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How to get yourself organised for 2014

With the new year finally here, now is as good a time as any to get everything in order first if you want to become productive.

Image: Clear/Vimeo

Now that we’ve made it to 2014, chances are you will want to start strong by becoming more productive and achieving more this year. Like all good intentions, we start off well, but as time progresses, we tend to lose the run of things before reverting back to the normal routine.

To prevent this from happening, it helps if you have a plan in place and have things organised first for when you’re returning to work, college or your normal day-to-day life.

While most of it will be determined by how focused you are, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure things go smoothly.

Some ground rules

While it’s tempting to just write out a list and expect yourself to complete everything on it, it’s a bad idea to do this unless you have some kind of plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

- Start off small and build it up slowly. Developing a habit takes time so it’s better to start off with one or two short-term objectives and complete them first. The more productive you become, the more you can gradually add onto the list.

- Whatever your aim is, never write down vague or general aims as usually they require multiple actions to be done and can put you off. Keep them simple and concise since writing down “Run for 25 minutes” is a clearer goal than “Get fit.”

- Tying in to the last point, while it’s fine to have goals that will take a serious amount of time and commitment to complete (getting fit, learning a new skill, etc.), it’s better if you break them down into days instead of weeks or months, especially when you’re starting off. The reason for this is that it’s very easy to be discouraged if a task appears to be too big or drags on for too long.

- Whatever format you use to place your to-do list, use one that you will check regularly. Are you always on Gmail? Use Google Calendar. Are you always checking your smartphone or tablet? Download one of the apps listed below. Find apps too complicated? Use a pen and notepad.

- This will depend on the type of person you are, but if you’re the kind of person who finds it difficult to complete a to-do list, start off with the easiest task first and work from there. This will give you momentum which will help you deal with the more difficult or time-consuming tasks.

- If you fail to compete a task (eg: you miss a gym session, forgot to practice a new skill, etc.), forget about it and continue on as normal. Unless it’s absolutely important to do, adding it to your list will only bog you down and make it harder to complete other tasks.

Recommended apps

The amount of apps out there that focus solely on to-do lists and tasks  is quite vast, meaning that there are different apps to suit different needs. Here are a few you should consider downloading.

Wunderlist
For: Desktop (Windows, Mac) and mobile (iOS, Android)
Cost: Free

Wunderlist is one of the most comprehensive task managers out there, spanning both desktop and mobile. Not only is the range of tasks you put down vast, but its ability to sync across all devices means you can plan on your computer and mark them off on your phone when they’re completed.


(Video: Wunderlist/YouTube)

Any.Do
For: Desktop (Chrome) and Mobile (iOS, Android)
Cost: Free

One of the nicer apps out there, Any.Do keeps your to-do list in check with four main categories: today, tomorrow, upcoming and someday so you’re not tied down to a specific time frame.

If you want more, it also has an accompanying app called Cal, which is a great alternative to the traditional calendar apps found on iOS and Android.

(Video: Any.Do/Vimeo)

Shifu
For: Android
Cost: Free

One of the smarter to-do apps out there, Shifu alerts you to tasks when you have free time or when you arrive at a certain location instead of ordering you to do something.

One of the handier features is if you find yourself with some free time, fire up the app and tell it how much time you’ve got. Shifu will then list out a number of tasks you can complete within that time frame. Perfect for those who work on a unpredictable schedule.

(Video: Signals/Vimeo)

Clear
For: MaciOS
Cost: €8.99 for Mac (free trial), €4.49 for iOS

If you’re looking for a concise and easy to understand to-do list, Clear is worth considering. Swipe gestures means it’s simple to use and its colourful display means that you’re not distracted by the small details, all it cares about is whether you’ve completed a task or not.

You can download a free trial for your Mac if you want to get a feel for it first.

(Video: Realmac Software/Vimeo)

Effectual
For: Desktop (Windows 8) and Mobile (Windows Phone)
Cost: Free

One of the best to-do apps for Windows Phone, Effectual makes it easy to create task. Give each one a value and urgency rating and Effectual will determine which tasks you should prioritise first.

A handy feature is it appears on both live tiles and your lock screen ensuring that you’re always up to date.

image(Image: Effectual/Windows Phone)

Read: Column: New year, new you – how to achieve your goals in 2014 >

Read: Poll: Will you be making any New Year’s resolutions? >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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