That’s how many hours you have in a day. But the number of tasks on your imaginary to-do list outnumber these hours 5 to 1.
Work, pending projects, chores, spending time with your partner, movies, shopping, social media status updates… the list can go on.
Time is always against you. No matter how much you do, you keep lagging. In fact, you often feel like you haven’t really gone anywhere. You want to move forward like a tiger. Instead, you feel like a guinea pig running on a wheel.
What if I said that this feeling of helplessness is self-induced, that it’s time to get help?
Don’t worry, I am not talking about psychiatric help. Instead, this help is from the one thing we covet most today – technology.
Productivity is often misunderstood as the ability to do more. People pride themselves over working ridiculously long hours. However, according to Tim Metz, while our stereotype image of elite achievers is probably one of chronic busyness, the opposite is often true. Research shows that multitasking kills our productivity by up to 40 percent.
Successful people don’t spread themselves thin. Yes, they work unbelievably hard. But their hard work is invested in specific tasks; tasks that help them move towards their long term goals.
If productivity is about being less busy, how can you break free from the stereotype that your mind has trained itself to follow? Here are some apps which can put you on mono-tasking path, and help you get the most out of each second in life.
According to Harvard Business Magazine, meditation is the practice of improving your moment-by-moment awareness. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that meditation helps in reducing stress and illness, boosts immune systems and improves psychological balance. It helps you to become self aware and be in the present moment. The more you focus in the current moment, the better you perform at the task at hand, and the more contended you feel. Here are 3 apps that will help you get started with meditating and improve productivity:
A free app on iOS and Android which allows you to – well – stay calm. You can choose from a series of backgrounds and sounds (from a flowing river to a rainy forest, a sunny oceanside and more), set a timer, and chill for a few minutes. The free version offers a “7 Days of Calm” guide, where a soothing voice walks you through 10-minute breathing and meditating exercises. Unlocking the 21-day meditation course requires purchases. But even after you have completed the 7-day course, you can return to it again or simply relax with the setting and timer. It’s a brilliant app to start or end your day with.
A paid app which costs less than $2 on the iOS and Android platforms, this app is a wonderful meditation timer. You can train yourself to meditate either in silence, or accompanied by the sound of bells, or with a voice to guide you. You can choose to sit for short or long periods, ‘call yourself up’ to check how you’re doing during a meditation session, and even set ‘Do-you-want-to-meditate-now’ reminders. Yet another brilliant app to start or end your day with.
Headspace’s 10-day starter program is effectively a free meditation course for novices. The app is easy to use and is as good as “a meditation guide in your pocket.” If you don’t want to pay for the full app, the starter program suffices to develop your ability to meditate. This iOS and Android apps are wonderful ways to get started with mindfulness.
The key to being productive is focusing in the moment. With social media, email, and a myriad other distractions, our mind seeks entertainment often, especially if the task at hand is difficult. To train your mind, you must build your mental muscle (physical exercise is highly recommended too). Here are some tools that help your mind become stronger and focused.
Recommended by Harvard Business Review as ‘a new tool for brain workouts’, Lumosity took the world by storm. The website and app feature games which train your mind to focus, think laterally, and develop speed. The paid version personalizes your training program, but the free games are a lot of fun too. With users ranging from 8 to 108 years of age, this is easily the most popular brain training apps.
Do you like plugging your ears while working? How often is the music distracting instead of being helpful? Focus at Will addresses that problem by using playlists of instrumental music to boost your focus. It has various genres to engage users, ranging from classical to up tempo, ADHD, cinematic, focus spa and more. The app can cost between $6.25 to $11.83 per month, but you can get started with a 15-day trial period. The Baroque and Classical music themes were the best in helping me focus and reduce distractions. A must try!
Research states that a typical person is distracted every 11 minutes at office, but it takes 25 minutes to get back into the flow. Taking periodic breaks is a good way to fight distractions and stay focused. The Pomodoro Technique of time management was developed in the 1980s, and this app adheres to the concept. It splits work into 25-minute chunks, followed by a five minute break, followed by another 25-minute chunk. After the fourth Pomodoro, a 15-20 minute break is taken. It sounds stressful, but is hugely effective in helping you focus and become productive.
Eventually, everyone gives into temptation. When you are exhausted, your will power reduces. At such times, it’s easier to do counter productive things like checking email and scrolling through social media. You say, “I’ll just check Facebook for five minutes.” Before you know it, five minutes turn into forty five, and you spent them all watching funny videos and GIFs. To avoid this, download the Chrome extension ‘Go F**king Work’. It lets you block specific websites for a predefined amount of time. This way, you stay disciplined even if you want into temptation. Alternately, you can try the Self Control app for a MacIntosh.
An amazing visual, browser based app, Mindmup helps you create outlines. Whether you want to break a task down into smaller steps, or create an outline for writing a post, or prepare a roadmap for the team, Mindmup lets you all of it with remarkable ease. According to Forbes, this boosts creativity because large pictorial networks mirror the way our brains work, making it easier to spot connection and insert new ideas. You can also download your maps in PDF form or upload them on your Google Drive, thus enhancing collaboration with others when needed.
Dreamdays is an app that enables you to count down in days, months, and years to the events that matter. Tap on your countdown and you can toggle through these timeframe views. Once the timer has finished counting down to a particular event, it counts up. This means that you can track how many days or months (hopefully not years) have passed since the scheduled date. It’s a good way for you to track deadlines and stay on course. There are default categories like Anniversary, Birthdays etc. But customized events can also be created quickly.
The human mind wasn’t made to handle many thoughts at once. Even if we pressurized it over time, the mind hasn’t become adept at multitasking (remember the 40 percent productivity drop?). To be good at what you do, you must cut distractions out and focus on tasks at hand.
Being present in the moment lets you become better at work. But it also improves your relationships substantially. When you have done your best, it’s easier to switch off and spend quality time with those close to you, or pursue hobbies.
So go on. Train your mind. Spend ten minutes a day meditating (start with five). Use technology to block out the very distractions that it created. Build your mental strength. Gradually, this workout will pay off by increasing your focus and resilience. You deserve a better life than the one you are living. So go out and get it.