What is the most valuable thing we have? It is our time. Charles Darwin once said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life”. Since we spend a large proportion of our time on our work, one of the most important questions is how to use this time in the best possible way. But how can we achieve this? Let’s talk about the best productivity apps that will change the way you work!
Why Should You Use Productivity Apps?
The two buzz words are effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness means that we do the right things while efficiency means that we do the things right. To maximise our productivity (defined by output or results per spent hour), the first step is to identify and focus on the important activities. As Tim Ferris says: “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” The second step is to execute these things as efficiently as possible and not to waste precious time.
To be effective and efficient, we need to implement the right systems. My personal effectiveness hacks are visualization of my long-term goals, setting and tracking sub-goals, and managing my to-do’s. My way to achieve high efficiency is proper planning, development of good habits, avoiding distractions and tracking my time. Of course, there are valuable tools and apps for each of these points. I personally use such apps every day, and they are great support in the intensive and competitive environment of management consulting. But let’s take a look at it.
Productivity Apps That Help You Visualise Big Goals
There is much scientific evidence that having a clear vision and visualizing what you want to achieve activates your subconscious and programs your mind for success. This can be a long-term oriented goal such as becoming a millionaire or a more short-term goal such as the next promotion or the successful completion of your project. Although this has a sketchy self-help touch, I found it to be extremely valuable to keep me motivated, especially in tough project situations. It simply reminds you of why you are doing things and helps to find the energy to overcome challenges.
Productivity Apps That Help You Set And Track Smaller Goals
To get the most out of your time, you must have clear goals. I found it helpful to set yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. This helps to set clear priorities and helps you to measure your productivity by tracking achievement rate of your goals. Understand that if you don’t set clear goals for yourself, it is very likely that you will spend most of your time helping others to achieve their goals. Make it a habit to work and track your goals on a daily basis and you will be surprised how much more you will get done.
Productivity Apps That Help You Manage Your Daily To-Do’s:
Once you have set your goals, it is important to break them down in smaller to-do’s. These are tasks that you can execute yourself or delegate. Make sure that you stick to one app where you collect all your smaller to-do’s and always keep it up to date in order to not forget important tasks. My to-do’s app is probably the one I use the most during the day since it really helps me to manage my daily and hourly priorities and activities. Structuring your to-do’s by project and priorities increases your effectiveness even more.
Productivity Apps That Help You Schedule Your Day
Another very important step to maximise your daily productivity is to time your activities. Make sure that you estimate the time for each to-do and block a slot in your calendar for it. It also helps to schedule your high priority tasks first and schedule the low priority tasks around them. Also, I would recommend identifying your most productive hours of the day and to reserve these time slots for your most important activities. If you work with different calendars (e.g., private and professional), you should also make sure to have one calendar that you use. So, make sure that all calendars are always properly embedded and synchronised.
Productivity Apps That Help You Develop Strong Habits
Another aspect of high productivity is building good habits. There are many great books about the benefits and methods of building good habits (e.g., The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg). The great thing about habits is that once you establish them, you will do them subconsciously. And this is the very most efficient way of doing things. Thus, a strong focus on good habits can cause breakthroughs in your daily productivity. But note that it always takes some time to build them up. As a good rule of thumb, establishing one good habit per month is a good way to start.
Productivity Apps That Help You Stay Focused
One of the biggest enemies of our productivity is distraction. Unfortunately, we get distracted very easily. Getting calls and emails, checking social media, reading news, a short chat with your colleagues. It all takes your focus away from the tasks that you need to accomplish. Remember, it is not the time that we can’t afford to lose. It is the focus we can’t afford to lose. So, make sure that you don’t get distracted from your work. A proven method is the so-called Pomodoro Technique.
The technique uses a timer to break down your work sessions into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. I found this to be very useful, especially if you need to work on deliverables such as presentations and Excel calculations that take a few hours.
Productivity Apps That Help You Track Your Time
Finally, in order to make the most out of your time, you need a very good understanding of how you spend it. Thus, I highly recommend using a time tracking tool that gives you an overview of your daily spend time. It can be as easy as tracking the categories “work” and “free time” or as sophisticated as tracking specific tasks. This is up to you. Tracking your spent time can be a bit annoying at the beginning and requires some discipline. But trust me, it is definitely worth it!