Increase Productivity: Start getting MORE done TODAY with these 5 Tools & Habits

Aim: Increase productivity.

BZZZZRRRRR……….

This shrill sound of the alarm usually wakes me up at 8am. Irritated, deprived of sleep, I usually jump straight onto my iPad next to my bed to check if I’ve had any new leads. I then spend about 15 more minutes checking yesterday’s stats for the client websites.

Then I get my breakfast ready, feed the cats (yes, I am a cat person) and get started with coding. Often when I am coding, I hop on to Google Plus, Twitter or Stack Exchange to see if there has been any activity on my comments or posts. I also keep a regular check on my inbox and respond to anything that needs answering.

By about 4PM, my partner is back from her office, I ask her if her day was OK, when asked the same – I say – yes I coded the entire day while realising that my output could have been better.

That was me five years ago.

Just out of the corporate environment, not used to micro management and an INTP. Not the best combination of factors if you ask me.

It was very apparent to me that I need some help to increase my productivity as such a chaotic routine was not good enough if I was to achieve my long term goals. Over the course of time, I started spotting my weaknesses & notorious habits.

I was able to take care of them by integrating these 5 tools with my workspace. I developed some habits as well but I’ll get to habits in the second half of this post. Without further ado, here they are:

1. Social media blocker

Persistence, Cold Turkey

If you frequently comment on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Reddit, you would know what a time killer it can be. That strategically placed red message box -attention magnet- that you want to see every time you visit your Facebook not only gets you to click on it but also leaves you wanting to come back for more of it. Luckily, we have tools like Persistence and Cold Turkey that live up to their names. If you find yourself visiting a website too frequently, it’s time to add that website to your blacklist.

Cold Turkey is available for Windows and Linux and it allows you to block any site for x amount of days during particular hours.

Persistence on the other hand does not have an option to block during specific hours but lets you block the websites you desire for up to 30 days. Unfortunately, Persistence is now an abandonware and is not available to download for mac and hence I have hosted a copy on my server.

You can download Persistence here.

A note to the author of Persistence: The Creative Commons – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License permits me to share and distribute this software but if you do not like this, please contact me and I shall take it down immediately 🙂

2. Task manager – Todoist

Everything becomes a lot easier if you work on one task at a time. Todoist is a fantastic task manager app that lets you jot down every single idea that you can work upon at a later date. Everytime I uncheck a task, I still get that feeling of satisfaction.

Alternatively, you can also use evernote, wanderlust, a simple text editor or a good old notebook to record your tasks.

Measure your daily output with:

3. Word Counter / Typing Master Pro

As they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. WordCounter is going to be your companion in measuring your productivity. It’s not an ideal way of doing so since the amount of words written is not always an ideal measure of productivity but it is what I use to gather the stats on the amount of code I have written. If you can think of a better way, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

If you are a writer or your job’s ultimate ultimate output can be measured in the amount of words you’ve written at the end of a day, congratulations! these tools are perfect for you.

Windows alternative: I used Typing Master Pro while in college, using windows and quite liked it. It’s an excellent tool that shows you your weak keys and a lot more interesting stats to make your touch typing interesting. If you have any recommendations for windows, please leave a comment below.

4. Text Expander, password utility

If you find yourself writing the same emails again and again, Text expander is a handy utility that lets you create custom plain and formatted, rich text snippets that you can copy into an application of your liking. Over the course of a month it saves you at least 4 hours worth of time which is worth $300 if you are charging $75 an hour. I use it for emails, coding, adding current date, phone numbers, credit card details and what not. For an year, it adds up to $3600.

For windows, you can use Phrase Express that does the job just as well.

A dedicated password manager like lastpass or 1password is also quite useful since you do not have to save the non-browser passwords in a separate file on your desktop every time you are sign up for a new application.

5. Limit your Phone usage

Moment ( iOS ) / Quality Time (Android)

A survey revealed that 25% of the people can not recall the last time they didn’t have their phone next to them.  For all the smart phone addicts, it is just as important as blocking social media to limit the use of their phones.

Apps like Moment and Quality Time allow you to keep a track of the amount of time you are spending on your phone.

Habits

These tools alone will help you improve your productivity. If you would like to go an extra mile, combine these tools with following five habits to get the best out of the time spent on your desk.

1. Have long term goals and short term goals

Having goals is an important component of measuring your progress. Goal setting gives you a clear sense of purpose. Goals help you transform inhumane marathons into walkable, short distances. Having said that, it is just as important to set the goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed. Also known as the SMART Goals.

2. Work in short Sessions. Take a regular break after every session.

A science daily release reported a study that reveals how ‘brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods’. This is exactly what we have planned here. Working in the bursts of 90 minutes and then taking a short break. Not only did this help me concentrate on the task at hand more but also helped me intensify the effort as I knew there was a break coming soon.

3. Don’t open your browser, email or IM client while doing these sessions.

The entire purpose of splitting your workday into smaller chunks is to increase concentration. Every time you browse a trivial site, there’s a lapse in concentration on the task at hand and it takes way longer to get to that same state of concentration that you were at than what it took you to lose it.

Do not check your site stats, shares very often. As much as it feels like some miraculous event might have taken place between now and when you last checked them, the chances of that happening are very low (sorry for being a downer but it’s true).

Resist these tempting traps of minuscule significance. Your project is the only thing of any significance to your long term goals. Everything else can wait, EVERYTHING.

I heard Derren Rowse (well known Australian blogger) say not so long ago — Your future is defined a lot by your state of mind and activities at this very moment and not by what you have planned.

Your future is defined a lot by your state of mind and activities at this very moment {...} Click to Tweet

4. Set small goals for every session.

Goal setting is important. The sense of accomplishment that you get from completing a goal is priceless and will ignite your productive fire in every next session.

Set small goals. It can be something as simple as: completing the documentation of the software you are working on, debugging 5 bugs or replying to all the unanswered e-mails and comments on your company’s local directory pages.

5. Do not procrastinate.

There are several approaches to tackle this if you look it up. I have however found (in my very limited social engagements) that the chances of procrastination increase if you are a perfectionist. As lame as it sounds, lower your standards. A lot of people do not get something done simply because they are too afraid their product page isn’t polished enough.

Additional tool:

Timer
You can also use your iphone stopwatch to time your sessions.

Results and conclusion:

By the virtue of these tools and habits, I was able to increase my average daily productivity (the volume of code produced everyday) by 67%. The results may vary in your case depending on how much of social media you were using.

As per this study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes just 66 days to form a habit. Sorry but that 21 day thingamajig, if you’ve heard of it, is just a myth. If you can continue with this for a few months, it’ll be just a matter of time that all these behavioral changes are a second nature to you. As a result you will become more productive than what you were before reading this article for the rest of your life.

What are your favorite productivity programs and habits? Please share with us in the comments section.

Good luck.

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