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Over the past 5 years I’ve turned into quite the productivity junkie. Mostly out of necessity. Managing college, building a business, a rigorous exercise and nutrition regimen and trying to have a social life, will make you appreciate how short 24 hours really is.
It’s no secret that working harder is critical to success with any venture. But as responsibility increased, my free time decreased, making smart work equally important as hard work.
This had lead me to what I’m about to share. Numerous productivity tips (“hacks” is a word I don’t like) that I’ve broken down into 4 major categories; distractions, structure/routine, health and social. Within each of these categories I’ll share an app, mindset, habit or anything else that helped me increase productivity.
Part one will include tips to avoid distractions
For me, identifying and eliminating distractions is the easiest way to increase productivity. Nearly every time I find myself in a work or study flow, distractions are minimal. When distractions are high, I find it terribly difficult to produce quality work, even if all other factors are in my favor.
Rescue Time App - for Computer
In order to eliminate, you first must be aware of your distractions and their magnitude. Rescue Time is an application that allows users to track their time spent on a computer, but more importantly, where that time is being spent. For most of us, a few days with this app will make you hyper aware of how much time you waste online. Once you’re aware of the specific websites you can then set goals to decrease your time on them next week. Rescue Time sends emails each Sunday with your report and comparing it to the last.
A look at my day so far.
The app will track which website you’re currently using, categorize it, then create a “productivity” score for the given time frame. You can personalize the app by changing which websites are labeled as productive or distracting.This would be helpful if some traditional distraction websites, like YouTube or Facebook are actually work places for you. I spend a good amount of time on Facebook interacting with MyoBrain clients in our private group, so I don’t consider that distracting time. More on how I "hack" Facebook for maximal productivity below.
Below is a weekly overview. Good to compare what time of day and which days are your most productive. Also good to compare week to week scores.
Moment App - for iPhone
“Moment” is similar to Rescue Time, but for your phone. Although it won't provide the details that Rescue Time does, it does track time of day used and daily usage. I’ve only used this for a few weeks and do not have the paid version, which I’m sure has added features.
These stats aren’t a great predictor of your productivity, since it will log all phone time used. Time like listening to a podcast while driving or jamming to music during a workout, but I’ve still found it useful. These apps work for productivity much like any physical activity device does (think FitBit), as it makes users aware of their steps and prompts them to move more.
Do Not Disturb Function on iPhone
Speaking of phones, we waste a lot of time on them. How many times have you meant to only respond to a single text and somehow winded up scrolling through Instagram for 10 minutes? The iPhone has a lot of cool shit, but maybe none cooler than the “do not disturb” button. If your overstimulated soul isn’t aware, it’s the moon icon next to bluetooth and WiFi when you swipe up on the lock screen. The do not disturb function doesn’t stop your phone from getting messages, calls or notifications, but it won’t ring, vibrate or even pop up on the screen. The phone will operate normally if you wish to use it, but you won’t be distracted by it every 5 minutes with group texts and ESPN alerts.
Because I’m a little extreme and seriously don’t like being distracted, my phone is on do not disturb most of the day. Sometimes several days at a time. Unless I’m expecting an important call/message. No social media post, text or Snapchat is that damn urgent to me. If I’m curious, all I have to do is tap my phone to check.
If you’re studying or working on something creative, it needs to be on do not disturb. Thoughts need to linked together. Not only for better quality cognition, but also to complete the given task faster.
At the very least don’t have push notifications on for apps like Instagram and SnapChat. Don’t kid yourself. You suck at multi-tasking and every time something else grabs your attention it’s more difficult to find the flow again.
Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator
This was a game changer for me. I am not a Facebook hater and you’ll never see me with one of those lengthy posts announcing my retirement from it. Call me crazy, but I like being able to communicate with people all around the world in an instant.
But we all know about the dark side of Facebook. If we all just logged in, check a few notifications and then went about the day it wouldn’t be a problem, but that damn newsfeed gets you.
It’s a revolving attention grabber. A cop did what?? She’s pregnant, again!? And maybe a few cute animal videos. Using Rescue Time will make you aware of how much time you spend on Facebook, but the newsfeed eradicator will create an environment to organically spend less time there.
What my Facebook looks like
The newsfeed eradicator, does just that, eradicates your newsfeed. The bait is gone. The app doesn’t limit any of your searches or notifications, only the newsfeed.
I haven’t turned this app off since April 2015 (the day I found it) because I hate bullshit and that’s 90 percent of what I saw on the newsfeed. Sure, you miss seeing some of the people/things you actually care about, but you can find balance by having this app on your computer only, then allowing the newsfeed on a phone or tablet.
If you want to use this, but afraid of missing out of some key peoples posts, then you can go to their profile and select “get notifications.” That’s what I do for a few fitness people I’m friends with who regularly have informative posts. Nuckols, Aragon, Contreras, etc.
Sure, you can also use the “unfollow” and “hide from timeline” function when you see posts you don’t like, but I find that to be a never ending battle. I find it easier to eliminate it all and then specifically select who I want to be notified by. Essentially, this makes Facebook a lot like Twitter, your "friends" still see your posts, but you don’t have to see theirs.
Momentum App - for Google Chrome
Another free and simple app I like is “Momentum.” Each time you open a new tab the following screen appears.
It’s nothing complicated, but the screen allows you to type in your main focus for the day. I like to use my next main focus of the day, then I’ll cross it off the list and add my next focus. By constantly being reminded of your important focus for the day, it will be easier to avoid distractions. Maybe you’ll want to search YouTube.com, but then realize you haven’t studied yet and now go grab a book.
This doesn’t need to be limited to productivity, one could easily put their prompt as “be kind” or “put yourself in their shoes” as a way to practice compassion.
That's it for part one. My top five tools to minimize distractions and maximize productivity.