Tag Archives: Cool Tools

Cool Tools: Goalscape

Last week, I shared my 2017 wrap-up and goals for 2018.  My list of goals for this year is pretty hefty. I felt good after writing them, but then found that I was having a hard time focusing and determining how to start as the days passed.

What should I start with first? How do these goals cascade and serve one another?

So, as I often do when I need to wrap my mind around something, I wrote it all down by hand, separating the different goals by quarter.

That helped. But I needed something more. I wanted to see this plan in a more visual way.

There must be a tool for that, right? To the Googles!

Enter this Cool Tools post focus: Goalscape

Goalscape is a tool that allows you to create a visual web of your goals around a central project.

It’s free for one project with up to 30 goals.

It’s available on the web, and as a desktop application (if that’s more your thing.)  The desktop app is $60 (one time.)  The unlimited online version is $6/month.

I used the free version and was able to create this AWESOME visualization of my 2018 Author Goals in no time at all.

Goalscape_trialrun

I loved this visual so much that I made it the lock screen on my phone. So now, every time I go to unlock my phone I’m faced with my 2018 goals, asking me “what should you be working on right now?” (Not accusatorily. It’s like a helpful productivity buddy 🙂 )

What project/goals could you use Goalscape to visualize? Give it a try and share your web in the comments!

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Cool Tools: Omnibox Timer

Hello again faithful readers! It’s time for another Cool Tools post, where I talk about the various hacks I use to keep myself productive.  This time, the tool is a Google Chrome app called Omnibox Timer!

Have you ever sat down to work, or read, only to get sucked into Facebook, or Twitter, or scrolling your Insta?

Yeah, me too.

Well, a few weeks ago, I got fed up with the time loss and went on a crusade to find a tool that would help me limit the social media time suck.  I discovered that there are tons of different tools out there, ranging from an owl who automatically closes your session on after a preset time limit is reached, to the simplest of the bunch: Omnibox Timer.

Seeing as how I like simplicity and flexibility, and I’m not lacking in the discipline to start the timer, I decided to give Omnibox Timer a try.

First off, it’s super easy:

In Chrome, the address bar is called the “Omnibox” because you can use it for Google searches, URLs, and activating apps–like the timer!

So all I have to do is open a tab, type ‘tm’ and a space into the Omnibox (address bar) and then the number of minutes I want the timer to run.  I can even add a message to pop up when the timer goes off.

Omnibox

Then, when the minutes are up, Omnibox Timer sends a desktop notification to my screen.  It’s quiet and unassuming, but it gets the job done without making me feel like I’m being punished. (I really hate that feeling.)

Omnibox2

For me, that’s all I need: a reminder of how much time has passed. Otherwise, I’ll get sucked into reading articles and think 10 minutes has passed–when it’s actually been 30. And, frankly, that twenty minutes can be the difference between getting to write or not.

So give it a try and tell me what you think!  Or, if you have a time management tool you love already, tell me about it! I always love to find a cool new tool!

 

Productivity | Calendaring To-Dos

It’s no secret that I love task management (and task management tools!)  I use Todoist to manage my tasks during the week, and a weekend-only bullet journal to manage my weekend life and projects. But when my days at work got so fragmented with meetings that I was experiencing task-paralysis in the short gaps of time I had at my desk, I did something drastic:

I began scheduling my day down to the smallest increments, scheduling my to-dos into 15-minute-divisible ‘appointments.’

And it was AWESOME!

No more productivity paralysis + a serious sense of accomplishment + a high-level view of my day, responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations = productivity empowerment! 

Here’s how I did it: 

  1. I set my calendar to display in 15-minute increments (I use Outlook at work, but any calendar style would work for this.)
  2. I continued to record my tasks into my Todoist and assign them a due date, priority, etc., as applicable, as they came to my plate.
  3. At the end of each day, I looked to the next:
    1. I reviewed tomorrow’s calendar and made sure it was up to date.
    2. I reviewed my task list for tomorrow.  I mentally categorized my tasks into tiny, small, medium, and large work efforts.
    3. I Identified the open slots in my schedule and ‘penciled’ my tasks (remember: 15-minute increments!) into those gaps.
      1. Tiny tasks take less than 5 minutes. They are the only kind of task that can be scheduled two (or three, in a pinch) to a 15-minute slot.
      2. Small tasks should take about 15 minutes
      3. Medium = greater than 15 minutes
      4. Large = greater than 45 minutes

Pro-Tips (i.e. Things I learned the hard way)

  1. Schedule two or three 15-30 minute blocks of email time into your day. (More or less, depending on your specific circumstance. If I was writing full-time, I would schedule two blocks. But because my office job entails a lot of emails, I schedule three–one 30-minute block in the morning, and two 15-minute blocks in the afternoon.)
  2. Leave enough time for bathroom breaks. Small tasks that will only take 5 minutes are a great opportunity for this: the rest of the 15-minute block can be used for a potty/facebook/whatever break.)
  3. Leave enough time for task transition. Butting two hour-long tasks up against each other sounds like a good idea, but you need at least 10 minutes to transition your brain (if not your work space!) when the first task ends to allow you to tackle the next.

This was surprisingly easy to implement into my work, and the payoff was WAY more than the small amount of expended effort.  The best part is that if I run into a day that doesn’t require this kind of detail, I just don’t do it that day.  There’s no commitment–it’s just another tool for your productivity toolbox, ready and waiting when the going gets tough.

Is this something you do? Any tips to share?  Or, if you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes!