2013 was all about maximising the number of hours in the day to generate maximum productivity at work, in your own time, in yourself and from your colleagues and team members. 2014 doesn’t look set to be any different. The obsession has, so far, focussed on web- and mobile-based apps, downloadable at the click of a button with clean-looking, user-friendly interfaces that look so inviting upon first inspection.
How many of us, however, download an app with the best intentions of being really productive, and then just have it sit there in our folders, dusty, neglected and unused. It’s a bit like buying a gym membership, investing in new work-out gear, compiling your running playlist, but then you never seem to get round to going. Your shiny new trainers glare at you reproachfully every time you see them in the hall and eventually you banish them to the back of the wardrobe in a fit of guilt and remorse.
Are apps really the best way to increase our productivity?
So many people swear by them, but in the same way as protein shakes are the way to a healthier 2014 for some, they simply won’t work for others. What does it really take to conquer your inner sloth and become a more productive, well-rounded human being in 2014?
Give apps a chance
First of all, there is no harm in downloading a single, free app. If you’ve been resisting the tech movement and have been stubbornly using your smartphone solely for texts and phone calls, or if you’re sceptical about the magic powers of all these apps, why not download an app for free? You’ll be able to see if it’s for you by trying out the concept and seeing how it fits into your everyday routine.
Top 3 taster apps
Almost the poster child of productivity by now is the classic choice of Evernote. The app made headlines recently as influential tech blogger reported some bugs he found in the system, but the company has pledged to fix these failings before long. Evernote is predominantly used to keep your notes, which could take the form of a photo, a piece of formatted text, a voice memo, a web page or a hand-written note. Available for iOS, Android and Windows, the app in its most basic form is free and is great for keeping all your bits and bobs together in one place.
If your work centres on team work and collaboration, then Google Drive is a great place to start. Accessible on just about any device, from tablets to PCs to your mobile, you can create and share documents from anywhere with a web connection. Available on mobile for iOS and Android, Google Drive is free and enables you to edit documents, slide shows and spread sheets either in real-time or online.
Then, of course, there’s the classic to-do list app. No productivity apps list would be complete without one. If productivity’s what you’re after (and in this case, it certainly is), then Todoist is a great way to organise your tasks in a way that works for you. Available on any platform, Todoist allows you to track your productivity with Todoist Karma, so you can view your own personal trends and challenge yourself to work harder and faster. Todoist works whether you’re on or offline so you can stay productive no matter where you are.
No, seriously, apps are not for me
How did people working before 2007 ever get anything done? Is there some lost, long-forgotten secret that they’ve kept with them ever since and never thought to record on the internet? Are apps really the only way to guarantee a more productive New Year?
Studies have shown that by committing an idea to paper increases your chances of remembering that idea later on. A study reported in the Wall Street Journal in 2010 found that as your hand manually produces the stroke of each letter, a significantly larger proportion of your brain’s thinking, language and working memory regions become active, compared to typing.
Jotting down a quick and fleeting notion is also much easier to do on the corner page of your paper diary than on your smartphone, when you have to first focus on drawing up the correct app, adjusting any settings, selecting the date and time and saving the article in the correct file. The fact that you can’t just “save” your new task away (out of sight, out of mind) also means you have to face it in a physical form. The task will stare at you until you complete it, which is psychologically encouraging to get you to do so.
87% of professionals asked by Forrester admitted to supplementing gadgets with paper productivity back in 2011. This suggests that, despite access to digitised lists and calendars, it remains helpful to physically write down and possess our ideas, to-dos and appointments.
3 articles to help you increase productivity without app help
There are some good articles out there teaching us how to be more productive with our time, rather than with our apps. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most insightful and helpful tips to help you maximise productivity without downloading a thing.
This article separates the words “productivity” and “app” and comes up with ways to really use your time more effectively. It focuses more on how you live through your days than what you write down.
A quick-fire list from Forbes tells you straight-out what activities you need to be doing to make sure you are the most productive you can be.
If all you’re after is an effective, fool-proof way to keep your to-do lists effective and efficient, then Jacqueline Wolven’s article is a quick and easy read with tips for really getting it done.