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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
5 Tips to Increase Your Focus
Low attention span or difficulty in focusing is becoming a common problem for many. With so many entertainment options readily available, it has become easy to be distracted and to procrastinate. Our work takes the hit and that, in turn, makes us feel bad. Instead of dismissing your lack of focus as something you have to deal with, learn to increase it.
Like our body, our mind needs exercise too. The areas we consider to be weak can be built up if we put our mind to it. Just because our focus isn’t as strong as we would like it to be, doesn’t mean you have to accept the fact and do nothing about it. Try to better it. There are things, practices, and exercises that if done regularly, can help you increase your focus.
If you didn’t know, meditation has different types that focus on different areas. Mindfulness meditation can help you boost your attention span significantly. Not only that, meditation in itself can help you relax, and become calm and collected. Now, that your mind has relaxed and is free of a thought jumble, it becomes easier to focus on things that actually matter.
Meditation for just 10 to 20 minutes a day will help you increase your focus and attention span. Start your mornings by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, followed by your meditation ritual. You can also do some light breathing exercise just before doing something that requires focus to clear your mind.
2. Include practicing mindfulness in your day
While mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware and helps increase your focus. Practicing mindfulness throughout your day will help you fight distractions and focus on the tasks at hand. Mindfulness simply is being very attentive to every aspect of the task you are doing, and also noticing every small detail about your task.
It can seem like it isn’t easy, but it is. What I do is that I imagine I am writing about whatever I am doing – not informative writing but descriptive. So, suppose I am eating my lunch, I will pay attention to the cutlery, the color of my food, the smell, the taste, the texture of each ingredient. I will focus on chewing and swallowing, on the feeling it gives rise to.
What we usually do is that we focus on distractions while eating, and our primary task somehow becomes secondary. Our focus shifts towards our phones or the shows we are watching. This is what happens with many of our tasks.
3. Don’t listen to music while working
Many of us have the habit of listening to music while working on something. While it helps people most of the times and can be a good thing, it does the opposite for people with poor focus. If you know the song, then you are most probably going to sing along, and that stops you from giving your all to the task at hand.
Let’s say you are doing something that is going to be using the same parts of your brain, then will doing those things together make sense? No, right? When you are doing something that uses motor functions like your household chores, then listening to music is fine, but not while reading if you don’t have a high focus level.
4. Build your willpower
Willpower will allow you to ignore distractions like playing songs or using your phone and will help you to stay focused on the task at hand. Consciously saying no to yourself whenever you feel like doing something else is very important and a skill that you should definitely develop if you want to increase your focus level.
Your attention span will be served well with intentionally trying to focus and also having strong willpower isn’t only good for building your focus but also for being productive. At the end of the day, what you do or do not do boils down to your willpower, saying no to distractions depends entirely on your willpower.
5. Increase your focus gradually
Like any habit, you need to start slow. Like when starting exercise, you are advised to start slow because your body might not be able to take it, the same goes for anything mental. The best way to stay focused is for you to start using the Pomodoro technique. This lets you start working in bouts so that you can start with a short amount of focusing time.
You traditionally work for 25 minutes and then take a five minutes break. After you have repeated this four times, you can take a longer break. Because you know that you have to work for only 25 minutes, it becomes easier to focus. This is a great way to start out.
All it boils down to is will power and persistence. If you are really dedicated to increasing your focus, then you will find it easier to do things to help. I would say, convincing yourself is the hardest part, so start out by taking small steps. Don’t decide to start being completely focused for the whole day, that isn’t going to happen. Use these tips to slowly but gradually increase your focus.
7 Easy Productivity Hacks to Make More of Your Day
A lot of people still believe that by trying hard and pushing their limits, they will be able to get more work done in the day. This is not true. By using all your willpower to get more done, you will feel jaded at the end of the day. Willpower is a limited resource. If you go by your day without learning many tried and tested methods to increase productivity, your body and mind will eventually break down.
According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity in American workers has been decreasing at a steady rate since 1973. The 2007-2018 decade has seen some of the lowest levels of productivity. This is a worrying fact.
Here are 7 easy productivity hacks to make more of your day.
1. Follow a morning routine
Starting your day with a preset routine gets you into work mode right away. Morning is not a time to think and ponder. Get out of the bed as fast as possible and begin your morning routine. I know some people like to plan their day in the morning, but I feel that it puts you into a contemplative mood. It is something you want to avoid getting into. Especially, if you want to take massive action.
The best time to plan your day is the night before. A morning routine should consist of things like working out in the gym, a quick meditation session, a morning walk, filling up your gratitude journal, etc. A morning routine is a productivity hack that indirectly affects the quality and quantity of the work you do through the day. Hence, it is regularly practiced by productive people.
2. Keep your phone away during work hours
Productivity in human beings has always suffered due to many distractions. Even before the advent of smartphones, there were distractions like emails and phone calls. But they were quite manageable and the degree of damage wasn’t that severe.
In today’s world, smartphones are the major cause of lack of productivity. It’s impossible to get good quality work done with a smartphone beside you. A study done by the University of London identified the link between smartphone overuse and loss of productivity. They concluded that constant checking of smartphone for new notifications is hurting the level of productivity in the workplace and at home.
3. Batch your work
It takes a lot of time and effort to switch from one type of task to others. Human beings are creatures of habit and we like to cut effort wherever possible. Batching minimizes the effort and energy wasted in task-switching. This productivity hack has been implemented in all kinds of industries. Moreover, it also increases your concentration as you have fewer things to think about.
4. Plan ahead
Planning is a lot more than creating a to-do list or an action plan. To plan and do all the things in a day, you need to first brainstorm ideas and also have a clear vision of what you want. As I already said, these things should be done a day before so that you are in work-mode at the time of execution. Day planning is different than project planning. Factors like your energy levels, possible distractions, and your surrounding environment should come into consideration before writing an action plan for the day.
5. Use technology to boost productivity
Productivity apps like ToDoist and Toggl are helping freelancers and entrepreneurs to become more aware of how they are spending their working time. These apps can change your perspective on work in a matter of weeks. I use an app called Trello to organize and rank my tasks with the help of boards, lists, and cards.
6. Learn to say “no”
Are you one of those people who say “yes” to every request that you get from other people? You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself and put your own interest on the line. You are brought up the self-critical parent who have drilled into you that you need to be good at everything in life and that you are a bad person if you fail to do so.
If this sounds and feels like you, you need to learn to say “no”. Once you understand how saying “yes” to everything is keeping you occupied in mundane tasks which you shouldn’t be doing, you will learn to say “no”. Saying “no” is a modern day productivity hack that every one of us should learn first-hand.
7. Listen to music
A Canadian study says that listening to music while working puts you in a positive mood and, as a result, increases work quality. The quality-of-work was lowest when the participants of this study performed the task assigned to them without listening to music. With all this research proving music to be a productivity hack, it is imperative for you to listen to non-lyrical music while doing your work.
It’s great to keep all the above-mentioned productivity hacks in your repertoire. But you should also put them to use as soon as possible. For most people, starting a project is the hardest part. They spend days thinking about things that can go wrong or why it won’t work. By starting early and failing fast, you will always be miles ahead of your competitors.
“Smartphone addiction, daily interruptions and self-reported … – NCBI.” Accessed June 7, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29450241.
Top Time Tracking Apps For Cost-Efficient Timekeeping
Time tracking apps are a must for freelancers and remote workers. They log your activities and generate a report at the end of the day. This report can be used to evaluate your own performance and keep a tab on your habits.
It should be noted that time tracking apps are equally beneficial for both, the employee and the employer. They solve the biggest problem faced by freelancers. That is, getting paid fairly and on time. Freelancers can send the employees screenshots of their work so that they are aware of how much work is done.
Here are the 5 top time tracker apps for cost-effective timekeeping. Install your favorite app on all your devices and become aware of your own work habits.
Toggl is a time tracking app that increases the productivity of people working in a team. It is one of the simplest and easy to use apps for Android and iOS. Moreover, it also has an interesting feature; it pings you every time you lose focus or slow down during work. This app is for people who take their work seriously. So, check out the free version to experience its benefits first hand.
TopTracker is completely free time tracking app by Toptal LLC. It is available for both Android and iOS devices. The main feature of TopTracker is to take timed screenshots and invoice processing for freelancers and project managers. In short, it helps employers and manager to keep an eye on the activities of their team. Moreover, TopTracker works on any device. Be it a phone or a tablet or a laptop. And they have also provided hotkeys to let you manage your time tracker in an effortless way.
TMetric is one of the time tracker apps developed and maintained by Devart– a software company developing such applications for the last 20 years. TMetric proudly claims to help you save more than 66 hours per year. The app cuts down your time wasted in creating work logs and time reports. And every employee knows how painstaking it is to fill up those work reports. Another powerful feature of TMetric is that it integrates with other commonly used work apps like Trello, Google Drive, GitHub, Salesforce, etc.
RescueTime is one of those time tracker apps that every freelancer or remote worker should have on their computer. As a freelancer, it can be very difficult for you to track your own activities while working. Sometimes we get caught up in things that provide little or no value to us. It’s important to work on things that yield maximum results. RescueTime works silently on your computer and tracks everything you.. For instance, it sends you reports of what websites or apps you used throughout the day. This is one of my favorite time tracking apps and the one I personally use.
HourStack is a time tracking, time planning and time reporting app for Android and iOS devices. You can use this app for free and decide whether it fulfills your needs. HourStack has three plans: Personal, Professional and Enterprise.
Transparency is very important in modern work culture. Both employer and employee seek transparency in workflow and company policies. HourStack helps organizations achieve this by providing a dashboard where every team member can mention his/her tasks– already done and to be done. So, once a team member logs in, they can see the activity of the entire team. This keeps everyone on the same page and prevents time from being wasted in rudimentary things.
These apps may not be right for people who work in an office space provided by the company. An office worker has to commute and show up at work every single work day. So they need their freedom as well. But remote workers need to be managed differently. They need a chip on the shoulder that will keep them on track while they work.
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