Technology is a double-edged sword. It can automate processes and help you get more done, but it can also provide endless distractions (we’re looking at you, Snapchat). It’s easy to get sucked into the siren call of distracting tech—one minute, you’re checking things off your to-do list app, and the next thing you know, you’re lying awake with bloodshot eyes, scrolling through app feeds in the dark, well beyond a reasonable hour.
The good news is that technology can also help you get a grip on, well, technology. The New Year is the perfect time to take on some better habits, and your tech is no exception. Here are nine business solutions and work essentials for staying productive and maximizing uptime at all times. Share these tools with the rest of your team to create a well-oiled, multitasking machine at work.
Productivity starts with having a plan, and there are apps that can help your employees get more organized. Trello, for instance, is a handy online collaboration tool that organizes your projects onto cards and boards that can be shared with your group, keeping everyone on the same page. Trello is a great way to organize tasks and plan your day and week, so you can stay on top of your workload and don’t duplicate efforts across the IT team—and beyond.
Todoist is another excellent task and project management app. It allows you to break big tasks into subtasks, and you can easily share projects and delegate tasks. With Todoist, you can also add timelines to your lists and receive notifications when deadlines are approaching. Todoist serves remote workers well, too, as you can access your task list at work, at home, or on the go.
Sometimes, your willpower alone isn’t enough to focus on the task at hand, and your mind just needs an extra little push—maybe from a plugin that can set up the perfect work environment. Take LeechBlock, for example. LeechBlock is a free Firefox plugin that restricts access to sites at designated times during the day. You can easily block access to email or social media sites, and getting back in requires you to enter a password every time.
FocusMe is another site-blocking plugin. You can make certain sites off-limits or simply restrict access to a certain amount of time. FocusMe is a little more hardcore than some of the other site-blockers out there—the “Forced Mode” won’t let you access the selected sites until the timer is up, even if you restart your computer. You should definitely be aware of this fact if your employees are using this plugin, as they’re sure to file a help-desk ticket complaining about it if you don’t properly educate them up front.
Once you’ve removed those tempting websites, you can set the tone for work by listening to Brain.fm. Based on neuroscience, this site offers music that’s designed to help you focus. Pop on your headphones and get into the productivity zone—and definitely feel free to share this gem with your larger team.
Organization and focus are good places to start, but you might need some solid business solutions to help you get into a state of true productivity. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that involves working in intervals, usually 25 minutes in length followed by a 5-minute break. It’s named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that founder Francesco Cirillo used when he was a university student. You can use a kitchen timer—but there’s always an app for that. For instance, you can set up Pomodoro sprints with Focus Booster, a tool that organizes your day into timed intervals.
FocusList is another tool that uses the Pomodoro technique. It’s a daily planner and focus app that turns your to-do lists into time blocks, using a built-in timer to keep you on task. If you or your employees need to get even more granular, you can set estimated time lengths for each task, which will not only help you move from one task to the next but also measure how long certain tasks take to complete.
Achieve true accountability
Plugins and apps only work if they’re used the right way, and technology can help here, too. You can install RescueTime on your computer to measure the websites and applications you use most. Each week, you’ll receive a report via email, breaking down your activities into categories, like social networking and email. It rates your productivity levels, and you can log into the dashboard more frequently to get real-time statistics.
DeskTime is another productivity-tracking plugin that analyzes how you spend your workday by tracking how long projects take to complete. It connects with Google Calendar and can log time spent away from your computer, such as in meetings or trainings. This is a great time-tracking tool, as it gathers detailed data about apps and websites employees use and visit throughout the workday, allowing you to pinpoint bottlenecks and pain points without breaking a sweat.
Get a grip on your technology indiscretions by using technology to keep you productive. While some of the apps may feel a little Big Brother-ish—always watching and collecting data—they’ll really help you and your team get stuff done. And if you spread these tools beyond your IT team and share with the broader organizational team, these work essentials can keep the entire business on top of its game.