Technology offers us so many ways to get organized and stay organized and increase our productivity.
On the other hand, there are thousands of apps, extensions, and add-ons that claim to boost productivity or solve common problems, and dozens of personal productivity systems like Getting Things Done, the Pomodoro method, Kanban, and Inbox Zero.
Each of them has its merits, but there isn’t time to try them all and figure out which is the best for you.
In order to choose the best personal productivity tool, you first need to clarify a few things in your mind.
Identify What Your Biggest Time Wasters or Roadblocks Are
Evaluate your habits and look for your personal obstacles.
- Do you spend too much time distracted by group chats and social media on your phone?
- Do you spend hours a day reading emails that don’t impact your productivity?
- Do you have too many interruptions from incoming messages, calls, or questions to focus on your work?
Identifying Your Time Wasters Will Help You Narrow Down Your Choices
Identify how much change you are willing to do. Implementing a system like GTD or Inbox Zero requires a tremendous change in how you structure your work and manage your emails.
When done in the workplace, a system like that will be noticeable to your colleagues and coworkers, and you may have to explain your new system to them.
Your new personal productivity tool may require a lot of setups to implement, and a lot of work to maintain.
If you aren’t willing to invest that much time, it’s good to be clear at the outset.
Identify What Success Would Look Like for You
It’s best if you have a specific vision of what your goals are. Some examples might be:
- Only spend an hour a day on email
- Stop missing deadlines or delaying the output of your team
- Getting work done within working hours
While it might be nice to have apps that silence notifications, lock devices, manage to-do lists, give location-specific reminders, or plan your meal prep for a week, if they don’t move you toward your goal, those apps may themselves be distractions that don’t increase your productivity.
Keep the bigger picture in mind.
Once you’ve identified what you need a personal productivity tool to do for you, and how you will judge success, you are ready to start evaluating specific apps.
When choosing the best personal productivity tool, here are the things you should look for.
Existing Lists and Blogs
Sites like Mashable, Lifehacker, and Business Insider often have excellent lists of productivity apps, with brief descriptions of what they do, how they work, and how well they work.
Current User Reviews and Ratings
Don’t just look at the overall star rating. Read the top-most helpful reviews, and the bottom-most helpful review.
It’s possible that another user will have identified a bug or feature that is a deal-breaker or deal-maker for you.
Try Apps One at a Time
When trying to maximize your productivity, it’s best to adopt one change at a time so you can truly evaluate the results.
The best personal productivity tool will be:
- Simple and intuitive to use. You should be able to understand the basic features and functions within a half-hour of playing around with it.
- It should include an easy, visual reference system, whether that is color-coding or intuitive sorting. You shouldn’t have to spend a long time re-reading your own information.
- It should be flexible enough to adapt to your workflow, your thinking, and your priorities.
- You shouldn’t have to use one app for managing your calendar, another for managing your email, and another for managing your tasks and to-dos. These things are closely interrelated aspects of your overall productivity and should be managed in coordination with each other.
Once you’ve found a tool that has the right features, and you enjoy using it, try it out for a week or two and evaluate the results.
If it’s working as you hoped, good for you!
If you’ve identified another roadblock or a deal-breaker feature you need, go back and try again.
And, while boosting your own productivity, keep in mind that there are several things you can do to help other people stop wasting their time and get more done.
- Use scheduling tools to schedule meetings and calls, instead of originating a long messy email thread. The right app will allow everyone to independently settle on times that work for them and get the meeting into everyone’s calendar without a lot of discussion and negotiation.
- Use social media. If you are one of those people who still email pictures of your pets or funny jokes you read, don’t. That’s what Facebook is for.
- Use shared documents. Microsoft’s Track Changes + email attachments is an inefficient way to collaborate on a document. Use Google Docs, and MS Office Live to minimize attachments and speed collaboration.
Be mindful that it can be annoying to ask other people to constantly adapt an app in order to communicate with you, but also consider that reduced email volume and more efficient communication is a productivity boost for everyone.
The world of productivity apps is ever-growing and changing, and the need for people to get more done in less time is more important than ever.
Apps are evolving away from single-purpose tools, requiring teams to use a whole suite of specialized apps simply to work together, into more comprehensive, and therefore more useful, personal productivity tools.
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