4 Tools to become a Productivity Ninja at Work

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Every day when I drive back from work, I ask myself two questions
  • What was productivity level today compared to the previous day ( Did I level up/ down / same) ?
  • How satisfied I was at my own work and what would I do differently the next day?
An honest answer for the above two most of the days was not satisfactory for my own conscience. Majority of the days I felt, I could have done something more/ different. It would have been good we get everyday ticker like a stock market like going up are down based on every day trading which clearly called out how we performed that day. But that is a nightmare as well, would have resulted in additional stress at work.
Coming to the Key point of this post – Productivity. When I looked at my own productivity regularly – the biggest time suckers on a work day were because of my own behaviors.  I would group them under three heads
  • Multitasking – doing too many tasks at the same time which result in lower quality of work across.
  • Switching – In snail mail days, we know when a post would arrive everyday and it was easier to check for posts only during that time of the day. But with emails, social feeds there is flurry of info all the time ( though most of them are junk), I have started to check emails / messages too often. This is like another addiction. This goes with Skinner’s operant conditioning experiments with rats – where he found rats work much harder when the rewards are unpredictable. With the new medium of email / social feed, we tend to expect some juicy gossip / information( reward) and tend to check again and again. It is like posting a status update, and checking facebook often to see how many people like it or commented on it. But the because time killer in addition to checking these often is Switching cost. When I switch from work to something like emails / social feed, I lose context on what I am working and it takes about 5-10 minutes to gain that context again on the work I have been doing. This was pulling my productivity even more.
  • Prioritization– this is like trying to hit every day work inside outlook/ mail box. When we get a email I start working on that without prioritizing on a checklist or a sense of direction.
So I decided to use some tools to help me more productive over the last one year. And definitely it has  shown significant improvement in my own productivity.  Here are some of them -
  1. Make lists, no war : Workflowy – This is the only one open in my browser all the time across devices. My phone /  laptop browser. This is a very effective tool to make checklists, track them and also organize your own project with its zoom-in and zoom out function. I have my personal tasks / work tasks. This has a simple design and a web based tool, with a cool interactive design.  For tracking tasks/ checklist – this is a great tool for you to give a try.
  2. Get yourself Cold Turkey during office hours. This is a simple background program that runs to block my distractions – like Facebook, personal email , news feeds etc. You can choose the websites to block and the hours you want to block in a day in advance. Once it is set, you cant go and stop it unless you uninstall that program. On my core hours I have moved away from using all those distracting sites and have at least saved me from  switching cost.  ( I did not switch to doing anything else in the last 30 minutes I took to write to this post as well :)
  3. Just get F.lux  - The nature of work nowadays is more and more in front of a computer and you are watching direct light everyday. This excites my eyes before sleeping, and it took a considerable amount of time to fall asleep even if go to bed. To avoid this,use flux – which is a free software that warms up your computer display at night, to match your indoor lighting and also it matches with the sunrise and sunset timings. You can disable selectively if you are doing some color sensitive work sometimes. It did improve my sleep pattern.
  4.  One Note – Not to mention , this is one app I use a lot across my phone / laptop for taking notes on anything I want , even like grocery list, map / address to some place, and notes of any meetings. You can organize them well like notebooks, sections and papers.  You can search notes across notebooks, as I read I snip some info to one note, even print some info directly to one note and access across devices.
I would say these 4 apps are some of the most often used app for me that has helped my overall productivity from my personal experience. There are better alternatives for them and also some things I would have missed it feel free to comment them. 

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