I’m consistently distracted.
I often think that I have ADHD, but I’ve been assured that I don’t; I am just poor at managing my distractions.
Being within IT, I tend to use technology to help address issues. As such, I have looked to apps to help my manage my tasks and get things done.
Here is a list of apps that I use consistently to help keep me productive and focused. Perhaps it may help you too.
Evernote is the best of the best when it comes to note taking apps (for me at least). While others swear by Microsoft’s OneNote (which is now free by the way, just to compete with Evernote), I’ve used Evernote since they first came out, and have been a premium user for two years now. No other app allows me to capture every idea or note that comes to my head, websites that I thought made good reference material, receipts, hand written notes, or whatever else that I want to remember. I can tag notes, place them in virtual notebooks and have them handy wherever I am.
I’ll admit that ToDoist is not the first task list manager (otherwise known as a To Do list) that I’ve used. I’ve tried countless others – Remember the Milk (RTM), Wunderlist, Toodledo, Google Tasks, Any.Do – but they never worked quite well for me. (The one exception was one that I truly liked, Astrid, which was acquihired and shuttered by Yahoo! Thanks a heap Yahoo!)
Anyway, I stuck with ToDoist because of the ease of use and intuitive interface, on both the web and mobile apps. RTM’s capabilities exceeds ToDoist, but the terrible web app made it a pain to use and the mobile app, while much better, didn’t help as I use my desktop more.
ToDoist allows me to put the tasks that need to get done. As I check them off, I can see my Karma score go up or down depending on my productivity for the day. Karma is a tracking system that ToDoist uses to gamify the experience so you can see how well you are doing with your tasks.
You can check out ToDoist here – ToDoist Website.
I first tried Trello as a task manager, but then I realised that it’s not meant for that, but for Project Management. While Trello puts itself as a project management application, I don’t see it handling large projects well. But what it can handle is projects with well defined steps. I use Trello for ideation and writing. For example for writing, I have a board with five lists – Ideas, Researching, In progress, Editing and Published. Almost every article that I write goes through that process, especially the ones that require some research.
You can check out Trello here – my Trello recommendation.
Zapier helps connect your web apps together so that one activity on one web app can set off an activity on another web app (what Zapier calls a zap). So I have a zap that when I create a reminder in Evernote, it automatically creates a task in ToDoist. I have another that when I create a new idea in Trello, it creates a task in ToDoist as well.
I only recently discovered Zapier and I’m still playing around and fine tuning some things, but it has lots of potential for automating your life.
You can check out Zapier here – my Zapier referral.
There’s one app that I want to mention that is not a web app at all. In fact it’s not an online service.
As I mentioned, I get easily distracted, and when you have the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn around, it’s easy to find yourself there during the day, especially if you work on your computer a lot.
Cold Turkey is a free, open source application that you install on Windows PCs to block certain websites and applications during blocks of time that you specify, so that you can concentrate on your work. It’s difficult to bypass, and you can’t unblock time until the block of time you have specified has passed. You can’t even uninstall it once you’re still in a blocked time.
I’ve used Cold Turkey with some great success so far and recommend it. But a warning first: don’t do like me and block off the entire week in one go (unless that’s your plan). I didn’t understand what a block period was, and had to do without any social media for an entire week. And what a productive week that was.
Get it here – Cold Turkey Website.
What to do next…
Go and sign up for the tools that I’ve mentioned and give them a try, but one at a time. It does no justice trying all at the same time.
It’s also important that any tool you use shouldn’t bog you down, so if after using any for a week, you haven’t gotten a hang of it, then abandon it. Either look at alternatives (which may include other apps, or non-technology items like pen and paper, or a string around your finger), or come back another time when you may have more time.
The outcome you are looking for is increased productivity. If you’re not finding that, then there’s no sense proceeding.
If you would like further advice on how you may use any of the apps I’ve mentioned, or if you have tips of your own, please add it to the comment section below and contribute to the discussion.
To your productivity…