Improve your productivity and efficiency with these apps
There's nothing worse than spending eight hours in the office without finishing anything on your ‘to do’ list. Find out how you can turn your smartphone into your best weapon against disorganisation.
As if getting started on a Monday morning isn’t tough enough - opening your emails only to find a long (very long) chain of emails from colleagues and superiors all agreeing they need your help and input “asap” doesn’t help either. How can you get your work organised once and for all so you can get ahead and not get exhausted trying?
The first step is to have a clear idea of how much time you have and how you want it to be divided. Work out how many hours you have free between meetings, training, and appointments. Then look over all your tasks and classify them according to their level of difficulty. And yes, you need to do the ones you're most reluctant to do first.
Clear your desk, empty your mind, and put your mobile on silent. Or better yet, don’t? Although you could note down your tasks on paper and organise yourself mentally, why not do it digitally and have everything synced across several devices? Here are some unmissable mobile apps for logging and prioritising your day-to-day tasks:
- My 1-3-5 List (Browser-free). The 1-3-5 rule helps you work out which of your tasks are a priority. Here’s the trick: every day you have a large, complex task - the one you absolutely must get done; three medium, relatively simple tasks; and five smaller tasks, the simplest ones. Although there isn’t an app version it works from any browser on any device. There’s also a Google Chrome extension which you can always have to hand.
- Carrot (iOS - $2.99). Do you need more motivation to finish your tasks? Carrot is the application for you. A particularly bossy being will control the tasks you need to do, and if you take too long doing them it’ll threaten to hurt your virtual kitten. But don’t panic: the more tasks you complete the more rewards you get to personalise and feed your virtual ball of fluff.
- Wunderlist (Android, iOS and browser - free). This is one of the most well-known applications on the market for organising your tasks. It allows you to create and share lists of tasks, set reminders, and assign tasks to work colleagues, friends, and/or family. Whether you use it for organising your work day or your next holiday, Wunderlist is the app for you.
Now you’ve organised and assessed all your work. It's time to start on your first major task. But wait! Have you seen that surprise notification on Facebook? The latest on your work WhatsApp group? What about that email that just came in? Slow down. These applications help you put the brakes on the constant bombardment of distractions and concentrate for longer:
- Focus Aid (iOS - $0.99). Based on the famous Pomodoro technique, this application organises time into 25 minute chunks of intense work followed by short breaks. The idea is that these breaks help keep your mind sharp. With a simple yet effective design, the application helps you give your best for each Pomodoro until the app tells you to stop (for a moment).
- Forest: Stay Focused (Android, iOS - Free for Android, $0.99 on iOS). If you like having plants to decorate your desk, here’s your chance to grow a virtual one. Plant a seed and decide the amount of time you're not allowed to use any other application on your mobile phone. Your plant will grow in the time you set. If you can’t hold on, your future shrub will die before it gets chance to form part of an enormous forest.
Life is social, and so is work. If your goal is to get complex projects off the ground for large teams with an infinite number of tasks your best bet is to go for professional methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban. Commonly used in software development, the first divides a project into sprints of tasks and uses an agile approach for incremental development. The second, Kanban, with its origins in the Japanese automotive industry, uses visual representations of work flows, and has today become one of the most widely-used organisational methodologies. Now you can add these applications to your mobile phone and become a professional in agile work flows:
- Scrum Master Assistant (Android - free). This can be used to direct sprint meetings with your work team. The aim is that meetings, which are for dividing and organising tasks on a daily or weekly basis, never last longer than 15 minutes. As well as controlling the time, the application also allows you to manage the day's schedule, manage attendees, and take notes to draft minutes of the meeting.
- Kanban Board (Android - free). This application transfers the basic framework of the Kanban system to the digital world in a simplified way. On your mobile you can instantly add your coloured post-its to columns labelled “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” to organise your incoming tasks as well as those of your colleagues.
- Trello (Android, iOS and browser - free). This is one of the most well-known applications for organising work in teams. Trello organises projects on boards which you can add cards to, which can then be moved between boards. The boards can be personalised according to the needs of each team and the cards allow you to assign tasks, comment, and attach files.
The smartphone may be at the top of the list of devices most likely to make you procrastinate - and make work seem even less appealing: but with these applications you can turn it into your best ally for productivity. What are you waiting for?