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by Kaitlin McManus | December 18, 2018


Phone with Apps

When it comes to productivity, I like to kick it old school with a pen-and-paper planner. But technology (and being attached to our phones and devices) is a part of life, and fortunately that means there are some really amazing apps out there to boost productivity for the more digitally-inclined among us. The problem is, you actually have to keep up with it for them to help you stay on track. Some tips for keeping up with physical planners and their virtual counterparts are similar (establish accountability by talking about it, keep it visible, etc.), but productivity apps offer their own perks—and challenges. Here are a few tips that might help you stick with your plan to get your ducks in a row this winter.

Pick the right service

Don’t go hog-wild and download every productivity app that you can get your hands on—when it comes to actually using them, it’s best to pick the one that will work best for you specifically. How to do that comes down to thinking about how you’ll use it. Are you keeping track of meetings and events? Do you keep a hefty to-do list? Do you like to do a little journaling or gratitude exercises? Make sure you get one with the bells and whistles you like, and not much else—nothing’s worse than a productivity app that’s too cluttered. Having all your tasks nice and laid out is supposed to decrease your stress, and an app that’s complicated or with flashing lights will only set you on edge. For students, there’s MyStudyLife; if you have a lot of meetings, you might try Google Calendar (with its handy invite function); Apple users might like Things; and the constant listers can give Todoist or a shot.

Put it on all your devices

I don’t know how I ended up with as many electronic devices as I have—my phone, my work computer, my personal laptop, and my personal iPad. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless I’m trying to unplug. And there’s a distinct possibility that you have more devices than I have. Guess what? Your calendar should be accessible on all of them. That’s essentially the point of productivity apps—they’re on everything so you don’t have to carry around a book (they’re also greener). So download the app on everything you’ve got, and make sure that they’re all connected to wi-fi so everything syncs up when you make changes somewhere.

Make sure you see it

Once you’ve downloaded the app to everything, put it someplace conspicuous (i.e., on the first page, not tucked away in a folder). If the app is still getting left behind (I understand, it’s way more enjoyable to sift through Instagram than to drop a couple of to-dos on your list), then try messing with its placement. Try dropping the app in the spot where your keep Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else is drawing your attention. That way, you’ll keep accidentally opening the productivity app—and if it’s open, you might as well use it real quick, right?

Set reminders

Another way to make your app more visible (and thus increase how much you use it), is to give the app permission to send notifications. These can range in function between apps: some notify you at certain times, when you have a meeting or task coming up, or even if you haven’t opened the app in awhile. Make sure to turn them on so you remember to check on the app throughout the day. Or, alternatively, set yourself a reminder to check on the app at specific times (once in the morning, once at lunch, and once at the end of the day are my suggestions)—that way you don’t always have your phone open, but you are still checking in when you should.

Tag Team

Some productivity apps are built for accountability. Whether it treats task completion like a game or lets you assign tasks to your family, get all your friends, family, and coworkers in on the action! You can’t be the only one out there complaining that you never seem to get anything done. Being in it together can help you all to be productive in a fun, social way. You could also go the other way with it, and make it a competition to see who can be the most productive—can you tell I played too many sports as a kid? So grab yourself some accountabili-buddies as you try to be smarter with your time, and hopefully you can all shame each other into being responsible and well-organized.


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