5 more apps to improve your productivity

Just a quick post today – I share 5 more apps that I recently discovered that are helping me be more productive.

Twilight

Twilight reduces the blue light from your phone that keeps you awake at night, and turns it into red light, while dimming the screen. You can control when you want this to happen (following the sunset and sunrise at your location, or at a fixed time) and how strong the effect is. I have mine set pretty high, so I immediately notice it’s time to put the phone away and wind down.

Bonus: An alternative is f.lux, which exists for multiple platforms including your desktop (thanks to @rebeccalinnett for the tip!)

 

Fitbit

I recently bought a Fitbit Alta HR with the goal of improving my step count (exercise is great for your productivity!). But an expected benefit of the Fitbit and the related app was that it gave me more insight into my sleep. I thought I was doing pretty well by going to bed around 22:00 and waking up at 6:00 – that’s 8 hours, right? Fitbit knows better, because it tracks your sleep stages, including the time you spend awake when just going to bed, or when waking up during the night. Here’s one of my reports:

Turns out I might be sleeping a whole hour less than I thought (and waking up 34 times apparently?). Oops! Now that I know this I try to go to bed earlier to get at least 7.5 hours of actual sleep, which feels awesome the next day.

 

Coffitivity

Ever feel very productive in a cafe? Well, Coffitivity now brings the cafe to your desk! It’s just a radio channel with cafe background sounds. It is a bit similar to focus@will, which I wrote about in my previous post, but focus@will has different channels and costs around $10 after 1 month – unlike Coffitivity, which is free.

Side note: although I was previously promoting focus@will, I recently unsubscribed. First, the pricing wasn’t very transparent – I had to log out of my account to see what plans cost. Once logged out, I saw that the plans have been lowered in price with respect to what I was still paying – with no notification to me. Not endorsed.

 

Forest

Forest is based on the idea of the Pomodoro technique – working without distractions for a period of time (say, 25 minutes) and then taking a break. Only now, while you are working, the app is growing a virtual tree. However, if you get distracted (for example if you pick up your phone and use a different app), the tree dies. The app also exists for Chrome and can help to block websites you find distracting. If you buy the app for EUR 2.19, you can link your phone and browser and sync your progress. Here’s my tiny forest so far:

 

 

Bonus: Forest is also growing real trees

 

Rescuetime

Rescuetime gives you insight into where you are spending the time you are using your computer and phone and whether it’s productive or not. It works out of the box, with default settings for what is considered productive or not, but you can adjust these if you like. Each week, you get a productivity like this:

For example, I can see that I managed to spend 7 hours in total using Twitter, which is more than I spent on using email. You can also set goals for how much (or how little) you use different apps or categories. Above you see I have a goal of “Geography Time”, which is a quiz app I’m using to improve my geography trivia.

Rescuetime has both a free and a paid version, which offers extra features like notifications about your progress. For me, the free version already feel sufficient because of other habits I have in place (such as uninstalling Twitter from my phone unless I’m at a conference) are helping me to stay focused.

For an in-depth review of the possibilities of Rescuetime, check out this blog post. It’s written by TimeDoctor – another app to track your time, which I haven’t had the chance to try yet – but maybe that’s something for my next post about apps!

 

Do you have any apps that you use and that are helping you to be productive during the day? 

 

9 gift ideas for academics

9 gift ideas for academics | veronikach.com

It’s December! I’m looking at a Christmas tree, drinking glögg and I just received my first gift – a box with food, tea, and a blanket – from my employer. I don’t really exchange a lot of gifts for Christmas, but I know it’s a big thing in other places. I do enjoy coming up with gift ideas, which I know can be difficult, especially now that most people have too much stuff. So this time I thought I’d try a different kind of post, and share a few inexpensive gift ideas for academics!

9 gift ideas for academics | veronikach.com

1. A domain name

Because many universities still treat emails and websites like they did 20 years ago. It’s easy to buy a domain name yourself, and then transfer it to a different owner. Setting up a website is not required – it’s possible to forward the domain name to an existing website, or use it for multiple email addresses. If you are in the Netherlands, I recommend Versio.

2. A paid subscription to a service

Because there are a lot of great services out there. Despite the monthly cost of about 2 cups of coffee, many people are hesitant to pay for apps, and settle for suboptimal solutions instead. Let them experience how helpful these services can be and buy them a paid subscription for Evernote, Dropbox, or Headspace. My most recent subscription is to focus@will.

3. A voucher for a day at the spa

Because we all need this from time to time. I get mine at Treatwell.

4. Getting things done

Because everybody needs to read this book. An updated edition recently came out, so it’s a good gift even for those who read it already. To save trees, get the electronic or audio version.

5. A wireless presenter

Because when I got one as a PhD student, I felt like a real scientist. I like the ones with a built-in timer, but I have this more affordable version:

Gift ideas for academics #5: wireless presenter

6. A snuggie

Because sleeves. Appropriate for Netflix and grading papers.

Gift ideas for academics #6: Snuggie blanket

7. Good tea

Because alcohol and coffee are great gifts too, but we probably are drinking too much of those already.

8. A plant

Because it can cheer up any (office) space.

9. A donation to open science

Because it’s important. A great initiative to donate to is Scihub, but if you don’t pay in bitcoins, you can try Wikipedia instead.

More ideas

If you are looking for more gift ideas for academics, check out my most recent post, and the guides by Tenure She Wrote and Stylish Academic.

Happy holidays!

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