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5 tech tips to boost productivity in the new year

Early morning exercisers workout in the drizzle in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Wednesday Nov. 30, 2016 on a wet and cloudy day. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

It’s a new year and as you may have already heard, that means it’s time for a new you. As cliché as that old saying might sound, the idea that the new year holds a fresh opportunity for change is actually pretty inspiring.

If you’re like most of us, you’re probably wondering how you’ll set forth a plan to create resolutions that can actually come to fruition this year. A solid first step to ensuring your goals for 2017 are realized by the year’s end is to focus on increasing your productivity.

Here are six ways you can use tech to boost your productivity and increase your chances of making some positive changes this year.

1. Prioritize and track daily tasks

Some days it seems like the more you have on your to-do list, the harder it is to remain productive. Prioritizing and tracking your daily tasks can help you get organized enough to stay on track and complete one item at a time.

Apps like Habitica and Wunderlist are two excellent tools for this job.

Habitica is a program that uses a video game platform to help you develop better habits in your daily life. It allows you to organize your recurring tasks as well as to-do list items for specific days then provides rewards to encourage you to get the job done.

If you’re looking for something without all the frills, Wunderlist is another great task organization program that allows you to create to-do lists and share them with others, set reminders and due dates, and add comments and notes to specific tasks.

2. Block digital distractions

Reports show that 38 percent of employees who admit to wasting time at work are spending the majority of their wasted time on social media. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a student or a full-time employee, chances are you’re currently wasting quite a bit time on social media each day. There are a couple of programs that can help you block social media and other digital distractions so you can focus on your projects.

Rescue Time is an app that helps you understand your daily habits so you can identify where you should be spending less time and where you could stand to spend a little more time each day. The program runs in the background of your mobile devices and/or your computer to track your time spent on certain websites and applications.

Once you know which apps and websites are creating the biggest time suck in your life, you can use Freedom to block these distractions during times when you need to focus. This app allows you to temporarily block certain apps and websites on your computer and mobile devices.

3. Track your sleep and exercise

Research suggests that regular exercise can help your body produce brain cells as you age which keeps your mind sharper and boosts your ability to focus. Sufficient sleep is also essential to promoting proper brain function and maintaining adequate energy levels. This is why it is important to find time for healthy amounts of sleep and exercise in your daily routine.

Track your sleep and activity is neo way you can use tech to motivate your efforts to achieve higher quality sleep and a more consistent fitness schedule.

If you don’t already have a fitness tracking device that you wear, like a FitBit, and aren’t interested in purchasing one, there are several free options you can use to track your activity.

The Sleep Cycle Alarm clock analyzes your sleep and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase so you wake up at the ideal time for your body. The app also provides a report on the quality and duration of your sleep so you can effectively set goals for higher quality sleep.

As far as fitness trackers go, we all know there are tons of great options. The best tracker for you will depend on your unique needs and goals. PC Mag offers up a great guide to some of this year’s top fitness trackers if you need a little help finding a quality app to do this job.

4. Streamline communication with your co-workers

Streamlining communication with your co-workers, family, professors and fellow students will be an important part of becoming your most productive self in 2017.

If your office uses a program like Slack, Skype, or G Chat for quick interoffice communication, download the app on your phone to make sure you don’t miss important questions from your team when you step away from your desk. You can also use one of these programs to start discussions with your family throughout the day.

If you’re a student, it’s likely you don’t check your email often, but that doesn’t mean important messages aren’t coming through from your teachers and professors. Smartphones are notorious for having email apps that malfunction, so your best bet is to download a third-party app to manage your emails. There are several alternate email app options you can use for Android and iOS phones to make sure you actually get the notifications you’re supposed to when an important email comes through.

5. Automate tedious tasks

Things like storing digital receipts, setting alarms for new events and saving attachments from emails are all tedious tasks that most of us have to do on a regular basis. Although these things help us keep our lives afloat, we’re constantly trying to find ways to get around them. This is where a little help from If This Then That comes in handy.

If This Then That is a program that allows you to automate specific tasks by creating formulas that connect the functions of specific apps and websites. For example, you could set up an IFTT recipe to automatically save attachments to your Google drive when you receive them or activate another recipe that allows you to upload written notes and transfer them into an online document.

You can check out some awesome IFTT recipes for productivity here.

Productivity is key to achieving any goal worth shooting for. Although technology has arguably made it more difficult than ever to stay focused by adding millions of distractions to our world, it can also be a helpful tool in combatting all the digital noise to zero in on the tasks that will bring you closer to where you want to be in 2018.

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