It’s easy to fall into the trap of being a busy fool as you feel pressure from colleagues, clients and even yourself to deliver more and more. As our 2015 Q2 Employment Monitor found, 51% of employees don’t take their full holiday entitlements and one third work an extra five hours per week. Working longer hours doesn’t always mean we achieve more – it can often actually be counterproductive as we feel burnt out, stressed and don’t have the space to think creatively about our tasks.
You may have heard or read the popular quote, “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé”. And while Beyoncé may not have to clock in at 9am each day, take meeting minutes and compile weekly reports, it’s true – we’re all given 1,440 minutes every single day and can do with them as we choose. How we use those minutes ultimately determines how successful we are and what outcomes we achieve. These time management tools can help you to limit distractions, keep on top of your task list and stay focused on the end result.
Remember the Milk
Say goodbye to wasting time transcribing to-do lists by hand thanks to Remember the Milk. There are lots of great task list apps out there but this is definitely one of our favourites. You can quickly update your existing to-do list online, adding deadlines, time estimates and tags to help you better organise your week. The app can be synced with your smartphone so you can even add notes using Siri on the go – perfect if you remember something important at an external meeting or on the commute home.
We’ve all been there. You get a Facebook notification, plan on “quickly” checking your profile and twenty minutes later you find yourself reading a random article on a random website wondering “How did I get here?”. StayFocusd is a fantastic Google Chrome add-on that eliminates this problem. You can set limits to the amount of time you spend on all non-productive websites throughout the day. Once the timer runs out, you are blocked from accessing those websites, forcing you to concentrate on your workload.
If you’re struggling to communicate a complex idea or break down a project into manageable tasks, MindMeister can be a great help. This online mind mapping tool allows you to create colourful mind maps – each point can be depicted in a different font and you can attach notes and URLs. You can collapse ideas or points you don’t need to focus on so the mind map never becomes too cluttered or intimidating.
How often does an email alert distract you from your tasks? Clever use of your Outlook inbox can eliminate this problem and help you to better manage your time. If you are working on an important project, turn off email notifications and set fixed times throughout the day to check your inbox. It can also be helpful to set up rules to automatically organise your emails, making it much easier to reply in bulk and determine what you should prioritise.
Big Stretch Reminder
A massive part of working smarter doesn’t involve work at all. Research has shown that taking breaks can help you to get more done, but it’s often easy to forget to get up from your desk when your mind is boggled and you’ve got a heavy workload. Big Stretch Reminder is a free break reminder tool that is really effective. You can configure your breaks exactly how you want them, determining the time, length and number. Make a cup of tea, walk around the block or have a chat with a colleague – you’ll return to your workload with a clearer head and feeling more focused on your tasks.
If you’re having trouble focusing in the office, turn off your phone, sign out of your social media accounts and take advantage of these technology hacks. While we can’t promise you Beyoncé levels of success, you’re sure to optimise your time and enjoy increased productivity and concentration levels.