My Productivity Toolkit15 Jul 2017
August is fast approaching. This means that summer is about to end and school is about to begin soon. For some of you, school might have already started. And it’s time to start studying and managing stress again. Learning tough concepts, remembering when assignments are due, juggling time between school and life, pulling in an all-nighter to finish that project, and what not. In short, it’s time to become more productive. This article will outline the tools (software) that I have used and am still using to stay on track.
Todoist - Todo lists are notoriously effective in that you get a sense of satisfaction each time you strike off a task. And this app meets all my todo list needs. I can set recurring tasks such as weekly homework. I can create “Projects” to sort my tasks into different categories. What I do is create a project for each of my subject, a project where I put my personal tasks (like writing this blog post), and a project for long term goals. I earlier used to have Wunderlist, but I switched over to Todoist because of its minimalistic interface.
Habitica - This is a habit tracker I use. This makes habits more interesting because of the RPG interface. Basically you build good habits and destroy bad ones to earn experience and gold that can be used to enhance your hero. You can party with friends and go on quests with your hero which is pretty cool and quite motivating if you like games. In fact, you can also make this your todo list. But, as a personal preference, I don’t do that because using this just as a todo list is overkill.
Pomodero Timers - Pomodero technique is quite effective when it comes to channeling your focus and getting started on that assignment you’ve been putting off for far too long. There are a lot of different apps that help you do the same thing. On iOS, there is a cool one called Forest. But if you’re poor (like me), you’re better off using Tide, which also has a cool UI.
As a (college) student, the laptop can be your best investment. But to make it more effective with studying, you should start organizing and cleaning it.
My desktop has just Recycle Bin and This PC icons. So this way, whenever I open my laptop to do something productive, I don’t get lost on a plethora of different files. Occasionally, you might want to place a file right on your desktop to remind yourself that the first thing you do once you open your laptop is to open that file. Another thing to notice on that screenshot is that my taskbar has only the essential icons - File explorer, Spotify (for some music), OneNote to take notes, Visual Studio (because I love C++), and Chrome. This once again, keeps me focused on the task.
Also when your files are more organized, it is so much easier to go back and look for something you saved one year ago. Hence, next time when you’re done with your paper at 1 AM and you’re so tired that you just want to go to bed, take that extra minute to save that paper in its appropriate folder.
One last thing about laptops - always backup your files. Be it Dropbox, Google Drive or an external hard disk. I cannot stress on how important this is. Also carry a few memory sticks in your bag with the most important files. This can save you when your laptop fails to work when you’re presenting something.
The next important gadget in human lives today is a smart phone. It is a smart phone. So make sure you utilize its smartness. Once again, I cannot emphasize the importance of keeping your phone home screen clean. Don’t clutter it. Android and iOS both offer you to group apps together in a “folder”. Make use of this.
Here is a neat trick I use to make sure I don’t get distracted by my phone. I group all of my social media apps and games into one folder. Then, I place the most frequently used apps (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) in the last screen of that folder. This makes me crave less for social media than when the app is blatantly staring at my face telling me to open it. Another neat trick: Disable all notifications but the important ones (like phone and messaging). This prevents me from checking my apps every time the badge icon pops up.
Internet has made the use of browsers mandatory. And the most popular choice is Google Chrome. Here are some Chrome extensions that I use to make my life better:
AdBlock - I can’t remember how happy I was when this free extension removed all of those annoying ads and pop-ups from those websites. The best part is that it can remove YouTube ads too! And did I mention that this was free?
MixMax - Email tracking. This extension lets you know when people have opened your email. It also lets you schedule sending emails and reminds you to go back to a conversation. Another cool thing this can do is create polls in emails and plan events with a mini calendar. Oh, remember typing out the same email to multiple people with minor changes. MixMax takes care of that by allowing you to create templates that you can reuse. This is not entirely free, but the free version is still totally worth it.
Momentum - Open up your browser to beautiful and serene scenery with an inspirational quote to motivate you throughout the day.
I know that this list is not completely exhaustive. There are many other tools and techniques that you can use to stay productive. I will perhaps outline them in another post in the future as my needs and technology improve.