At the office, don’t think that the computer is the only tool you need. Used right, your smartphone can help you better navigate life at the workplace.
Stay On Task
Since your smartphone is always with you, it helps to use it for some tasks which would have otherwise tied you to your desk or been difficult with your PC.
Use It As A Procrastination Pad
When you are in the middle of a task, just the thought of some other thing you need to do can quickly derail your work. One productivity technique to counter this is to maintain a “procrastination pad” in which you write down every stray thought that can distract you from the task at hand and revisit it only when you are done.
I have been using SimpleNote for this productivity trick and created a new note with the header “Procrastination Pad”. Initially, I had started with a regular pen-and-paper system but found that I don’t always carry a pen and paper with me when I’m not at my desk. However, my phone is always with me and SimpleNote provides the same distraction-free experience for writing notes (plus I can include links, when relevant). Over time, this has turned into a good way of figuring out the small chores that need to be done but I haven’t got to yet.
Listen To Music
Listening to something on your phone is a good way to block out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. Headphones also signal to others not to disturb you. I’ve found Doze for Android to be particularly helpful in the past few weeks. Work can be a stressful time and the continuous, endless streaming of relaxing music that Doze pumps out has done a magical job of getting me into a productivity zone. I don’t have to choose a playlist or worry about my flow being interrupted by a song that messes with the tempo. Doze isn’t available for iOS, so you might want to check out Noisli to create customisable background noise or try out Birdsong for both Android and iOS.
Offload And Block Digital Distractions
If you are often distracted by updates on Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts, or other such services, your smartphone can become a good foil to your bad habits by moving distractions to your phone. The only rule you need to follow is that you never open these apps on your PC — these social networks and instant messengers are only to be used on your smartphone henceforth.
There is a certain sense of “out of sight, out of mind” that comes about when you don’t have that Twitter tab open, enabling you to focus more on your work. And if you’re on an Android, you don’t even need to test your willpower. Free app Focus Lock will block distracting apps for a preset period of time, giving you a rest.
Get Away From Your Desk
You should ideally stand up every 20 minutes to stop the harmful effects of sitting in a chair for too long. While you’re up, you could continue working, take a break, or even get some exercise.
The Pomodoro Technique
Both Android and iOS have plenty of apps that adopt the Pomodoro technique. There’s Pomodroido on Android and Pomio for iOS for starters, and you can browse through the Play Store and App Store to find something that fits your needs.
Address Your Email Overload
Email overload getting to you? Use this standing time to catch up on your email. Checking email away from your desk can keep you productive and give you that little break from the chair your body needs. My ex-boss uses such a system. His trick is to get up every half hour and take a walk around the office, reading his inbox and sending quick replies, and starring the messages that need a lengthy reply. Once he’s back at the desk, he deals with the starred messages immediately.
Get Some Exercise
On Android, Office Exercise & Stretch is a good combination of a reminder to get away from your desk and PC, and get some exercise with it. The app has a long list of office-specific stretches and exercises, each of which takes no more than five minutes. Every exercise is illustrated with photos and has a clear explanation of each step. It takes a little time to set up initially, but you’ll be glad you did it. Pick a time slot for the reminder, select the exercises or workout routine you want in it, and set the days of the week you want it. You can set up five such reminders on the app.
Dealing With Colleagues
“Sorry, could you give me a minute? I need to quickly check a message.” These are the magic words that will get you out of many sticky situations at work. Of course, you don’t actually check a message when you say that.
Make Notes In The Phone Book
I’m terrible with names so I use my phone book’s Notes section to add names of the partners or kids of colleagues, or any significant points we last talked about. It’s a jabit I started several years ago after putting my foot in my mouth one too many times. Your colleagues are probably in your phone book, and if not, just add them. When your mind goes blank, politely make an excuse to check your phone — a message or email is my go-to — and look up the note you made about them. Not only is it viable because your phone is always with you, but it’s also become a socially acceptable habit to check your phone — doing that with your laptop could be weird! You could even use a third-party app like Refresh for iOS to get a cheat sheet of talking points with a colleague.
Organise A Rescue
There are some colleagues you don’t want to talk to. As horrible as it sounds, your smartphone can bail you out when that unwanted colleague catches a hold of you. Again, make an excuse to check your phone and use this time to send a message to a friend in the office to come to you with some urgent and important work. The only caveat to making this work is to have a friend in your office who will do that for you!
When A Phone Is Better Than A PC
In most cases at work, your computer is a better productivity tool to get a task done. But a smartphone does have its advantages and you should use it to effectively get the most out of it.
Record Meetings And Snap A Photo
Put that powerful microphone in your handset to use! During a meeting, instead of taking notes, your smartphone can record everything that is being said so that you can refer to it later. On Android, Cogi voice recorder should be your go-to app, while iPhone users can turn to Audio Memo.
After a meeting or a presentation, you can avoid transcribing what you see on the whiteboard into a notepad by simply snapping a picture. This also holds true for important slides in a presentation, or taking a video if something is being demonstrated. If the photo isn’t clear, you could use a service like Unwhiteboard to clean it up, or if you are worried about sending official data to a third-party source, use an app like CamScanner. CamScanner and Evernote both recognise text in the photos and make it searchable.
Create Voice Reminders
For a quick, no-frills reminder, there is nothing like setting up a voice reminder with Google Now on Android or Siri on the iPhone. Both the services work flawlessly, require little interaction from you, and will remind you when the time comes. And since they come preloaded on all Android and iOS smartphones, you don’t even need to install any app.
Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?