At one time or another, you've looked at the clock at the end of the day and wondered where the day went. You didn’t get a chance to finish this project, write that blog post or respond to those emails.
Instead of doing something about it, you might have gone to bed hoping to be more productive the next day.
After some extensive research, I’ve realized there’s no way to magically acquire productivity, especially not overnight. To drive more results, you just have to use the time you have more effectively.
Crossing tasks off your to-do list happens more quickly when you eliminate distractions, busywork and interruptions. Luckily, there are tools designed to help you do just that. Here are five plugins designed to keep you focused and productive:
You probably know people who are insanely organized. Their spreadsheets are color coded and they have folders for their iPhone apps. Everything they do follows a system.
But for most people, things are a little messier, especially when it comes to passwords. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a dozen logins for various sites. Some are scribbled on Post-its or copy and pasted into Evernote. Not surprisingly, people waste a lot of time digging around for the right password. This is where PasswordBox comes in.
This plugin automatically stores your username and password when you log in to a site. Logging in to webpages and retrieving your passwords is quick and seamless. Just make sure to choose a master password that’s easy to remember.
Say you’re working on a blog post and take a quick break to scan your LinkedIn feed. Chances are, you’ll click on a catchy headline and spend a few minutes reading the article.
The problem is, you probably won’t stop at one article. Before you know it you’ve spent 45 minutes jumping from articles to videos and SlideShares. Instead of falling down into the rabbit hole when you’re in the middle of a work task, save content for reading later.
The app Pocket makes this easy. Unlike browser bookmark tools, there’s no dropdown menu or folder to choose from. Just click the Pocket icon once and the webpage is saved to your queue.
Now, go ahead and finish that code you were cranking on or the brilliant email you were almost ready to send. The insightful article about the future of BitCoin will be waiting for you when you’re done. (Confession: I don’t always read everything I put in my Pocket queue but that doesn’t make the plugin any less useful.)
3. Inbox Pause.
The typical employee checks email 36 times an hour, according to Atlassian. Switching gears that often makes it nearly impossible to get anything done. The same report said it takes people about 16 minutes to refocus after checking email.
To check tasks off your to-do list, think outside the inbox.
Inbox Pause does exactly what its name sounds like. If you’re about to dedicate an hour or two to heads-down work (and aren’t expecting any important messages), use this app to temporarily turn off incoming email. By pausing your inbox flow, you won’t be tempted to check it constantly because new emails won’t be delivered until you click Inbox Pause again. Boom. You have a child-proof inbox.
Even when you’re in your most productive mode, you’re not immune to distractions like checking BuzzFeed and social media. Unless you have superhuman willpower, the only way to really avoid this time suck is to take those sites out of the equation.
StayFocusd locks you out of distracting sites making it easier to focus on the task at hand. The app lets you set a time limit on how long you want to be blocked from Facebook or the number of minutes you want to spend on the site before you’re blocked. With no addicting sites to turn to, you can spend your time getting stuff done.
Being productive isn’t just about saving time. It’s also about optimizing the time you have. Sidekick, developed by a team at my company, HubSpot, is an email productivity tool that helps you take the guesswork out of emailing. Say you email a client or colleague and don’t hear back for a few days. Is that person ignoring you?
Did he or she open it and then forget to respond? Did it go to a junk folder? Knowing how or when to follow up with the person is tough when you don’t have any context.
Sidekick notifies you in real time when a contact opens your email or clicks on a link in that email. You don’t have to wonder if your message ended up in a spam folder and more important, you'll know better when to reach out. So instead of taking a shot in the dark, start sending timely, relevant emails with Sidekick.
Distractions like social media and email are here to stay. If you want to grow your career and your business, it’s on you to create an environment of productivity. These plugins merely scratch the surface on ways you can do that.
What tools do you use to optimize your time at work?