Tools to Increase Productivity and Save Time

Tools to Increase Productivity and Save Time
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

I’m stepping away from my usual post on digital marketing to share some of the tools that I use to increase my productivity and save time. (None of the links are affiliate ; I’m sharing them simply because they’re helpful to me.)

Public Google Calendar I don’t like to go back and forth over email trying to find a time to meet. I’ll either ask somebody for their calendar link or I’ll send my public Google Calendar to get something scheduled. (There are other tools you might try, such as YouCanBookMe or Calendly.) 

Freedom App When I had trouble concentrating or found myself procrastinating, my tendency was to start clicking on mindless websites (even though I knew better). When it’s time to take a break, I know that means to stop away from technology and not put more stuff in my brain. But I also know it’s easier to want to break a habit than to actually do it. With Freedom, I block entertainment, news, clickbait, etc. sites that previously would serve as distractions. Since I was mindlessly clicking on autopilot, Freedom became a guardrail, so if I automatically went to a distracting site, it supported my desire to get rid of a bad habit. I locked my session, so I can’t easily turn it off. Although my habits have improved, I continue to use it and do still allow some mindless surfing, but only at certain times of the day.

LeechBlock. I used this for a while before I started using the paid Freedom app. If I recall correctly,  it was too easy to turn it off. When I was starting out with my behavior change, I didn’t yet have the discipline to not turn off my blocker. 

Use a tool for group meetings.  Never-ending emails or text messages about scheduling drains my soul. If I’m scheduling a group, I’ll use a tool  like needtomeet, StrawPoll, or Doodle so everyone can enter their availability. ( If I’m trying to coordinate with one person and there’s an infinite texting loop coming on, I use my phone the old fashioned way and call the person. People get weirded out about that, but I’m not going to send a dozen texts when it can be resolved quickly by a two- minute voice call.) 

Boomerang has several good features. One is pausing your inbox. If you need to find a specific email, you’re not distracted by the new messages that have come in. Another feature is to set a reminder. If I need a response, I set a reminder to follow up with that person in a specific amount of time, which brings the message back to my inbox as “unread.” This way, I’m letting Boomerang do the remembering for me and saving space in my brain. 

Check email less. I am not that interested in email, so this is easy for me. I find it overstimulating, and if I go back and forth from work to email, I’m switch tasking. It taxes the brain and wastes time. But in order to do this for work, I had to set expectations. Below the signature on my work email, I have a statement to let people know I don’t check email much, but I will aim to get back to people within one day. This way, people know that the norm is for me to not respond right away. (If I’m in the midst of a high priority or complicated project, I might be on email more often, but that’s not the usual thing for me.) If you’re in a workplace where the norm is to respond to email immediately, share some of the research about switch tasking, so the higher-ups understand that you’ll get more done if you’re not constantly responding to email.

Set your devices to black and white mode.  When I do allow myself the time to surf news and entertainment, I usually do so on my tablet, and I have it set to grayscale mode. When it’s set to grayscale, I can look up whatever I am curious about, but the lack of color is less appealing to my brain, so I surf less . There’s been mixed research about this, but fortunately, this is one of those things that won’t cost you anything and doesn’t have any side effects. (On the rare occasion my phone is even on me, it is also set to black and white all the time. I can look up what I need, like an address, and not get sucked in to whatever Taylor Swift was wearing that day.)

Leave your phone in the car. If you want to break your habit of reaching for your phone during downtime, make it less accessible. When you go to the grocery store, bring a list on paper. Then there’s no reason to have your phone while you’re in the store for 15 minutes. Instead of relying on your Bible app in church, bring an old-fashioned paper Bible to reduce digital distractions. Similar to Freedom, it reinforces the behavior you want to change.  (When I’m home, my phone is in my kitchen drawer. Seriously. My friends know that an immediate response just isn’t going to happen.)

These tools really are worth trying out. It frees up time for me to NOT be online. If you’re interested in learning more  about how digital use impacts how you work and how you feel, there’s a short Digital Wellbeing talk I did at Google on YouTube.

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