Hack Your Resolution: 5 Apps, Tips and Tricks for an Awesome 2014
Do you make New Year's Resolutions? What are they? To stop being late for work? To remember to floss every night? To read less Internet during the day?
Photo by Flickr user Artis Rams
Here's a little secret you might not know about me: I LOVE productivity tools. The Millennial word is "lifehacking," but call it whatever you want: self-improvement, Getting Things Done, whatever. Thanks to modern technology, we have more apps and tools than ever to help us on our journey to becoming better human beings.
Below are some of my favorite apps, hacks, tips and tricks to making your resolutions really work. Got more? Leave 'em in the comments.
Resolution: Stop Being Late
Hack: Rethink Your Schedule
Are you one of those people who are ten minutes late to everything? I used to be, too, and I HATED myself for it. I felt like the kind of person who didn't value other people's time, but I just couldn't help it. No, really, I literally couldn't help it. Here's why -- studies show that chronically late people actually parse time differently than normal people. Meaning, a chronically late person might see ten minutes on the clock and think he or she can fit a whole lot more into that ten minutes than is reasonably possible.
Photo by Flickr user robstephaustralia
So what stopped me from being late? This tip someone once shared with me:
If you are waiting to leave the house, for example, and you have ten minutes before you need to leave, just go ahead and leave. Don't try to fit one last task into that ten minutes, Just leave and be early, instead of trying to squeeze a 15-minute task into that extra ten minutes and ending up late.
Resolution: Stop Surfing Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/Whatever You Use to Procrstinate
Hack: Strict Workflow Chrome App
Strict Workflowy Access denied.
I can easily lose an hour reading Facebook or RSS feeds in Feedly. It's hard to get myself to buckle down and do work when the Internet is an endless source of fascinating Beyoncé videos and arguments about reality TV stars. But a friend recently recommended to me the Pomodoro Technique for productivity, and I found a great app that kills two birds with one stone.
The Pomodoro Technique works like this: work for 25 minutes, then get a five-minute break. Repeat as necessary.
Strict Workflow is a Pomodoro timer in the form of a free Chrome web app, and what makes it great is that it can blacklist any website of your choosing during a 25-minute Pomodoro work period. Then you get five minutes when the sites are whitelisted, so you can refresh and reply to that flame war on the Hair Balls comments.
Resolution: Sleep Better
Hack: White Noise Mobile App
Most people I know already use their iPhones as alarm clocks. That works okay for me, but I've been looking high and low for a white noise machine with an alarm and clock face big enough for me to see from the bathroom in the mornings when I don't have my contacts in yet. Well, those things run about $100 at stores like Brookstone. But a friend recommended to me the White Noise app from TMSoft and I lurrrrrve it.
White Noise Fall asleep to the sounds of children ice skating. No, really.
The app is $1.99 and is available for iPhone, iPad and Android. (There's also a free version if you want to give it a test drive first.) The iPad app does basically every single thing I want in an alarm. There's a sleep function for the white noises (or it can play nonstop) and a gradual alarm so you don't get jerked out of bed when the thing first goes off. The app can also accommodate multiple saved alarms.
But the white noise functions are the best. Included in the app is a clock face you can brighten or dim, and change the color of. I leave mine plugged in on my nightstand all night with the clock display on and the sounds of beach waves crashing to help me sleep, and it really does make a difference. The app comes with something like 40 standard sounds -- everything from birds chirping to rain to the creaking of a sailboat on the water. But the best thing is that every few weeks they offer a new free soundscape for download. Over the holidays it was ice-skating rink and presents being unwrapped.