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Productivity

21 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Planner

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Getting the most out of your planner

Planners are a great tool for increasing productivity. They take to-do lists a step ahead and giveyou a much better way to plan out for more than just the day. Keeping all the things in your mind can get overwhelming at times, for someone who runs and manages a lot of things together, this can be a huge problem. Using a planner gives you the opportunity to transfer everything from your brain to a physical manifestation of your exact thoughts and visions.

Once you put it all down on paper, your mind is free of the tasks that need to be done, and now you can focus on how to actually do them. Now, you have to plan, build a strategy, and get to work.

Use your planner to effectively plan every step you take towards achieving your goal. It is important to be productive than it is to be busy, which is why a planner can be one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

Now, like everything, the effectiveness of a planner depends on how we use it. It is not this magical thing that, once written on, will make all your goals, dreams, and wishes come true. You have to work for it, use your planner to aid you in your quest for success.

Here are some of the tips that I have learned that have worked for me and many others. Remember, the main thing is to find out what works for YOU because something that works for everyone doesn’t automatically mean it is going to work for you.

Using Your Planner

Getting the most out of your planner

1.Check your planner first thing in the morning to see what you need to do, and to add whatever new things come to your mind.

2. Keep your planner open while working so that you can add things as you go. If the planner is out of reach, chances are you won’t reach for it enough.

3. You do not have to stick to a specific method. You can change your ways as often as you like, it’s all about what works for you. Learn from yourself.

4. Don’t overfill the pages. It is okay to have white space, don’t give in to the feeling of filling every inch of available space on the planner.

5. There’s no need to use one planner for all the different areas you want to focus on. You can use different planners for different things: work, personal, school, plans.

6. Review your planner often. If you do a lot of things, a weekly review will help you sort through things. If you don’t clutter your daily tasks page with a ton of stuff, then a monthly review might suffice.

7. Save the last few pages as rough pages, or a brain dump zone. This is so that you can put things there that you still don’t know how to go about or what to do with. Instead of writing in another notebook or diary, keep it all together so that it is easy to refer to.

8. Go through your planner at night: to mark off things done, to make notes about things that need to be done, and also to prepare for the next day.

Organizing The Planner

Getting the most out of your planner

9. Pre-plan your weeks and then divide the tasks into work for each day. This gives you a chance to prioritize and have a clear goal as to how your week is going to look like.

10. Make a to-do list every day. Use methods that help you tackle your to-do lists.

11. Use sticky notes: if you have a big task written that requires tons of little things to be done, then add sticky notes to it, and peel them off as you complete the tasks. This way your planner remains clean, no clutter to overwhelm you.

12. You can also use checkboxes or fill-in circles to tick off or fill in as you complete the tasks, that is, if you want to keep your planner decluttered. I personally like to strike through the tasks, feels good.

13. Color code your tasks, use color pens, highlighters, page markers. This makes the planner easy on the eyes and also makes it easier to know what task is where, what needs to be done, and what is completed.

14. Use a ruler, no matter what lines you are drawing: checkboxes, lists, bullet journal layout. It looks so much cleaner and organized. I even strike through my tasks using a ruler, which is why it doesn’t look shabby.

15. If you run out of space on your weekly or daily spread, then add sticky notes for extra writing space.

16. Use habit trackers to, well, track your habits. Instead of writing something you do every day in the daily pages, dedicate a page for it, and mark as you go. This is also one of the pages that let you get as creative as you want to be.

17. Use tabs so that you can easily separate sections, and it is also convenient for you.

Choosing Your Planner

Getting the most out of your planner

18. Get a planner in the size that works best for you. Don’t get a big bulky thing if you have to carry it around, don’t get a small one if you do a ton of planning. Figure out what works best for you.

19. Don’t go for the most popular planners just because they work for others, see if they work for you.

20. Expensive doesn’t always mean good. If you don’t have money to spend then even a plain notebook will do. It should just resonate with you.

21. Different planners offer different things. Before buying any planner, check out the page layouts, the different sections offered, the aesthetic. Go for the one that speaks to you, not only with its functionality but also the feel.

Any tool that is meant to increase your productivity will only work if you use it the way it is supposed to be used. Just because something doesn’t work instantly doesn’t mean it never will. Using a planner is adopting a whole new habit, and you just don’t get into a habit in a day or two. Patience is the key in the beginning; then it boils down to perseverance.

Planners are versatile in the sense that they are meant to be customized in a unique individualistic way for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, you have a job, you run your own business, or you are a stay-at-home parent, what matters is that all of us have things to do, places to be, goals to achieve. That is where planners come in to make the process easier. It is your personal assistant in a way, except you are one here, without even feeling like you are doing the job.

Productivity

7 Smart Tips to Multitask and Actually Get Work Done

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multitasking effectively

Multitasking has its fair share of merits and demerits. Some people swear by it, some people tell you to avoid it at all costs. What I believe in is that everything works differently for different people. You need to find out what works the best for you and then go about doing your thing.

If you believe multitasking can help you get more done, by all means, do it. With the development of good habits and taking on a strategic approach, you can approach all that you want to. Just keep these things in mind to make your multitasking more effective. Multitasking is the most effective when it doesn’t hurt your productivity overall.

1. Limit the projects you take on

It can seem like an exciting prospect to work on a lot of projects at the same time, but productivity wise it is never a good idea. Because projects are just not projects, they have many tasks and subtasks, various deadlines, research work, and testing. So, when you actually start working, it can actually be detrimental to get results because when you focus on a lot of things, you are not exactly working on any one thing properly.

2. Prioritize your tasks

multitasking effectively

You might feel like all the things you are doing are important, but when you really consider all the things on your list, you will realize they are not. Even if you already multitask and get a lot done, you have to understand that some things are better done with full focus rather than juggling them with other tasks.

The first thing you need to do is to write down all the tasks that you need to get done. Then take a look at each question and ask yourself questions that will help you understand which task should be done right away.

  • Deadline – If the task has a deadline that is closer than the other tasks you have, then it needs immediate attention.
  • Who are you working for? Is the task for a client or for yourself. If it is for a client, then it holds priority because you get paid.
  • Hinderance – If not completing the task right away won’t halt other tasks then you can put it off in preference of other tasks.
  • Time – How much time does the time require? Will it be better to do it with total focus or will it be okay to do in chunks with other tasks?

These are some questions that will help you determine what tasks you should do first, and what tasks you can pair with each other without harming your productivity. Mark your high priority tasks in your to-do lists to get the most out of them.

3. Use different calendars

Making a calendar is as important as making a to-do list. It can help make to-do lists and vice versa. There are deadlines and events and product releases, and whatever you have marked on your calendar, so you make your daily task lists based on that.

When you are multitasking, you need to make another calendar because simply writing down a list won’t help you remember what task you are supposed to do when. Make this calendar to represent the tasks you do. Group similar tasks, use blocks of times to do similar tasks daily. Find out what task you can do the best at what time of the day and always assign those kinds of tasks to that specific block of time on your calendar.

4. Use the parts of your brain correctly

You know how you can talk on the phone while eating, and still get both done at the same time without much problem. But you won’t be able to talk on the phone as well as hold a conversation with people you are eating with. This is because eating needs motor function and conversing on the phone needs the language center but talking on the phone and conversing with people around you will need the same language center part of your brain.

One thing that you need to remember is that pairing tasks to be done together is also about the science of how our brain works. Different parts of our brains are used for different things. You need to understand that you cannot do two tasks at a time that require the same part of your brain.

5. Get rid of distractions

It is anyway difficult to focus on your tasks when there are distractions around. It becomes even more difficult when you want to focus on more than one thing. I cannot stress enough about focusing just on the task at hand.

Phones are the biggest distraction, either turn the data off so that you don’t get notifications or keep your phone out of your reach or sight so that you get up only for important phone calls. If you work in an office, then chatty colleagues and the various other sounds can be huge distractions too. You can start putting on noise-canceling headphones so that no one disturbs you. You don’t need to listen to anything, just use it as the universal symbol of “Don’t talk to me” that it is. You can also play ambient sounds like I do to focus better. Brain.fm and Noizio are good options.

6. Use productivity techniques and tools

I have talked about using the Pomodoro Technique and Big Rocks so many times that I think I will have to make a post dedicated to it soon. But, there are so many techniques you can use to work in bursts and motivate yourself to actually get work done.

Most techniques place importance on breaks as well. When you are working non-stop, you and your work are both going to suffer. It helps no one. Use productivity techniques to keep you on your toes and remind you to take breaks as well.

7. Shift tactics to work more

Talking about taking breaks, you don’t only need to take breaks from working, you also need to take a break from multitasking. If you have been successfully multitasking for the better part of the day, there is a high chance that your mind will get tired. If you still work through that, then that is when you face mental burnout.

You need to switch to focusing on doing single tasks if you start feeling overwhelmed. This will give your brain some space to breathe and get ready for another round of multitasking fun.

Not everyone can naturally multitask, and it doesn’t work for everyone either. Strategizing and planning can help you learn the rope of multitasking and then it will become easier for you to implement it in your daily routine.

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Productivity

7 Ways You Can Improve Your Concentration

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improve your concentration

Unlike the traditional belief, humans are not born with an innate ability to focus and concentrate. It is a skill that most of the successful people learn and hone over time. Some people still hold the dogma that if their brain is slow or they can’t get things done quickly then they are doomed and will remain the same for their remaining life.

Research has proven that it is possible to improve your concentration no matter how worse the situation may seem like. You can begin today with a few tried and tested ways to improve your concentration. These methods or concepts may seem very cliched, but if implemented correctly, they can significantly change your life.

Check out these 7 ways to improve your concentration that can help you become a focused person.

1. Eliminate all distractions

Sometimes our attention gets diverted from the task at hand to something else and, as a result, we don’t perform optimally. By eliminating things that can distract you, you can finish your desired task well within the deadline and without any unexpected stoppages. External distractions like text messages, phone calls, social media notifications, etc. can casually shift your attention from your work to things that don’t matter that much.  

People who work in distraction-free environments are more productive and less likely to commit errors. For instance, it’s easy to read a book when you are sitting by a relaxing beach where the only sound you hear is of crashing waves and chirping birds; most people will find this scenario quite relaxing and will get more reading done than if they were in a crowded coffee shop.

You’ll be surprised to learn that using Facebook can make you 55 percent more likely to be stressed. The Happiness Researcher Institute, Denmark took 1,095 people who used Facebook regularly in their daily lives and split them into two groups. One group was allowed to use Facebook as they normally would and the other group was banned from using it for a week.

They later concluded that the people in the second group who abstained from Facebook were more satisfied and happy in their social life. In conclusion, instead of completely avoiding social media you can regulate its usage so that it doesn’t create unnecessary distractions in your life.

2. Strive for an emotionally balanced life

improve your concentration

Lack of concentration is a symptom of an emotionally turbulent mind. If the mind is not calm and composed, it is going to let itself wander in places it should not. A lot of people think they can achieve the highest level of focus and concentration just by practicing a certain type of meditation or relaxation technique. But that is farthest from the truth. Meditation only helps to improve your concentration when you attain a decent level of emotional maturity.

One quick way to gain emotional stability is to follow a morning routine which consists of positive affirmations, exercise, reading, and journaling. These practices will help you be more in touch with your life situation so you can deal with them in a better way and also, in the process, improve your concentration. However, it should be noted that no one stays emotionally stable all the time, even an emotionally healthy person needs solace in times of distress.

In a study done by Columbia University, researchers found out that surgeons who are under stress in their personal lives are more likely to commit mistakes on a patient in the operating room. This shows how important it is to be emotionally stable and have good concentration.

3. Get enough sleep and exercise

Good sleep and physical exercise are very essential factors you need to consider when you are trying to improve your concentration. Generally, people who don’t sleep for a minimum of seven-eight hours each night feel tired quickly and are likely to crash out by the afternoon. Consequently, regular physical activity is also needed to operate at optimal mental capacity.    

Reports suggest that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. This data published by the American Sleep Association also identified insomnia to be the most common sleep disorder; nearly 30 percent of people in the United States suffer from insomnia. With these many people having difficulties with their sleep, getting a good night’s sleep becomes very important to improve your concentration levels.   

4. Create a to-do list

A to-do list or checklist is a time management technique used by many successful people all over the world. The idea is to go through every task that needs to be done in the following day and write them down in a list. This could be done using a mobile application or a post-it sticky note. I use Things 3 as my preferred to-do app.

Creating a list takes our attention from what needs to be done in the future to the task at hand; as we already know how the day is going to go. Hence, it can improve your concentration too. One needs to keep in mind that lists only work when we keep them specific and precise. Likewise, it helps to write down supplementary side-notes along with the bullet points on the to-do list.   

5. Reward yourself for the hard work

Working on long-term projects with no immediate gratification can be boring and dull. Over time it can make you lose your concentration and get distracted. Furthermore, it’s very easy not to see this happening when you are just starting a project; the idea of a new project or a venture can be fun and exciting in the beginning phases. But most people experience a dip in their performance as things move further and going gets harder.

By rewarding yourself for your hard work, you get a quick jolt of energy which can help improve your concentration naturally. Some of the ways to reward yourself are by resting, having your favorite food, sweets, taking a day off, etc.  

Recent research by Cornell University suggests that rewarding an employee at the beginning of a project yields better focus, concentration, and engagement from them. The study also concluded that instead of waiting till the end it’s in our best interest to pay ourselves first.

6. Environment matters

improve your concentration

Changing the environment is probably the easiest way you can improve your concentration. Sometimes the coziest places can become detrimental to your productivity; the more comfortable the workplace the faster you are likely to lose focus. So, it’s essential to choose a workplace where there are positive people around who have the same ambitions and long term goals as you have.  

Your residential area also becomes a factor when you want to improve your concentration and raise your standard of living altogether. Living in a noisy and busy area can put you in a funk and lower your level of concentration when you try to accomplish anything.

One of the best places to work is a less crowded coffee shop or cafe. It helps to spend time in a place that has comfortable seating and people around. Coffee shops are becoming very popular among freelancers and digital nomads since most of them have wifi connectivity.

7. Use the Pomodoro Technique

improve your concentration

Often times it is difficult to get started on a project or an assignment as we tend to think about the amount of time we have to spend working on it. In addition, the mere thought of working tirelessly for hours can be exhausting for some people as it is difficult to concentrate for so long.

There are numerous time management techniques available to deal with this problem but the one called “Pomodoro Technique” is very popular among people with mental focus issues.   

This technique has can help improve your concentration because you only have to commit to work for 25 minutes initially. For instance, work on one task for 25 minutes then rest for the next 5 minutes and repeat this cycle for 3 cycles ending the entire work session with a longer break. This way of working gets people in the flow and they end up working for two to three sessions in one go.  

To conclude, these 7 ways to improve your concentration are hand-picked and tried and tested by several successful people. Be it entrepreneurs, politicians, or leading artists, everyone has their own ways to get in the zone and unleash their creative genius. It is also recommended to keep track of your progress when you are trying to implement a change in your life; journaling is a great way to measure your progress.

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Productivity

Things 3 Review – A To-Do App That Works

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I’ve been using new tools ever since I received a Casio Calculator Watch as a present in high school and a Blackberry on Christmas. If you can’t recall these gadgets with nostalgia, you may consider me to be horribly antiquated – but for several years, productivity software for Mac was not much superior. It wasn’t until 2011 that Mac apps in various fields began to consistently stand out.

Thus began my journey to find the perfect to-do app (aka task management app).

Over the years, I’ve tested several to-do apps for Mac and iPhone, and they’ve all done a decent job at raising my productivity level. My latest discovery is Things 3, which offers the perfect balance between enticing new features, timeless design, power and simplicity, and delightful interactions.

What’s So Good About Things 3?

Things 3 allows users to take a guilt-free approach to task management. I’ve highlighted some of its prominent functionality below.

Set Important Dates

Not every task is associated with a date. Some can just be completed when you get time. Others, however, are closely associated with dates, and Things 3 is quite accommodating, offering numerous ways to work with them.

For example, it lets you add a deadline to any task or project. My mom asked me to run errands, so I added that task to Things 3 and listed a deadline for it.

Things 3 review


Most to-do apps have this functionality. Things 3 goes a step above by conveniently enabling you to include a few other kinds of dates.

For example, I can add a start date to ensure I start working on a particular task at the right time.

Things 3 review

While setting the start date, I can also create Reminders to have Things 3 display an alert to remind me of any pending tasks.

I can also use the “when” option to create start dates and reminders, and keep tabs on my activity to ensure you’re on track with upcoming tasks.

Group and Organize Your Tasks

Once you begin using Things 3 to organize different aspects of your life, you can populate it with dozens, or even hundreds, of tasks. This can create a mess, so you need a way to organize and group your projects and tasks. Things 3 lets you do that via “areas” and “tags.”

You can create areas for several different aspects of your life. I’ve made one for home, one for office, and one for friends.

Things 3 review

Not only do these let me organize my tasks logically, but they also serve as helpful prompts to ensure I’m driven and responsible in all of my responsibilities.

All projects and tasks can be further streamlined with the help of tags. You can use these to arrange your tasks in several different ways.

Things 3 review

Tags associate your tasks with certain contexts (like home, office, pending, important) as well as with people. You can highlight a task’s importance, or indicate the amount of time needed to get the job done. The options are endless.

Know What’s Ahead

I especially love this about Things 3: it lets me keep tabs on tasks I want to complete in the future without cluttering my active list of projects. When I’m busy, they’re not a distraction. But when I’m planning to review what’s left, they can be. Things 3 offers three distinct views for the purpose:

Things 3 review

Here’s a quick breakdown of each:

  • In Upcoming, I’m able to see a calendar of tasks that have either a start date or a deadline associated with them.
  • In Anytime, I can view a list of tasks that I can work on in my free time. These aren’t categorized by an area or project. Neither are they associated with a deadline.
  • In Someday, I can view the set of tasks that I haven’t planned on working but may do someday. I use this space to list my life goals.

Maybe one day I’ll visit Antarctica. I want to list goals like these in my to-do app, so that I can remind myself about what I want to achieve. But I don’t want to be distracted when I’m concentrating on what matters now. Things 3’s “someday” feature handles these items pretty nicely.

Overall, Things 3 allows you to sensibly organize tasks by tags, projects, and areas of responsibility. Your calendar and to-do list can be seen in a variety of ways – tasks to do in the near future, tasks that you need to complete today, and tasks you may work on someday. And you get to prioritize, sync and organize each task, area, and project.

Things 3 Pricing

I wish Things 3 was free to download and use. Sadly, it isn’t – you need to pay $49.99 to be able to experience the to-do goodness. But trust me, you’ll be getting your dollars’ worth. With that said, I recommend you to take the 15-day free trial and rate it for yourself before making a purchase decision.

My Verdict

Things 3 is a nice addition to the productivity and to-do space, not just because of its aesthetic appeal, but because the folks over at Cultured Code (the developer) have packaged some of the most wanted features in the tool. They’re constantly listening to entrepreneurs and implementing their feedback consistently.  In 2018, for instance, they added a mail feature to the app and enabled users to repeat tasks within projects.

So if it isn’t apparent already, I highly recommend Things 3 as a productivity app for your Mac. It’s incredibly useful, clever, appealing, and it makes tracking and completion of various tasks a breeze.

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