productivity

It's a blessing and a curse to work from home or as a freelancer. On the plus side, you're not expected to fit into the prefab 9-to-5 box. Unfortunately, that means you have to create the whole day from scratch. For some, this is divine freedom. For others, it's a lot of free-floating time to eff up.

The secret to a successful work schedule is to know thyself.

The Seeker's Approach to the Work Schedule

The very notion of "time management" makes some of us want to rebel. It sounds restrictive — which anyone who has been on a crazy diet knows is a recipe for disaster. Rather than start color-coding a planner in blocks, artist and writer Laureen Marchand, says making a work schedule that works for you is about asking questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What's important?
  • What's important enough so you can commit to it?
  • Do I have goals? If so, what are they? If not, should I develop some?
  • What do I want to change?

"Remember, there are no wrong answers," she suggests. "What's right for you is right. But you're more likely to know what's right for you if you ask the questions."

For Marchand, these questions boiled down to values that could guide her days: "Almost daily time for the work that matters most to me. Enough money so I don't have to think about it. Recognition. Connection. Possibility."

The Structure-Is-Freedom Work Schedule

Some people, like Mark Wahlberg, like to schedule every hour of the day. For those who thrive in conditions of ultimate order, hand the job of taskmaster over to Google Calendar or the scheduling function of your choice. Rather than only putting in meetings, doctor's appointments, and the occasional lunch date, create a calendar that is your Daily Routine, suggests Whitson Gordon on Lifehacker.

Set up recurring events with pop-up reminders on your computer and cell phone that will remind you to shift gears. And here's the trick: When you get that pop-up to "Eat Lunch," "Yoga with Alison," "Draft Grant Proposal," drop everything and actually do it.

"Take these events seriously, and respect the calendar, and you'll find your routine becomes much easier to stick to," Whitson writes. "The key here is to set up the calendar and stick to it. Be serious about following to it. It's okay to 'boss yourself around' with this calendar. You're making these appointments with yourself b/c this is the way you want your life to be, so respect that. Don't put yourself at the bottom of all your other priorities/responsibilities. This calendar is here to remind you of that."

Create a window of time for revolving but endless errands and admin, so that you have time each day to go to the post office/drop bike off for a tune-up/call the insurance company.

"It may seem like overkill at first," writes Whitson. "Like you're scheduling every second of every day like a crazy person, but once you get it all set up, it won't seem so bad. Again, the idea isn't to interrupt your important work, just to send you little blips that remind you to shut down the distractions and get your daily routine back on track."

Know your own rhythms

Do you work best in short increments? Or will a long chunk of quiet and solitude lead to better productivity? Will getting email out of the way free up brain space for more innovative and big picture work? Or is that a form of procrastination for the real intellectual heavylifting your job requires. Again, know thyself. And then create the boundaries in your schedule that set you up for success.

We All Have the Same 24 Hours. What Can You Do With Yours?

There are real obstacles to getting our work done — childcare, meal planning, the whole great wide Internet. Feeling like we don't have enough time is such a constant many of us have adopted it as our mantra. There's never enough time!

"Of course, you don't have enough time! Who does? But then again, do you really not have enough time?" asks Laureen Marchand. "Or is it that you have lots of time and you aren't using it for what's important to you? Is your time taken with things that used to be matter but don't so much now? Are you busy doing things you don't really want to do? How can you do less of what you don't want and more of what you do?"

Rethink "Enough"

Defining what is enough for you — and "for you" are the operative words — means learning to silence what Jennifer Louden calls the "Hounds of More, More, More," who have endless suggestions for how to live well.

"Improve yourself! Make more money! Be more awesome! Rise to the top! More, more, mooooooooorrrrreeeee!"

The hounds also love to mess with your routine, yammering:

"Meditate first thing in the morning! No, I meant start with yoga! No, you should go to the gym! But it's summer so walk in nature! No, I meant writing, working on your side gig/sketching!"

It's exhausting. Why? Because the Hounds of More are concerned with illusory perfection, Louden writes, and are never satisfied.

But building a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment into your day is essential for creating momentum in a routine. Louden's Conditions for Enoughness help create finite and measurable action plans so that you can declare you did enough at the end of each day — even if you don't feel like you did.

Know your No's and Yes'es

We'll quote the master, here. As Steven R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it:

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say "no" to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger "yes" burning inside.

But how do you say no when we've been taught that abundance in all things is about saying yes?

"One thing that helps in this process of choosing a bigger yes is knowing that you do not have to choose one 'big yes' thing forever; you simply have to choose what you want to focus on for now," writes Melissa Dinwiddie, who says that all time management problems are really priority management problems. "In other words, 'no' does not have to mean 'never;' it can mean 'not right now.'"

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You've likely heard about CBD. With more states moving to legalize marijuana, we're also becoming more aware of CBD and its benefits.But what is CBD, and can it take your work performance to new heights?

Oils and tinctures are often recommended CDN

As Natural Stacks explains, "CBD (cannabidiol) is a bioactive component of the Cannabis plant (marijuana) that is becoming well-known for its potential brain health benefits, none of which involve getting high or compromising your short term memory." So, no, you won't be "stoned" at company meetings or on conference calls.

Cannabidiol can be taken into the body in multiple different ways, including by inhalation of cannabis smoke or vapor, as an aerosol spray into the cheek, and by mouth. It may be supplied as an oil containing only CBD as the active ingredient (no added THC or terpenes), a full-plant CBD-dominant hemp extract oil, capsules, dried cannabis, or as a prescription liquid solution."

Vaping is popular AmazonAWS

When it comes to getting the most out of your CBD, the experts at CanaGel hemp oil gel melts (the first of its kind) recommend full spectrum CBD rather than CBD isolate. "The CBD isolate is just pure CBD and nothing else. CBD on its own still may have medical value as it is the most medicinal part of the plant, but according to research done by Israeli Organic Chemist, Raphael Mechoulam it was found that all the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis work better when they are together (rather) than isolated. This is what's known as the 'entourage effect,' where all the cannabinoids work together and become more effective. So, full spectrum hemp CBD is more effective because of all the 100+ cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, CBG, CBDA, <.3% THC than just CBD alone. Unlike CBD isolate, full spectrum CBD is filled with nutrients and contains terpenes, flavonoids, essential vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (Omega 3 & Omega 6), protein, chlorophyll, amino acids and fiber."

Melts in your mouth pbs.twimg.com

Customers who use CanaGel have also seen improvement in their mental health, which can lead to an increase in performance and productivity at work. A reduction in anxiety, insomnia (PopSugar Fitness reports CBD may produce alertness in small doses during the day), depression, and other mental health issues have been reported with use of 5-20 mg. daily. Natural Stacks adds to the benefits a relief in stress levels thanks to "CBD's efficacy as an anxiolytic compound." Additionally, "It's thought that CBD influences neuron activity in the hippocampus (the region of the brain involved in memory consolidation and formation) by increasing calcium ion concentrations in the mitochondria."

CBD gummies sound yummy RedStarCBD

Need more proof CBD can up your performance? As per Medical Jane, "Cannabinoids help your brain grow and slow brain aging. Through a process called neurogenesis, new brain cells are constantly being created. Another study published in The International Journal of Neuropharmacology also points to cannabidiol (CBD) as a key contributor of neurogenesis in the brain. Specifically, this birth of new neurons occurred in the Hippocampus, an area typically associated with conscious memory and navigation by making these developing cells stronger."

You can take your CBD before work, but what if you choose to take a dose at the office? A CanaGel representative noted how this can be tricky, since "many people are still very misinformed (about CBD)." Vaping (consider Select CBD) or using tinctures, creams, or oils can be obvious and distracting - not to say they aren't the CBD "vessel" of choice for many - that's why CanaGel recommends their product which is discreet, not to mention highly effective. A gel melt is placed inside the cheek for up to 10 minutes and the CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream. "Independent lab results show that within 7 minutes of contact, virtually 100% was absorbed." No muss, no fuss.

Clearly, there are many mental benefits, but what about side effects? As per Healthline, "Though CBD is generally well tolerated and considered safe, it may cause adverse reactions in some people.

Side effects noted in studies include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Psychosis
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite"

As with anything you put in your body, it's important to make sure you are doing It safely. Medical News Today reminds us, "After discussing dosage and risks with a doctor it is important to compare different brands. There are a range of different CBD (products) available to purchase online, with different benefits and applications."

Once you're cleared and ready to use CBD to improve your performance on the job, you'll learn if the mental benefits are affecting you. Hey, you may owe your next promotion to CBD!

Ian Barbour/Flickr

I'll admit it. I am a master procrastinator. I have a huge tendency to put things off. It can definitely be an issue. Plenty of people suffer with me. But even if you aren't a procrastinator, it can be difficult to focus in today's modern working environment. With email, texting, messaging apps, meetings, and phone calls, it can be difficult to find the time and space to get things done. This is exactly what the Pomodoro Technique was built to counteract.

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method intended to improve concentration. When you're faced with a big task or series of tasks, break them down into smaller time blocks. These blocks are called “Pomodoros" and are spaced out by short breaks. The traditional time period is 25 minutes of work followed by a short 5 minute break. But you can set your sessions to any length you like. The main goal of these timed sessions is to hyper focus on one specific task. This is much more effective than constantly flipping between tasks. Multitasking actually hurts your productivity. The Pomodoro Technique is a great addition to a single tasking methodology.

So, let's see how this thing works in real life. Before I opened up this document to write this piece, I went to my favorite timer app Forest (but there are plenty of other apps more suited the technique on the marketplace) and set up a Pomodoro session. (I usually work for longer periods, around an hour.) As I write, the clock ticks down on the amount of time I have left. When the session is up, I usually have a new piece finished. If I don't, it's no sweat. I just set up another session and continue after a short break.

As someone who was intensely stressed about timed multiplication tests in elementary school, this method at first seemed counterintuitive to me. But beating the clock isn't the point of the system. The point is to set aside a specific amount of time to completely focus on a single task. Knowing that I don't have anything else going on lets me zero in on what I need to do and actually get it done. During a session, your only goal is to get as much done as you can. This is your time to work. Turn off all your social media and messaging apps and just focus. If you need more time after your session is up, take a short break and then set up another session. I cannot tell you how much more productive I have been with the Pomodoro Technique than without it.

So Pomodoros can increase focus, but how does the technique beat procrastination? Well, the best way to beat procrastination is to just start on your task— even if it's just for five minutes. Setting up a Pomodoro session allows me to get over the hurdle and actually begin. And I often find once I've started, I am propelled forward to finish. Every time. If the Pomodoro Technique can work for me — a serial procrastinator — then it can definitely improve your own workflow.

Photo: Domenico Loia

By Tom Twardzik

Sometimes, the difference between a successful day of work and a frustrating one is a set of efficient, uncomplicated tools. For someone working from home or otherwise away from the office, the primary tool set is often a computer. A standard word processor, a default email client and the desktop sticky notes might be enough to complete your tasks, but a more personalized and powerful desktop will boost your productivity and overhaul your creative process. The Mac apps below highlight the best ways to upgrade your tool set for a more efficient home or remote office.

Basic productivity

What are some of the most basic actions you perform on your computer? Copy-and-paste and resizing and arranging windows. Saving a fraction of a second every time you perform these actions adds up quickly, and several apps will help you do that.

Magnet.

Magnet has been at the top of the paid apps chart for months. This $0.99 utility gives your desktop more than a dozen shortcuts for resizing and arranging the windows on your screen. Whether you're on an 11" laptop or a 27" iMac, Magnet snaps any window into size and position with a number of keyboard shortcuts. It makes decluttering your digital workspace much simpler than decluttering your desk will ever be.

iPaste is another must-have utility that lives in the background and automatically stores your recent clipboard. It saves what you ask it to save and makes it available in a pop-up menu through a keyboard shortcut. And it does it for free. So you can copy three separate sentences of an article and paste them separately instead of flipping back and forth between windows, copying and pasting three times.

It's the little things.

Idea-sketching and planning

There are hundreds of brainstorming, note-taking and to-do list apps available on and off the app store, but there are few standouts who do it all in one. Fed up with Evernote's subscription model but still willing to pay? Try Notability, the Mac version of iPad's ultimate idea space. Type, draw, annotate, record audio, add photos and PDFs—it does everything. For $10 and no subscription, it'll quickly replace all of Evernote's functionalities.

OneNote

Or, for a free alternative, go for Microsoft's OneNote. The only catch here is that you'll have to create a (free) Microsoft account. OneNote offers a toolset similar to Notability (if a bit less polished and more… Microsoft). It offers a powerful notation space, especially for anyone already in the Microsoft ecosystem.

Agenda.

For a more structured planning app, Agenda is a great alternative to Trello. It's a date-focused notes/journal combination that incorporates your calendar to offer a to-do list, note space and calendar on one screen. Seeing previously completed to-dos and past dates in the same line as future events is surprisingly helpful. It adds temporal context to every glance at your upcoming tasks and notes. $25 gets you all of the synching and exporting features not included in the free app.

Maybe you're looking for a pure, simple, full-featured, free to-do list to replace Todoist, Things or any of the other paid or subscription-based apps out there. Enter Wunderlist. Not only does it offer all of the features of the others for free (including sync, subtasks and an Apple Watch app), but it has collaboration features, too. Use it to manage all of your own projects or set up your coworkers or family with access to shared lists to split up the workload.

Collaboration

Notion.

Speaking of collaborating, you might be searching for a change in routine to boost creativity or energize your team. A new app could be the solution, a replacement for Slack or Trello or Google Drive. Try Notion. It's a free, universal notes/to-dos/wiki app that works on desktop, mobile or in-browser on any computer. You can work offline, sync between devices, invite your team to workspaces and collaborate in real time. It looks great, too. There is a paid pro tier that removes limits on card numbers and upload sizes, but the free version has plenty of features for a small team.

Email

Collaborating with a small team is easy with an app like Notion, but email still dominates working from home or out of office. It's often a necessary drudge, but make it easier on yourself with Spark. This free email app from Readdle offers features like email snooze, send scheduling, swipe shortcuts, pinned messages, tons of smart folder options and more, all with the goal of reaching Inbox Zero. Spark wants to change your habits from leaving thousands of old, unread messages in your inbox to archiving or deleting those messages and leaving only the messages you need in your inbox or in a folder. The snooze feature, alone, makes it worth downloading.

The work

All of these time-saving productivity apps lead to one thing: the work. Two app highlights are worth mentioning: Be Focused and iA Writer.

Be Focused.

Be Focused is a tiny timer app that lives in the menu bar as a stopwatch icon. Set the timer and ��click start, and the app simply counts down. It doesn't block social media or lock you into a writing screen like other apps. It is not a restriction or a monitor, but a reminder to break up your work into blocks and take short breaks in between those blocks. You'll see that this psychological trick helps quite a bit.

iA Writer.

iA Writer is an essential tool for anyone whose work involves a significant amount of writing. It presents a beautiful, simple, powerful, Markdown-compatible writing space and brags a feature called "Focus Mode." When you enable it, this mode dims all of the text that is not the current sentence (or paragraph, or whatever you choose) so that your eyes remain on the current thought. It drives the work forward by avoiding the editing-while-writing quicksand. iA Writer can also highlight syntax in different colors, revealing your love of adverbs or repetitive verb use. And it has "Night Mode," a white-on-black theme that saves the eyes during late-night projects.

In the end, the work is up to you. But you can help yourself finish projects more quickly and efficiently with the help of the apps above.

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture reviews for Popdust and travel writing for The Journiest. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.