Just like the Starbucks mug merrily sloshing in your center console, the pace of modern life could be figuratively causing your cup, to run over. We are constantly asked to work on multiple projects while remembering our schedules, follow up with our team members while answering email, and plan ahead while the phone is ringing. Our brains are only human; it’s easy to stress over capability overload.
When deadlines or meetings are missed, we often chalk it up to a bad day, when in reality we might just be asking our brains to do too much. It turns out that because of the way humans mentally process events and reminders, the little stuff can have just as much weight as more important reminders or events. Fortunately, simple and smart productivity apps can take the weight of the little things off our minds, and allow us to have more productive, stress-free days.
First off—prioritize. As you’re browsing apps, think in terms of what will help jog your memory, aid in communication with others, or make managing your time easier. Ask yourself whether a hack could take care of an automation that doesn’t require human touch, or make important materials available on-the-go.
Here are four easy-to-implement tactics anyone can use to harness technology and improve your productivity:
Set Calendar Reminders for Every Short-Term Goal
Missed meetings or blown deadlines are only two of the downsides of not putting things on your calendar. The real productivity zapper is the fact that you’re always having to remind yourself about upcoming appointments or projects, which can distract you from the task at hand.
Liberate your mind from all of these distractions by putting your tasks for the day into a calendar with automatic reminders. Simple cross-platform apps worth a browse include Sunrise and Google Calendar. For help easily scheduling appointments, interviews and meetings, try downloading Calendly. This app allows you to send out a link to your calendar so recipients can view your availability and book themselves into your schedule.
You can also use calendar reminders to check back in on projects you have emailed to colleagues, as well as for personal reminders to make sure an immediate project is on track. Calvetica is great for this. It allows you to check off tasks as they are completed.
Keep an Idea or Project List on Your Smartphone
You don’t want medium or long-range projects cluttering up your daily calendar. Instead, set up a project list to refer to for ongoing goals and tasks. Your smartphone’s notepad will help keep you on track. To further breakdown the to-dos, Begin may be helpful. Like that sticky note or scrap paper you keep around to scrawl reminders, this app enables you to categorize tasks based on time needs. Unlike paper methods, you have no fear of losing your to-do list to clutter or a coworker who’s overzealous about recycling.
Project and idea lists are great to review when you have downtime while traveling or in between meetings. Having the list on your smartphone and at your fingertips allows you to add to it, review it, or revise it when a great idea pops into your mind or some spare time falls into your lap.
Check Subject Lines and Sender Before Diving into Email
Email can be the greatest communication tool or a total distraction depending on how you use it. Constantly scanning emails and answering them can throw you off task and break your rhythm. Pace how often you check your emails to every half hour, or even hour. Use email wisely by scanning the sender and the subject line before diving into email. If you know it can wait based on those two items, don’t even open it. Continue working on the task at hand. Don’t get distracted. Only interrupt your workflow for urgent email.
For an all-inclusive email productivity tool, check out the app Sidekick. It enables you to track when people are opening your emails, as well as to view in-depth profiles on the people opening them. If you tend to send and respond to emails from your bed at two in the morning, or send emails with timely material, you can schedule when you want emails to be sent.
Have All the Tools at Your Disposal to be Productive On the Go
Google Apps are a great all-around hack for general productivity needs when you’re on-the-go. They sync in real time with your online calendar, files and emails so you can stay informed and organized. For larger files, like videos, high resolution photos and project files, invest in a storage plan with Dropbox and download their app.
If you’re more familiar with airport terminals than your local streets, it’s time to simplify traveling to-dos, like printing tickets and checking your flight status. Download the apps for the airlines you commonly use. On iPhone devices, you can set your passbook to lock on your home screen so all you have to do is swipe and scan to get through an entire airport with just your phone and ID.