Don’t be so quick to pay for that app

Nine buttons. Each has the word "App" written on it.

I have been asked a few times whether I think paying for a productivity app is worth it. All the personal productivity apps I have used have been free and I am still yet to pay money for any productivity app. I know people who use a notebook and pen for all their planning. Some of them are the most productive people I have ever known.

A phone screen with many app icons
How many of them are useful?

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Batch it

A screwdriver and a spanner

Nobody likes doing dishes but most people would agree that dishes are tasks that need to be done. If you don’t, you’d eventually run out of clean cutlery to use. We all have repetitive tasks that no one particularly enjoys but can acknowledge they need to get done. Tasks like these are the ones we are more likely to procrastinate on either.

Unpleasant but necessary tasks such as doing the dishes are best done by batching them. For example, if you washed all the cutlery you used for breakfast before getting out of the house, you wouldn’t have to come home to an overflowing sink. If you tried to wash each item immediately after you use it, you might get bored but if you made a commitment to wash each item after meals, you would be committing to doing the dishes only three (or 2) times a day and this seems more manageable.

An overflowing stack of cups
Related tasks this way

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Let’s talk about emails (ii)

A tablet screen with email icons

Emails are making life difficult for many people. If you don’t have a system in place for managing your email inbox, you will soon find yourself responding to other people’s emergencies all the time instead of focusing on your important tasks. To prevent email taking over your life, here are a few principles:

Mornings are not for checking emails

You have no idea what you will find in your inbox. If you start your day, by checking email, you are likely to find the five minutes you had hoped to spend magically became one hour. It’s hard to resist the temptation to reply an email even though some part of us probably knows the reply can wait. If it’s an emergency, you will probably get a phone call instead of an email. Use your morning hours to work on tasks that require deep focus.

Email icons
Can’t know what’s inside until you open it

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Let’s talk about emails (i)

A tablet screen with email icons

In the early days of the internet, email was all the rave. Suddenly, you could send a long message to someone across the world and they would receive it in seconds. You didn’t have to post a letter that would take weeks to deliver. Eventually, email was replaced by Instant Messaging and social networks as the preferred means of instant communication. However, email continues to be used for official communication.

Email has become a productivity death trap for many. It’s easy for anyone to send you an email or copy you in one. Unfortunately, very few people get paid to read and process emails. Unless you are a personal assistant to an Executive or work in Customer-care, you probably don’t fall into this category.

A blue envelope
Are you waiting for this?

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Plan big, think small

A set of wooden stairs

Wearing a seatbelt can save your life in the event of a crash but the act of putting one on is so simple, you don’t think about it when you get into the driver’s seat. Any goal worth fighting for must be one that scares you. Any plan worth following must be one where the next step is so simple you don’t have to think too hard about it. Dentists promote better oral health among the populace not by telling us of the dangers of thousands of unseen microbes but by encouraging people to brush their teeth every day. You don’t have to think too hard about brushing your teeth every morning. You probably do it on autopilot most days. Brushing your teeth is a simple task yet the rewards are enormous and add up over a lifetime.

A footpath up a mountain
Climbing a mountain is best done one step at a time

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Not all hours are created equal

Clock gears

If you ask most people, what hours they would consider their peak periods of alertness, they would say early morning hours. After a good night’s rest, they are fully rested and have the energy to dive into almost any task with greater enthusiasm. It also helps that at those hours, there are often fewer distractions. People are yet to have their first arguments for the day and as a result are often in a happier place.

Unfortunately, the early morning hours are the time that a lot of people waste on trivial tasks. Many people wake up at dawn, reach for their phones and start checking social media. Unless you are managing the social media profile of a company for a living or work in customer care, that is probably not the most productive use of your time. How much more could you get done if you learnt to harness an hour or two each morning?

Hourglass against a backdrop of dawn
What did you do this morning?

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