December 4, 2020
Being Productive and Cutting Distraction Doesn’t Mean You Need to Cut Fun
I am easily distracted. It was easier to keep myself in check at a regular 9-5 office job because there was an inherent pressure to be productive. You have timesheets to fill, a boss to impress, and other coworkers who look busy. But working independently from home has made me realize I needed more tools to cut out the constant distractions. Here are some of the tools I’ve been using so far.
It’s the internet’s nature to continually see the latest trending article and want to read it now. That is why one of my favorite apps is called “Pocket,” which allows you to save an article or webpage to read later. It’s available as an app and Chrome extension. Using Pocket has been a lifesaver because I used to waste hours reading articles daily. It’s a terrible habit and productivity drain.
I want to read articles as they appear because I always felt like I would never read them otherwise. Or it stays as the tab begging for my attention for the rest of the day until I finally broke down and read it. Or I would eventually delete the tab and miss a good read.
The way I use Pocket is to save blogs on topics I’m researching or fun articles to my pocket app and then read it later in a relaxing bath. That way, I get to truly enjoy a well-written article with my full attention and free of guilt!
Another cool feature about Pocket is that you can bookmark and favorite article to come back to it later. You can also organize your items with tags and make use of their highlighting feature. It even has a discover and explore tab if you ever actually happen to be without reading material.
Save Tabs for Later
This functionality has been a more recent find for me, but it’s been a game-changer! If you are anything like me, you always have many tabs open, and if you’re a control freak like me, you do not want to let them go without sufficient time looking at them.
Sometimes I would have tabs open for a specific task, but I didn’t necessarily need to do it today, and it really could wait. Or it would be a new app or topic I was researching. I didn’t want to make bookmarks for one-time reads. And copy+pasting the URLs to a notepad felt silly.
Or, you know, sometimes I had multiple tabs going down some rabbit hole (hello True Crime web sleuthing distraction). I hate losing tabs without being able to look at them first. So like with Pocket, I can save these tabs for later with a click of a button.
There are many types of Chrome extensions out there like this, but I have found the aptly-named “Save Chrome Tabs for Later” extension to work well. Seriously I have saved so much time and maybe put less stress on my computer since it doesn’t have to have 20+ tabs open at once.
I have used this app for years on my phone out of sheer necessity. I can be one of those who will get a great idea or remember something important and immediately forget. Or I am so determined not to forget that I have to stop what I’m doing and start on the new task or idea.
So I use the MeMail iPhone app to jot down notes and click the send button quickly. It automatically goes to my inbox without any of the other steps of setting up an email.
Yes, it’s just emailing myself, but it’s streamlined. This is a great way not to forget important things or even save prose I want to use later.
I also use this app along with Zapier and the Gmail filters. I love being able to send myself reminders and go about my day. I don’t have to stress about forgetting something.
This has become a secret-weapon against distraction. I have started using Zapier only recently since becoming a freelancer. Zapier is like an adapter that connects different apps. You set up conditions: if this happens on this app, then this app does this. These rules are called “zaps”.
I quickly found a need to curate online communication and tasks into one place. I have several Gmail accounts I use to keep in contact with clients, so it was easy to lose track or have something fall through the cracks. Setting up Zapier as my solution allowed me to feel pretty clever.
I even use it with MeMail. Zapier will automatically create a task in my task manager when I send myself an email with “Task It” in the subject. I do the same thing for specific clients who email me or new Basecamp tasks. That way, I’m not using several task managers.
I’ve found other uses: I even have his “zap” to text me when a client cancels a calendar event with me. Since I manage two Etsy shops, it automatically creates a task when a purchase is made, so I know what items to pack and ship.
Also known as “swipe files,” snippets are just text you have saved that you can copy and paste as needed. Using “snippets” is a no-brainer if you use Etsy, Instagram, or have any workflows to write a similar message regularly. For example, Etsy added a new feature called Snippets so that you can have your messages for customers saved.
I use them for new customers and to check in when I see orders are delivered. Then I use the Apple app “Notes” to save hashtags that I use regularly. I use different combinations and am more specific hashtags for my picture’s context but having my regulars saved and easily accessible saves me time.
As a freelancer, scheduled meeting is a part of the job. One of the biggest time wasters is trying to find the best time to meet that doesn’t conflict with everyone’s schedule. That’s why I love calendly. The app will only allow people to schedule where I have set my schedule. It syncs up with my Google Calendar so that way I don’t accidentally get double booked. It will also alert you if a client cancels the meeting- but as I said, I like having Zapier text me when this happens.
It even allows a scheduler to pick the app we meet on (such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Skype) and generates our meeting code.
If you pay for Calendly, you can integrate it with PayPal or Stripe- a nice feature for anyone who offers paid consultations.
And that’s my list of distraction hacks!
I plan to write about my thoughts on various project managers, current writing workflows, and email setup soon.
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