A lot of our free time and best-focused hours are lost to doing too many things at the same time. According to a 2016 Pew survey, about half of Americans — 52% — said they’re usually trying to do two or more things at once.
To free up your time to get things done, you need to know what work tasks can be delegated. Incorporating little technology tweaks into your workflow can make a big difference in productivity and even help you in your spare time, too.
Here are some of the simplest, most helpful tech hacks and apps you can use to free up your mental bandwidth and make work less frustrating, so you can focus on what’s actually important.
1. Use a secure password manager.
Never worry about forgetting your password and getting locked out of an account again. Samphy Y, a productivity coach, told HuffPost that the Dashlane password manager is one of his top recommendations for things to automate at work. Instead of remembering all your passwords, you just need to remember one.
“I do not have to remember all my 406 passwords with a password management app. The autofill function lets me sign in automatically and safely,” he said.
1Password and LastPass are other online password managers to try, too. They integrate with your browser so you can log into websites and other services seamlessly, saving you tons of time guessing or being locked out of what you need.
2. Automate your meeting availability.
Eliminate the back-and-forth emails that must be sent to determine when your colleagues and clients are available to meet, and try using a program that can quickly find or display open calendar slots for all participants.
If your workplace uses Google Calendar, you have a built-in feature for colleagues to see when co-workers are free or busy. To make your availability visible to others (don’t worry: it won’t share the titles of your meetings and appointments, just whether or not you have one), go to “My Calendars,” find the calendar you want to share, click the three dots that will appear when you hover, and go to “settings and sharing.” From there you can decide if you want your calendar to be public or shared only with specific people in your organization.
If you use Outlook.com, you can choose to share your calendar and decide how much detail recipients can see of your schedule through permissions access.
For scheduling with people outside of your organization that you do not want to have access to your work calendar or who may not use the same calendar software you do, try Calendly. Once you tell the app your least busiest times and what time intervals you want your meetings to be, you can share a specific Calendly URL so people trying to schedule events with you can find what works best without multiple emails.
One other tool that does not need to involve your calendar software is Doodle, a free online scheduling tool. It allows people to type out when they are most free and available to meet up without messaging each other back and forth.
3. Let an app take care of your travel itinerary.
Instead of needing to keep track of emails for flights and bookings and the latest travel COVID recommendations, you can use apps to consolidate travel information in one place.
With TripIt, which is available on iOS and Android, you forward your flight, hotel and rental car confirmation emails and the app will create an itinerary for you to follow. The app will also send you notifications if your flights experience delays or cancellations.
4. Never worry about a parking spot again.
Getting a parking ticket when you go somewhere for work is a mood-killer, and driving around looking for a spot can make you late. If you need to commute where there is no assigned parking, try out SpotAngels. which is available in many major U.S. cities.
Put in where you are and the parking management system, through the help of crowdsourced photos and comments, keeps up with free parking areas, the closest meters, hour limits, street cleaning times and other local rules.
5. Set up email filters.
Ideally, you are able to quickly scan your email inbox to see what’s urgent and what’s not. But when you are flooded with dozens of emails, that can be hard to do. That’s why setting up email rules and labels to make your inbox easily legible (and automatically get rid of emails you don’t need to read) is so important.
In Gmail settings, you can choose to create new labels and corresponding filters, or simply create new filters to have your mail automatically sorted. Then you can choose what actions you want to take with these emails. For example, maybe you want a rule that all emails from your boss show up in an attention-grabbing pink, or maybe you want all emails from certain vendors to go in a promotional label.
In Outlook, go to the Home button, click the Rules button and then select the Create Rule option, through which you can assign tasks to emails under certain conditions.
Similarly, for Yahoo mail, you can click Settings and then More Settings, then select the Filters option. From there, you can add a new filter for your email folders.
6. Extend the amount of time you have to un-send an email.
If you’ve ever sent an email that you immediately wish you could unsend, or you didn’t hit the unsend button quickly enough, there is good news. There’s an option for you to extend the amount of time you have to unsend in Gmail.
To do this, go to your Gmail settings and choose a cancellation period of 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds.
The undo email feature is also available for Outlook on Windows, but not for emails that end in @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com,or @msn.com.
7. Schedule emails to be sent at a later time.
For the sake of your own work/life balance and the sanity of your colleagues, it’s best not to send that nonurgent, late-night email. But if you need to write it before you forget, just schedule it so that it arrives in your recipients’ inboxes when they are scheduled to be working.
To do this in Gmail, click the down arrow next to the send option and select “schedule send.” From there, you can specify the date and time you want to send the message. In Outlook, you can look under Delivery options when you are composing an email, and then choose the “Do not deliver before” box, so that you can select the time and date that works best.
8. Let tech lay out your safest commute.
Figuring out the fastest commute can mean the difference between getting stuck in traffic or making it to your meeting on time. There are well-known apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps that can show train and bus times.
But if you are in a new neighborhood after dark and want to stick to more well-lit streets and avoid parks, you can use CityMapper, which services major U.S. cities in addition to areas like London and Tokyo, and choose “main roads” for your walk. It also has a share feature through which you can send a link to loved ones of your expected arrival time and the route you are taking.
9. Automate screen brightness for your tired eyes.
Blue light is known to interfere with our ability to sleep. But if you have ever worked with a blue glare after it gets dark, you know it’s all too easy to forget to adjust the brightness.
That’s where an automatic light switcher comes in. Both Microsoft and Apple allow users to set their screen brightness to adjust automatically to warmer colors when lighting in the environment changes.
On Windows, go to Settings, then System, then Display to see the Night Light feature. For Macs that meet the system requirements, go to System Preferences, then choose Displays, then click the Night Shift tab, so you can have Night Shift turn on automatically from sunset to sunrise.
Most Android and iOS devices also have features to adjust brightness when it gets dark, and if they don’t, there are apps like Blue Light Filter that do it for you, too.
10. Use your computer’s talk-to-type function.
Productivity coach Samphy Y shared that he uses AI writing assistants to dictate his words to save time. Once it’s set up, you can use your computer’s talk-to-type features to dictate your emails and documents. He suggests this is best for first drafts, but you can also use it for meeting notes and brainstorming.
On Windows, you can enter text on your PC by speaking once you turn on voice typing. To do that, press the Windows logo key and “H” on a hardware keyboard.
On macOS Catalina or later, go to System Preferences, then click Accessibility. Voice Control should appear in the sidebar. Once enabled, it will appear as a microphone icon on your screen for you to use as you wish.
On Chrome browsers, you can enable type-to-talk features directly for Google Docs or in Google Slides once you turn on your microphone.
11. Automate your focus time.
Social media is built to keep us scrolling when we want to be productive. That’s why if you lack the willpower to stay off certain websites, you can use a variety of automative features to be your own version of parental control.
You can also make your Google Calendar be a bouncer against distracting colleagues with Focus Time, which will automatically decline meetings if someone invites you to one during the hours you’re really trying to dig in and get things done.
On Microsoft, you can set up to four hours a day during which notifications and messages will be muted through the focus plan in the software’s MyAnalytics dashboard.
If your phone is the big distraction, use the new Focus app in iOS 15 to silence alerts and notifications from apps (you can also the select people that you do want to be able to reach you during this time).
If the ping of work messages is your constant frustration, see what Do Not Disturb features your messaging apps have to silence notifications. Slack’s Do Not Disturb feature, for example, lets you schedule routine times you’d prefer not to be notified about messages.