Spring might be known for cleaning, but fall is ripe for revitalization and renewal. Shaving a few seconds off your day might not sound like much, but those seconds will add up to minutes, those minutes will bleed into hours, and then those hours will turn into that distantly familiar, glorious thing called free time.
Here are my top tricks, shortcuts, and life hacks that I use to increase my productivity and make time for the things I want to do.
- Daily Digest. I love Google Reader, an RSS aggregator that streamlines the way I consume the daily news. Instead of visiting hundreds of sites each day, Google Reader pulls new updates from my favorite blogs and websites into a single window. The content conveniently comes to me, rather than the other way around, enabling me to scan through more than 1000 articles and blog posts each day. When I’m on the go, I’ll use Reeder to quickly skim through content on my iPhone and iPad. I supplement with Instapaper, a bookmarking tool that allows me to save web pages in a mobile format so that I can read them later, even without an Internet connection.
- Exit Strategy. Like any good New Yorker, I’ve got my commute down to a T. I know that I have to be at the back of the F train if I’m headed to the Etsy Labs in Brooklyn, and that I should be in the fourth car of the 7 train when I am heading home. But what about the subway stations that are less familiar? Exit Strategy NYC is a mobile app that compiles all the know-how and shortcuts of an experienced New Yorker and places it in the palm of my hand. It tells me which subway car I need to get on so that I am positioned to the closest exit, staircase, or transfer. I literally shave minutes off my daily commute and I never miss a transfer. It also puts an interactive MTA subway map, street map, and bus map into my pocket so that I rarely get lost. (I say rarely because I have a terrible internal compass. I get lost even when I have voice-navigated GPS instructions!)
- To the Cloud! Do you have an inspiration board? I have an inspiration folder! Whenever I spy something creative online, I like to take a screenshot. Most of the time, I’ll want to share the image, but it’s a nuisance to upload the photo first or compose a whole email in order to send it to friends. Cloud is a Mac app that streamlines the process by automatically uploading screenshots I take to the web. It then copies the direct image URL to my clipboard, making sharing images and links as easy as cut and paste.
- Sleepcycle. This is pretty nerdy, but I optimize my sleep! Sleepcycle is an app that analyzes my sleep patterns based on how much I move. It then wakes me up in my lightest sleep cycle so that I get up feeling rested and relaxed, not grumpy and tired like when my normal alarm clock abruptly drags me out of a deep sleep. My favorite feature of Sleepcycle is that it records your past sleep history, letting you track when and how long you sleep. It also generates Sleep Graphs so that you can see the trends in how often you shift from a deep slumber to a shallow sleep.
- Post-it Notes. Digital is cool, but sometimes analog is best. Sometimes there’s nothing more effective at getting things done than a neon square of paper tacked on the side of your computer monitor. As much as I’d hate to part with my smartphone, pen and paper still play a huge role in the way I get things done!
What tools, systems, and hacks do you use to increase productivity?