When it comes to getting stuff done, it seems we're all in search of assists from technology -- "life hacks" (much to one writer's chagrin) that lead to better, faster and more effortless production.
And while hack-centric tech tools can aid us in our goal of ultimate efficiency, technology is also the exact medium that slows us down. Here's some proof and candor: I have checked Facebook three times as I write this, and I'm not even through with the second graph.
It's not just at work where technology is polarizing. Take, for example, online yoga classes: They give you the freedom to squeeze in some "om's" without the construct of a class schedule, but also make it easier to pick up the phone when it buzzes -- taking you away from a practice that's real purpose is to keep you in the moment. We are distracted -- attempting dozens of things at once while never fully completing a single thing. And as a result, we're frustrated, frazzled and utterly burned out.
Since the web and our favorite devices aren't going anywhere anytime soon, we'll have to develop some coping strategies to avoid the spread-too-thin phenomenon. To help, there are ways to use certain online tools to your advantage. Below are a couple of hacks, if you will, that can take your bad browsing habits and turn them into better ones.
Find yourself spending too much time on "nonsense" sites? Try Nanny for Google Chrome.
This extension for Google Chrome is your virtual babysitter. Nanny keeps your browsing habits in check by allowing you to block particular URLs at certain times of the day. You also have an option to set up time restrictions -- you'll let yourself peruse Buzzfeed (because it wouldn't be fair to completely abstain from all the cuteness), but only for 60 minutes a day. Best of all, this babysitter doesn't charge $10 an hour, nor will it riffle through your fridge -- Nanny is completely free. (Don't use Chrome? Try Anti-Social, a similar, $15 software you can use on other browsers).
Can't keep yourself offline, even on the weekends? Try Mac Freedom (it's compatible for both Windows and Mac).
If Nanny is your babysitter, Mac Freedom is your prison guard. As the app's site puts it, "Freedom enforces freedom; you'll need to reboot if you want to get back online while Freedom's running." The software locks you away from the internet for up to eight hours at a time, so you'll have to go do something offline instead of binge-watching "Orange Is The New Black" on Netflix.
Have 600 tabs open on your browser, each one begging for your attention? Try "controlled multi-tab browsing."
If your browser looks something like the image above, and it feels like you're stuck playing an interminable game of leap frog with your tabs, this app is for you. The Google Chrome extension allows you to put a limit on the number of tabs you can have open in a window at one time. It's a simple idea, but it will keep you from getting distracted and feeling overwhelmed. Plus, whatever you're looking for won't be buried in your tab-apocalypse.
Too much Internet to consume, but not enough hours in the (work) day? Try Pocket.
The internet is a playground -- there's just so much fun to be had. Pocket lets you save "articles, videos or pretty much anything" to read later, during your off hours. When your friend g-chats you that "must-read" Times' op-ed and that list of 1,990 things from the 90s is calling your name, you needn't be distracted from your actual work. Just click "Read later" and indulge on your downtime. This feature will help you cut down those tabs, too.
Know any other hacks to keep your detrimental online habits in check? Tell us in the comments.
Also on HuffPost:
Called <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/7/3613664/clear-for-mac-review" target="_blank">"The iPhone's most beautiful to-do list app"</a> by The Verge, <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clear/id493136154?mt=8" target="_blank">Clear</a> ($9.99 for Mac) is a productivity app for those who care about aesthetics just as much -- if not more -- than functionality. But it's also incredibly user-friendly: Just swipe to check an item off the list, and simply shake your phone for the option to email your list. The user can also create separate lists for work, shopping, personal goals and more. <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5885307/clear-app-cross-chores-off-your-to+do-list-with-a-swipe" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a> deems it "perfect for busy people."
Formerly known as Read It Later, the free app <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-formerly-read-it-later/id309601447?mt=8" target="_blank">Pocket</a> can be used to save articles, videos and web pages that you don't have time to read but want to return to later. Like Evernote, the app syncs across platforms for easy access and streamlined link-saving. CNET gave the app a five-star review, <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/software/pocket-android/4505-3513_7-35473909.html" target="_blank">writing</a>: "If you're looking for a bookmarking tool that syncs across devices, then look no further. Better than Instapaper and other competitors, Pocket is the app to beat in the category."
Sync all your notes, clippings, to-do lists and reminders across devices with Evernote, the highly-rated productivity app that makes it to the top of many reviewers' lists. The <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/evernote/id281796108?mt=8" target="_blank">free app</a> conserves time and energy by saving all your files, photos, reminders, to-do lists, tweets and more in one app accessible from all your platforms. Email notes to yourself or others, and search within notes for easy access to any information. "Evernote is the last notebook you'll ever need," <a href="http://socialmediatoday.com/node/1524231" target="_blank">Social Media Today</a> wrote.
Before you dismiss the idea of mind-mapping as something out of The Matrix, try the brainstorming tool <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindnode/id312220102?mt=8" target="_blank">MindNode</a> ($9.99). The iPhone and iPad app could lead you to some of your best ideas in less time by allowing you to organize projects and concepts in a vibrant graphic. "The theory is that these large, pictorial networks mirror the way our brains work, making it easier to spot connections and insert new ideas," <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/02/08/5-best-apps-for-getting-and-staying-organized/2/" target="_blank">a Forbes article explains</a>.
If just looking at your overflowing Gmail inbox makes your pulse quicken, the free iPhone app <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mailbox/id576502633?mt=8" target="_blank">Mailbox</a> is your new best friend. The app helps you tackle that mounting inbox -- with the goal of getting down to the elusive "inbox zero" -- with convenient labels for all your unread emails and a feature that allows you to instantly swipe messages to archive or trash. "Mailbox largely fixes a problem most of us have with email: quickly getting rid of the junk we don't want, and saving the stuff we do for later," <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mailbox-iphone-app-review-2013-2#ixzz2YUY5c7Yq" target="_blank">writes Business Insider</a>. "You'll want to give it a try."
<a href="http://mashable.com/2013/04/26/5-apps-boost-work-productivity/" target="_blank">Recommended by Mashable</a> for boosting work productivity, CloudOn (<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cloudon/id474025452?mt=8" target="_blank">free in the App Store</a>) allows you to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create documents on the go using your iPhone, iPad or Droid. Users can sync with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive accounts, and also email files to contacts directly from mobile devices, so you don't have to wait until you get to a computer to add that attachment. "If you find yourself in a pinch needing to work with Microsoft Office files, the free CloudOn app might be just what you’re looking for," <a href="http://techland.time.com/2013/04/15/50-must-have-ipad-apps/slide/cloudon/#ixzz2YUZao2Ru" target="_blank">writes TIME TechLand</a>.
You've written on at least five to-do lists that you need to pick up your dry cleaning, but can never seem to remember at the moment you're actually walking past the dry cleaner. Of course, there's an app for that. Try <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/checkmark/id524873453?mt=8" target="_blank">Checkmark</a>, which can set up reminders based on time and location. For $4.99, users can create repeat notifications, or snooze reminders to save for next time. "While Apple's built-in Reminders app does location-based tasks pretty well, Checkmark makes it dead simple," <a href="http://lifehacker.com/5963231/checkmark-is-still-the-best-location+based-reminders-app-around-is-99-today" target="_blank">LifeHacker raves</a>.