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Get A Shade Smarter

Tricks and hacks to learn a new skill, manage your time and tasks better, and get an edge in your work life.
By Nidhi Singal | Print Edition: February 26, 2017
Get A Shade Smarter
Illustration: Ajay Thakuri

Ever find yourself staring at a cluttered desk - post-its strewn all over, magazines doubling up as coasters - juggling phone calls and incessant emails, as numerous unread tweets and the lukewarm coffee crave for your attention? If this gave you a sense of deja vu, your work life is about to get better. On your desktop and smartphone, the very sources of chaos, lies the panacea for most of your professional woes. Be it managing time more efficiently, giving your brain a little boost or staying updated on developments across the globe, there are several apps and websites to help you get by a busy day with ease. You could also learn a new language or imbibe a new skill by enrolling for an online course, while at work, and get an edge over your peers.

Here are a few apps to up your smarts at work:

Wunderlist:
This is one of the best task manager apps available for Android and Apple smartphones, Windows 8, and even MacOS. Use it to organise your personal and professional tasks - set due dates, reminders, share your to-do list, shopping lists, manage work projects, delegate tasks, start conversations with the team, share feedback, or plan a holiday. This app allows for work collaboration - keeping all team communication under one hood, eliminating the need to exchange emails - helps you meet deadlines, and makes daily chores a breeze. The Wunderlist for Business comes for $4.99 per user/ month.

Lumosity: Shake off the lethargy and sharpen your concentration without a hint of caffeine! Lumosity is a fun brain game app, available for Apple and Android devices, that trains one's core cognitive abilities. It has over 50 cognitive games designed by scientists and game designers. After recording certain details such as your age and gender, it starts you off with a 'Fit Test' flexibility, attention and memory, and then stacks your score against those of similar age. A training programme is then customised for you - daily work-outs targeting different cognitive skills every day, insights, tracking tools and recommendations. Choose your package or pay $11.95 per month per user.

Rescue Time: If you get distracted easily, this time management tool is for you. It puts a reality check on how much you have actually accomplished versus how much time you have 'spent' online. It runs in the background, and tracks the time you spend in a currently active tab or window of your browser, giving you an accurate picture of how and where time was spent through the day. It blocks distracting sites if they are up beyond a specified time and alerts you when you spend more than the stipulated time on a certain activity - all customisable. There is a premium version of the tool that can log the time spent on offline activities such as calls, meetings, and even commutes. The app works across Mac, Windows, Android, and Linux. While RescueTime Lite is free, RescueTime Premium is priced at $6.75 per month.

Coursera: This online education portal offers a range of courses and boasts of affiliations with universities such as Yale, Stanford and Nanyang Technological University, among others. With over 2,000 courses offering specialisation in subjects such as arts and humanities, business, computer science and data science, it also serves as a personal development and language learning platform. Coursera claims to have over 20 million registered learners worldwide. Coursera is also available as an app for Apple and Android devices. While a majority of its courses are free, some are priced in the range of Rs 1,972 to Rs 4,012.

Simplilearn: This certification training provider addresses the needs of students and professionals, helping further their career goals. It has professional trainers for over 400 courses in the disciplines of cyber security, cloud computing, project management, digital marketing, and data science, among others. It also has vendor courses - Amazon Web Services Certification for acquiring cloud skills, for example. Simplilearn offers a combination of online classes, instructor-led live virtual classrooms, project work, and 24/7 teaching assistance. The app is available for Apple and Android devices. Courses are priced between Rs 999 and Rs 1,14,426, based on the duration.

DuoLingo: We all have cherished the desire to learn a new language at some point. You can do so for free, at the time and place of your choice. On Duolingo, you start off by associating words with pictures. From basic verbs, phrases, and sentences, you move up levels as you get more proficient. The app gives you access to real articles and translations, sends daily reminders for study, offers tests, and tracks your progress. Choose from Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, and many more languages.

Habit List: This is your best buddy if you own an iPhone, wish to get rid of old unhealthy habits, and embark on a better routine. Habit List has an intuitive interface that keeps you motivated and helps you focus. You can make a list of all the things due for the day or days ahead, and the app will ensure you get it all done - whether it is consuming three litres of water in the day or taking the stairs instead of the lift on specific days. It tracks your progress towards the goal and provides reminders too. Price: Rs 300.

Google Now Launcher: An intelligent launcher that puts Google Now on the homescreen of your smartphone. This voice assistant software can make your life easier - whether by booking you a table at a restaurant or searching for information online. The more you use, the more it learns and adapts to your behaviour. It's free for Android and iOS.

Pocket: For those of us hard-pressed for time, this is one useful app, and is free, too. It bookmarks articles that we wish to read later, without missing out on them. It saves everything at one place so you can find them easily. It is compatible with over thousands of apps and is available for free on iOS and Android devices.

 

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