Warning: All those brief spurts of time you and your employees spend on casual conversations, interruptive emails and personal tasks may be adding up to a major loss in productivity. According to several studies, the average employee wastes about a quarter of each workday on non-work-related activities, costing employers in the range of $10,000 per employee per year. Increasingly, people are turning to apps to help them put an end to their procrastinating ways.
On the surface, it is hard to imagine that a beep, a reminder or internet-blocking strategies could substantially boost productivity. But a 2015 study concluded that anti-procrastination apps are more efficient than you may think, increasing work time on selected tasks by 24%. Those using the apps were 40% more likely to finish the task at hand than those without the technical prodding. Blocking tempting websites, which was the strategy used in the study, is a good start to reducing distraction and improving productivity, says Eric Lopkin, president of business coaching and consulting firm The Modern Observer Group.
However, not all apps tackle the procrastination problem the same way. Here’s a rundown of four apps that take different approaches to increasing productivity in the workday.
Put up barriers.
Both Freedom and Anti-Social are simple-to-use apps that improve concentration by blocking access to websites, apps and social media platforms during pre-set times that can be personalized to your business hours. So which sites should you block—and when? Well, everyone’s tastes and time-wasters are different, but here’s one fact to consider: According to Lopkin, every March, businesses lose $1 billion in productivity because people are checking March Madness scores on ESPN.
Find out ‘why.’
A lack of time management skills is not the only reason that people procrastinate. Increasingly, research suggests that emotion and self-doubt play a key role. Procraster helps you overcome the obstacles to moving forward efficiently by identifying the reasons behind your procrastination, such as the task feels overwhelming or you feel you need to be perfect. For each reason you acknowledge, the app will provide smart advice and guide you to completion in a nurturing way. One nice feature is that you can review statistics that measure your personal productivity, which may motivate you to try to best yourself in the weeks to come.
Commit to a schedule.
Pomodoro.cc works in tandem with the popular time management method, The Pomodoro Technique, which is based on the theory that people are at their most productive when working in 25-minute bursts of single-minded focus, followed by short mental breaks of five to 15 minutes to do whatever they want. Each task is broken into a set number of focused work sessions (pomodoros) and scheduled downtimes. The free app is essentially a timer that alerts users when it’s time to stop working and take a break and when it’s time to put your nose back to the grindstone. More than a time tracker, Pomodoro.cc’s true goal is to help you learn new habits to work more efficiently and establish clear delineations between work time and free time.
While distraction-reducing apps can be useful to improve productivity, Lopkin points out that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution “A lot depends on the app and on the workflow of the person using it,” he says. “Ironically, the biggest problem with anti-procrastination applications is that if you need one, you may procrastinate about using it.”
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