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How to Keep Productivity Apps From Destroying Your Productivity

Topics: Career Advice

Picture this: It’s 6:32 a.m. Your Sleep Cycle alarm knows this is the perfect 15-minute interval of light sleep in which take wake you up. You go into the bathroom and stream your favorite new album on Spotify Premium through your bluetooth speakers. You get in the car, and Waze helps you navigate the least-trafficked route to work. Before you know it, you’re at your desk and have Trello, Asana, and Evernote all coordinating your tasks, projects, and notes. iCalendar pops up on your phone to remind you of that lunch meeting you scheduled last week. Your team hops on Slack every so often to check in, and soon enough it’s time to go home. You order some dinner on Seamless, and as you’re falling asleep you watch that new Netflix show you’ve been meaning to get to on your iPad. Your life is now run by apps. But is it really that much more efficient?


(Photo Credit: ryantron./Flickr)

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The fact of the matter is, we’re extremely dependent on our screens. A study as recent as November 2015 had calculated that teens are staring at their screens for 9 hours a day — and that number may not even shock you the way some writers want it to. Think about how difficult your job or daily life would be if you had to stop using computers and smartphones while the rest of the world kept going.

With that said, screens have the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives — but it’s a matter of disciplining ourselves to use them in the right way. Here are some strategies for doing that:

Don’t Forget to Plan

In some respects, a great app can create the illusion that you don’t need to actively plan. You can just set reminders, and then it’s out of your brain until the reminder brings it back. But this really isn’t efficient behavior. As one Fast Company article points out: planning actually makes you a more productive. One study revealed that people who break down their annual goals and deadlines into a daily calendar were more proactive about accomplishing those goals.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use an app to plan, but it does mean you can’t expect the app to do your thinking for you. Plan ahead, and have each day’s goals present in your mind.

Remember to (Occasionally) Ditch the Screen

This isn’t new news, but it is advice that almost none of us regularly heed: stop taking your screens to bed with you. As a refresher: a study reported by The Huffington Post showed that staring at the backlight from our screens not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but it also makes us more tired and less alert the next day — even when we’ve gotten the same amount of sleep.

In more scientific terms, the blue light tricks our bodies into thinking it’s daytime, thereby suppressing the body’s natural nighttime habit of producing melatonin to help you fall and stay asleep. In less scientific terms: you’re cheating yourself out of free sleep.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you find that apps and new technology make you a more efficient person, or more bogged down? What’s your productivity secret? Will this foolish Millennial writer ever escape the clutches the technology he has ensnared himself with? Share your take in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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I helps if you use real work tools at work. Example, Bitrix24 instead of Slack or Wrike instead of Trello.

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