Six simple tech hacks that will make you more productive

While the ubiquity of technology in our lives offers us the opportunity to get the job done from anywhere at any time, being on devices all the time can take us into tunnels that waste time, making us less productive.

Fortunately, most of the smartphones and computers we use now also have built-in settings or additional applications that can help you regain your productivity, so you can get back to using your devices at work.

Here are six tech hacks to make you more productive.

DISCOVER HOW YOU ARE REALLY SPENDING YOUR TIME ONLINE

There are a number of time tracking apps that provide us with information about how many hours we spend browsing the web and using various apps. The best thing about these time tracking apps is that they run in the background and automatically record their usage. After running the apps for at least a week, you'll have a good idea if you're really being productive on your devices or using them to procrastinate more than you thought.

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One of the most robust is the ManicTime , which not only tracks how much time you spend on each application, but on each document you open. This means that you can see if you are giving more time to one project than another and you can decide whether that project really deserves the extra time. ManicTime also tracks which websites you visit and how much time you spend on each. It even tracks the time you spent away from your computer. It is available for PC, Mac, Android and even Linux.

Rescue Time Dashboard
The RescueTime is another useful time tracking application for PC, Mac, Android and Linux, which allows you to set productivity goals for the day and even provide a daily productivity score. If you have an iOS device, take a look at Moment . It tracks how much you use apps on your device every day and even records how much time you spend on the phone every day. If you are an Android user, try the QualityTime  for similar features.

And, of course, the macOS it's the iOS now have Apple Screen Screen usage tracking software and the Android Google Digital Wellbeing usage tracking software, if you’re looking for simpler, free options.

USE PARENT CONTROL TO PREVENT PROCRASTINATION

If you think you are wasting too much time on social media sites, you don't have to rely on willpower alone to avoid them. Instead, you can block them. Although the main operating systems (macOS, Windows and iOS) do not offer blocking functions for applications or websites themselves, they all offer parental controls that you can activate and use for yourself.

  • If you're on iOS, go to Settings> General> Restrictions to enable parental controls and set blocked sites.
  • MacOS users should go to System Preferences> Parental Controls.
  • Windows users can find them in Windows Settings> Accounts> Family and others.
  • Android users can download the TrendMicro Mobile Security & Antivirus application , which allows users to easily block access to certain sites.

ENABLE “DO NOT DISTURB” MODES DURING THE DAY

The above solutions work very well if you are to blame for wasting your time. But if you think your time is being wasted by your friends who keep sending text messages or by apps that keep sending social media or news alerts during working hours, you need to stop them from doing so. The good news is that you don't even have to tell these friends and apps about your tactics.

All major operating systems have “do not disturb” versions built into them. When enabled, these modes prevent notifications from being sent to your device. By default, do not disturb modes are generally set to be activated at night, when you should be sleeping. But a great trick is to turn the calendar upside down and activate it during the day when you have work to do, even if your friends keep texting or these social media sites keep pinging you, there’s no how do you get distraction notification until your work is done.

  • On a Mac, enter your Notification Center, swipe down and toggle Do not disturb to "Enabled". Switch to "Disabled" when your work is done for the day.
  • On an iOS device, enter the Control Center and tap the current moon button to activate Do Not Disturb.
  • On a PC, right-click the Action Center icon in the taskbar notification area. Select "Enable silent hours" to activate the do not disturb mode.
  • On an Android device, swipe from top to bottom on the screen to open the notification screen and touch the Do Not Disturb icon.

ASK A DIGITAL ASSISTANT TO REMIND YOU TO DO THINGS

Sometimes it helps us to be more productive if we have someone who checks how we are doing with a particular task. Asking a colleague to do this can seem so presumptuous, as if you think he doesn't have enough work to do. That's where digital assistants come in.

The main digital assistants built into the operating systems are Apple's Siri on iOS and macOS, Google Assistant on Android and Microsoft's Cortana on Windows. Many of us use them to answer questions too lazy to search Google or to quickly write down appointments. But I love using these digital assistants to ask me how my workday is going and to keep up with ongoing projects.

For example, I will ask Siri to contact me in three hours to see if I have completed the article that is due tomorrow. To do this, I will literally say, "Hey, Siri, in three hours contact me to remind me if I completed the article." This automatically sets up a reminder that I will use my iPhone and Mac later to ensure that I have finished my piece. Otherwise, the reminder will encourage me to continue.

If you want to be reminded to make a call, go to a meeting, end a presentation, or check in to see how that presentation is coming, put your digital assistant to work for you. On Mac and iPhone, activate Siri by saying “Hey, Siri”; on Android, activate Google Assistant by saying “OK, Google”; and on Windows, activate Cortana by saying “Hey, Cortana”.

MAKE YOUR DEVICE WRITE WHAT YOU SAY

Another technical tip that makes me more productive is to write things without lifting a finger to type them.

MacOS has an incredible dictation feature that will type anything I say in any selected text field - a search bar, the body of an email or even a Microsoft Word document. This dictation feature is separate from the Siri digital assistant, but also easy to use.

To enable it on your Mac, go to System Preferences> Keyboard> Dictation and make sure Dictation is enabled. After that, it doesn't matter what text field you are in any application on your Mac, just press the Fn key twice on the keyboard to open the dictation microphone. What you say will immediately start to appear where the cursor is. And yes, if you're wondering, the macOS saying is pretty accurate - I'd say he got my words right at least 95% out of the times.

Windows 10 also offers a dictation feature. And Google incorporated the saying  in Google Docs . You just need to make sure you’re using Google Docs in the Chrome browser. Then open a Google Document and choose Tools> Voice typing from the menu bar.

FORCE TO TAKE BREAKS WITH TIME OUT APPLICATIONS

Even when you're focused on work, it's still important to remember to take breaks. Science shows that  they really make us more productive, not less . Some free apps automatically let you know when it's time to move away from the keyboard.

For Mac users, the Time Out - Break Reminders is an excellent application that allows you to schedule intervals of 5 to 10 minutes every hour and a “micro” of seconds every 15 minutes. PC and Linux users can get the same features with excellent freeware.

So, now that you know the tech hacks to help you be more productive, what are you doing still reading this article? Get back to work.

reference: FastCompany

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Felipe Santos
Felipe Santos is a Cloud and Security Architect, with experience in Windows Server, Cluster, Storages, Backups Veeam and Office 365 environments.
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