It is week 75 of shelter-in-place…err…or it feels like it is.  By now, we have an established routine for our work-from-home lives, one that has evolved greatly since the spring.  We have the hang of school schedules, conference calls and managing deadlines.  Yet, we yearn for some sort of change – to shake us out of this growing sense of burn out, to boost our productivity or to create a little sense of excitement in our lives.  

I’ve explored two tech ideas to create change while boosting efficiency and a terrific book recommendation to step-up your habit-making and to encourage you to get off your device. 

1. Things 3 – A Better Way To Do Your TO-DO lists

productivity app

Award-winning app, Things 3, was recently suggested to me by a friend as a better way to do checklists. I usually use Notes, email or a hand-written checklist to manage tasks, which made her chuckle.  She suggested this app as an alternative to basic checklists or even Asana.  Things 3 is easier to learn and master than Todoist and Asana, two popular productivity apps.   The app stands out because of how it breaks down tasks, creating a clear, achievable roadmap to project completion. It also allows you to manage multiple projects easily and inserts tasks in your calendar, scheduling dedicated time to attend to your projects. One of the most useful features is the being able to forward an email to Things, automatically creating a TO-DO item without manual entry. 

Drawbacks: Cost (starting at $9.99 for iPhone and up to $49.99 for Mac) and compatibility (currently unavailable for Windows or Android devices). 

Get it now

productivity app

2. Spark – An Email Tool That Makes “Zero Inbox” A Possibility

“Zero inbox” is an untenable goal for me, with 14,821 items flagged for my attention at last check. But, with the Spark app, the objective comes into reach for us email hoarders.  The app is an email cleaner that intelligently prioritizes your inbox by putting your most important emails at the top and archiving the rest, allowing for easier organization.  The advanced email tools allow you to delegate emails, create templates and privately discuss email threads across teams.  Features like snooze and send later ensure your messages reach recipients at ideal times.

Customizable toolbar actions, contact avatars, and a sleek new look with support for Dark Mode add up to a winning update for Spark, which remains one of the best free alternatives to Apple Mail.

– MacWorld

As always, be sure to read up on their privacy policies to ensure they jive with your comfort level for email. The app is free for up to 2 users and billed at $6-$7 per user after that. 

Drawback: For iOS only, though Android version is currently in development.

Get it now:


3. Atomic Habits – by James Clear

Atomic Habits is a comprehensive approach to having the habits you want.  Clear believes that through our small habits, we direct our lives in large ways. As months pass under quarantine, examining our daily habits becomes an easy, accessible way to create change and increase impact. Productivity is enhanced, as well.

“If you want to stick with a habit for good, one simple and effective thing you can do is keep a habit tracker,” says Clear. With tools like these, he demonstrates a knack for simplifying concepts and goals into smaller systems to examine.

Get it now: At the Strand bookstore, to help support an iconic, local business

Feature image provided by Carl Heyerdahl