Five Apps That Will Turbo-Charge Productivity
Technology often gets blamed for reducing productivity. It creates incredibly tempting distractions that take us away from focused work and lead us down black holes of time that we will never get back. But when used for good, technology can help us do a great day’s work. There are five stand out apps that can have a huge impact on productivity:
I am an email addict. I could happily spend all day in my inbox. I love the sense of progress I get from reading and replying to a ton of emails in a short space of time. But I also know that being in my inbox is generally not getting me any closer to achieving the bigger and most important work goals I have set for myself. So rather than try to resist temptation, I simply remove it with Inbox Pause.
Inbox Pause, as the name suggests, pauses your inbox so that you can only read and send emails, but none will be received until you give Inbox Pause permission for the flood gates open. It puts you back in control. I love Inbox Pause because it stops my inbox feeling like a game of Whack-a-Mole, where I am trying to respond to all incoming mail as quickly as possible.
If you want to step things up a notch, check out Freedom. Freedom allows you to block yourself from accessing certain websites and applications, or if you are game, the entire internet. You simply decide when you want to get deep, focused work done, and Freedom blocks you out of all potential distractions.
I’ve found for myself that while my willpower is strong in the morning and I can generally avoid digital distractions, afternoons were much harder. After using Freedom to lock myself out of Gmail and other distracting and addictive websites between 1-4 pm every day, I was able to be far more productive in my afternoons.
To get the most out of Freedom, reflect on when you are most susceptible to digital distractions such as email and social media, and set Freedom to lock you out of these sites during these times. And if you think you might end up wanting to hack the system simply, you can use "Locked Mode" which literally makes it impossible for you to switch off a Freedom session prematurely.
After being a diehard Newton fan for my email, I was devastated when it closed its doors a few months ago. I tried a bunch of different email apps, none of which were anywhere near as good. I then sadly reverted to Gmail. So you can probably imagine how delighted I was when a guest on my podcast How I Work, Tim Kendall, told me about Superhuman.
Superhuman claims to be the fastest email experience ever made. But not only is it super speedy, but it is also beautiful, and feature-packed with things that make attacking my inbox easier. It uses artificial intelligence to bring your most important emails to the top of your inbox, contains all the shortcuts you could ever wish for, and even presents insights on the person you are emailing.
My favourite shortcut so far is that Superhuman lets you automatically move a sender to BCC for emails where an introduction is being made. While this only saves me about 30 seconds in practice, this feature brings me an inordinate amount of joy every time I use it.
In the past, I have struggled to find a good calendar app. While aesthetically, there were several that were an improvement on Google Calendar, I found they didn't provide a significantly better experience. At least I felt this way until I discovered Woven.
Woven uses artificial intelligence to help you schedule meetings. For meetings out of the office, it calculates travel time and automatically puts this into your diary. Woven even has a virtual assistant that helps you schedule meetings with others.
A huge source of distraction and procrastination for me used to be reading articles that people sent me. I would then inevitably open up or follow a spider’s web of other links that would be referenced within the article, and I'd end up having 34 tabs of articles open to read. While this made for entertaining procrastination, it made my days far less productive.
To solve this problem, I started using Pocket. Pocket lets you save any links or articles using a browser plug-in, and then, when you have some spare time, you can open your Pocket on your phone, tablet or computer, and dip into articles you had saved earlier.
Pocket is an excellent research tool but also makes for a nice way to pass the time when waiting in line for a coffee. Far better than mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.
If one of your new year's resolutions is to optimize your workdays more effectively, think about trying out one or more of the above applications, and you'll be saving time in no time.