When it comes to staying productive in a high energy fast paced office it all boils down to the tools you use and the idea that your tools need to work for you. Here are a few that massively increase my productivity and ability to help clients.
My favorite tool that I use every single day is called Brain.fm. Brain.fm uses music to alter your cognitive brain state in order to increase your focus and productivity. Every morning after a cup of BP coffee, I plug in my headphones and listen to Brain.fm’s focus track on an infinite loop. It leaves me feeling more focused and in the zone. I like to think of it as auditory Adderall.
Brain.fm is a patented music software as a service technology that capitalizes on the latest in auditory neuroscience concepts coupled to empirical developments to generate music from the ground up that helps trigger specific cognitive states.
They are combining music with auditory neuroscience to produce an innovative non-invasive digital therapy application for consumers. While they have different tracks for sleep and meditation, my personal favorite is their focus track. I’ve experienced the effects of Brain.fm first hand and can positively say they’ve been influential in getting and keeping me on tasks, but if you’re still skeptical, the study above shows increases in attention and focus over placebo music, further proof that Brain.fm is making great advances in auditory neuroscience.
The most important tool I use for task related productivity is a Chrome Extension called “Marinara”, taking its roots from the Pomodoro Technique. If you don’t know what The Pomodoro Technique is here’s a quick rundown: it’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. Essentially, the technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals of 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The basic idea is that by breaking up large tasks into smaller chunks you will stay more productive and feel more accomplished.
There are 7 easy steps to using Marinara:
- The first step is to organize tasks on a basic ‘To Do List’. From there, we can begin the technique.
- Decide on which task to tackle first.
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task until the timer rings.
- After the timer rings put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four check marks on your piece of paper, take a short break (3–5 minutes) between each set of 25 mins, then go back to step 3.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 2.
As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement. While most of the time this is done via pencil/paper, Marinara helps log every task interval and break. You are now staying productive with ease and can look back at your history of ‘Pomodoros’ to and see how well you performed on a day, week, and monthly basis.
The goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible. When interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed or the pomodoro must be abandoned. I personally have been using this technique on and off since college and have found tremendous increases in productivity during the ‘on’ periods.
Like most people, I was constantly digging my way out of a cluttered inbox. When it comes to productively using my email I use this Gmail add on called Active Inbox. Active Inbox borrows methodology from Getting Things Done, a productivity book by David Allen. Getting Things Done, or GTD has five steps to organize tasks – capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage. Active Inbox helps turn Gmail into a better equipped platform to manage with the main goal of to get to “Inbox Zero”, keeping your inbox empty. Basically, every inbox email should be organized, archived or deleted in order to keep your inbox, and more importantly, your mind clear. Active Inbox teaches you to: Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer and Do. With this tool and the prior methodology, one can stay more focused on the task at hand, and have a clearer path when looking toward future tasks. The following chart shows just how Active Inbox adds the ability to do so.
All in all, it’s tricky to stay focused and productive and to ensure that we’re keeping up with all of our tasks and projects. These tools help me out, comment below with others you use!