By Siyu Wu
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, especially for students, is improving productivity and time management. It may seem counter-intuitive to use technology for time management, especially when technology – social media, texting, email, YouTube and more – is typically the greatest distraction. But, there are many useful apps and strategies to help manage your time more efficiently and productively. (Note: most of these apps are extensions for Google Chrome, but there exist similar apps for other web browsers, PC and Macs, and phones!) Here are some tips to get started.
The Pomodoro method
This research-backed approach blocks your time effectively into small, manageable chunks of high productivity. Instead of spending a long time trying to stay focused on your task, instead break your work into focused time blocks of 25 minutes, with 5 minutes of break in between each time block. After four such blocks of time, take a longer 10 to 15-minute break. The benefit of working in small chunks of time (called pomodoros) is improved focus during that time and a chance to refresh and clear your mind every so often.
Block out distractions
There are many ways to ensure your focus is uninterrupted in each Pomodoro. While some may find it as simple as setting a timer for 25 minutes to keep on track, others may want more restrictions on which apps and websites may be accessed during a certain period of time. There are several apps that can block your access to websites - Facebook, Buzzfeed, Tumblr, etc. - of your choice for a set amount of time.
- Strict Workflow is a simple but powerful website blocker that uses the Pomodoro method of 25 minutes work and 5 minute breaks (though you can set other time chunks!). List the websites that you want blocked for the set time period, and work away until the timer rings.
- StayFocusd is a similar extension that allows you to block a designated list of websites, or block all websites except those on an “allowed” list.
- DistractOff is a slightly less strict website blocker – you can designate blocked websites for certain work days and hours. But, it also allows you to override the blocker if necessary.
Track your productivity
Before making changes to your current time management style, it can be helpful to get an idea of how you currently use your time. For a few days, jot down the amount of time you spend doing different activities. Seeing clearly how you typically spend your time can give insight into whether certain activities take more time than you expect. To get a more detailed overview of how you spend your time online, use a productivity tracker extension.
- Toggl Button allows you to manually track the amount of time you spend on each website. Also, it offers a Pomodoro timer and reminders to help you keep on track.
- Ultidash is a multi-function productivity management tool with to-do lists, graphs and charts breaking down your website activity, a timer, website blocker, and other customizable productivity tools.
Everyone has different preferences for time management, so don’t worry if one of the methods mentioned above doesn’t work out. Figuring out how to streamline your work and maintain focus is an ongoing process, and it may be necessary to try different strategies to see which fits best with your work style. If at first things seem tough or don’t work out, remember that it takes time and practice to form new habits.
Make sure to stay committed to whichever approach you choose for at least few weeks to see results!
Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.