This post is by Ryan Burch and was originally published on Career Contessa.
WRANGLING ALL OF YOUR CALENDARS, TO-DO LISTS AND “PRODUCTIVITY” APPS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. SIMPLIFY YOUR TECH LIFE WITH THESE EASY-TO-USE TOOLS.
Lately, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed by the amount of random thoughts bouncing around in my brain, as well as the amount of items that seem to be eternally living on my to-do list. Although most people struggle with the feeling of having “too much to do” and not enough time to do it, we still allow ourselves to feel inadequate when we see others accomplishing things that we wish we could make time for in our own lives.
Every day I attempt to balance work, exercise, friends, family and “free time,” but there’s always so much more to be done! I just got an email from a charity organization I’ve been meaning to start volunteering for, my boyfriend is urging me to learn French and I know I should take online classes if I want to get savvier and smarter in my field. Ugh. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all!
The great thing is, we know that it is possible to fit more into our lives if we get ourselves organized and learn how to prioritize (refer to these 15 tips to increase your productivity at work).
To address my desire to fit more meaningful activities into my day, I’ve set a personal goal to identify where I’ve been allowing the most clutter to sneak into my life—and I’m whipping myself into shape!
To start, I’ve decided to focus on organizing the tech part of my life—which, by the way, is not something I would have said a year ago. You could definitely call me a “late adopter” when it comes to technology. I’m the girl that was carrying around a checkbook up until a few months ago (didn’t want to deal with mobile banking), remembering meetings and appointments by memory (syncing my calendar seemed confusing…), scribbling ideas onto 3 different notebooks (up until last week) and I still get overwhelmed at the thought of organizing my phone apps or updating my computer software.
Although most of you have probably not been living under a rock to this extent, I’m sure you can relate to feeling overwhelmed by certain elements of the online world. You have to click through a million links to read an article, targeted ads are constantly popping up to remind you of that item you didn’t buy (for a reason), and there are more and more apps to download, bloggers to follow, cyber sales to explore, etc., etc.! Even if you are tech savvy, it’s very easy to get sucked into the online sphere, distracted from your work and pulled away from quality time spent on offline interests and activities that might add more value to your life.
As part of my efforts to declutter my mind and cut down online distractions, I’ve made a point to research and identify super simple, “no frills” apps that help users get organized, save time in their days and increase their productivity.
While many of you may already be ten steps ahead of me, for the less-tech savvy readers, I highly suggest “updating” your life with the following online apps/platforms:
FOR: ORGANIZING YOUR THOUGHTS
Evernote is fabulous because it allows you to create multiple notebooks with multiple notes (almost like chapters) in one simple, virtual place. It’s easy to switch back and forth between notebooks and you can upload photos to correspond to your notes. You also can share ideas and direct chat with friends. This has really helped me organize not only my ideas for work-related projects, but also personal, social and financial goals and “to do” lists.
FOR: REDUCING TIME SEARCHING FOR MUSIC
Hands down the easiest way to find new music without spending hours searching. Check out the “discover” part of the app, scan “top lists” and follow friends who have good taste in music to find the best jams. It’s well worth the $10 a month to get ad-free listening ($5 if you have a student ID) and you’ll immediately improve your drive to work.
FOR: KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR FINANCES
If you don’t have it, get it! Venmo makes it super easy to stay on top of money owed—especially when it comes to paying for things when out with friends or splitting the bill at lunch. Forget the stress of hunting people down to pay you back. It takes almost no time to set up, it’s free if you link it to a checking account and the newsfeed helps you keep track of your payments with personalized notes.
FOR: STAYING UP TO DATE WITH CURRENT EVENTS
When you’re a busy gal, keeping up with current events is one of the first things to go. Every morning, the Skimm will send you a breakdown of the biggest news stories from around the world. It’s super easy to digest, and gives you fabulous conversation starters.
FOR: STAYING ON TOP OF YOUR FITNESS GOALS
This app was enormously helpful when I was training for a half marathon a few months ago. Although I hated running before, this app kept me motivated and on top of my goals. It tracks your progress, allows you to comment on your workouts, calculates calories burned, suggests new routes in your area and has voice-activated support (which you can turn off) to tell you when you’ve hit certain mile markers or reached your goal. There are a million helpful functions with this app, and it changed my life by easing me into running again.
In addition to the above suggestions, I’ve found it’s also helpful to get into the habit of keeping your computer desktop organized, deleting photos from your phone after each upload and blocking off time for “personal appointments” on your Google calendar (like calling your mom), just as you would for work tasks.
Although I will always crave human interaction and experiences more than all-things-digital, it’s obvious that technology makes our lives more convenient and allows us to work more efficiently. By deciding to embrace technology rather than let it overwhelm me, I’ve already achieved a heightened sense of clarity.
I still think it’s important for millennials to think about the amount of time spent in the virtual world, and make a conscious effort to cut down on frivolous hours surfing the web or shopping online. By focusing on technology that actually improves and enriches our lives, we will feel more balanced and more productive. Better yet, we will be able to spend more time doing the real-life things that bring us true progress, happiness and fulfillment!