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This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.

Productivity is always a good trait to have, especially at work. But what’s in it for you by taking actionable steps to boost productivity? Is it really worth your while to teach yourself productivity habits? Keep reading to learn about some identified benefits of being productive, as well as 20 apps that’ll put you on a productive path.

You’ll Create Better Habits

Experts say it takes less than a month to turn an action into a habit. Plus, once you see productivity as a way of working and a way of life, it’s not a skill you’ll lose. In fact, you’ll probably become increasingly productive through the months and years you choose to focus on it.

By viewing productivity as a good work habit, you’ll be poised to succeed at your organization, which could result in better performance reviews. Plus, productivity is also useful when you’re between jobs, since finding a new position often takes a lot of persistence and focus.

You Could Get the Same Amount Done in Less Time

Successful people know how to tackle their projects and have more downtime without decreased output. Plus, working for a shorter amount of time overall may mean all the work they do is of a higher quality.

According to research from Stanford University, overworked employees get less done. So, even if you think you’re getting more done by keeping late hours, it’s worth trying to become more productive so you can get the same amount finished in less time. Studies have also found countries with the shortest workweeks still maintain impressive output and competitiveness levels compared to other places around the world.

You may not be able to immediately convince your boss to let you and all your colleagues work less. But, if you’re able to prove you get the same amount done in a shorter amount of time at the office, your demonstration of the effectiveness of a productive work style could push him or her in the right direction.

More Freedom to Be Flexible

woman working on desk

Even without reading scientific studies that confirm it, you probably already know flexibility is an excellent asset to have at work. During an interview, candidates often get asked how they would handle challenging situations, and those who can confidently convey flexibility and an adaptive work style are more likely to land jobs.

After all, if there’s one thing common to all workplaces, it’s that things don’t go as planned all the time, despite best efforts to keep things stable. Consider too, that greater productivity leads to more flexibility naturally, even if you don’t think of yourself as a person who has that characteristic as an inborn quality.

Multiple studies have found that workers who are more flexible have fewer sick days and get more done. Also, even when they worked longer hours, they were happier than their counterparts. Look at things another way and realize it’s a lot harder, and sometimes impossible, to build flexibility into your schedule if you’re always procrastinating. By switching to a more productive work style, you’ll not only be more flexible, but less stressed, too.

Productivity Could Improve Enjoyment on Vacations and Lead to Raises

Do you always break into a cold sweat when officially letting human resources representatives know you’re using some vacation time? The United States is a work-driven country, unlike some other places in the world that give workers more time off and recognize their need for a greater work-life balance. Data from a recent report even says over time, Americans have taken less time off than they did decades ago.

If you’re tempted to let vacation days go to waste rather than using them, there’s another compelling reason to take time off from work and actually enjoy it: You’re more likely to get a raise or receive a promotion.

So what’s the biggest reason people balk at the idea of taking time off? Statistics show 43 percent of survey respondents were afraid of dealing with huge workloads after coming back from vacation. The possibility of getting a promotion or raise may be a strong enough incentive to do something good with your vacation hours instead of forfeiting them, and if you make a point of being more productive, it’s easier to avoid the fear of work accumulating while you’re enjoying vacation time.

Like most people, you probably scramble to tie up loose ends before departing the office and transitioning to a vacation period. Even with your best efforts, though, it probably feels like you could never do enough, and no matter what, you’ll always return to too much work. Sometimes, circumstances do make it so there’s a pile of work awaiting you after returning from time off. However, productivity at work could make that reality less likely to happen.

As a result, you could truly love the time off. And, when you come back, your supervisor might be so impressed by how you were able to go on a rejuvenating break and not get behind on your projects that he or she decides recognition is in order.

You Could Feel Better About Coming to Work

young woman taking bus to work

If your place of work is dismal and colleagues continually grumble about how much they hate it there, it’s probably hard to drum up the motivation necessary to have a positive mindset about coming to work. Research indicates poor work environments filled with disgruntled workers and overly demanding bosses have low levels of engagement and may make people more likely to suffer health problems, like heart attacks.

In contrast, positive work environments tend to be those with better relationships between employees, superior customer-service capabilities and even fewer instances of sickness because happier workers have stronger immune systems compared to negative workplaces.

And yes, productivity soars within positive work environments. Plus, the associated businesses enjoy long-term prosperity.

Perhaps what you’ve read here has raised concerns about your employer, and you’re tired of always dreading the workday.

In that case, you could simultaneously work on improving your productivity while emphasizing to those in charge that making the work environment a happier place encourages people to follow your lead and enjoy other advantages.

It’s easy to make the case that happier workers are more productive, and vice versa. Think back to what you probably learned in high school biology about how accomplishing things leads to the production of dopamine in the brain, a substance that causes temporary feelings of euphoria.

Plus, more recent research indicates that dopamine plays a role in encouraging motivation. Your brain experiences dopamine spikes when something important is about to happen. So, you’re likely to feel good when getting things done and be more compelled to take the action that’s required for completion.

Your Productivity Could Have an Inspiring Effect on Colleagues

Companies love hiring people with strong leadership characteristics. Those individuals are highly likely to motivate those around them, resulting in a ripple effect that spreads throughout the organization.

Corporate research indicates leaders can no longer merely issue directives, and must instead energize those around them. By making it clear productivity is a personal priority, you’re leading by example.

Eventually, superiors could pick up on the effect you’re having on workmates and decide you need to fulfill a prominent — and better-paying — role. Also, when you’re aware people look up to you, you’ll feel your purpose at work goes beyond punching the time clock to earn a paycheck.

Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at why productivity matters during your desk job, let’s check out 20 tools to help you make it a feasible way of life.

20 Apps to Save Your Tons of Time at Work

1. SaneBox: Your email can be a huge time suck, especially if you wander through the inbox trying to figure out what’s important to read now and what you can take care of later. A helpful app called SaneBox lets you regain fruitless email-related time and use it for something else.

Intelligent filters move various types of emails to dedicated folders, such as newsletters and files with attachments. By the way, those attachments automatically go to the cloud, so you don’t need to search for them later. There’s also a section of SaneBox that shows you all the recipients who didn’t reply to your previous messages. By referring to it, you can instantly know which ones require follow-ups.

2. Pasteasy: If you communicate with clients frequently via text during your desk job, this app might be a lifesaver as well as a time-saver. It claims to be up to 30 times faster than alternatives and lets you copy screenshots, pictures, text and more from your smartphone to a computer. You can even scan and share barcodes.

Does your job require pasting stuff from your phone multiple times? Pasteasy also has a clipboard feature where you can see everything you’ve pasted recently. Simply select an item from the clipboard to paste it again. Pasteasy is a cross-platform app, so you can transfer stuff from your Android phone to a Mac computer, for example.

3. Shyp: Maybe your job requires frequent trips to the post office to ship boxes for people within your company. Shipping something with this app-driven service is as easy as using an Android or iOS smartphone to request a pickup. Even better, you don’t have to box up items before sending them.

Shyp saves money, too, because it looks for the best rates across multiple carriers. You also won’t get roped into a costly contract. Just order pickups as needed and enjoy pay-as-you-go pricing. If your supervisor always worries about what happens to packages after they leave your hands, Shyp has a feature to help. Real-time tracking gives status updates for things you ship, and the information is easily shareable.

4. Toggl: If your desk job pays you based on the time you spend completing projects, use Toggl and simplify time tracking. Available in both desktop and mobile apps, Toggl lets you track time with just one click or tap. You can also connect it to more than 100 web extensions through browser add-ons, so time tracking occurs seamlessly without making you perpetually log into the app.

5. Mind Meister: A creative dry spell can make productivity plummet. However, thanks to a web-based browser app called Mind Meister, it’s possible to keep the creativity flowing through collaborative mind maps. More than seven million people depend on the app and love how it offers automatic updates all collaborators can see, plus a chat feature for participants to give feedback.

6. Wunderlist: To-do lists are excellent starting points for increasing productivity, but they can become useless if you take too long to make them. Wunderlist streamlines the process, helping you create beautiful lists to share or keep private. You can even assign to-dos to others, which is especially advantageous when getting things done as a team.

7. Fantastical: This Mac calendar app works on the El Capitan or Sierra operating systems. It syncs with multiple calendars within the interface, such as Office 365 and Google Calendar. Save time typing and speak instead, using natural language to create events. Get instant alerts, so you never forget about obligations, too.

8. Slack: Time quickly goes out the window, and productivity suffers when you have to scurry around and engage face-to-face with coworkers. Slack is a robust messaging app built for teams.

Use it on your desktop or via the Android or iOS apps. Whatever you do on one device gets reflected on all others. Receive notifications from other tools within Slack too, so you can determine whether it’s necessary to take care of those things, or remain inside Slack. Share messages and files with teammates. Plus, use the handy search feature and enter keywords to find what you’re looking for in seconds. Asian Efficiency uses Slack for its own productivity community–The Dojo.

9. LinkFixer Advanced: Broken links cause numerous hassles, especially after failed file migrations. They also frustrate end users, which could reflect badly on you if your job was to find all the broken links before the transfer happened. LinkFixer Advanced checks for broken links, but you can also use it to move thousands of files at once without ever being concerned about breaking links in the process.

Although this tool makes it possible to prevent broken links, it also has a Modify Links feature that locates broken links and restores their functionality. It works for various file and data types, including Microsoft Office and HTML.

10. Cube Anywhere: Like Toggl, Cube Anywhere has a time-tracking feature. However, it also helps you keep tabs on project-based expenses across devices. Use it independently or as a team member and assign tasks from within the interface. It also integrates with your business contacts in email services like Google. Consider Cube Anywhere a must-have app for a career that requires staying on top of both time and money spent.

11. Contacts Plus: This app connects your Gmail account with an Android phone and makes short work of managing your contacts. Access contact and business information for a client without leaving your inbox, and swiftly block unwanted, distracting calls from telemarketers. See an unfamiliar number on your screen? Use the built-in identifier to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The app also has an integrated backup feature. If you lose your phone, you won’t lose your contacts or the texts they sent you.

12. RescueTime: This app saves you from wondering, “Where did all my time go?” But, instead of just tracking it, the time offers insight into the activities that take up most of your time. If you notice a trend of spending more than half your time in unproductive meetings, the data may be a good reason to bring up other methods of collaborating.

13. Droplr: Sometimes, an image alone is not enough to convey what you need others to know. Droplr is a convenient, graphics-sharing tool that makes it simple to transfer pictures to colleagues and include annotations for further explanations. There’s an option to share screen recordings, too, which is helpful when explaining steps in a process.

14. Let’s Lunch: Who says you can’t also be productive with your lunch and coffee breaks? A sociable app called Let’s Lunch integrates with your calendar and finds opportunities to network with people you should know, even at the last minute. This swipe-sensitive app lets you avoid cumbersome typing, too. Slide your finger on the screen to send or accept meeting invites.

15. Freedom: When self-control doesn’t suffice, Freedom steps in and restricts access to websites that disrupt your focus. After using it, you might be amazed by how much of your time is free to pursue other things. It also helps you build better habits because you can set recurring restrictions that apply to all your devices.

16. Dart: This app lets you stop typing out repetitive answers to common questions. Plus, recipients only have to click a button to reply. The makers of this app conducted a survey and found 91 percent of respondents delayed responding to emails because they thought doing so would take too much time. If you can relate, Dart makes it easy for people to answer email-based questions and saves you from composing long-winded queries.

17. BaTo.Life: Contrary to popular belief, taking short breaks increases productivity. Studies show two-minute breaks raise productivity by 11 percent. However, when your Internet-related breaks get out of control, use BaTo.Life to curb them. It works on any web browser or device. Simply input the number of desired browsing minutes and the website you’ll be perusing. After the allotted time, the app forces you to get back to work.

18. Speechnotes: Written communications are crucial, but time-consuming, even if you’re writing notes to yourself to jog your memory about things later. If you’re an Android user, try Speechnotes. It records your spoken words as notes, even if you use a Bluetooth headset. The app handily allows switching between spoken and typed dictations. Also, turn frequently used words or greetings into custom keys to input them faster.

19. Zapier: There are certain actions you probably perform on a regular basis, one after the other. Zapier simplifies work automation and allows you to set triggers, or “zaps,” that automatically handle designated workflows. For example, you could create a zap that transfers attachments to a Dropbox account after you receive them in Gmail, cutting down on manual interventions.

20. RunYourMeeting: Statistics say if your desk job is a middle-management position, you might be wasting up to 35 percent of time at work in meetings, and up to half your workday in meetings as an upper-level manager. A tool called RunYourMeeting could increase accountability of attendees, so meetings become more valuable.

Set agendas in advance and email them to attendees to promote preparedness and ensure everyone’s on the same page. Also, create personal to-do items and assign deadlines. Email reminders and push notifications urge people to meet quickly approaching due dates.

Thanks to the details about why productivity is essential, plus these apps that help you achieve it, you could nimbly progress through upcoming workloads without feeling swamped. Many of the tools above might offer wake-up calls and illuminate the areas of your day where you waste the most time, plus provide help to make improvements.

This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.

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Last Updated: March 14, 2023

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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