We check our smartphones, on average, once every 12 minutes, and log up to 24 hours a week hooked to their silver screens.
Little wonder that many of us complain that our concentration and time management skills have atrophied since we started toting these mini entertainment consoles and computers around in our pockets.
“Today’s smartphones are glittering with high tech features and stuffed with apps. But the features that make the newest model so irresistible to buyers makes these devices hard to put down—even when you have work to do,” said Lauren from the phone recycling website SellMyPhone.co.uk.
But smartphones don’t just have to suck away your free time and drag you away from important tasks. Used correctly, with a menu of scheduling and project management apps, they can actually help you boost productivity.
When a simple to do list won’t cut it, there’s Trello, an intuitive scheduler, task visualiser, and collaboration tool. Whether you’re running a business, managing a team, planning a wedding, writing a screenplay for a space opera, or just making a shopping list, Trello allows you to see the big picture of everything that needs to be done. Create tasks, delegate them to coworkers, family members, or friends; and set deadlines with alerts. Group tasks into workflows and under boards; and check things off when they’re done. And when you’ve cleared your board, then you can relax.
Trello is free to use and seamlessly straddles mobile and desktop interfaces.
Need to track and log hours you and your staff spend working? Toggl is the premier web and mobile time-tracking app, allowing you to record the time you spend on projects, whether you want to bill clients based on that data, monitor the productivity of staff, or just hold yourself accountable. You can then visually analyse the data, seeing how long certain tasks are taking and where you’re falling behind.
Toggl can also nudge you when you fall idle, run a Pomodoro timer (a time management technique developed in the 1980s, giving you 25 minute work intervals with five minute breaks), and be synced with and integrated into other organisation and delegation apps like Trello.
Time management mavens will be familiar with the methods of David Allen, put forward in his 2001 book Getting Things Done. In the GTD method, you move planned tasks out of your immediate focus by writing them down externally, broken into actionable work items. You can then devote your attention to taking action on those tasks, rather than holding them all in your memory.
OmniFocus takes Allen’s ideas and gives you the software platform for their execution. But it’s more than a simple to do list. The app allows you to record and categorise your tasks—whether they’re errands or novel chapters—schedule and prioritise them, and then tick them off as you make progress. OmniFocus is available across Apple platforms but doesn’t currently offer Windows or Android compatibility.
Similarly, ToDoist offers to “remember it all for you,” allowing you to get tasks out of your head and onto your an interactive, visualised do list. ToDoist makes it effortless to log tasks, set a due date or a recurring due date (for example, “every Tuesday”), organise them into a project (for example, “home,” “work,” or “doomsday prep”), and then give them a priority level, so you know what to tackle first. Share projects and assign tasks to family members and coworkers. And then forget about them until they’re due, or surface on your daily or weekly calendar view
But you might be wondering what good a long and carefully organised to do list if you’re not actually ticking things off? ToDoist has you covered there too, allowing you to set productivity goals and then keep track of how well you’re meeting them, with visualisations and a streak log.
Prone to falling down internet rabbit holes while on the job? Often navigating the web with browsers stacked with a hundred tabs? Desperately scrolling through your web history to find that one blog post you knew would be useful but failed to bookmark? Can’t remember if you saw that useful link on Twitter or on LinkedIn? Pocket is here to help.
Pocket, which operates across mobile and desktop, allows you to save articles, news, videos, and other content from any device, app, and publisher. Just tap Pocket to stash the content and then access it later via the app, in one single cohesive, clean, and organised interface.
Whether you’re collecting buzzy long-reads for your commute, bookmarking relevant articles for a project, or just tucking distracting blog posts away for later consumption, Pocket helps you focus.
Tune out the babble of the internet and then check in on it later, when you have free time and can better absorb information. Trello can even read articles to you, so you can keep abreast of the news—or just your favourite blogs—while on the go.