LifeDev https://lifedev.net Helping Creative People Create Sat, 08 Dec 2018 18:18:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.1 145399285 Productivity for Entrepreneurs – Link Roundup December 2018 https://lifedev.net/2018/12/08/productivity-for-entrepreneurs-link-roundup-december-2018/ https://lifedev.net/2018/12/08/productivity-for-entrepreneurs-link-roundup-december-2018/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 18:18:03 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3909 Timeless advice for entrepreneur productivity

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finding your way

It’s a good time to be an entrepreneur. There are countless sources of information on how to be productive. I’ve rounded up just a few that really stood out this month.

Follow Up Boss published a list of ways to manage your time better. It does a great job of explaining how to make sure you’re working on actions that give you the most leverage. I especially agree with the advice that you should know your best hours to work.

Zapier’s blog has an article about making difficult decisions that I found really insightful. One key takeaway for me was to think long term when making decisions. Importantly, it also talks about committing to your decision to avoid the what-ifs.

Taylor Pearson posted on Medium about how to overcome the fear of failure – a topic especially relevant for new entrepreneurs. He shows how to reframe your thinking from worker to investor. From there, you can build systems to get quick feedback from your efforts.

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How to Prioritize Your Work Like a Successful Entrepreneur https://lifedev.net/2018/11/04/how-to-prioritize/ https://lifedev.net/2018/11/04/how-to-prioritize/#comments Mon, 05 Nov 2018 04:07:29 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3871 Follow these four steps to prioritize your work correctly every time.

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We live in a time when ‘multitasking’ is a way of life. An era, where technology – vital, necessary and indispensable – has made our life even more tangled. That means more to-do lists than ever. How to prioritize work has become a special skill you have to learn.

On one hand, emails, chats, social media, constantly help us stay in touch with everything and everyone out there. On the other hand, they have become intrusive, a feeding point to our ever-growing to-do list.

I am in no way negating the benefits of technology. Life would not be what it is without technology – easy and convenient. But, there is a downside to everything. Because we can do more, we expect more to be done.

In my professional life, I wear many hats. I am a co-founder of a Digital Marketing Agency, I am a startup & entrepreneurship blogger; also, I do a million other things like running an IT company, currently in the midst of venturing into resourcing.

Not that my personal life is any simpler. I am a husband and a father of not one but two very active young kids.

So, how do I prioritize work with so many competing priorities or ideas jostling for space on my ever-growing to-do list?

Here are the steps I have been following for the last few years to efficiently manage my workload:

a. Start by writing all the tasks

To Do List

I have figured that the first step to manage your workload is by writing all the tasks somewhere.

If you are someone who hates technology and uses mobile phones only to take calls and access internet, you can start by carrying a diary to write tasks.

And if you are a part of the millennial generation, I don’t have to ask you whether you love your mobile phone or not?

You get the point.

Find a good task management software to set up a task list.

I use Teamwork for official tasks and Momentum (a browser-based task management system) for personal work-related tasks.

Once you have all your tasks written in a single place, you are ready to move to the next stage of managing the workload.

b. Prioritize the tasks

Prioritizing a task list is one of the most difficult steps in managing your workload.

I must confess – in the initial years of my business, I was a horrible task planner.

My workload was controlled by my emails.

Add to above, my bad habit of procrastinating. I would keep the easy tasks at the top of list and the difficult ones or the ones I hated doing – at the bottom of the list.

And then, I would procrastinate.

It led to total chaos in my personal and professional life. The procrastinated tasks would come home from work with me. I would stay awake late at night working at my lowest efficiency on the tasks which required the highest level of attention.

Predictably, the end results were sloppy work. And it all came at the cost of our valuable family time.

In fact, as a proven fact – Procrastination is a horrible habit.

As per a survey conducted in 2017:

  • 40% of people have suggested financial losses because of procrastination.
  • 1 out of 5 people procrastinates so so badly that they end up jeopardizing their family, health and relationships.

It’s human nature to pick easy battles first and then do the heavy lifting.

Anyways, all this continued until I decided to get my act together and prioritize my workload.

Today, I arrange my tasks based on the Eisenhower Matrix, the simple concept of task management explained by Dwight D. Eisenhower. He emphasized prioritizing your tasks on two dimensions: important and urgent.

As per Dwight D. Eisenhower “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Today, on top of my priority list goes:

Urgent and Important Tasks. i.e, tasks which are important for my work and tasks that have to be addressed immediately.

Some of the examples of these tasks are:

  • Taking a scheduled client call.
  • Responding to an urgent email.
  • Responding to a VC. (Money matters!)

Next on the list comes the important tasks that are not urgent and so on. Prioritizing my task list and my workload has helped me better manage my workload.

c. Plan – how you will complete each task

You have the list of tasks and you have prioritized them. Now comes the difficult part about planning how to execute each task.

When I am working on how I will knock off each task from my task list, I make my decision based on two simple scenarios:

i. Tasks that can be delegated

My work involves interacting with teams and delegating work to managers. Though I’m the point of contact for clients, the task has to be completed by the team lead.

I immediately assign tasks to the team leads along with the deadline. I mark myself and the team lead as responsible for deadlines to ensure I’m in the loop with upcoming deadlines.

ii.Tasks that require my direct involvement

After completing the above step, my workload usually looks manageable. Now I move to the tasks which require my direct involvement. I allocate them to myself and assign a time to complete the task.

The key to success in tasks which require your direct involvement is time allocation. Take an example of a meeting where you are the presenter. A meeting which has to be wrapped up in 30 minutes should be wrapped up in 30 minutes.

Decide in advance, what should be done to finish the task in the stipulated time.

Plan beforehand what external factors might delay the task and plan accordingly. For example, keep some extra time for questions and answers or keep a strategy in place for a colleague who tries to take the meeting off track.

Another situation where you might end up spending more than the estimated time is aiming for perfectionism. I know perfection is always appreciated, but there are tasks that do not require perfectionism.

You must get them done on time. It’s a simple choice in doing a perfect job at the expense of delaying other tasks or delivering all tasks on time.

d. Getting the Task completed

finish line

At this point, you’re done with the strategy and planning. Time to get the work done.

Here are a few tips to help you complete the tasks and stick to the schedule set by you:

Learn to cut the distractions

I hate it when someone looks at their mobile phones in the middle of a meeting to check their WhatsApp messages or Facebook feed. It very clearly means they are not in the moment. Social media and the internet in general are one of the biggest workplace distractions.

When you’re working on important and urgent tasks, social media should be the last thing on your mind. Keep them away from your life and you will swiftly complete your tasks.

Also, avoid opening emails which can wait. They will distract you from the work you are completing. Focus and channel your energy to finish the task at hand.

Learn to say No

As an entrepreneur who has been a part of multiple ventures, let me tell you a secret. If you do not learn to say “No,” you will never finish your task list by the end of the day.

Your work as an Entrepreneur involves a lot of multi-tasking and a lot of last-second work that will come out of the blue. Learn to say “No” to the unimportant and not so urgent tasks, and you will be able to manage your workload as per your plan.

Learn to be fluid with your work

By being fluid, I obviously do not mean putting all your workload aside to finish one task and letting your plan for the day go haywire.

Imagine a scenario where you’ve been waiting to hear from a client for weeks to close an important deal and the client calls you. They have a board meeting tomorrow and want you to make a presentation to the board.

It’s once in a lifetime opportunity. You know what to do ?

But before you set aside everything planned for the next day, delegate the work that can be done by someone else and re-plan the task list to accommodate the workload based on the new task (highest priority).

Managing your workload is not rocket science. All it requires is proper planning and discipline.

Always remember, 20% of the work leads to 80% of the value. Prioritize that 20% and you will be able to manage your workload efficiently.

Jasmeet is an Entrepreneur, Avid Reader, Startup Consultant, and a Reluctant Blogger at Lessons At Startup. A regular family guy and a proud father of two adorable Kids.

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What is the Pomodoro Technique? Plus the Top 5 Pomodoro Apps https://lifedev.net/2018/10/21/pomodoro-technique/ https://lifedev.net/2018/10/21/pomodoro-technique/#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 15:24:11 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3854 The Pomodoro Technique breaks down your tasks into shorter, focused sessions with regular breaks. It’s one of the simplest and easiest to implement productivity hacks around.

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The Pomodoro Technique breaks down your tasks into shorter, focused sessions with regular breaks. It’s one of the simplest and easiest to implement productivity hacks around.

 

The struggle to stay productive as a freelancer, digital nomad, or employee is a never-ending battle for all of us. There are times that it’s so hard to get things done. Sometimes, we feel that our brain just won’t function anymore.

According to Neuroscientist Dr. Gabija Toleikyte, this feeling is normal. Constantly shifting from one activity to another affects the brain’s ability to focus. And this has an adverse effect on our productivity.

Several techniques have been developed to help us stay productive at work. One of the most popular ones is the Pomodoro Technique®.

What is the Pomodoro Technique®

The Pomodoro Technique® was developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato. Why the strange name? Francesco named the technique after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used as his personal timer. Cool huh?

This time management practice helps users achieve maximum focus, allowing them to finish a task or complete a project with lesser mental fatigue compared to working for hours straight. The Pomodoro Technique® divides a task into short 25-minute increments. After each increment, you take a 5-minute break. Then, after four increments or Pomodoros, you take a longer break — usually 20-30 minutes.

As you may have now noticed, this technique is built around short bursts of work and regular breaks to keep your mind focused and fresh.

How the Pomodoro Technique® Works

The Pomodoro Technique® is one of the simplest time management and productivity methods available. All you need is a timer! And thanks to technology, there are now Pomodoro apps that you can use (more on this later). The core of this technique involves only 5 simple steps:

Step 1. Check your schedule for the day

The first step is to know what your tasks are for the day. In terms of Pomodoros (25-minute sessions), estimate how much time you need to complete a certain task. List down your tasks and make sure they fit comfortably with your workday.

Don’t forget to factor in the 5-minute break after each Pomodoro and the longer 20- to 30-minute breaks after 4 sessions!

Step 2. Set your timer

Before starting your timer, make sure you have everything you need to complete your task. Feel free to use a traditional timer or one of the apps you’ll see in this article. Make sure you are committed to the task at hand. Remember, you only have 25 minutes to focus on it!

It’s best to turn off your phone, email, social media, and even shut your office door to minimize distractions. If you are working with colleagues, tell them that you don’t want to be disturbed.

Step 3. Work on the task at hand

Never multitask. Focus all your attention on the task at hand for the entire 25 minutes. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything — even those out-of-the-blue lightbulb moments in your head. If they do pop up, write these thoughts down and set aside for later.

I completed my work before the time is up. What should I do?

If this is the case, use the remaining time for short tasks or routine activities. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on how many 25-minute sessions it takes you to complete a task. You can use this information for future planning or when comparing your productivity levels.

Step 4. Always take a short break

Even if you are in the zone, take a 5-minute break as soon as your timer goes off. Breaks are the perfect time to rest and recharge your batteries!

You might think that taking a break while in the flow is counterproductive. It isn’t. Regular breaks restore your energy and will greatly improve your productivity. Energy is more important than time.

When taking a break, walk away from your desk. Fetch a glass of water, take a short walk or exercise. Also, give your brain a break too! Avoid anything that requires too much thought such as your current project or the deadlines you need to beat.

It’s also helpful to stay away from electronic displays during your break. Resist the urge to check on your emails or social media. This will keep you from straining your eyes.

Step 5. Continue your work and take a longer break after 4 Pomodoros

When your break is up, go back to your desk, reset your timer and continue working on the task at hand. After completing 4 sessions, take a longer break. Feel free to do anything as long as it takes you away from your desk. Go eat lunch, have a snack, read a book — anything! Again, avoid thinking about what you were doing before and stay away from your phone.

Top 5 Best Pomodoro Apps

Now that you know what the Pomodoro Technique® is all about and how to use it, it’s time to look at the top 5 Pomodoro apps that can easily beat your handy kitchen timer!

1. Focus Booster, Free and Premium

The Focus Booster is a web and desktop based app that offers a simple Pomodoro timer and the ability to track the time you spent on each project. The free plan includes a desktop app which features a minimalist view that floats on top of all your windows without distracting you.

The free version is limited to 20 Pomodoro sessions every month and does not include any reporting tools. The premium version comes in two packages: (1) 200 sessions and data export (2) unlimited sessions plus reporting and revenue tracking.

2. PomoDone, Free and Premium

The best thing about this Pomodoro app is the ability to integrate it with popular work/project/productivity management software (Basecamp, Todoist, Asana, Wunderlist, and Trello). Like most Pomodoro timers, you can easily customize the default 25-minutes/5-minute sessions to your needs.

PomoDone offers a minimalist desktop app and powerful reporting features that let you share data with others. The app’s basic functions plus 2 integrations are free. Premium versions include the ability to integrate to an unlimited number of tools plus reporting features.

3. Pomodoro Keeper, iOS, Free and Premium

The Pomodoro Keeper is designed for iOS. It sports a very clean and sleek user interface. It’s very handy! And since it fits in your pocket, you have the ability to track your Pomodoro goals without the need to sit in front of a computer. The app automatically transitions from work to break timers after each session.

The basic features of the app are free. If you want to unlock various options like custom timers, you will need the pro version.

4. ClearFocus, Android, Free, and Premium

ClearFocus is a minimalist Pomodoro app for Android. It features a clean user interface and lovely design. It also packs various reporting tools and lets you track your progress as time goes by. Users love how the colors turn red when the timer is running and green when it’s break time! Basic functions are free. If you want the ability to pause the timer, you’ll need a premium license.

5. Pomodairo, 100% Free

Pomodairo is an Adobe Air application that works on any platform — Windows, Mac, or Linux. This AIR-based app works as a simple timer that can track your tasks, unplanned work, and interruptions.

The Good and the Bad of the Pomodoro Technique®

The Pomodoro Technique® offers several benefits. By breaking down tasks into shorter, focused sessions, you make daunting projects seem more manageable and less overwhelming. Also, the limited time you have to work encourages you to stay away from distractions, multitasking, and procrastination.

Regular, short breaks are good for your health. Aside from improving productivity and concentration, it also gives your brain the chance to assimilate information and “learn.” In addition, you experience less mental fatigue.

While the benefits are obvious, the Pomodoro Technique® is not for everyone. Some of you may find short breaks counterproductive, especially when you are in the zone. Developers may find that a 50-minute pomodoro and a 10-minute break is better suited to their work style.

The technique also requires a lot of effort to stick to a disciplined workday making it less ideal for those working in a fast paced environment.

Conclusion

The Pomodoro Technique® is very simple and easy to follow. All it needs is a handy timer or app and discipline! While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, go and give it a try!

Norberts Erts is the co-founder of HR software company CakeHR, that streamlines attendance and performance management for customers worldwide. He keeps a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them. Connect with Norberts on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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How to Do a Full Time Audit [To Take Back Your Free Time] https://lifedev.net/2018/10/05/time-audit-to-take-back-your-free-time/ https://lifedev.net/2018/10/05/time-audit-to-take-back-your-free-time/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 15:21:05 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3834 The best way to reclaim your time is to do a full time audit. When your time audit is done you'll be able to increase productivity and reach your goals.

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Everyone thinks they know exactly how they spend their time – but do you actually spend your time the way you think you do?

Most of us are bad at estimating how long it takes to do a certain task. Are you ready to figure out how you spend your time and learn the secrets to time management? In this post, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to do a complete time audit and maximize your time.

Have you ever set aside 30 minutes to do something and then, when it’s done, realized it took you two hours? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one. Time is valuable. Time is money. Time is a limited resource. So if you really want to take control of your life, you’ve got to learn how to manage your time.

The best way to reclaim and manage your time is to do a full time audit. You can do one at work or at home, or both. When your time audit is done you’ll be able to increase productivity and lead a more fulfilling life where you can actually reach the goals you have.

Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn how to do your time audit.

What is a Time Audit?

You can think of a time audit as an investigation – a deep dive into what it is that you do and how long it takes you to do it. You need quantifiable and measurable results, so you have to be accurate as you track and record your time.

When it’s done, you’ll be able to see where time is being lost, and you’ll have the framework needed to build an optimized schedule. Evening opening up 10 minutes of time can have a huge impact on your day.

What You Need to do a Complete Time Audit

As we mentioned above, most people aren’t able to estimate their own time usage, so in order to get accurate data, you’ll need a time tracking app. With a tracker or a tracking app, you can get the data you need in order to produce accurate results.

Your time audit should be done over a 30 day period, so you’ll also need to have a calendar on hand. And before you can start, you’ll need to make a thorough to-do list.

Your to-do list should include everything you need to get done during your time auditing period. Don’t forget the time it takes to eat lunch, take breaks, and chat with your coworkers. Once we get further into the process, you’ll need to track the time for every single task that you need to do, whether it’s work-related or personal.

Steps to Completing a Time Audit:

1. Write Down Your Goals for the Month

Make a list of your main goals for the month. These overarching goals, combined with your to-do list, are what you’ll use to measure your success.

If you’re doing your time audit at work, make sure you include any major projects that are due in the upcoming month. If you decide to do your audit at home, your big goals might include cleaning your basement or purging your closet.

2. Track All Time for a Complete Month

To do a proper time audit, you have to track every single thing you do. There are many time tracking apps that can give you a good overall view of how you’re spending your time. If you decide to use a stopwatch instead, create a spreadsheet and record your data with precision.

Don’t think you can track every minute of every day for an entire month? It’s okay to start small and track your time for one week, but the longer you track yourself, the better your results will be.

3. Analyze Your Time Audit Results

Whether you track your time for a week or a month, once the results are in, it’s time to analyze your data. Take a detailed look at how you spent your time. It’s helpful to review your results by the amount of time spent on a particular task. Look at how long each task took you and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What tasks took longer than I thought they would?
  2. What tasks took less time than expected?
  3. Aside from my biggest goals and projects, are there items that took up a lot of time? Look for things such as checking your social media, browsing the internet, and chatting with coworkers.
  4. What items did I not account for at the beginning of the month or week? Did I account for eating lunch? Commuting? Enjoying happy hour or having dinner with friends?
  5. Did I complete the big goals I set forth at the beginning of the month?

Once you identify which tasks took the longest and which ones are eating up most of your time, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

4. Set a Schedule for Times Blocked Out Based on Your Results

When you have a good understanding of how long it takes you to do certain things, get your calendar out. Set aside time every day and/or every week to meet your biggest goals and make time for everything you need to do. Use the average times from your tracking app to plan out every single thing on every day of the week.

Don’t be surprised if you find that your days fill up quickly with all the things you have to do. This is how you’ll learn to set realistic goals that you can actually meet and exceed in future weeks and months.

5. Block Out Times for Breaks, Meetings, and Interruptions

Set your schedule in a way that will make it possible to meet your goals. Account for time to commute, have lunch, and take breaks – and pay special attention to where you’re wasting your time.

If you find a task that takes you hours to do but doesn’t put your closer to your goals, see if you can cut back on that time. When in doubt, ask coworkers for some assistance.

It’s crucial that you set time for breaks and unavoidable interruptions. Without them, you’ll be less productive.

6. Set Realistic Goals for Next Month

With a proper time audit, you can set yourself up for success. There’s no point in telling your boss you can accomplish something in two days if you know it’s going to take you two weeks to work it into your schedule. Keep your goals and schedule realistic and you’re certain to enjoy more success.

By setting realistic goals and identifying wasted time, you should be able to create more time in your schedule for the important things. When you know what you can do and what you have time for, you can identify a problem before it arises and take a proactive approach. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in outside help to assist you in your workload.

Putting it all Together

Doing an accurate time audit is the only way to know how you’re really spending your time. And when you know how you’re spending your time, you can adjust your schedule to accomplish what’s important.

Get a calendar. Download a time tracking app. Make a to-do list. Write down your biggest goals for the month.

Track everything you do throughout a week or month period and take some time to analyze your tracking results. Once you know how you’re spending your time and wasting your time, you can set realistic goals that you can actually meet next week or next month. Block out next month’s goals based on the time results of your audit – and don’t forget to schedule downtime for lunch and breaks.

The hardest part of time auditing is tracking every single thing you do. You have to be diligent. You have to be thorough. You can’t leave anything out. There’s no point in doing a time audit if you don’t end up with accurate results.

Author Bio: Market Station is Denver’s newest apartment complex. Located in the heart of downtown Denver, these apartments are equipped with full-service valet parking garage and much more.

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Set up Your Browser for Maximum Productivity with Plugins https://lifedev.net/2018/09/29/productive-browser-setup/ https://lifedev.net/2018/09/29/productive-browser-setup/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2018 16:48:45 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3811 This is my browser setup to remove distractions so I can focus

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My ad, script and Facebook feed blocking browser plugins for productivity

The internet is distracting. Many of the sites we visit are designed to either keep you scrolling to see more ads or have the flashiest ads possible. Just look at the proliferation of internet blocking applications.

The internet is ugly sometimes. Ever been to a site where you weren’t sure what’s content and what’s an ad?

That’s not the only ugliness. The scripts that run on many sites invade your privacy, and some even run malicious code on your computer.

Over time I’ve tried several browser plugins that help, and I’m finally happy with my setup.

The ad blocker is the highest impact plugin I want to share, and I recommend it for everyone. Ad blocking does two things: it makes ad-infested sites usable, and it protects your computer from malvertising.

Here’s the same page as above, now without third party ads.

site with ad blocker

Next, I block invasive cookies to keep the internet creepiness down. This one is totally optional. If you’re not bothered by ads following you around the internet and companies amassing data about everything you do online and then selling it, skip this one.

Finally, I block the Facebook news feed. The feed has very little value if you think about it. It does nothing to move you toward your goals. When I go to catch up on my business groups, I can get distracted for 10 minutes before I remember why I went to Facebook. That’s keeping me from my goals.

The Plugins

Here’s how to set up each plugin. I use these in Chrome, and they’re all available for Firefox, too.

Ad Blocker: uBlock Origin

Get the Chrome plugin

Get the Firefox plugin

This ad blocker doesn’t have behind-the-scenes deals with advertisers. It has good support for all the major browsers.

Follow the prompts to install uBlock Origin in your browser. Click the stop sign with the U in it and then the gear icon if you want to see the settings and choose your own blocking lists.

You can also make exceptions for sites you want to allow ads on. For instance, if you want to support a news site. You can do that by clicking the big blue power button icon, and that will stop blocking just for the current site.

Your pages should load much faster now without all those ads. If you only do one plugin, do this uBlock Origin or another ad blocker.

Optional: Third Party Cookie Blocker: Privacy Badger

https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

Privacy Badger, created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has versions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. This plugin is easy to use and you don’t have to change the settings. It just runs in the background, blocking scripts. It might speed up your browsing a bit on sites that are full of scripts.

News Feed Eradicator for Facebook

Get the Chrome plugin

Get the plugin for Firefox

Just install the plugin, and the next time you go to Facebook, you will have a header in the middle of the page, and then just nothing under it. No more jealousy-inducing vacation pics. Suddenly you notice it’s easy to find the groups you want to check on.

This plugin will save you many hours over the course of the year.

Want to veg out on the weekend to a nice Facebook scroll trance? Make a second Chrome profile that doesn’t have the plugin.

Bonus plugin: Momentum

https://momentumdash.com/

To see this one in action, install the plugin and then open a fresh browser tab. There’s a spot for you to enter your most important task for the day.

It’s easier to stay focused when your most important task is staring at you when you open a new browser tab to start web surfing. The daily rotating nature background is easy on the eyes, too.

What are your favorite browser plugins for productivity? Share in the comments below.

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8 Practical Ways To Improve Your Time Management Skills https://lifedev.net/2018/09/15/practical-ways-improve-time-management-skills/ https://lifedev.net/2018/09/15/practical-ways-improve-time-management-skills/#comments Sat, 15 Sep 2018 16:15:51 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3804 Even if you just do the first three suggestions, you will be ahead of the pack.

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Time is a precious commodity that we all crave. When it comes to managing projects and meeting deadlines, even those with the most experience often get overwhelmed with too much work. Learning and maintaining strong time management skills is like finding a good pair of shoes – it may take a lot of time and efforts to find the right fit, but once you get the right pair, you’ll be able to walk miles without any pain or discomfort. In terms of tasks and projects, being productive with your time and choosing the right time management tool gives you the ability to manage a project without any hassle, start to finish. It offers freedom from pressure, procrastination, and unnecessary project delays.

Now, whether you’re a manager, an executive, or a team leader, better time management is all you need to achieve the goals you have on your list. With that being said, here are 8 proven practical ways that you can improve your time management skills and make the most of your time.

1. Create a to-do list

First and foremost, make a list of all the tasks and activities you have to finish within a particular period of time. You can add tasks to a calendar, write them down on a whiteboard or even your mobile phone, it doesn’t matter. What matters the most is that the list should be in your sight at all times so that you are constantly being reminded of what needs to be done. When creating a to-do list, try to keep it as simple as possible. Focus on creating a doable list with tasks that can actually be completed within the desired time. Apart from this, it is also important to keep the to-do list up-to-date, so make sure that you review and organize your list whenever a new task or project comes up.

2. Decide on your priorities

Once you’ve created a to-do list, the next step is to differentiate between tasks that hold high priority and those that can be moved down the list. Highlight the tasks in your to-do-list by per their deadline and due date. This will help you get a clear idea of which tasks are more important and which ones do you need to complete first.

Also, don’t forget to mark off the tasks from your list once you’ve completed them. It will not only keep you away from all the confusion but also help you track progress in your productivity. If you’re new at prioritizing tasks in the workplace, consider splitting your to-do list into different categories or just rank every task with a letter from A to E (A being the highest priority).

3. Don’t multitask

People often seem to believe that handling too many things at once will help them accomplish their goals faster, but that’s just one side of the story. A human brain is not designed to multitask – it works best when you’re focusing on one thing at a time. Working on more than one task or activity can take a serious toll on your productivity. That’s why it is important that stop multitasking right away. Now, breaking the habit of multitasking is not easy, but still, you’ve to ensure that you avoid it whenever, wherever possible.

4. Learn to delegate

Delegating a few responsibilities to your fellow team doesn’t really mean that you are running away or giving up control. Delegation is just a simple process where you share your workload in order to ensure that a project is running as smoothly as possible. If you’re leading a project, you are probably already familiar with the fact that some tasks need more than one assignee for its successful completion. Therefore, understand each team member’s capabilities and use it to your advantage by learning to delegate wisely.

5. Schedule your breaks

Using all the time you get in a day to meet deadlines is not a very clever move. Yes, deadlines and deliverables are important, but it’s also important that you focus on achieving a desired outcome. Now, how will that happen? One of the easiest and the most effective ways to drive productivity and maintain steady progress in projects is to take regular breaks between work. Taking breaks between work allows you to clear your mind and come back with a stronger motivation and focus. If you have the habit of working round the clock, take a deep breath and give yourself short breaks (5 – 10 minutes break at the least) – it will help you rejuvenate and be more productive at your job.

6. Stop procrastinating

Procrastination is the practice of delaying tasks with higher priority by carrying our less important tasks first. It is one of the biggest factors that wastes time and kills workplace productivity. Now, if you are looking forward to improving your time management skills and want to do it fast, you will have to find a way to stop yourself from procrastinating. For this, you can consider timeboxing – the process of assigning specific time frames to each task in a project. This easy process allows teams to commit to a task for only a specific period of time, allowing them to get things done instead of wasting time procrastinating over them.

7. Don’t hesitate to say “NO”

Do you know when most people go wrong while working on a task or a project? Well, they often overestimate their potential and take on new tasks without considering the fact that they’ve already got their hands pretty full. Now, taking responsibility for more tasks may sound like a good thing. But when you overcommit, you run the risk of disappointing people. That is why it is imperative that you learn to say “NO” to any extra workload and focus on the list of tasks or activities that you already have.

8. Go for a time management software or app

The last and the most effective way to work on your time management skills is to add a time management software or app into your work process. Luckily, we have plenty of powerful team time tracking tools like ProofHub available in the market today. With the right time management tool, you can set estimates for each task/subtask in a project, track how much time is being spent working on a particular task/subtask, evaluate each employee’s performance, and generate accurate invoices for client billing. All in all, a time tracking or time management tool simplifies your work process and allows you to put your time to best usage.

There are also free and low-cost personal time management apps. Some people prefer a paper-based time management system. I couldn’t function without an app-based system that goes with me everywhere.

So there you go. These were a few easy time management tips that will help you be more productive at work and get more done in less time. Remember, putting them into practice will require a lot of discipline, planning, and advanced time management software. Just put the right combination in place and you will be at the peak of your productivity.

Now that you’ve learned these easy time management tips for work, share them with your team, your coworker, and even your client. Tell them how they can be more relaxed and productive around work.

About the author: Vartika Kashyap runs the marketing team at ProofHub — a project management software for teams of all sizes. She is a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She’s been featured among LinkedIn’s Top Voices for the year 2016 & 2017 and, is also a contributor for Your Story, The Next Web & Huffington Post. Connect with Vartika on LinkedIn.

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How I Use Kanban to Manage Massive Home Projects https://lifedev.net/2018/09/01/kanban-for-home-projects/ https://lifedev.net/2018/09/01/kanban-for-home-projects/#comments Sat, 01 Sep 2018 18:39:13 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3787 See how this industrial workflow system adapts perfectly to home projects.

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Kanban
A few years ago, I got a golden opportunity to move internationally. I said Yes! pretty much without thinking. Then the shock wore off…

What had I just agreed to?

How could I undertake to leave home for Europe?

The reality set in soon that there would be many things to do, large and small, to successfully relocate. Passports, visas, tax consultations, the inventory of every single item we own…

And how to coordinate all these things at the right times with my spouse?

Enter Kanban.

Kanban is a work tracking system created for manufacturing. Tasks flow through different phases, from left to right, such as To-Do, Doing and Done. It was created to be flexible, so works with any set of tasks. Personal Kanban takes the industrial process and makes it accessible for individuals. I’ve adapted it here as Kanban for home projects.

Kanban worked perfectly in my international move scenario for four reasons:

  1. It got every task written down and out of my head so I could stop wondering if I had forgotten something important.
  2. I could control how many tasks were in flight at once.
  3. Moving the tasks across the board showed progress and kept me motivated.
  4. The board instantly communicated task status.

What I really love about Kanban is that physically moving tasks across the board has more dimensionality than ticking boxes in a to-do list. Plus it limits me to only working on a few items at once. Instead of letting me hop around to the easiest thing, it makes me focus on what needs to be done now.

Kanban tool set

Mindmapping

The first step was to write out a list or a mind map of everything that needs to be done. Paper or software doesn’t matter. Each item that is actionable becomes a separate note or card.

mindmap for home projects

Sticky Notes

Anything you can write on that can be moved around would work. The quickest way is to write each task on a Post-it. Make three column headings – To Do, Doing and Done. Place all the notes in the To Do column.

Sticky notes for personal kanban

When you’re ready to work on a task, move it to the Doing column. Set a limit to how many tasks can be in progress at once. Three is a good number. That way you won’t take on too much at once.

Then watch them pile up in the Done column as you accomplish each task!

Trello

If paper doesn’t suit, I’ve also used Trello for major home projects. It’s quick to set up, though not as quick as sticky notes. It’s free, and you can share a board easily with your family.

Personal Kanban with Trello

Set a custom background for some motivation. Fill in the task name on the card. Click on the card to see inside it and add lots more detail, links, attachments, etc.

Just like with the sticky notes board, move the cards through to the Done column as you work on them.

Sticky Notes vs. Trello for Kanban

So which one did I use for my big move? Both!

I used sticky notes on the fridge for my move abroad. Sticky notes give a much greater satisfaction when you move tasks to done. You can play with the placement of sticky notes and aren’t locked into a grid.

For my move back to the US, I used Trello. Because I had to move before my spouse, we needed an online system to share notes and progress. One advantage of Trello is that you can set due dates on the cards and get an email reminder when the date comes up.

Use the Kanban method that works to manage your home project, and remember to check your board daily. You’ll see how organized you feel knowing everything you need to do is represented right there visually.

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Mind Maps for Stress Relief https://lifedev.net/2018/07/04/mind-maps-for-stress-relief/ https://lifedev.net/2018/07/04/mind-maps-for-stress-relief/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 23:10:17 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3765 How mind maps can relieve the stress of planning big events.

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mind map
Disclosure: Links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link, which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. I only recommend products I’ve actually used and found valuable.

After living abroad for a few years, it’s time for me to move back home! Anyone who’s moved abroad or arranged their wedding knows how stressful it is to plan a big event.

There are so many unknowns, to-dos and worries swirling around in my head that I felt overwhelmed. Mind mapping let me get that all out onto paper. It was such good stress relief, and it led to concrete actions I could do.

Here’s what I did:

I took a piece of graph paper (plain works fine too), turned it on its side, and wrote my main worry in the center. Then I drew a circle around that word. I added more words to the page, answering the question: what specifically is worrying about it?

I drew circles around those words and used lines to connect them back to the central idea.

Once I had all my main ideas, I started going through all of the second level ideas and listing out things I know or don’t know.

Those third level words started to look a lot like specific areas to research or actions to take.

Mind mapping is a fast, free-flowing technique, and I was done with that part in about five minutes. Looking at each third level item, I was able to branch out into some actions. I also made up my own symbols to denote items that need attention first or that will be the most expensive.

I immediately felt like things were more under control, even though I hadn’t really done anything yet! Ignoring my false confidence, I put the tasks I identified into OmniFocus. (If you’ve not taken a look at this GTD app for Mac yet, there are some great resources out there if you just search OmniFocus tutorials.)

So far so good, but…

The next day I was feeling stressed again! Some specific aspects of emigration were still uncertain. I didn’t know what I needed to do by when. So I repeated the mind mapping exercise on those specific issues. That yielded more to-dos, and I and felt better again.

I came back to the mindmaps a couple days later and updated them with new information. I repeated that as many times as I needed to feel that all tasks were captured.

You could do this in mind mapping software, too. I like paper because it feels more spontaneous. But if you are shy about drawing or need to take your mind maps with you, there are some great free and paid mind mapping tools. Personally, I use the free version of XMind for Mac. XMind’s keyboard shortcuts make brainstorming fast and unconstrained.

I’m happy to report that halfway through the emigration process, I feel like it’s all in hand. Getting ideas out on paper or a screen in a visual way makes all the difference.

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How Time Tracking Can Help You Achieve the Perfect Work Life Balance https://lifedev.net/2018/05/20/time_tracking_work_life_balance/ https://lifedev.net/2018/05/20/time_tracking_work_life_balance/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 10:31:18 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3745 Tracking your time is one of the best ways to begin to achieve a stronger work/life balance. Learn how time tracking can help you today!

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time tracking
Does it seem impossible to get a handle on how you spend and manage your time?

For most people, time management can be a daunting task. Well rest assured—it’s about to get a whole lot easier with some simple time tracking.

Using tools such as Toggl and Harvest can help you to keep your life on track. It’s an essential part of any successful business, but it can also help you achieve balance in both your personal and professional life.

There are so many benefits to logging your time, you won’t believe you didn’t do it sooner! Ready to track and manage your time better?

Check out these 5 ways that time tracking can help you achieve the perfect work/life balance.

1. Stay Aligned With Your Most Important Goals

This tactic does more than help you stay focused on the task at hand. It can help you put your goals into perspective. Think about all the things on your to-do list.

What tasks have pending deadlines or need immediate attention? Which items on your list can wait a day or two? Wouldn’t it be nice to know how long each of those projects might take?

With a time tracking tool, you can see exactly how much time you’re putting into a particular project. When you have a clear picture of how much time you’re spending on a task, you can better manage how and when you do that task. Tracking your time makes it easy to keep your most important projects at the top of your to-do list.

2. Understand How Much Time You Spend On Each Project

With the use of a time tracker, it will be easy to see how much time you spend on each item on your list. Once you start tracking projects, you can get a clear understanding of how long each task takes to finish. The results of this are two-fold:

One, when you know how long a project will take you’ll be able to better prioritize your to-do list. It’s always a good idea to tackle the biggest projects at the beginning of the day so you don’t run out of time. Achieving the perfect work/life balance starts with getting out of the office on time.

Two, by tracking time spent on various tasks, you’ll be able to see how you’re actually spending your time. You’ll also be able to see how you’re wasting your time.

Time tracking helps shed light on what you actually do throughout the day. If a project that should take you 20 minutes actually takes you upwards of an hour to complete, you’re doing something wrong.

3. Identify Non-Essential or Time-Consuming Tasks

Tracking your time allows you to easily identify which tasks take up the most amount of your time. The results can be shocking.

We’re all guilty of it; we do things at work every day that isn’t an essential part of our workload. If you spend hours each day doing tasks that aren’t critical aspects of your job, remove them from your to-do list.

Identify which tasks are essential or non-essential, so you can know how to address each issue. Ask a coworker for help, or see if some of your tasks can be automated. Decide if some tasks aren’t worth doing in the first place.

Don’t waste your time doing tasks that don’t matter or won’t advance your career. Losing complete control of your schedule is detrimental to your well-being. With some simple time tracking, you can make your workday more productive and more efficient.

4. Stay Focused on the Task at Hand

Tracking your time back to a certain task or project can help you stay focused. For example, you have a project that should, in theory, take about one hour.

By keeping a log of your time spent, you can look back and see how long it actually took. If it only took 30 minutes, you’ve freed up time in your schedule to tackle another project or take a short break.

Keep in mind, you can also use this tool in real time to better manage yourself. If you’ve hit the 45-minute mark on a project you have an hour to do, you know it’s time to crank through the rest to meet your goal. If you end up surpassing your one-hour deadline, you know you’ve got to work that much faster on the next task at hand.

5. Make the Case for a Raise, Taking a Vacation or Hiring More Employees

Many employees don’t feel comfortable asking their boss for a day off, let alone asking for a raise. But if you’re dedicated to your job and are great at it, your boss should be doing what they can to make sure you’re happy.

When you approach your boss for a raise or a vacation, be ready to rattle off a list of your career accomplishments. Pointing out your own successes can help to make the case for that overdue raise or much-needed time off.

By keeping a time log, you can see how much time you’ve spent working on projects that helped the company grow.

If your team is overworked and/or understaffed, projects are bound to suffer. If you’ve tracked your time you can build a solid case that shows when and where your team needs more help.

It can also highlight which clients or projects are being over-served or underserved. If your smallest client takes up the majority of your time, some re-alignment may need to happen.

A happy team is a productive team, so it’s important to identify ways to give everyone what they need. Would you like to work from home one day a week? Would you love to take a few long weekends or have an extra day off?

Could you use an intern or an assistant to help with certain projects? Whatever you need, time tracking can provide the proof required to make your case.

Keeping a detailed log of your time can seem tedious and monotonous. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Knowing how you spend your time is an essential tool to help you be more productive.

And when you’re more productive throughout the day, you’ll have more downtime to do the things you enjoy the most. Start integrating this into your daily workflow and you’ll see an improvement in your work/life balance.

Author Bio: Chestnut Portland is a quiet community of one, two and three bedroom townhomes in Portland and Scarborough, Maine. Chestnut Portland is perfect for anyone looking for easy access to town, as well as a little fresh air and breathing room.

Header photo by Harry Sandhu on Unsplash

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How Self-sabotage is Ruining Your Life (and 3 Ways to Defeat It) https://lifedev.net/2018/05/05/self-sabotage-is-ruining-your-life/ https://lifedev.net/2018/05/05/self-sabotage-is-ruining-your-life/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 09:13:23 +0000 https://lifedev.net/?p=3730 Self-sabotage manifests in different ways for different reasons. There are ways to spot it and get back on track.

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I’ve often wondered what drives people to behave in ways that aim to mask vulnerability. A lot of times I see people projecting an image of success when overall life satisfaction is low. When I see that, I look for the self-sabotage behind it.

I love listening to people and I do it with an open heart. Connecting with authentic people has always given me positive energy because it allows my soul to blossom. I’ve learned things from both rich and poor people. I’ve learned things from children and adults. Oftentimes children can teach us so much, because they’re not caught up in this rat-race called life. Adulthood can transform the best of us into our own worst enemies.

We’ve created this rather unhealthy habit of focusing on what’s missing and consuming our energy. That solidifies our negative views of the world we live in. We’re never happy and there is always room for more. And when we come to have more, we want even more, without taking the time to really appreciate what we have.

Most of the time we think about how we can get even better, be more or have more. And this race turns us into runners and hoarders. That’s not to say that growth or having more is bad. On the contrary, developing yourself as a person and striving to have a rich life is a noble pursuit.

The real problem is when we start “enriching” our lives with problems, fears, frustrations and negative thoughts. We tend to cling to these negative habits for several reasons. The main reason is that it keeps us within the comfort zone.

A lot of times, self-sabotage can be “the easy way out” of a problem that you genuinely want to solve. Other times, it can occur because the people around you are toxic. They can influence your behavior without you even knowing it. Also, you might sabotage yourself because you want to grow, but you make unwise decisions in the process.

Let’s explore some methods to help you put an end to self-sabotage:

Focus on your accomplishments rather than your failures

It’s easy to put yourself down when you’ve failed in your endeavors. However, if you’ve learned from it, then the experience is a lesson, rather than a failure. Nobody was born an expert, and everyone had to go through failure and rejection before achieving success. Often, we get caught up in our own frustrations so much that it becomes hard to learn what life has been trying to teach us.

What can you do in such a situation?

Try to understand that there is no perfection and learn to accept that fact. Rather than looking back at your mistakes, try acknowledging your achievements. That will make you more conscious of your own value as a human being and it will help you see your strengths more clearly, so that you can use them to achieve more.

Mind your thoughts and avoid getting stuck

Really, how conscious do you think you are with your own internal dialogue? How many times have you found yourself in the middle of a negative internal monologue? Most of the times we don’t even realize just how cruel we can be with ourselves.

Negative thoughts are easy to hold on to, especially when life satisfaction is low. Unfortunately, positive thoughts don’t come if you don’t let them in and let negative vibes dictate your life.

What can you do to replace negative thoughts with positive ones?

Try to be more conscious of your own internal monologue. Maybe you will come to realize just how much of your time and energy you spend on self-loathing and self-criticism. The best thing that you can do is to look for the positive in any situation.

The car broke down?

Great! That way you can bike to work and get some exercise.

You’re sick this weekend? That’s OK. You can stay at home and focus on your hobbies.

You get the picture. It will be difficult to do so. At first, it might seem like total nonsense to be overly optimistic about a situation. Nevertheless, you won’t change if you’re doing the same things over and over again without focusing on results.

Learn to love…yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff is a strong advocate of “self-love,” describing it as a healthier way to relate to yourself. That is indeed true. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is useful for your overall well-being. However, denying who you are deep down can lead to buried feelings and unresolved issues.

What actions should you take in dealing with negative emotions so that you come to love yourself?

Know that the feelings are there and simply take them as they are. Understand that it’s perfectly fine to experience negative emotions because they are part of human nature. If you ignore them, you will simply postpone the frustrations, which tend to surface when you least need them in your life.

It’s healthy to remind yourself that everyone goes through moments when the light at the end of the tunnel seems non-existent. That is just how you are feeling in the moment. Amanda Cole said something interesting which could be a mantra to live by when facing tough times: “I’ll be OK, just not today.”

Try to look for happiness within yourself. Search for experiences that make you feel fulfilled and that bring color to your life. Try to live in the present because that will help you build your future.

Author bio

Michael Schoeff is an entrepreneur with an affinity for human psychology and personal development. Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.

Feature photo by nick beswick on Unsplash

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