We are what we repeatedly do. Like many of you, I’m always looking to be more productive - constantly trying out the latest and greatest tools that profess to help me do more with less. Coming up with ways that I can get things done faster, giving myself more time in my day so I can do the things that I want to do.
Over the years, I’ve tried an array of things to enhance my productivity. I’ve even explored the realm of smart drugs in taking nootropics like modafinil to give myself the slight edge I’m looking for. However, the best philosophy I’ve found to help in this realm of productivity is; 'to speed up you’ve got to slow down'.
Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things – Peter Drucker
The best way to increase efficiency in your life is to cut things out that don’t need to be there in the first place and focus on what’s essential - e.g. habits and patterns that will help you become a better human and thus more effective.
Which leads me to apps. Some are great, most are terrible for enhancing productivity. Nevertheless, the apps below are a carefully curated list of tools that I personally use everyday to increase efficiency:
Evernote is a cross-platform app that serves many purposes; it can be your digital file cabinet, note-taking tool, daily journal, task or project management system, and recipe-keeper. Evernote can thus serve as your "everything" inbox. Because it has cross-platform support (desktop apps, web apps, mobile apps) you can offload all of your reference materials, ideas, tasks or other digital items to Evernote and never worry about where you've collected all those random bits of information. It's one container to store them all. Allowing myself to have a digital brain helps me clear my real brain of all the noise and supports me to getting back to what’s essential.
2. Habit – Daily Tracker
I believe it was Aristotle who said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. This app makes it easier to tick off your daily behaviours that you’d like to become a habit. Want to meditate more? Add it in the app and it will remind you at the time you set to meditate every day. Tracking habits on a daily basis is such a useful tool because it allows for us to have a better understanding of where we’re placing our time and whether that time is spent in the best possible way.
This is like steroids for your brain. This app plays melodies for the brain that are carefully crafted to encourage focus, relaxation and sleep. I use it when I want to get deep work done or block a noisy open plan office out. According to scientific papers available on the Brain.FM website, "Brain.fm uses algorithmically generated music to modulate cognitive states." I've no idea what a modulated cognitive state should feel like, but the first time I tried this app, I forgot where I was because I became so engrossed in my work.
Guided mediation is the hot new thing right now. Everyone seems to be using the apps like Calm and Headspace. However, I sometimes find guided mediation to beirritating, because they require so much 'pre-work'. Often requiring us to watch videos beforehand or listen to LeBron James talk about his favourite NBA victory (calm users will know what I mean - besides, MJ all the way right?). Oak is a much more simple app. It has only a few mediations to choose from and it allows you to set the time, voice and music to meditate to. Special bonus - it pairs well with the Oura, mentioned below.
Oura is the final app in my toolkit for productivity. Ok, so this is slightly cheating in that it comes with a ring that you have to purchase before downloading the app. But the benefits that you get from this little gem is well worth the money. The Oura ring and its app tracks your biometrics and sleep across all the different stages like REM, Deep, Light etc. – it then gives you daily insights based on gathering a number of metrics for how your body is performing. The metric of particular interest to me is Heart Rate Variability, which is a measurement of our heart’s ability to respond to different situations. It is one of your body’s most powerful signals because it reacts to stress or illness before most other metrics do (like resting heart rate) – and it provides useful insights to our stress levels, recovery status and general well-being, well before we even know they exist. Using this tool, I’m able to see how I react to different stimulus and whether I’m stressed, using my HRV score as a predictor. It’s a powerful feedback loop on how my habits affect my overall health.
That’s the top 5 productivity apps I use to help me win the day. Hopefully some of them work for you as well.