Becoming Better https://alifeofproductivity.com Advice on becoming a better human being that actually works Tue, 13 Aug 2019 09:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Becoming Better is a podcast dedicated to making you a better human being. Hosted by Chris Bailey, the author of two productivity books, and Ardyn Nordstrom, a nerdy economist, the show covers topics as diverse as productivity, procrastination, money, happiness, giving back, travel, gratitude, and disconnecting. Chris Bailey clean episodic Chris Bailey chris@chrisbailey.ca chris@chrisbailey.ca (Chris Bailey) Advice on becoming a better human being that actually works Becoming Better https://alifeofproductivity.com/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/Becoming_Better_Artwork.jpg https://alifeofproductivity.com chris@chrisbailey.ca Becoming Better is a podcast dedicated to making you a better human being. Hosted by Chris Bailey, the author of two productivity books, and Ardyn Nordstrom, a nerdy economist, the show covers topics as diverse as productivity, procrastination, money, happiness, giving back, travel, gratitude, and disconnecting. Every second Tuesday 10: How to Stay Accountable https://alifeofproductivity.com/simple-ways-to-make-yourself-accountable/ Tue, 13 Aug 2019 09:00:07 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11590 https://alifeofproductivity.com/simple-ways-to-make-yourself-accountable/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/simple-ways-to-make-yourself-accountable/feed/ 0 <p>Accountability is one of the best antidotes to procrastination.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/simple-ways-to-make-yourself-accountable/">3 simple ways to make yourself more accountable</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Three ways to hold yourself accountable for doing aversive tasks: get a deadline (however you can); fire up Focusmate; and get an accountability partner.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 2s.

Podcast Length: 16 minutes, 33s (link to play podcast at bottom of post).

Research shows that the more unstructured a task is, the more likely you are to procrastinate on it. One of the best ways to combat this? Get other people to hold you accountable for getting your most aversive tasks and projects done.

In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, Ardyn and I chat about our favorite strategies for doing this. It’s a bite-sized episode this week, but in case you don’t have the time or the inclination to listen, here are three simple accountability strategies we chatted about!

1. Get a deadline. You should be able to feel deadlines approaching. There are a lot of productivity tactics and hacks out there—but hardly anything will make you as focused or productive as a fast-approaching deadline. If you don’t have a deadline for an unstructured project, get one. If a project is so big that you can’t feel the deadline for it approaching, ask for deadlines for major milestones with the project. However you can, however you need to, get a deadline. Tell someone about your deadlines, for added accountability.

2. For instant accountability, fire up Focusmate. Or as an alternative, work alongside someone who’s as focused as you desire to be. I’ve written about Focusmate quite a bit lately, for good reason: it’s a way to instantly hold yourself accountable for working on something you’re stuck on. The website works by teaming you up—via live video—with someone who also wants to focus on work for a 50-minute block of time. It’s one of the best productivity websites out there, and it allows you to instantly enter into hyperfocus mode.

3. Find an accountability partner. At the start of each week, my wife emails me the three main things she wants to accomplish in her research that week. And then, at the end of the week, she follows up on that email to tell me how things went. It’s a simple ritual that takes her just a few minutes, and it’s all the motivation she needs to actually get those things done. Find an accountability partner who you can update on your work each week; send them your intentions and goals, and check in with them when the week is done to tell them how it went.

With so many of us doing knowledge work for a living, our work is highly unstructured. These three simple tactics let you hold yourself accountable, and as a result, make you significantly more likely to get your work done. 

The post 3 simple ways to make yourself more accountable appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
Accountability is one of the best antidotes to procrastination. Accountability is one of the best antidotes to procrastination. Chris Bailey 16:33
9: The Practical Benefits of Meditation https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-practical-things-meditation-can-teach-you/ Tue, 30 Jul 2019 09:00:07 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11545 https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-practical-things-meditation-can-teach-you/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-practical-things-meditation-can-teach-you/feed/ 0 <p>For every minute you spend meditating, you’ll get many more back.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-practical-things-meditation-can-teach-you/">5 Practical Things Meditation Can Teach You</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Meditation saves you time because it allows you to work more efficiently. Five practical benefits of having a meditation ritual: you’ll be happier (which makes you more productive); you’ll have greater clarity of what’s important as you work; you’ll develop deeper relationships; you’ll focus deeper; and you’ll become less dependent on your addictive devices.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 8s.

Podcast Length: 34 minutes, 12s (link to play podcast at bottom of post).

For a simple, accessible guide on how to meditate, check out this post I wrote a while back!

Meditation is a topic I often write about on ALOP. Why write about meditation on a productivity blog? Simple: a meditation practice will provide you with some remarkably practical benefits, chief among which is that it actually saves you time. 

Most writers focus on the spiritual benefits of meditation. While I find these nice, they’re not why I meditate. I meditate because doing so makes me more productive. For every minute I spend meditating, I get many more back in how much more efficiently I’m able to work. I’m more focused, resilient, and calm. My mind is better organized, I have more energy, and I’m better able to relate to other people. 

I’m confident you’ll experience these same things if you decide to adopt a meditation practice.

In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I’m joined by special guest co-host Jon Krop. In addition to being a good friend with a decent microphone, Jon is a Harvard-trained lawyer who teaches meditation at the largest law firms across the United States. He credits meditation with allowing him to turn his life around when he was studying to become a litigator, and is convinced a practice will help you out immensely, too. Having experienced many of the benefits, I’m inclined to believe him. In this week’s episode, we cover what meditation is and how to do it, and take turns sharing our favorite practical, tactical benefits of adopting a practice. In case you don’t have the time or inclination to listen to this one, here are the five practical benefits we dig into!

1. Meditation makes you happier. Once you begin meditating, you’ll notice that your quality of life drastically improves. According to Jon, this is the main reason that we should meditate—other benefits are subsidiary to this one. Negative emotions become less punishing. You experience more joy, and less suffering. You’re able to feel content regardless of your external circumstances. From the outside in, your life doesn’t change much. Meditation doesn’t change the things you experience. But it teaches you to relate to the things you experience differently: the bad things don’t affect you as much, and you’re able to savor the good things more fully.

2. Meditation gives you clarity of what’s important. One of my favorite benefits of meditation is how it helps us step back from the mental chatter in our head. This is a nice benefit in general, but it’s especially powerful during stressful times. When ^$% hits the fan at work, you’re able to focus. When the water tank starts leaking in your house, you’re able to calm down and take care of things more easily. During stressful times, the mental chatter in our head can obscure the way we perceive things. Meditation helps us become one step removed from this mental chatter, so we can maintain clarity of what’s important.

3. Meditation makes you kinder, and a better person. I’ll never forget something that my now-wife said to me during my productivity experiment to meditate for 35 hours in a week (while being as productive as possible). While we were chatting over dinner, she said to me, “You know what, Chris, I’ve never felt more loved as I do right now, with you doing this weird experiment.” As David Augsburger, a Baptist minister and author, has put it: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” Meditation makes you compassionate, loving, and kind. It also better equips you to be of service to people, because you’re more focused and effective—there’s more room to be there for others. Meditation doesn’t just let you give more of yourself to your work; it lets you give more of yourself to the people in your life.

4. Meditation makes you more focused. Studies show that our mind wanders for 47% of the day. In other words, we’re focused on what’s in front us just 53% of the time. Let’s say you’re awake for 16 hours. That equals 7.5 hours you spend unfocused each day so any amount of improvement in how well you’re able to focus can save you a ton of time. Thankfully, meditation improves the quality of your attention in this way. Let’s say that through practicing meditation, you’re able to improve the number just a bit—to 37% instead of 47%. That increase alone leads you to be focused for 1.6 more hours each and every day.

5. Meditation makes you less dependent on your most addictive devices. Some tactics for dealing with distraction are pretty helpful. Putting your phone screen in “greyscale mode” (which turns your phone’s screen black-and-white), disabling notifications, and setting screen time limits all help. But these solutions are external. The best internal strategy for making your mind less reliant on digital distraction is to make your mind less stimulated (if you’re curious, I chat more about this idea in a recent talk). The best strategy for making your mind less stimulated? Practice meditation.

Hope you enjoy the episode!

The post 5 Practical Things Meditation Can Teach You appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
For every minute you spend meditating, you’ll get many more back. For every minute you spend meditating, you’ll get many more back. Chris Bailey 34:12
8: Tracking Your Time https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-track-your-time/ Tue, 16 Jul 2019 09:00:03 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11511 https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-track-your-time/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-track-your-time/feed/ 0 <p>How to track your time—the most limited resource you have to get stuff done.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-track-your-time/">How to Track Your Time</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Keeping a log of how you spend your time, even if just for a few days, makes you aware of whether you’re spending time on what’s actually important to you. Keeping a time log sounds like a hassle, but it takes less time and attention than you might think. Plus, doing so lets you discover how many hours you actually work, step back from the stories you tell yourself, makes time feel richer, and may end up being the push you need to change how you spend your time.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 45s.

Podcast Length: 36 minutes, 50s.

Time tracking is something I often write about on ALOP, and rightfully so: tracking your time helps you gain perspective on your life, so you can determine whether the way you spend your time is true to your priorities and what’s important to you. On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, my special guest Laura Vanderkam and I dig into the intricacies of managing and tracking your time—including how and why you should keep a time log, the stories we tell ourselves around how we manage our time, and what Laura has learned from tracking her time every single day for years.

The episode is well worth a listen—and there’s a link to play the episode at the bottom of this post—but as always, in case you don’t have the time to do so, here are the best nuggets from our conversation, including how to track your time, and why you should do it.

How to Track Your Time

Tracking your time is a pretty simple practice (here’s a printable PDF and an Excel template that’ll let you track a week). Each half-hour, you jot down how you spent your time during that previous half-hour. Once you have about a week’s worth of data, you look it over.

In looking over your time log, Laura recommends asking yourself a few things:

  • What do you like about your schedule? Make sure you celebrate your wins, and the things you’re doing right already, instead of just picking apart all of the ways that you could do better.
  • What do you want to do more of?
  • What do you want to do less of?

Different people will want to track different things. For example, depending on your situation, you may be interested in paying special attention to things such as how much time you spend:

  • Doing housework and errands;
  • Watching TV;
  • Spending leisure time unintentionally;
  • With people and family;
  • Working.

You don’t have to make a pie chart and account for everything, but you’ll want to look out for whether you’re spending your time intentionally, in ways that are important to you.

Tracking your time takes less time and attention than you might think. It takes just a few seconds to jot down what you worked on during each half-hour chunk of time, and once you settle into the practice, you can update your time tracking sheet every hour or two, recalling what you just did.

Why You Should Track Your Time

There are countless benefits to tracking your time. Here are just a few of them:

  • You can see how many hours you actually work. As Laura explains in the episode, we tend to overestimate how many hours we work by a significant margin (sometimes by as much as 20-30 hours). A time log lets you see, at a glance, how many hours you truly spend at work and at home. 
  • You can separate from the stories you tell yourself. We tend to tell ourselves things such as that we have no free time, that we spend very little time with our family, and that we work far too many hours. Tracking your time lets you verify if these stories are actually true.
  • You discover what your priorities actually are. It’s one thing to believe that something is important to you; it’s another to invest time in what you consider to be important. Keeping a time log lets you see how many hours you’re spending on things you deeply value, and how many hours you spend on tasks that are convenient and easy to do.
  • Time feels richer. Much like how keeping a food log leads you to eat less, keeping a time log lets you bring greater awareness to how you’re spending your time. In practice, this feels great: meaningful activities like spending time with family feel more meaningful, because you’re able to reflect on their value to you. You feel more productive working on important tasks at work, because you notice how much time you spend on them. Time feels richer when you’re aware of how you spend your time.
  • A time log can lead to real change. Noticing that you spend 10 hours each week commuting may lead you to work from home more often, or find a job closer to you. Noticing that you spend just a few hours a week with friends may lead you to reach out to them more often. Noticing that you have more leisure time than you think you do may lead you to spend your leisure hours more productively.

There are countless other benefits, but these are a few of my favorites!

The post How to Track Your Time appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
How to track your time—the most limited resource you have to get stuff done. How to track your time—the most limited resource you have to get stuff done. Chris Bailey 36:51
7: Discovering Your Biological Prime Time https://alifeofproductivity.com/3-ways-to-calculate-your-peak-energy-time-of-day/ Tue, 02 Jul 2019 09:00:13 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11480 https://alifeofproductivity.com/3-ways-to-calculate-your-peak-energy-time-of-day/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/3-ways-to-calculate-your-peak-energy-time-of-day/feed/ 0 <p>Our energy per hour isn’t consistent, and because of this, neither is our focus nor productivity. Here's how to calculate when your energy peaks.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/3-ways-to-calculate-your-peak-energy-time-of-day/">3 Ways to Calculate Your Peak Energy Time of Day</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: You should work around your energy levels; working on more important tasks when you have the most energy, and less productive tasks when your energy dips. Below is how to calculate when your energy peaks (your “biological prime time”), and a few suggestions for working around your energy levels.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 11s.

Podcast Length: 22 minutes, 25s.

Our energy-per-hour isn’t consistent, and because of this, neither is our focus nor productivity. Luckily, though, there are a few ways to calculate exactly when you have the most energy throughout the day, so you can work around how much energy you have; doing more productive and meaningful things when you have the most energy, and less important things when your energy naturally dips. (My cohost Ardyn and I dig deep into this idea in this week’s episode of Becoming Better—the link to play the episode and subscribe to the podcast is at the bottom of this post!)

There are three main ways to calculate when your energy peaks. Here are the best methods, inspired largely by Dan Pink’s fantastic book, When, on how to time your life:

  1. Easy enough, and pretty accurate. Think about a free day—the weekend, or a weekday when you don’t have much to do that day or the next. Ask: when do you usually go to sleep on these days? When do you wake up? Finally, what’s the midpoint of those two times? (E.g. I go to sleep at 11 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m., so my midpoint is 3 a.m.) Find where your midpoint lies on the chart below.1
  2. Easy, but less accurate. Ask yourself what time you wake up on weekends (or free days). If it’s the same as weekdays, you’re likely an early riser. If it’s a little later, you’re probably somewhere in the middle. If it’s much later, especially if it’s 90 minutes or more, you’re probably a night owl.
  3. Difficult, but most accurate. Chart your energy levels. I recommend collecting data every hour, for two or three weeks, so you can find a general pattern. If you really want to get an accurate reading, I suggest cutting caffeine/alcohol/sugar during this time. Here’s an article I wrote a while back on how to calculate your “biological prime time” using this method.

Once you find out when your energy peaks, there are a bunch of ways to work around these hours. You can:

  • Block off that time in your calendar. I like to block off 10 a.m.-noon in my calendar most days (this is when my energy peaks). When you block off your peak energy time in your calendar, people will just assume you have meetings or other important commitments during that time, and are unlikely to ask for your time then.
  • Take advantage of energy dips by doing creative work. You’re more creative when you have the least energy, because your brain is less inhibited, and doesn’t hold back on the ideas it generates. Take advantage of this by working on creative tasks when you have less energy.
  • Work out, take a break, and clear your mind when your energy dips. This way you can further build up how much energy you have in your focus hours.
  • Mind the prime times of people around you. If you have people that you meet with often—or live with!—pay attention to when they have the most and least energy. If you work with a bunch of morning birds, you may make your team a good deal more productive by scheduling big meetings and projects for the morning, and not deferring important work to later in the day.
  • Mind your constraints. It’s great to know when your energy peaks, but you should also work around the constraints of your life. If you have lots of energy midmorning, but yet you find that you’re the most productive in the early morning before your spouse and kids wake up, then it’s likely worth doing your most productive activities then.

If you’re looking to work around your energy levels, the three strategies above, as well as Dan’s book, When, will come in handy—they certainly have for me. As Dan puts it: “I used to believe in ignoring the waves of the day. Now I believe in surfing them.”


  1. Source for this chart: Dan’s book. He repurposed it from world-renowned chronobiologist Till Roenneberg‘s research. I’ve lightly modified the chart to fit this article. 

The post 3 Ways to Calculate Your Peak Energy Time of Day appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
Our energy per hour isn’t consistent, and because of this, neither is our focus nor productivity. Here's how to calculate when your energy peaks. Our energy per hour isn’t consistent, and because of this, neither is our focus nor productivity. Here's how to calculate when your energy peaks. Chris Bailey 22:26
6: How to Travel Smarter https://alifeofproductivity.com/a-simple-guide-for-traveling-smarter/ Tue, 18 Jun 2019 09:00:36 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11445 https://alifeofproductivity.com/a-simple-guide-for-traveling-smarter/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/a-simple-guide-for-traveling-smarter/feed/ 0 <p>A bunch of fun (and counterintuitive) strategies for traveling smarter.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/a-simple-guide-for-traveling-smarter/">A Simple Guide for Traveling Smarter</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: The trick to traveling smarter is to prepare ahead of time, and develop strong traveling habits. Some ideas covered below: creating a default packing list; preparing things to consume and work on while you’re offline; leaning into how tired you are while traveling; and making your trip feel more like home.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes, 46s.

Podcast Length: 29 minutes, 22s.

Whether you’re traveling for a business trip, for fun, or something in between, here are some strategies to manage your energy, get more done, and just enjoy traveling more. As someone who travels 50-60% of the time, I couldn’t stay sane without these tactics.

As always, my cohost and I dig deep into these tactics in this week’s episode of Becoming Better—but if you don’t have the time or inclination to listen, here’s a summary of what we talked about!

To Do: Before Traveling

Create a default packing list, that contains everything you could ever want possibly pack. This is one of my favorite strategies for saving a ton of time each time I travel. I have a snippet of text (that I store in TextExpander, though a simple text document would do) that contains every possible thing I could ever want to pack for any trip, ever. On the list is everything from a travel belt, to my Nintendo Switch, to printed information about my flights. When packing for a trip, I just paste this snippet of text into a new document, and delete the items I won’t need. This helps me pack for trips without forgetting anything, in a very small amount of time.

Prepare things to consume and work on while offline. This is key. It’s easy to burn through a lot of time on long plane rides, or while just waiting around. Download a few podcast episodes or audiobooks to treat yourself while traveling—or use a read-it-later app like Instapaper or Pocket in order to read a bunch of articles. Make sure to also download work to do ahead of time. If you want to be productive, avoid downloading things like movies in order to nudge yourself into doing higher-quality tasks. If you’re traveling with someone, be sure to plan for that, too. When we travel together, my partner Ardyn and I never travel without a cribbage board.

Plan ahead for time zone changes. If you’ll be transversing across time zones, shift your wakeup and bedtime an hour or two before you leave, to make time zone shifts less jarring. When you begin traveling, eat and sleep on a schedule consistent with where you’re going. This helps get your mind into where you’re going. It’s important to stress about time zone shifts an appropriate amount—I don’t overthink them if I don’t have to “perform” on a trip (ie. do some work or give a talk), but shift my wakeup times a tad leading up to the trip if I’ll need to hit the ground running.

Find a solid travel rewards card. If you travel often, a good travel rewards card can grant you access to airport lounges, comprehensive travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation insurance, and even hotel room upgrades. Not to mention that it can give you the points you need to go on a free trip every once in a while. My favorite card for this is the American Express Platinum card, but that one has a hefty annual fee. (Here are a few of the best ones if you live in the US.)

Scope out airport lounges ahead of time. I use LoungeBuddy for this. Airport lounges aren’t always worth the cost of admission—they can cost upwards of $50-100 when you don’t have lounge access included with your credit card, or don’t have a fancy first class ticket or elite status with an airline. But if you have a long layover, they can be worth it: while they’re pricey, lounges often include meals, drinks, showers, and a place to hunker down to get some work done and avoid the chaos of the airport.

Check out SeatGuru when checking into your flight. SeatGuru lets you type in your flight deals to see which seats on the airplane are good, and which ones suck. Scope it out when checking into your next flight.

Plan around disruptions to your routine. When it comes to how disruptive it can be, travel is infinitely easier to plan around ahead of time. Before heading out, schedule time to exercise, meditate, and maintain your keystone habits. I also like to scope out healthy meal options ahead of time, as well as what restaurants I want to check out, so I don’t resort to ordering in.

To Do: While Traveling 

Lean into your tiredness. If you’re traveling across time zones, take advantage of how tired you are on the first day. Do your best to live in the time zone you’ve arrived in: your first day may be crappy, but you’ll adjust more quickly to the change. Pro tip: do creative work during this tired day. Your mind is the most creative when you’re tired, because your brain is less inhibited.

Work on what you’ve prepared! You almost never get as much uninterrupted focus time as when you’re traveling. Don’t waste this time! Read the articles you’ve saved for the trip, watch the TED talks you’ve downloaded, and work on the stuff you’ve prepared.

Make your trip feel more like home. If you’re like me, the more you travel, the more you miss home. This is why I do my best to bring home to me; packing things I enjoy at home, like my favorite kinds of tea and coffee, and calling loved ones more often than I regularly would. If you’re like me, this will give you a pretty good boost of energy!

A few things to buy/pack, which I never travel without:

  • Good noise-canceling headphones. Or, at the very least, good earplugs. I never travel without my Bose headphones—but there are great noise-cancelling headphones out there at a lot of different price points.
  • A light-blocking sleep mask. Works great for when you need to sleep on a flight, or sleep in a hotel room or bedroom that doesn’t have blackout blinds.
  • A portable speaker. I never travel without a portable speaker. When I first picked one up, I didn’t expect to use it much. Now, I never travel without it. It’s great for listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks in a hotel room.
  • A portable clothing steamer. While most hotels have irons, I hate ironing, so I travel with a portable steamer. There’s very little setup involved in using one, and steaming clothes takes a fraction of the time that ironing does. If you dislike steaming clothes as well, or just want to same some time, hang your clothes up when you’re taking a hot shower or bath. The steam should remove most of the wrinkles in your clothes, and you may not need to steam or iron afterward.

If you’re looking to maintain how much energy you have, get more done, save time, and enjoy travel more, these tips will help! Have a great trip :-)

The post A Simple Guide for Traveling Smarter appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
A bunch of fun (and counterintuitive) strategies for traveling smarter. A bunch of fun (and counterintuitive) strategies for traveling smarter. Chris Bailey 29:22
5: Apps We Couldn't Live Without https://alifeofproductivity.com/the-10-best-productivity-apps-out-there/ Tue, 04 Jun 2019 09:00:05 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11425 https://alifeofproductivity.com/the-10-best-productivity-apps-out-there/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/the-10-best-productivity-apps-out-there/feed/ 0 <p>The best productivity apps out there right now.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/the-10-best-productivity-apps-out-there/">The 10 best productivity apps out there</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Apps can be distracting and lead you to waste a ton of time, but the best apps make you more knowledgeable, organized, and productive. The 10 apps below—selected by myself and Ardyn on our podcast—all will help you do this.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 4s.

Podcast length: 26 minutes, 45s.

At their worst, apps are distracting and lead you to waste an ungodly amount of time. But at their best, they can make you quite a bit more efficient and productive. So which ones are worth your time and attention?

In this week’s episode of the much-beloved podcast Becoming Better, Ardyn and I dig into our favorite productivity apps, and chat about why we love them so much. In case you don’t have the time or inclination to listen—or just want to check out the apps we chat about this week—here’s a list of our favorite productivity apps, along with a quick blurb on why we dig them. 

If you’re looking to become more focused, knowledgeable, and organized, I hope you’ll agree that these apps are in a league all of their own. (A quick note: this list differs slightly from the episode, in order to make the article more accessible.)

1. Focusmate (website; free). Focusmate is one of my all-time favorite productivity apps. When you launch the website, you’re presented with a calendar in which you’re able to book a 50-minute session to focus on something. The site then partners you up with someone from around the world who also wants to get some work done during that time. You then spend 50 minutes working with the person—working with them over video—and share what you got done when your focus session is done. The service is eerily effective at making you more focused and productive. (I’m writing this article during a focus session with a programmer in Boston.)

2. Freedom (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android; $29/year). I write about Freedom quite a bit on this site, and for good reason. Freedom is a distractions-blocking application: once it’s enabled, you’re not able to access your most distracting websites and apps for the amount of time you specified in advance. Pairs well with Focusmate. (A free alternative for the Mac: SelfControl.)

3. Libby (iOS, Android, Windows; free). Libraries are an incredible resource that far too few people take advantage of. Libby is a great, free app that connects to your local library, that lets you browse their selection of ebooks and audiobooks. If you’re a bookworm, this app can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year.

4. Audible (every platform; $15/month for one book a month). I read around twice as many books because of Audible. Audible is an audiobook site that, for $15/month, gives you access to one book a month, along with two Audible Originals (original audiobooks exclusive to Audible). A no-brainer, along with Libby, if you’re a bookworm.

5. Simplenote (every platform; free). A great, simple, and beautiful note-taking app that’s available for pretty much every platform under the sun. The app is so simple that you can’t even bold or italicize text in it. I personally use this app for capturing ideas throughout the day, as well as for capturing my daily intentions when I travel. This app is on all of my devices, and I couldn’t live without it.

6. Toggl (every platform; free, with paid plans). A dead-simple time-tracking app, which can be set up to track your time automatically. 

7. Insight Timer (iOS, Android; free). This is my favorite meditation app, and I’ve pretty much tried them all. Insight Timer features guided meditations, sleep meditations, and a simple meditation timer. But the app’s real power lies in how it lets you see, in real time, who else is meditating around the world—including people near you. The app also keeps you accountable with meditation reminders and meditation streaks—and you can have friends in the app, too.

8. Things (iOS, Mac; $10-50). The last three picks on the list are only available for Apple devices, but I’d be remiss to not include them; they’re a few of the best apps available on any platform. Things is a beautiful, powerful, and delightful to-do list app. I’d be far less productive and organized without it.

9. Fantastical (Mac, iOS; $5-$50, depending on device type). In my opinion, Fantastical is the best calendar app out there for any platform. Unfortunately it’s only available for Mac and iOS, but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, the app is easily worth the purchase. A few of my favorite features: using natural language to enter calendar events, a convenient mini-window that lets you access your calendar no matter what you’re doing on the computer, a beautiful interface, and complex time zone support.

10. Soulver (Mac, iOS; $3-9). Many of the things I calculate each day are too complex for a calculator, but aren’t nearly complex enough for a spreadsheet. That’s where Soulver comes in. Soulver lets you type out problems as you would on paper, and then solves them for you. Plus, it’s super lightweight, easy to use, and fast. Everyone I recommend this app to loves it.

If you’re looking to become more focused, read more books, and organize your life, give these apps a shot.

A few honorable mentions: Overcast (for listening to podcasts); Overleaf (an online LaTeX editor); and Strava (a run/cycling tracker).

The post The 10 best productivity apps out there appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
The best productivity apps out there right now. The best productivity apps out there right now. Chris Bailey 26:45
4: Productivity Rituals Worth Adopting https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-productivity-rituals-worth-adopting/ Tue, 21 May 2019 09:00:09 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11402 https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-productivity-rituals-worth-adopting/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-productivity-rituals-worth-adopting/feed/ 0 <p>Great productivity rituals let you become more productive without much thought. Here are a few worth adopting.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/5-productivity-rituals-worth-adopting/">5 Productivity Rituals Worth Trying Out</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Some productivity rituals worth trying out: setting three intentions every day; reviewing and mapping out your week (and day); having an accountability partner that keeps you on track; and maintaining an “accomplishments list” throughout the week.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 1s.
Podcast length: 26 minutes, 0s.

Great productivity rituals allow you to become more productive without much thought; once you make a habit out of them, you become more productive every day, automatically. So which rituals are worth the time and energy investment?

On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, Ardyn and I chat about the rituals we both use to manage our lives. The best rituals let you do things such as externalize the stuff you have to get done (so it’s out of your head), introduce accountability into your daily and weekly schedule—while often being lightweight enough to let you get to work quickly.

As always, in case you don’t have the inclination to listen to this week’s episode, here are a few of our favorite rituals and systems we chatted about! Not all of these will work for you—but they’re all worth experimenting with. If you’re like us, you may be surprised by just how much rituals like these support your work and life.

1. The Rule of 3. This is one of the best productivity rituals out there. At the start of each day, fast-forward to the end of the day in your head and then ask yourself: by the time the day is done, what three main things will you want to have accomplished? This helps you identify what’s actually important and consequential each day.

2. The weekly review. At the beginning of each week, look at the week ahead and set yourself up to get stuff done. Schedule blocks of time where you can hunker down on larger projects, and set reminders for what you will have to accomplish.

3. The daily review. A simple way to start your day. At the start of each day, before settling into work, review the tasks you plan to get done, and review your calendar for the day, too.

4. An accountability ritual. At the start of the week, send an accountability partner what you plan to accomplish by the end of the week—and, when the week is done, follow up with them to let them know how things went.

5. Keep an accomplishments list. We tend to focus quite a bit on what’s on our to-do list, forgetting all of the things we’ve accomplished. To combat this tendency, keep a running accomplishments list as you go about your week—and when the week is done, celebrate what you’ve gotten done!

In the episode, we mention about a dozen of rituals, but these are a few of our favorites! Enjoy!

The post 5 Productivity Rituals Worth Trying Out appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
Great productivity rituals let you become more productive without much thought. Here are a few worth adopting. Great productivity rituals let you become more productive without much thought. Here are a few worth adopting. Chris Bailey 26:00
3: How To Clear Your Mind https://alifeofproductivity.com/nuggets-productivity-wisdom-from-david-allen/ Tue, 07 May 2019 09:00:55 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11365 https://alifeofproductivity.com/nuggets-productivity-wisdom-from-david-allen/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/nuggets-productivity-wisdom-from-david-allen/feed/ 0 <p>In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I sit down the author of Getting Things Done, David Allen.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/nuggets-productivity-wisdom-from-david-allen/">5 Nuggets of Productivity Wisdom from David Allen</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: For this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I interviewed David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done. A few of my favorite nuggets from our interview (expanded upon below): our heads are for having ideas (not holding them); mental clarity comes when we store fewer commitments in our head; we should capture every single commitment we have on our plate; that we need mental space as much as we need more time; and that we should be listening to the “still small voice” in our mind throughout the day.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 32s.

Podcast length: 30 minutes, 48s.

In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I sit down with the one and only David Allen. David is the author of the mega-bestselling book Getting Things Done, which sparked a personal productivity revolution in 2001. Since then, the book has gone on to sell millions of copies around the world, and has been published in nearly 30 languages. David’s also hosting a massive summit on GTD which he calls the “grand finale” of his career (in Amsterdam; June 20-21; tickets are still available).

I think you’ll dig this episode! As always, in case you don’t have the time or inclination to listen, I’ve included a few of my favorite ideas from our chat below, but there are, of course, a lot of ideas that a simple article like this can’t capture.

A few nuggets we talked about:

  1. Your head is for having ideas, not holding them. This is the central tenant of David’s system, and in my opinion, this sticky idea is why his ideas have amassed such a large and loyal following. We have a limited amount of mental bandwidth to give to whatever we’re doing—and we shouldn’t waste any amount of this bandwidth on storing information and unresolved commitments in our head. We need to externalize those into some sort of system.
  2. Mental clarity comes from storing fewer commitments in your mind. There’s a reason why keeping a calendar helps you focus: you no longer have to remember where you have to be, and when you have to be there. That’s stored in your calendar, which you review regularly and get notifications from, and by keeping a calendar you free up mental room for other things. This is why to-do lists are also so powerful: they help clear up even more mental space. The fewer tasks, projects, and unresolved commitments you keep in your mind, the more clearly you’re able to think.
  3. For greater mental clarity, make a list of every single commitment you have on your plate. One great way to clear up mental space is to make a list of all of the tasks and projects you have going on. In our interview, David mentioned that this process may take anywhere from one to six hours, depending on how much you’re juggling. The simple act of capturing these commitments onto a sheet of paper—getting them out of your head—is freeing in and of itself. You’re then able to create a plan for how to follow through on them all, and even create a master list of all of your projects.
  4. You need more mental space as much as you need more time. Our tasks, projects, and commitments will always consume time. But they also consume more mental space than is necessary; we’re constantly recalling what we have to get done when we’re in the middle of something else. As David put it in our conversation: “You don’t need time to have a good idea, or be creative, or innovative, or loving, or present, or strategic—you just need room.”
  5. Listen to the “still small voice” in your head throughout the day. Sometimes when we’re working, there’s a little voice inside our head we ignore, that tells us to take a break—to take a walk around the park when we’ve got 300 emails that have built up, or to have a glass of wine when we haven’t treated ourselves to one in a while. Or to cram for a project, because we have a sudden burst of energy then we can take advantage of. Instead of blindly following your to-do list, or using your email inbox as your to-do list, David recommends listening to what this “still small voice” has to say.

In a couple of weeks, my cohost Ardyn and I will be back, chatting about the systems we both use to manage our lives—including what we’ve found that works, and what we still struggle with.

Enjoy the conversation with David! And have a wonderful week.

The post 5 Nuggets of Productivity Wisdom from David Allen appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I sit down the author of Getting Things Done, David Allen. In this week’s episode of Becoming Better, I sit down the author of Getting Things Done, David Allen. Chris Bailey 30:49
2: The Great Digital Declutter Experiment https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-declutter-your-digital-life/ Tue, 23 Apr 2019 13:00:14 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11330 https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-declutter-your-digital-life/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-declutter-your-digital-life/feed/ 0 <p>On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, my cohost Ardyn and I dig into an experiment that we recently conducted: doing a one-month digital declutter. </p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/how-to-declutter-your-digital-life/">How to Declutter Your Digital Life</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Takeaway: Doing a digital declutter helps you step back from your digital life, so you can see what parts of your digital world make your life better, and which parts you waste too much time on and have become addicted to. To conduct one, choose what apps/services/websites to not use for a month, what digital things you want to use less, and what analog things you plan on doing in place of these digital habits.

Article Reading Time: 3 minutes, 5s.

Podcast Length: 29 minutes, 58s.

On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, my cohost Ardyn and I dig into an experiment that we recently conducted: doing a one-month digital declutter. (I introduce Ardyn, my cohost, at the start of this week’s episode!)

A digital declutter—an idea that Cal Newport popularizes in his new book, Digital Minimalism—is an exercise where you step back from most parts of your digital life for one month, to see which things bring you the most value. (Here’s my interview with Cal from a couple weeks back, in case you’d like to hear a bit more about the idea.) 

The exercise is a simple one, but as we found, it can help you uncover things such as:

  • which parts of your life deliver the most value to you;
  • what digital distractions you waste the most time on;
  • which apps and websites you’re addicted to (or have become dependent on);

and more.

Ardyn and I chat about how to conduct a digital detox in the episode, but if you’re pressed for time or, heaven forbid, just don’t have the inclination to listen, here are the steps you should take to conduct a digital declutter of your own:

  1. Choose what digital things to abstain from for a month. Cal recommends disconnecting from as many digital services, apps, and devices as you possibly can. For the month of your digital declutter, you should eliminate all nonessential digital things from your life (such as social media and email on your phone).
  2. Choose which digital things you want to modify for that same period of time. When you can’t abstain from something—say, responding to texts or slack messages—make a plan to modify how often you check these services. For example, make a plan to check for new text messages just four times a day, while letting your close friends know you’ll be less available.
  3. Introduce some fun analog activities to replace the digital activities with. We chose to double down on analog activities such as learning the piano and cello, reading books, spending time with friends, and taking an improv class.

Here are a few simple suggestions to make your digital declutter a tad easier:

  • Know that the first week will be the toughest. It takes our mind around eight days to get accustomed to less stimulation—including from our digital world. The first week might be tough, but stick with it. Disconnecting becomes significantly easier after the first week.
  • Mind your digital twitches. When you feel a tinge of boredom coming on, what apps do you crave checking first? This may be a sign that you’ve become overly dependent on these apps.
  • Take advantage of the newfound whitespace in your calendar. Use the blocks of time that you free up when you disconnect from your digital world to let your mind wander, turn over ideas, and become more creative.
  • Do the declutter with your wife/husband/partner. In doing a digital declutter, you carve out more time for the people in your life. When you do one with your partner, you carve out more time for each other. You also get to hold each other accountable, as we found.
  • Physically write out what you’re not using for a month. It’s helpful to have a written, physical reminder of what digital habits you’re changing that you see regularly—whether you keep that list in the notepad you use throughout the day, on the fridge, or on the whiteboard in your office.
  • Leave your phone at home more often. This helps tame the impulse you may have to check it for new messages. It’s helpful to do this for both smaller blocks of time (e.g. when you run to the store to get groceries), and larger blocks of time (for the workday).

Below is a link to play the episode. Enjoy, and have a wonderful week!

The post How to Declutter Your Digital Life appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, my cohost Ardyn and I dig into an experiment that we recently conducted: doing a one-month digital declutter. On this week’s episode of Becoming Better, my cohost Ardyn and I dig into an experiment that we recently conducted: doing a one-month digital declutter. Chris Bailey 29:58
1: Should You Become a Digital Minimalist? https://alifeofproductivity.com/should-you-become-a-digital-minimalist/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 13:00:17 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11295 https://alifeofproductivity.com/should-you-become-a-digital-minimalist/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/should-you-become-a-digital-minimalist/feed/ 0 <p>I recently sat down with Cal Newport for my new podcast, Becoming Better, to chat about his latest book, Digital Minimalism.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/should-you-become-a-digital-minimalist/">Should You Become a Digital Minimalist?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p>
Takeaway: I chatted with Cal Newport, the author of Digital Minimalism, on the latest episode of Becoming Better. A few things you’ll take away from the chat: why digital technologies can be so addictive; that we should question the “constant companion” mode of using our phone; that we need more time for solitude; that distraction will always creep back in; and that we should try out a “digital declutter.”
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 43s.

Cal Newport is the author of six books—including Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You—and as a full-time professor who publishes five or six papers a year, he’s remarkably prolific, both in the academic and publishing world. I recently sat down with him for my new podcast, Becoming Better, to chat about his latest book, Digital Minimalism. The book describes a simple philosophy: that we should be spending less time in the digital world, and more time in the physical one. Instead of just blasting out a new blog post with a link to each new episode, I plan on writing up a short article that contains a few practical, tactical takeaways from each episode, in case you don’t have the time to listen (or you’re just not that into podcasts). This should let you peek at what we cover on each episode of the show, and should (hopefully!) sell you on whether each episode of the show is worth your time and attention.

Here are a few practical, tactical things that I hope you take from this one.

1. There are two factors that make some apps and websites so addictive:

Whether an app provides you with social approval, and whether it provides you with intermittent positive reinforcement (every once in a while, at an unpredictable interval, the service provides you with a nugget of stimulation). Pay attention to what apps and websites provide you with these two things. Facebook, Twitter, and Email are a few good examples. These are often the same apps that cause the greatest attentional control issues.

2. Question the “constant companion” model of using your phone.

Over time, our phones have become attached at our hip. Cal argues that this doesn’t have to be the case. You should, too. While our phones add quite a few features to our lives, question whether your phone is a device that you want to distract you constantly as you go about your day.

3. Carve out more time for solitude.

Solitude is when your mind is free from inputs from other minds. This is when our best ideas come to us, because our mind has a chance to think about problems we’ve hit an impasse with, and process the information we’ve been consuming. The more time we spend connected, the less time we have for solitude.

4. Distractions will always creep back in, no matter how good you get at taming them.

When I asked Cal what distractions seep into his life, he very quickly brought up baseball trade rumors. Most productivity experts I know face this same dilemma: despite our best efforts and intentions, distraction creeps back in. Even if you’re able to mostly keep distraction at bay, bring awareness to what distractions creep back in over time.

5. Try a digital declutter.

We chat about this idea in more depth in the episode. A digital declutter is where, for a period of 30 days, you go without all inessential apps and digital distractions. The trick, over this time, is to choose a few activities you’ll replace those distractions with—such as reading more, taking an improv class, or learning an instrument. Doing this can change your relationship with technology for the better.

Enjoy the episode, and have a wonderful week!

The post Should You Become a Digital Minimalist? appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
I recently sat down with Cal Newport for my new podcast, Becoming Better, to chat about his latest book, Digital Minimalism. I recently sat down with Cal Newport for my new podcast, Becoming Better, to chat about his latest book, Digital Minimalism. Chris Bailey 33:42
0: A Pitch for Your Time and Attention https://alifeofproductivity.com/becoming-better-episode-0-a-pitch-for-your-time-and-attention/ Tue, 26 Mar 2019 09:00:14 +0000 https://alifeofproductivity.com/?p=11244 https://alifeofproductivity.com/becoming-better-episode-0-a-pitch-for-your-time-and-attention/#respond https://alifeofproductivity.com/becoming-better-episode-0-a-pitch-for-your-time-and-attention/feed/ 0 <p>There are a lot of podcasts out there. So why should you subscribe to this one?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com/becoming-better-episode-0-a-pitch-for-your-time-and-attention/">Becoming Better Episode 0: A Pitch for Your Time and Attention</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://alifeofproductivity.com">A Life of Productivity</a>.</p> Becoming Better podcast artwork

Note: I’m currently submitting the podcast to various podcasts hosts, including Apple Podcasts. It should be up there in the next day or two.

There are a lot of podcasts out there. So why should you subscribe to this one?

I’m a big fan of podcasts—in my podcast app, I just counted 13 that I listen to on a regular basis. For years I’ve wanted to start one myself, but haven’t, for a simple reason: I wasn’t sure what would make my show different from all the others.

But finally, a few months back, I arrived at an idea. Here’s the basic premise behind my new show, which I’ve named Becoming Better. Each episode of the podcast is devoted to making you a better human being. The show features tactics to help you do things like save money, quit procrastinating, and exercise more—any idea that, in one way or another, will help you become better.

I’ll be interviewing friends of mine who are world-class authors, chatting about experiments I’m in the middle of conducting, and I’ll also try to rope my lovely fiancée into recording a few episodes with me. (Maybe over a glass or two of wine.)

Here’s the format. Each episode:

  • Will respect your attention. I’ll be editing down each episode myself, in order to boil it down to the most essential nuggets that will help you become better.
  • Will respect your time. Each episode will be 20-30 minutes long—about the length of a commute or a short workout. I’ll publish new episodes every second Tuesday, while I get the hang of the editing process (between giving talks and working on fun new writing projects). Quality over quantity!
  • Will contain a unique blend of fun interviews, experiments, and strategies.
  • Will conclude with a few practical, tactical strategies for becoming a better human being.

There are a lot of great podcasts out there. I hope you find Becoming Better to be worthy of your time and attention.

Hope to see you in two weeks for Episode 1!

The post Becoming Better Episode 0: A Pitch for Your Time and Attention appeared first on A Life of Productivity.

]]>
There are a lot of podcasts out there. So why should you subscribe to this one? There are a lot of podcasts out there. So why should you subscribe to this one? Chris Bailey 5:45