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6 Productivity Hacks to a Happier Life

I have been thinking about the topic of productivity a lot lately. The more productive you are not only at work, but in your personal life through daily habits, the happier and more successful you can be (more on habit-creating in another post).

With that, I bet you’ve never heard of these top productivity tools.

My Top 6 Productivity Tools:

  1. Trello: Great for organizing and compartmentalizing separate projects into “boards.” Each board allows you to visualize separate to-do lists, create check lists. I’ve found the boards to be very helpful if you are a visual learner and need to switch gears from one project to the next.
  2. Pocket: I frequently go back to Pocket to read and reread articles or reference websites that I meant to read thoroughly but didn’t have the time. In this day-in-age, it’s less about finding an answer to your question and more about filtering out the junk answers, distractions and noise.
  3. Calendly: Calendly is great for reducing the back and forth inbox clutter and hassle of trying to coordinate calendars. Simply set preferred blocks of time, sync your Google Calendar and send over a link that allows anyone to book increments of time for your next conference call, meeting, etc.
  4. RescueTime: Literally track your activities in the background of your device and get a daily dashboard of how you spend your time. If knowledge is power, than the ability to know how and where you spend (or waste) your time is important to improving your productivity, work-life balance and overall happiness. It can even send you alerts when you spend a certain amount of time on an activity.
  5. PomodoroOne: Work in concentrated spurts. By working hard at just one thing for a concentrated period of time, the brain is able to focus completely without outside distractions. Not to mention, you can provide yourself with little rewards throughout the day for completing your goals. I find that I am most productive earlier in the day when it is quieter, but I simply can’t avoid the coming and going of people throughout the afternoon. The pomodoro technique helps to create a cycle whereby you block out the inevitable distractions of a workplace and breakdown large tasks into manageable smaller ones.
  6. Zapier or Alfred: Create workflows for common activities you do each day or automate tasks between web apps by creating “zaps” through Zapier.


2017 Goals, Lessons Learned & Creating Habits that Stick

I never enjoy making new year’s resolutions. I’ve struggled with the fear of not having achieved that “thing” that I put on my bucket list or my resolutions for the year. Even though this fear is completely arbitrary, that perfectionist in me is reluctant to place on paper something for which I’m not sure will be achieved; even worse, I fear not being good at something.

Looking back on 2016, I’m glad I challenged that fear in new areas of life. This past summer I signed up for my first half marathon with a group of friends. I ran cross country in high school and had mildly kept in shape here and there, but nothing consistent. Training for a 13.1 mile race forced me to hold myself accountable to train on days even when I wasn’t feeling up for it, push through when fatigue was setting in or when I began to question my decision to run 13 miles straight. Like much in life, I believe that those who succeed are individuals that become really good at mastering their time and habits. In other words, they don’t let the day control them (the inevitable meetings and distractions that pop up throughout the day). They incrementally improve on repeatable day-to-day habits with focus on the long term goal.

One of my favorite quotes I heard recently was from Arianna Huffington, “Fear is like a muscle, the more you work at it, the better you are at facing new challenges.”

I’ve been told that it takes approximately 3-4 weeks to make a habit “stick.” So, for example, if I keep waking up at 6am for a few weeks, my body will eventually think of it as second nature. Instead of asking myself why I’m up so early, my mind will be trained to think of that time as just part of my daily schedule (in other words ingrained into what I do).

2016 in Review

In 2016, I invested time in new friendships (we joined a young married small group), family (my brother got married!), travel, moving (we live on a lake! woo hoo!) and development of a new business. Our relationships became richer, our experiences traveling, deeper and our lessons learned in business development/career path, more defined.

2017 Goals

I created a list of goals I’d like to achieve for 2017; some of which are habits, some personal enjoyment, some skills and others just for cultivation of knowledge/general health.

Goal      How am I going to achieve it and when will I start?
Workout 4x a week 45 minute workouts during lunch hour – Spinning, BodyPump and HIIT Mon. – Thurs., occasional Fri.
Read and or yoga/pilates in the morning; eat breakfast Set alarm for 6am and wakeup – make a reading plan of books I’d like to complete per month/a countdown of days I have left to complete each book.
Business Development Set 1 goal per week or day that answers this question: What is the single most important thing I can do to move the needle? Focus on 1 high-value thing per week.
Dedicate 1 night per week toward the development of a skill or hobby Sunday nights. A new hobby each quarter. I’m currently learning to play the piano!
Go to bed at 11pm (currently, sometimes I fall asleep around 10pm and other days I fall asleep after 12am) Drink a cup of coffee in the evening?
Go on 5 vacations (atleast 1 international) Booking vacations further in advance around major holidays. I made a list of all the places I’d like to go at the beginning of the year in order to strategize the timing of the bookings, how much they cost, if I am going to use points to pay for the trips
Learn financial modeling, UX Design and other digital marketing techniques Weekday evenings. Signed up for a few short term classes.
Create a personal website and blog about career development, personal finance and travel hacks. Deepen my writing skills and demonstrate my general knowledge to a captive audience Here we go!

Struggling with setting your own goals? Think of them like little everyday habits. If you’re able to breakdown long term goals into everyday habits, you’ll be more likely to sustain the pace.

Here’s three resources for creating habits that stick: