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.
7 Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make for a Meaningful Life
A meaningful life holds a different meaning for every single person out there. My definition of a meaningful life will vastly differ from yours. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Everyone feels satisfied with different things, everyone has a different purpose.
One common thing that we can all agree upon is that our lifestyle dictates how we go about our life. Whether we add meaning to our lives or just exist from day to day is promptly defined by our lifestyle choices.
The basic lifestyle choices are all in tune with our basic needs. Our basic needs are usually what we overlook in the process of getting things that will fulfil our basic needs – it is ironic, really.
Here are a few of the most important and down to the element changes that you need to make to live a healthy life and to increase the quality of your life. Most of these are entangled with one another. When you work on one, you are bound to have started working on another. So, let’s talk about them.
1. Wake Up Early
This is one advice that is the beginning of bringing about a lot of good changes in your life. There’s something delightful and serene about the morning time. The environment we are in affects our mood – waking up early is a great example of that.
Not only our productivity is at a peak, but nature is also at its finest, especially if you live in a city. The air around you hasn’t had the chance to be tainted with pollution, and the sound is filled with happy chirping than loud horns blaring – thanks to the morning traffic not having polluted everything yet.
“Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.”
Being in a calm environment helps you focus better. Studies have shown that you have reduced stress levels in the morning which makes you more energetic. Having high energy and better concentration helps boosts your speed, which in turn helps you complete any task in lesser time than it would take otherwise.
This is the perfect time to get your biggest task done, or as I call them, your big rocks or MITs (most important tasks). Starting early lets you wrap up early, meaning you get more time for yourself and your family.
2. Get More Sleep
When you make waking up early a routine, you start going to bed early. This lets your internal clock adapt to the routine, resulting in better sleep quality. Having no sleep pattern messes up the body, but now that your body gets to get the rest it needs, you will see a lot of aches and pains go away.
When we think about working hard, we often misconstruct it as late nights and early mornings, meaning no rest whatsoever. In the whirlwind of getting as much as you can get done, it is easy to start focusing on being busy rather than being productive.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
Another reason that people have difficulty falling asleep is excessive use of screens in their daily life. Scrolling through social media with fear of missing out (FOMO) lingering over our shoulders have become a common phenomenon.
Worrying about life and whatnot already reduces the hours of sleep we get drastically and add to that spending hours scrolling through various apps. It doesn’t only impact your physical health negatively, your mental and emotional health is affected too.
Going to sleep late is considered cool but your body would like to disagree. Not getting adequate sleep not only leaves you feeling tired, but it also develops a lot of health risks. Instead of trying to pump yourself full of coffee to get through the day, work on getting adequate sleep.
3. Limit Screen Time
As discussed, being on our devices is one of the major reasons for us going to bed late at night, mainly social media. You should go on social media detoxes from time to time to help yourself spend less time online.
Phones are one of the biggest distractions right now for a majority of people, taking measures to eliminate the distraction caused by your phone is an important step toward increasing your productivity. Studies have proven that using electronic devices before sleep makes people have trouble falling asleep. It is advised to not use any kind of screen at least 30 minutes prior to bed.
4. Have a Balanced Diet
“The little energy you obtained from your breakfast can ignite your willingness to kick start. Don’t overlook the little energy you have now by fixing eyes on a supposed magical influence farther away!”
As we go on working on our goals, our diet takes a backseat along with our sleep. We sort of have started taking pride in the meals we are missing – it is somehow meant to show how hard we are working. At the end of the day, it is helping no one. One of the meals, that is commonly missed, is the breakfast, it sort of ties to us not waking up early and not having enough time to do everything we need to do before we start hustling at work.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It gives you the energy you need to start the day. Not having a proper breakfast is another reason why people fill up on caffeine. We have forgotten the importance and need of having a balanced diet. In our fast-paced, busy lives – out of sheer convenience – we have started relying more and more on fast foods and instant, processed food.
The processed food we consume isn’t necessarily healthy and doesn’t help our pocket either. Try to prepare batch meals on weekends that you can eat throughout the week. If you are super busy and don’t even get weekends off, then start with having at least one home-cooked meal every day. Your body will be really thankful for the nutrients it is getting.
Always focus on getting a balanced diet. Include whole foods that are filled with minerals, proteins, dietary fiber, fatty acids, and vitamins, meaning nutrient-rich. Include eggs, yoghurt, milk, fruits, oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, wheat pasta, mixed nuts, etc.
5. Practice Self-Care and Meditation
Chasing our dreams doesn’t mean we have to forget ourselves. Taking care of yourself should definitely be on your to-do list – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Being busy is no reason to neglect your health. Even when you are busy, you can slip in moments of self-care. Practising self-care fills us with optimism and helps us gain a better hold on our lives.
Meditation is a good form of caring for ourselves and making a stronger connection with ourselves. It helps you relax your mind and helps increase your focus. Self-care can mean a lot of things like lighting candles and reading or using bath bombs while having a bath or lighting incense sticks while exercising or doing yoga, or even listening to music while cooking – it all depends on what makes you feel like you are being taken care of.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”
Anything that helps you feel relaxed and at peace is considered as self-care. It is supposed to help you live your life to the fullest without the exertion taking a toll on your body. Give your body time to recover from all that you put it through.
6. Listen to Podcasts
Most of us spend hours traveling to either work or college or someplace we need to be. This time isn’t usually ideal for getting work done, so it is sort of free time you get with yourself. Why not do something productive with it while still relaxing.
Our busy minds instantly start to roam and worry, stress about things that need to be done or things that are out of our control. Listening to podcasts on subjects we enjoy gives us something to do and helps pass the time by doing something productive. I usually listen to podcasts to help boost productivity. There are so many podcasts to choose from. If you want, you can also listen to audiobooks.
7. Get a Hobby
Having a hobby is important to give your passion a chance to flourish. It is a great way to learn new things and also relax while doing things that make you happy. Spending some quality time with yourself and doing things that mean something to you – is something that can’t be measured in value.
“It is in our leisure hours that we are permitted to follow our “hobbies,” and it is in them that our truer selves find expression. Many of the greatest men in the world’s history achieved their fame outside of their regular occupations in the spare moments of time which most people think are of no serious use.”
Not having a hobby, or not doing something just because you like it can have negative effects on your emotional health. Gain isn’t only monetary, you can spend time on things that build your emotional wealth. Hobbies get you a chance to figure out your passion if you haven’t already.
With an increase in work from home culture, you anyway spend a lot of time looking into your screen. Try to invest in a hobby that keeps you away from the screen. Get out in nature, spend time with friends and family, get your creative juices flowing.
Making positive changes in life is not about making drastic changes – it’s about taking small steps and being consistent about it – little changes that leave a significant impact are what we are working toward. We are creatures of habit. Breaking a pattern isn’t easy, we try to fight change. Try to ease yourself into things that will help transform your life for a better tomorrow.
5 Steps to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Productivity
With busy lives, constant deadlines, and chasing targets, we often find solace in the online world – social media. While they are great to distract you from your not so happening life, the distraction is also the main problem associated with their usage. The added stress of social media and the FOMO makes going about your day very difficult.
One notification is all it takes for you to fall down the rabbit hole and spend hours lost in the wonderland. As a result, productivity stays at a standstill. You again turn to your phone for help on how to stay away from your phone – ironic, isn’t it? Reading and watching for ways to increase your productivity and decrease your distractions, but then somehow again end up on sites that do nothing more than help you waste your time.
Social media use is rampant, and the statistics are mind-boggling. As of January 2017, there are over 1.8 billion active Facebook users, 1 billion people using WhatsApp, and a further 600 million individuals using Instagram.
Perhaps even more frightening, research by Common Sense Media suggests teenagers in America now spend on average 9 hours per day on social networks for enjoyment. And we haven’t even mentioned YouTube yet: people consume roughly 1 billion hours of video per day on the media giant.
The growth forecast is exponential, and the message is loud and clear: social media is here to stay, and it’s going to become even more of a part of our daily lives in the future. With such staggering statistics, it’s no wonder digital marketers are finding that an increasing part of their daily routines is spent navigating the major social platforms.
And while Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube present significant opportunities to our profession, they also can be productivity killers with their addictive powers zapping even the most diligent workers. This is a big reason that many people have started doing social media detoxes where they don’t use any specific or all apps for a specified period of time. I took a break from Facebook myself, and it put a lot into perspective for me.
All of this presents the question as to what steps can we take to mitigate social media from ruining our productivity, whilst still benefitting from its capabilities?
Put succinctly: how can we take advantage of the statistics without becoming one in the process?
Step 1: Define Your Priorities
First, it’s essential to identify what’s genuinely necessary and what’s an obvious distraction.
You may have a real need to be active on Facebook Business Manager throughout the day, but do you really need also to be scrolling through everybody’s food every half hour as well?
And are Instagram & Pinterest really essential to your tasks, or are they just another platform which serves to whet your appetite with more brunch pictures?
Deciding which social media platforms are crucial to your work and which aren’t is the obvious first step.
Make a list of what you need to use on a daily basis, and also of the platforms which swallow up your time often without you even noticing as well.
Step 2: Uninstall the Clutter
Have you got that list handy? Good. Now it’s time to get ruthless.
Uninstall all the apps from your smartphone that serve as a distraction immediately.
It may hurt at first, but ask yourself this: “Is this really contributing toward making me a more productive person and enhancing my capabilities?”. If the answer is no, then cull it.
The reason for starting with your smartphone is because it often sits right next to your laptop or computer when you’re working. All those notifications buzzing off will constantly divert your attention from more critical tasks that warrant serious attention.
In fact, I often keep my phone completely away from my workstation and check it at certain times, but more on that later.
Now turn your attention back to your desktop.
Which websites are eating away at your productivity?
The Chrome Extension Stay Focused is brilliant for this and highly configurable. Allocate specific times you can use your favorite websites so that they fall outside of your committed working hours. Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator also gets a special mention only due to its sheer simplicity and effectiveness. Facebook’s Newsfeed Eradicator replaces your feed with a simple motivational quote.
Step 3: Choose the Right Software to Streamline Your Workflow
Now that you’ve started to clear space, it’s time to streamline your daily social media usage to optimal levels.
This is where intelligent software comes into play.
Software like Hootsuite & Sendible allows you to configure & integrate multiple social media accounts in one convenient setting where you can create content, analyze statistics, and bulk schedule your work for clients.
The beauty of this is that rather than having multiple windows open distracting you at various times of the day, everything gets condensed into one window for maximum productivity.
Both platforms offer free initial trials so you can test them beforehand, but the reality is that software like these save you massive amounts of time and increases your productivity on other tasks for a small monthly fee.
Step 4: Create a Routine
The next step requires discipline, and it’s one you’re going to have to challenge yourself to be faithful to creating a routine.
A routine leads to habits, and excellent practices performed consistently lead to brilliant results.
If you want to get the most out of your social media usage, then you’re going to need to create a routine you can follow.
This may mean limiting checking your social media either in the mornings and the evenings, but whatever you decide to do, make sure you keep reminders to ensure you don’t stray off the task.
Using simple sticky notes reminding yourself by your work station is an excellent way to ensure diligence.
The software and plugins mentioned previously will also be useful in ensuring you stick to your routine. Be sure to take advantage of the technology available to you to mitigate social media at the right times!
Step 5: Be Consistent with Your Rules
Once you’ve implemented all the steps in this plan, you need to make a commitment to stick to them.
This one requires genuine heart and discipline. It’s incredibly tempting to get your daily hit of dopamine from Facebook Likes, but the reality is that it often does more harm than good.
You can always give yourself leeway on weekends and in your spare time when work is less intensive to use social media more frequently. But having a clear understanding and respect for your work at the same time is essential, and being consistent with the rules you’ve put in place is ultimately the best way to enhance your overall productivity.
Knowing how to curb your distractions will help you improve concentration and as a result, help you be more productive. Eliminating your phone as a distraction takes away a high percentage of unproductive time, leaving us with a lot more time to do things – something more beneficial like reading more.
How to Use Your Calendar to Increase Productivity and Achieve Big Goals
Are you tired of not accomplishing your goals or being unproductive at work? Are you tired of finishing things at the last minute for every project you have? You might have tried many systems and they just do not seem to work.
You may have noticed your peers excelling and getting things done although they have the same amount of hours as you do in a day. Fortunately, there is a great system which may help improve your productivity.
One of the primary reasons why individuals are not productive is because they are constantly interrupted or feel overwhelmed by the goal/task they need to accomplish. The feeling of being overwhelmed causes projects to be postponed until right before the final due date. To avoid this feeling, you must try and break the project into multiple sub-tasks. For example, if you need to repair a fence in your backyard, this can be broken up into the following tasks:
- Buy materials for fence repair
- Remove damaged fence parts
- Replace fence parts
- Paint fence
The overall project should be broken down into mini-tasks to make this more manageable. Although this process will make a project less overwhelming, it still misses another important point, which is getting interrupted by other higher-priority tasks. Therefore, it is important to write these down on a paper or on your phone or computer.
Many productivity specialists say that writing down your goals will make it more likely that you will accomplish them. I have written down goals before and failed to accomplish anything. At work, I was behind on projects and getting interrupted constantly – it happens sometimes.
After much investigation, I realized that I was missing a core element and that was a reminder system. I could write down my goals and put them on my computer but if I did not review them, the lists would be useless.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem was at my fingertips. I decided to take these lists and add them to my calendar on my phone. I would dedicate at least a 30-minute block to the tasks I wanted to do and set a reminder time at least 5 minutes before the task. Start your day doing this and block off all the hours in your day on your phone’s calendar. If you get interrupted, you can simply move tasks to other time blocks.
You can also combine it with the Pomodoro technique to increase your productivity along with your accountability that will come with setting up the reminder.
Why does this work?
This works because you are telling your mind that you need to work on a task during this time period. The reminder from your phone/computer reinforces this and allows you to focus. Paper-based systems failed for me because I did not review the tasks I had written down. As soon as a higher-priority task came up, I did not accomplish what I wrote down. Instead of relying on myself to do a “review”, the phone’s calendar does it for me.
It also gives me a sense of accountability, because I know that I am supposed to do the said things in the determined time block or else everything else will also suffer. It works like a pang of mini guilt for me. It also gives you deadlines to complete your work, nothing works better at making you feel accountable than a deadline.
Breaking down big goals into smaller goals is something that almost all of us know. It is one of the basic steps that anyone mentions when they take about achieving your goals. But, sticking to accomplishing to those smaller goals to achieve the bigger one is where people fail. This is one of the simplest ways to hold yourself up to the completion of the task.
Creating a sense of accountability is very important. When we feel responsible for something, we tend to be more serious about it. Written goals make us accountable and constant reminders keep us on our toes, making us answerable to ourselves.
If you are tired of writing tasks down or wanting to do major projects and not getting anything done, then you may want to try breaking apart major tasks and add these tasks to your phone. You may find yourself accomplishing things you never imagined!
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