It’s a common misconception that the more technology we use at work, the more productive we are. Not so. The secret is selecting the right tools for you – simple tools which give back far more time than they take to use. The best gadgets, apps and plug-ins can help you keep track of where your time goes, stay focused, get more done and be happier at work. These are some of our favourite tech tools for a happy, productive work day:
Tools for Tracking Your Time
Here’s a somewhat shocking fact: many people overestimate the time they spend working by up to 25 hours a week. The average officer worker is productive for a mere 3-4 hours a day (the rest of the time goes on social media, staring into space, making coffee etc.) The problem with misjudging the time we spend getting work done is not that we should put in more hours, but that being honest about how productive you are is important. Tracking where your time goes is the ideal way to get a better picture of your day and stop estimating. Two productivity tools which record how your day is spent are:
- Toggl – A nifty little plug-in that allows you to track time spent working, organised by project or client. Toggl is ideal for freelancers and those who bill by the hour. Even if your work is away from a computer, the phone app can be used on the go. Toggl also integrates with other sites, such as Google Docs and Todoist. The downside is that you have to remember to manually stop and start the timer (although reminders and timers can be set up.)
- Rescue Time – Unsure where your time goes online? RescueTime is the perfect solution. This browser extension shows the exact time you spend on each site per day, your total time online and what percentage of it was productive. The benefit of RescueTime is that all the tracking is automated and you can set goals.
Tools for Staying Focused
The average person now spends the equivalent of 5 years and 4 months on social media throughout their life- that is how long it would take to fly to the moon and back 32 times! The chances are high that a good chunk of that time is during work hours. Imagine how much less stressful work would be if you could stay focused all day and get the job done without nagging tasks spilling over into the evening. Relying on willpower to stay off distracting sites at work is tricky, so here are two tools to make focusing easy:
- Cold Turkey – If self-control isn’t enough to keep you off distracting sites, Cold Turkey takes away the need for willpower. Make a list of all the sites you waste time on, enter your work schedule and that’s it – no more distractions during those hours. Unlike other similar tools, Cold Turkey impossible to circumnavigate. A useful feature is Cold Turkey Writer. Set how many words you need to write and it will refuse to let you click off a blank document until the job is done.
- StayFocusd – The name says it all. If blocking social media altogether sounds too harsh, Stayfocusd allows you to set a daily time limit on distracting sites. So, if you plan to take a 5-minute break for Facebook each hour at work, you can set a 40 minute daily time limit. Stayfocusd also gives you the option of blocking certain parts of websites. If you use a certain subreddit for research you can leave it unblocked, while banning the rest of Reddit. It also includes a nuclear option, where you can ban yourself from the entire internet, or all save a few websites for a certain time.
Tools for Planning your Day
The adage is true – fail to plan and you plan to fail. A well organised plan for each day is the key to getting lots of work done, with minimal stress. The benefits of a schedule are myriad; it helps you keep on track, get the most important tasks done and avoid missing deadlines. A good plan can also help you keep a healthy work/life balance.
- Fantastical 2 – An iPhone app that enables you to plan your day using voice recognition. The reminders and clear week view ensure you stick to your plans.
- Todoist – One of the simplest, most intuitive tools for task management. Todoist is quick to use, and available online or as an app. Organised by importance and due date, tasks go in different categories and project folders. Todoist makes it easy to know what to work on first, and to prepare for upcoming deadlines.
Tools for Staying Happy
Once again, the usefulness of technology depends on how you use it. It can make you stressed and unfocused, or it can help you to build positive habits and stay happy at work.
- Calm – Meditation is proven to have unique value for physical and mental health. The Calm app offers a range of types of meditation and breathing exercises, starting at just 1 minute long. During short breaks, or while commuting on the train or bus, a guided meditation is a wonderful way to relax.
- Gratitude Journal – Sometimes it only takes something small to improve our happiness. Research has shown that expressing gratitude each day is one such technique. The Gratitude Journal app reminds you to list 3 things you feel grateful for each day.
Tools for Getting More Done, Faster
Now that we have looked at planning, staying focused, happy, and tracking time, here are some tools for speeding up everyday work tasks.
- Equil Smartpen – A digital pen which syncs your on paper notes to Evernote, Dropbox or iCloud. Smartpens are a game changer for those who prefer to brainstorm or take notes by hand, but want to have a digital backup. Sending your ideas to other people is made simpler, free from the bother of scanning or trying to take a picture.
- Wocket – A smart wallet which replaces all your credit, debit, loyalty, and business cards with one card which can be used in almost any shop.If rooting around in a messy wallet for the right card wastes your time, Wocket might be the solution. Plus, no one except you can access it and everything is backed up to avoid the hassle of losing a wallet.
- Textexpander – Typing out similar text (such as emails to customers) multiple times a day can be a real pain. A number of textexpander tools are available for mobile and desktop. Just a few keystrokes turn into the longer text you need.
- Process Street – Process Street can be used to make checklists for recurring tasks and projects. The guesswork is taken away and important details don’t get forgotten. It’s also helpful for group projects or outsourcing.
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