My Top 5 Productivity Tools

 

As an independent social media consultant, I have the flexibility of working from home (or mostly hotel rooms and wherever I am while traveling)... And while I very much enjoy that I can work in my PJs, wake up and sleep whenever I want to, work at my own pace while watching TV, and take a break or travel when I feel like it... I have to confess that it tends to get out of hand, and I easily lose focus and track of work. Try to separate work life from personal life when you work from your personal space, and your job is all about spending time online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the tons of other distracting social networks! So while my work life might look awesome on the outside, on the inside it is quite hectic, unorganized, confusing, and can get overwhelming... Up until I decided to restructure and organize it! And given how I'm all about tech, I of course turned to tech for help and began my search for tools and applications to manage and increase my productivity. Whether you work independently, or just want to make your job easier, here are the tools I recommend:

1. RescueTime

This is the first app that I found, used and was mind-blown by it... It is so simple yet very crucial! It basically tracks how you spend your time on the devices where you have it installed (I have it installed on my laptop and mobile phones) and gives a visual report of what the time was spent on with different categories, ranging from very distracting to very productive. You can set a goal of how long you want to spend on Business/Productive tasks vs Distracting tasks, and know exactly how to work towards that goal as you see where your time goes... The app has so many awesome features that you must check out, but I specifically like that it syncs across all my devices, and sends me a weekly summary, seen below, of how my time was spent, showing the most productive days, times, activities, and applications, and the most distracting apps that I need to learn to avoid (Whatsapp much?!).

What I love is that by knowing which time and day I am most productive, I can plan to have the most daunting tasks performed then where I am less likely to prone for distraction. The only issue however is that social networking sites are categorized as Very Distracting, which is realistic, but given that my work involves social media, I can not separate between the productive/business use of social networking sites and the distracting/personal use. Still, that's a problem you only have to worry about if you're in my line of work; otherwise, you're going to love it! 

2. KanbanFlow

This is a web-based tool where you have a work board with tabs to manage tasks and to-do lists. It's quite easy to set up and use, and leave open in your browser for a quick glance to stay on top of your work responsibilities. The tool has so many useful features such as adding description, tags, color-coding tasks, adding due dates, subtasks, team members, sending you email reminders when you're approaching due dates or tasks are overdue, etc... Ok you get it, it has everything and it's awesome and I love it :P It's usually the first thing I check out every day and regularly update! FYI (for your information/inspiration), below you can see a snapshot of my own workboard... 

I just love clearing out that "Do today" and "In progress" columns, and look at all the tasks I've "Done" to feel like I've accomplished something! As That itself increases motivation and productivity. The downside of Kanbanflow is that it is only web-based; it would be great to have a mobile version of it. 

3. Handle

This beautifully designed app is an integration between email, to-do lists, and calendar; so it is the perfect app if most of your work happens on or comes from your inbox! I personally didn't use it much, as I was already using KanbanFlow to organize my projects' to-do list, but I recently felt that Handle can be better suited to "handle" those small tasks that are coected to an email message, and can save me the time to manually add it to KanbanFlow with a link. So you may want to save the large recurring project tasks to Kanbanflow, and use Handle for small/communication tasks. But even on Handle, you can organize to-do tasks by project, and add reminders and due dates that would sync with your Google calendar...

Unfortunately, I seem to be having trouble adding due dates, not sure why; the other downside is that it does not have a mobile app, but rather a browser extension/desktop app ... Don't these developers know we spend most of our time on mobile rather than desktop! But we can't complain, the app is practical and free, and would sure come in handy. 

4. Toggl

This is more of a project time management tool that basically works as an automatic timer, with an option to add time manually, to track how much time you spend on each specific project, as opposed to RescueTime which tracks the time you spend on a specific application/website instead of project. It can be useful especially when different projects have different time priorities, and are costed differently based on hourly rate, to make sure that your time is spent on the most profitable/top priority projects, and you're being productive where it actually counts!

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The upside of it is that there is a mobile version of this app, but the downside is that I personally often forgot to click "Start" for every task I started working on, and sometimes I forgot that I had the timer ruing for a task while I was not really working on it but was actually distracted or even away. Still, it can be useful if you can actually remember to use it, and it can especially come in handy where the other apps may fall short, like in tracking the time you spend on doing online research for work by visiting many different websites. You can then log in that time as "productive", when RescueTime would not recognize the significance of those sites separately and may even consider them distracting (unless you manually go change each site's categorization in the app).

5. gTasks

It's a little embarrassing perhaps to include this in the list with the others, but it is the first app I started using long before the rest. gTasks, or Google Tasks, is a simple task list app by Google that integrates with your Gmail tasks. The advantage of it is that because of how simple and easy it is to use, it saves you time and effort in adding tasks and due dates. gTasks is my go-to app when I'm out in a meeting, or moving around, and need to quickly make a note/list of things to do, before I move onto the other tools for more elaborate task management. You can also easily send the list by email, or share it in many other means; you can check tasks as done in one tap, and see everything in one place. The same developers also developed another similar app called TickTick that you can also check out if you need something like gTasks but more advanced. TickTick lets you add attachments, comments and location to your lists, as well as active links.

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So this is it! That's all I need and use so far to manage my productivity and I hope you give them a try and find them as useful as I did... If you do try them, let me know what you think, and if you are using other productivity tools that work well for you, give me your recommendations below.


5 reasons yoga is good for you... Lenovo Yoga!

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Starting your day in a healthy active way is a must to ensure the rest of the day goes well… Perhaps you wake up early work out take a warm shower and have a nice breakfast before you head out to work. Ideally that’s how most of us want to start the day but chances are like many of us you start your day with your phone or on your laptop! 

As a social media professional, I start my day and spend most of it using my laptop, and in the brief moments I have to step away from it, I stay connected using my smartphone. Needless to say, the devices we use are an integral part of our day, and can help “make it or break it”… Well maybe not as dramatic as that, but I can’t imagine anyone having a good mood using a laptop that is slow, and keeps freezing and crashing! I know that too well from my previous experience with the Macbook White, even after upgrading its RAM from 2GB to 4GB, it was slower than Saudi customs officers. (Sorry, I had to sneak in this joke :Phaha)

But fortunately, about 2 months ago, and after the news about the rise of Lenovo, I switched to Lenovo Yoga 13.

After a couple of years of using a Mac, it was a bit uneasy migrating back to a Windows device, especially since the Windows 8 was quite different than the earlier Windows OSs. However, after a little of getting used to it, the experience was quite pleasing… Without getting too technical, since you can find tons of technical and specs reviews through google, here’s why Lenovo Yoga is great for me and would be good for you too:

1. Light weight, heavy multitasking:

I travel around often, so I need something easy and light to carry with me that won’t take much space in my luggage or add too much weight. Smartphones and tablets might be a substitute but they can never fulfill all my requirements: multitasking between internet browsing, working with documents, while also watching a movie/TV series (sometimes all together!). At 1.5 Kg, a 13” screen, and Intel® Core™ i5, Lenovo Yoga 13 fits the job perfectly!
 

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2. Long battery life:

Stressing on the importance of a light-weight heavy-multitasking device, a long battery life goes hand in hand, if you don’t want to have to carry the charger with you, and desperately seek and get stuck near power outlets. Lenovo Yoga 13’s battery will last up to 8 hours, so it is quite efficient when I’m out and about for the day. I know that it at least lasts for the train trip between Dammam and Riyadh, which is over 5 hours. Yes, that train is even slower than Saudi customs!
 

#NowWatching a new comedy series with Robin Williams running an #advertising agency, The #CrazyOnes. Love it! #funny

Posted by Manal Assaad on Friday, 22 November 2013

3. Multitouch Screen:

Touchscreens have become the norm, rather than the trend. I sure dreaded when smartphones quit tactile keyboards and turned all touchscreens; typing is one of my main activities and it’s just not as easy on touchscreens. But then you get used to touchscreens, and depend on them on your smartphone, and your tablet, so it only makes sense that your desktop PC or laptop joins the club! Using the touchscreen on the Lenovo Yoga makes multitasking easier as it gives you faster control over the task at hand, since you can just reach for what you need.

4. Different Modes of Use:

Lenovo Yoga is called so because of its flexibility, and the different modes (positions) it can assume. I use these modes depending on my need, flipping from full mode (typical laptop with keyboard) for heavy tasks to tablet mode for light tasks. It certainly helps to have one device fit for both roles, so I don’t need to also carry my tablet if I just wanted something sleek in my hands to browse through.

Having a lasertag wedding rehearsal dinner is an awesome idea! #himym

A photo posted by Manal Assaad منال أسعد (@themanalyst) on

 

5. Windows 8 OS:

Although many may point out the flaws of Windows 8, I haven't experienced any of them yet, fortunately. The OS is fast, and even with my HD almost full, tasks have been running smoothly, with no major crashes as I recall. Another notable feature is the InstantResume; I'd be watching something, pause it, put the laptop to sleep, and when I awaken it, it takes barely 10 seconds, and I can resume watching directly like the system was never interrupted! To someone with my impatience, seconds make a world of difference :P

So this has been my personal experience with the Lenovo Yoga so far! If you have any specific questions, post them in comments below. And subscribe to the blog to follow my updates about it or any other cool gadget I get ;)

Should I get a Lenovo PC?

According to the press release below, Lenovo has been recently announced as the number 1 PC supplier, de-throning HP after a long time of being n# 1.

Now I have been using Macbook white for the last couple of years, and I've been really suffering with it lately, which is making me consider shifting back to a less-premium Windows ultrabook. Lenovo was one of the brands that I saw, but didn't consider, since, as most consumers, I thought: Low price = bad quality. So I was going for an HP or a Samsung. Now I am definitely reconsidering... What do you think?

Lenovo Statement on PC Industry Rankings

Riyadh, July 14th, 2013: According to the latest industry figures reported today by IDC and Gartner, Lenovo has become the number 1 PC supplier in the world. IDC reported that Lenovo reached 16.7% global PC market share in 2Q 2013, up from 15.0% in 2Q 2012, one year ago. Gartner stated Lenovo reached 16.7% share this quarter, up from 14.9% last quarter and the same 14.9% from 2Q 2012, one year ago. This marks the first time that Lenovo has been the clear global leader in PCs according to both of these widely accepted reports.

The following statement can be attributed to Yang Yuanqing, chairman & CEO, Lenovo:

“We are proud that Lenovo has become the clear world leader in PCs, and we are grateful to our customers and to our global team for this success. Even in the toughest PC market ever, Lenovo has not only gained share, but we have steadily improved profitability and introduced even more innovative products for every market segment. The battle for PC leadership could certainly still go back and forth. But I am fully confident that there remains substantial room for profitable growth and groundbreaking innovation in the global PC marketplace.
The PC market is changing, but it still represents a $200b opportunity. Lenovo can capture more of this opportunity than our competitors because we have built great balance over the last 4 years. In our traditional strongholds -- China and global commercial PCs -- we have continued to gain share and build sustainable profit engines. Meanwhile, we have built scale and improved profitability in global emerging markets (where we are the leader) and global consumer PCs (number 2 overall). Balancing growth and profitability across our entire PC business is our focus going forward.
PC leadership is just one milestone in a longer journey to become a true leader in the “PC Plus” market, which includes tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and other “smart connected” devices. Already, we have made great strides in these areas. Today, we are the number 3 “Smart Connected Device” maker in the world. By continuing to focus on our formula for success – a clear strategy, innovative products, great execution and a diverse global team – I am confident that we can continue to drive profitable growth in our core business, and achieve the same success, over time, in the fast-growing PC Plus marketplace”.

Historical Performance from 2012-2013 05/23/13 Earnings Report: 

In Lenovo’s fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, IDC said that Lenovo had achieved a record global PC market share, expanded faster than the overall PC market for the 16th consecutive quarter, led the market in three of the seven largest PC markets – China, Japan and Germany – and reached double digit share in 39 countries.

More than half of Lenovo’s revenue then comes from outside of China. While delivering significant volume and revenue growth, the company’s profitability reached record heights with earnings up 34% last year.

Further, Lenovo has accelerated its transformation to become a top competitor in the PC Plus era, capturing a 5.9 percent share of the global market for “Smart Connected Devices” and becoming the third largest supplier. The company is the number 2 smartphone and number 2 tablet company in China, the world’s largest PC+ market. Further, more than 10% of the company’s revenues now come from hot growth segments such as smartphones and tablets.

Pink is Freedom: The Nokia N8

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My favorite colors are red and black as someone who've always sought out passion and power. However when I was designing my personal brand about a year and a half ago red and black didn't feel to have the right touch. In a shocking twist it was pink with black that felt very inspiring to me I say "shocking" because everyone who knew me knew that I was an anti-pink girl. Ever since I launched my website my branding identity and my online activity I experienced growth more than I have ever imagined, reaching a state of independence and… freedom.

Being also a branding fanatic, you bet I like to make sure that everything about me reflects my personal brand. That's why I was excited about getting hold of the new Nokia N8, priding itself on being pink. It's been the lightest device I've owned and it's been very easy carrying it around and using it for hours. And look how awesome its picture looks in my blog :P it looks even better with my business card!

As someone who is addicted to taking pictures with my phone wherever I go, the N8 has been quite practical to use as a digital camera especially with its 12MP camera and many photo editing tools. Compared to the HTC Desire and Desire Z that my friend and I carry for personal use, the photos of the N8 had much more vibrant colors and were sharper and more detailed. For photography hobbyists, such as my friend @flopjoke who carries the older (blue) N8, the mobile camera is just amazing to use in different conditions to get great results and memories that lasts. Below is one of his photos with the caption: "Just spotted a blue BMW Z4 in Khobar. The large sensor in Nokia N8's camera helps a lot in low light!"

BMWcar

The N8 was also easy to play games with because of its practical size and weight, and it came equipped with a free version of Seasons Angry Birds, i.e. hours wasted in pig bashing :P. I must say my friends also kept bugging me about borrowing it to play Angry Birds and Need For Speed which was very amusing to play with this phone. In terms of applications, which is a critical part for me when it comes to mobiles, N8 Pink comes equipped with the basic apps from Ovi. The most app I was looking forward to having again in a Nokia phone is the Nokia Email Messaging where I can add multiple Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo email accounts in the same app. Otherwise I have to set up each email account in a different app and it gets really annoying to update all of them and remember to check them all.

The phone is also great to use for social networking but only if you intend to just browse around and read updates because personally I wouldn't depend on just a touch phone for heavy typing, messaging and social updating… and I'm a heavy social updater so I can never disregard having a tactile QWERTY keyboard. It would be a bit more appropriate to at least have a QWERTY touch keyboard which you only have in landscape mode of the N8 but not the portrait mode. Typing in portrait mode with the old style keyboard just brought up bad memories of hours of key pressing in the old days lol

Now let's talk about the key issue here: The Pink Nokia N8 ad…

WTH is up with that?! The funny thing is that on the same day that I saw that ad on youtube and was thinking how weird it is, I got the mobile. The ad is trying to communicate a powerful or liberated image of barbie girls, maybe to embrace their womanhood and eccentricity… and that's what the phone is all about?! Correct me, if I'm wrong, with a comment!