Five simple ways to be more productive
From shopping lists to fitness, you don't need a personal assistant to organise your life. Just make the most of these smartphone apps...
A to-do list with everything ticked off, a clear diary and time to yourself – it might sound like a dream come true, but it can be easily achieved thanks to the latest helpful new apps and products. Here are five simple ways tech can help increase your productivity at work and at home.
The power of lists
It may seem obvious, but a to-do list is a good place to start if you’re looking for ways to be more productive. And to save you carrying a notebook around with you, download user-friendly apps that sync automatically across your devices. As well as the options that come pre-loaded on your phone – Reminders for Apple users and Google Tasks for Android – there are some great free apps available, including Wunderlist, Google Keep and Trello. You can create multiple lists within the same app, which lets you prioritise must-do tasks for that day, as well as further into the future. And yes, it’s fine to add something you’ve already done to your list just so you can have the pleasure of ticking it off…
Share the load
Most to-do apps also let you share lists with others, which brings us to another useful productivity tip: delegation. Sharing a shopping list with an app like AnyList on your smartphone is a great way to start – one member of the household can continue to add last-minute items while another is already browsing the aisles. Shared calendars are invaluable too, especially for busy families – there’ll be no more arguing over scheduling clashes, and you can link tasks to calendar entries, such as shopping for presents before an upcoming birthday. Clever calendars such as Google Calendar and TimeTree let you assign each family member a different colour, see at a glance what’s coming up, and set reminders for important events.
How many of us get distracted during the day by scrolling through social media and news sites? If your phone isn’t essential for work calls, try setting the ‘do not disturb’ function for a set period of time each day. You can even select certain numbers who can still get through when the feature is on. If you have to be contactable at all times, try switching off push notifications for things like personal emails, texts and WhatsApp, and only check for new messages in designated time slots. If you find it difficult to resist temptation, you could even remove social media apps from your phone and just keep them on your home computer, or block access to certain websites.
Take a break
We all know the importance of taking regular breaks during the work day, but many of us find it hard to get round to. Popping out for a 10-minute walk around the block at lunch not only helps to get the body moving and clear the mind, but has also been proven to improve productivity once you’re back at your desk. Activity trackers and smart watches such as Fitbit and Apple Watch come with handy built-in reminders that encourage you to get up and move. To help make good habits stick, the Streaks app is great – you can set customised daily tasks, such as 10 minutes of mindfulness or simply taking a proper lunch break every day, and keep tabs on your progress.
For the ultimate in joined-up efficiency, check out IFTTT.com. Short for If This, Then That, it’s a system that gets all your technology working together to simplify and streamline your life. You simply sign up for a free account, then there’s a world of time-saving actions to discover, from setting your Philips Hue smart light bulbs to come on when your Fitbit recognises you’ve woken up, to asking Alexa to turn down the temperature on your Nest thermostat.