Hello, my name is Charity and I'm a procrastinator. I spend a lot of time researching, planning and organizing things. I know what you're thinking... those are productive activities aren't they? Usually, yes. They are also forms of procrastination.
It's a funny thing, procrastination. I don't enjoy putting things off. In fact I hate the guilt associated with NOT getting things done. I suspect most people feel the same way. So why do we do it? I have no answer for such a philosophical question... but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for when I catch myself slipping into the "I'll do it later" mindset. Today I want to share some of them with you. If your train of thought is anything like mine (erratic), maybe these ideas will help...
A service and an app, Todoist is probably my most used tool. It's easy to navigate, goes with me everywhere, and keeps me on track. I can quickly add, edit or check items off with just a couple clicks (or taps). I can also drag/drop items to rearrange them, and I love the minimalist design. It offers everything I need to manage tasks, including project overviews, labels, "status" filters, reminders and recurring tasks... without going overboard. I can even create sub-tasks for to-dos requiring multiple steps. They have an excellent blog as well!
When I write or do anything focus intensive, I use Noizio to set some consistent background ambience. It sits in my Mac's toolbar and I can change up the sounds or make my own mixes, depending on my mood. I can even save mixes to replay with just a click. My favorite is one I named Outdoor Cafe (Coffee House + Sunny Day). Noizio works so well, once I hit play it's like my brain's "work mode" just kicks on and I'm good to go. ;)
In addition to Noizio, I also use Spotify. While not exactly a productivity app, Spotify does curate some really good playlists that help to keep me focused. One that comes to mind is Acoustic Concentration. For work that doesn't require a lot of concentration (like editing photos), I usually put on something more upbeat or emotion-driven. Anything that inspires or lifts me up. I really enjoy editing, but it can be tedious and I find the work becomes less of a task and more of an artistic process when fueled by good music.
Alfred is my BFF. I use it constantly. With a few keystrokes, I can quickly do things like search Google, search and/or open files and apps on my computer, empty the system trash, eject a mounted device, perform numeric calculations, define words in the dictionary, fetch contacts from my address book, create clipboard snippets... the list is endless, and I'm certain I don't even use it to it's full potential. Alfred is not only a serious time saver, it's the simplest and best way to use a Mac. There are even user-created workflows which add more functionality to Alfred's already powerful feature set.
Calendar / iCloud
This may seem like cheating since it's baked into Apple's OS... but I really like Calendar. It has a clean interface and does fine for what I need, so I've never spent much time investigating alternatives. I can utilize multiple color-coded calendars and know at a glance what a particular event relates to. I can schedule everything from photo sessions to bill paying, and school events to lunch with friends. Calendar and Todoist also integrate nicely.
- Dropbox - For backing up my images, Lightroom catalog settings, project source files, digital assets and eBooks. Not the most high-tech backup solution for sure, but it's the most affordable for me at this time. I've also occasionally used it as a delivery system for clients.
- Evernote - Great for getting down ideas, outlining blog posts, saving recipes, making lists, planning trips or projects and much more.
- Pocket - My quick link saver for stuff I may want to reference later. I prefer it over browser bookmarking thanks to features like tagging, search, image thumbnails and distraction-free reading.
- AnyList - Best grocery app ever. I can make multiple lists based on the stores I visit and it'll remember items I've added, making repeat lists fast and easy. I can even rearrange/rename categories according to the layout of my favorite stores.
Tips For Managing Time
As a procrastinator, sometimes I don't take my own medicine. However I don't think a post like this would be complete without a few tips on time management and consolidation. We all have different approaches to getting things done, but the following works well for me...
Mind Your Desk
If you typically work at a desk, keep it free of clutter. This helps to keep your head clear too. When my kids were little they would unload their homework, artwork and other school papers onto my desk each day (mainly because my office is also the front room of our home). It drove me mad, so I had to set some boundaries. I needed at least the desk space to be only mine. These days no one is allowed to put anything on it unless asked, and everyone understands this rule keeps my sanity (and their safety) intact. :)
Do Bite-sized Chores
Dedicate some time every week to knocking out small tasks, so they don't become overwhelming later. For example, our household takes in a lot of miscellaneous paperwork. Every Friday morning I sort through it, filing anything worth keeping and chucking the rest into the recycle bin. I hate this particular chore, but I know if I ignore it for any length of time, it takes forever to catch up - then I really hate it. I'd rather spend 10 minutes a week filing than an hour or more every couple months.
Do all your errands in one day if possible. It will save time in the long run and if you use a list or to-do app, you can hopefully avoid subsequent trips around town. One of the errands I can't stand is grocery shopping, yet every week it must be done. So I plan ahead and try to combine it with Target runs, post office drops, banking and any other miscellaneous outings. It makes for a long day, but it also frees up the rest of my week to work on other projects... with less nagging in the back of my mind.