured’ but with the help of these 3 handy apps, my processes are getting better.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at my top three productivity app (in no particular order.)

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RescueTime

Increase productivity

RescueTime is like a helpful, less creepy version of Big Brother. It monitors the way you spend your time and then creates graphics that show you exactly how long you spend browsing Steam.

In cold, painfully precise detail.

At the end of the day it generates a nice, color coded report that shows you what you really spent your day doing.

Installing RescueTime changed the way I spend my time. The free version is pretty great. It lets you set exactly when RescueTime monitors your computer use and label different websites as productive or unproductive.

The paid version (which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t tried) lets you block out certain websites completely during set periods of time. So if you find yourself constantly checking your email you can block it out while you finish crafting that blog post or video.

Take back your time with RescueTime!

[email protected]

Be more productive with music

[email protected] is one of those apps that’s a lot better than it sounds. I’ll be honest with you. I was pretty skeptical about it but it’s had a huge impact on my productivity.

It plays scientifically composed music, specifically designed to increase concentration. You pick your preferred style of music and then play it in the background while you work.

It’s amazing. I almost feel like the music wraps itself around me and creates a cozy concentration blanket.

Why would you pay for music when there are so many great (and free) playlists available already?

I don’t know why but there’s something about this music that’s different. This is my own (unscientific) theory but I think we associate certain memories and emotions with familiar music.

So when you listen to your own playlist, it bring up feelings from previous work sessions.

Try the 2 week trial period. See if it makes a difference. If it really doesn’t, at least you’ll be able to come back here and roll your eyes at me all over again.

TextExpander

Be more productive with TextExpander

This tool isn’t about music or time tracking. It’s about being faster. Better.

Do you find yourself writing the same base email over and over again? Do you get the same kind of query over and over again?

Use TextExpander to create snippets of text and link them to a specific abbreviation. Then when you get that question again just type in the abbreviation, and TextExpander will autofill it for you. You can even create a library of snippets and share them with your team!

Leave people amazed at your mad typing skills.

Grab your productivity by the hand

This is your year. Let’s make it the one where you hit all your goals.

And if you are looking for other ways to improve your concentration, this article from Health Ambition has some great actionable tips to play around with!

Now, over to you! What is the number one productivity tool you can’t live without?

Until next time, have fun storming the castle!

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