We’re busy. All the time. We have a million and one things vying for our attention, to-do lists that expand as rapidly and mysteriously as our solar system, and attention spans at the very brink of collapse. What can help? A little structure. Productivity tools allow you to manage your time, so the demands of your life and work don’t manage you. The options are as limitless as the applications. Try each on for size, and see which can save your workday.
Productivity for mavericks.
You’ve tried the planner. You’ve tried the calendar, the list apps, the reminders, the Post-It Notes. And yet, no one system addresses all your needs, from managing appointments and to-do lists, to capturing brilliant shower thoughts. Enter the bullet journal. The bullet journal is a do-it-yourself productivity and creativity capturer. All you need is a plain notebook and a pen. Through a system of symbols (which you choose and designate) and a once-a-month review and migration, you can archive everything from your social calendar to meal planning to fitness tracking and more. It takes fifteen minutes to learn and, from there, the possibilities are truly limitless.
If it ain’t broke…
There’s a lot be said for the efficiency and efficacy of pen and paper. If the bullet journal feels like a little much, perhaps you should head to your local office supply and visit the planner isle. Yes. It still exists, and many people swear that a planner offers benefits productivity apps can’t touch. The physical act of writing something down – an important meeting at 7 a.m. on Monday, for example – imbeds it more deeply in your mind. So, come Sunday night, when your phone is on silent and you miss the meeting reminder, you’ll remember to think twice before heading out for one last night on the town. Also, your planner never threatens to die when you most need it and you’re far away from charger or outlet.
Meet your new, talented digital assistant.
Perhaps you give a polite but hard pass to anything that can’t be both infinite and fit into your pocket. You need Evernote: The note-taking, list-keeping, goal-tracking, image-archiving, collaboration app. Evernote has a dedicated following, and for good reason. You can input info on your phone, on your iPad, or on your desktop and it all lives in the same place, updating instantly and automatically. It’s also flexible. Driving and can’t type? Send Evernote a voice memo. Did an article just give you a great idea? Imbed the link directly in your note, so it’s available at a moment’s notice. And did we mention the keyword search function?
Rein in your brain.
The Pomodoro Method is less of a tool and more of a “hack.” If you’re seeking productivity, the answer might not be a complicated system. It might be, simply, achieving focus. To say our attention is torn in a million directions is so banal, so agreed upon, it feels like a tired cliché. Nonetheless, it’s been proven that multitasking is actually just shortchanging everything simultaneously. The Pomodoro Method frees you to focus on one specific task for a specific amount of time. Then, you get a break to check email, pet the cat, grab some disappointing coffee, or whatever. And then you focus again. Typically, the cycle is 25 minutes “on” followed by five minutes “off.” How much you can get done will shock you. To get started, use a timer or try one of the many Pomodoro Method apps.
Big brother or brotherly tough love?
Rescue Time runs in the background of your devices to track what you do and for how long. Terrifying, we know. But sometimes it takes a harsh truth to jumpstart actual change. So, worst-case scenario, Rescue Time reports that you spent a cumulative four hours of your eight-hour workday watching videos of dogs wearing shoes. Faced with that cold, hard number, maybe the next day you’ll be able to close out of YouTube and get to those quarterly reports.