If time is money, productivity is like that Apple stock you bought decades ago – it has the power to make you a very rich Scrooge McDuck.
I remember when I was younger feeling totally befuddled by the vast shelves of self-help books about time management. It all sounded like a capital snore fest. That all changes when you begin to realize just how valuable your time is; and with more ways to waste (and make really great use of) our time than ever before, we’re always looking for better ways to beat the clock.
Today I’m giving my two cents with this list of the 21 best productivity tools to make better use of your brief time here on this majestic earth. Feel free to save time and scan for what interests you – I won’t be offended.
21 Productivity Tools to Turn You Into a Time Lord
Use these tools and before you know it, you’ll find yourself floating through space in a police call box. Best of luck productivity traveler!
For: All-In-One Organization
There are quite a few applications out there aiming to become your virtual notepad of life. Let’s take a look at a few.
Asana markets itself as a team productivity tool, helping everyone stay on-task and organized. I kind of found it to be a more complicated version of a handwritten list. Probably not all that useful for solo workers, but if you’re on a team, Asana will help you keep all projects and tasks in one spot, assigning various users different jobs.
Asana is free to start, then you’ll pay $21/month for 5 team members, with the cost increasing as you add more team members.
Freedcamp serves as a central spot for project planning, organization, and action. Share project to-dos, project files, and join in discussions with team members. The coolest thing about Freedcamp is that they provide a TON of functionality for free.
While adding team members and syncing with Google Calendar would definitely be a pro feature with other applications, Freedcamp lets you do the vast majority of activities pro bono. If there are advanced features like CRM and invoices you want to integrate, you can pay per add-ons so that you’re only paying for what you really need. I’d definitely recommend checking this one out!
For: Google Worshipers
Google Drive (along with Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets) makes it easy to share and edit an array of files. Team members can even chat and share notes from within a document. It’s free, awesome, and not worth missing out on.
It goes without saying, but these are necessities. Talking about productivity without talking about Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools is like talking about April without mentioning Game of Thrones. You can’t neglect the important stuff!
These tools provide ultra-valuable insight about your website’s performance, traffic, referrals, and conversions (if you set up conversion tracking…which you damn well better)! Together, these tools will help you monitor and maintain your website to ensure it is internet-optimized and Google-friendly (which are basically one and the same these days).
For: Mobile Maveriks
Evernote is a handy and versatile app that can save notes (audio and text), organize photos, set reminders, and upload attachments, all synced across your various desktop and mobile devices. Plus, Evernote’s bookmarklet makes it easy to clip web articles and store them for later reading. If you’re constantly jumping devices, this one is for you.
For: Social Media Masterminds
An oldie but a goodie, HootSuite is tremendously helpful when managing various social media accounts. Monitor all your social activity across networks in one easy-to-use dashboard which lets you schedule posts, delegate social assignments to team members, organize Twitter lists and followers, measure performance, and more.
Buffer makes it extraordinarily easy to share web articles via social media without headache and hassle. Simply log into Buffer, connect social media accounts, and schedule specific content sharing times. When you’re out and about surfing the web and see an article you know your followers will love, hit the Buffer bookmarklet button and Buffer will throw that article into your queue, which it will then share at one of your designated share times.
Buffer helps promote great content across the web and helps you store and share content so you don’t cram articles down the throats of your followers all at once.
IFTTT, standing for If This Then That, lets you craft “recipes” that allow for various apps and services to connect and work together. For example, I can create an IFTTT recipe that automatically uploads my Instagram photos to my Google Drive account. Create awesome integration with zero programming experience! If you can think it, you can IFTTT it.
IFTTT can be utilized in endless combinations, and not just with regards to social media. However, social media users will find this an essential tool in their social shed.
For: Time Tracking
Toggl is a simple time tracker tool – just click the Toggl button and your timer begins! It’s a super simple, super easy way to track the time it takes to complete various tasks. Toggl also lets you look at reports and see how much time you spent on different projects throughout the week.
Rescue Time is a similar concept to Toggl, but offers more advanced features.
Rescue Time can be installed on your computer and will track what programs and websites you spend the most time on. It’s a pretty incredible tool, showing not only where you’re spending your time, but also what hours are your least/most productive, along with your best and worst days of the week (and month).
The Premium upgrade lets you block out distracting sites and offers even more filters. Still, the free version packs an impressive amount of insight. Try Rescue Time and see how you can make yourself more productive!
Sometimes the best man for the job is someone who is not you. Heck, probably pretty often the best man for the job isn’t you. Maybe because you aren’t even a man; maybe you’re a carrot. Who knows?
If you need to get going with blogging content (and trust me, you do, because everyone does), then ODesk and ELance are decent places to start.
These sites are free to sign up with, then you provide them with 10% of each payment per project. Alternatively, scour LinkedIn for freelancers. Usually you can get a decent assessment of a freelancer’s skill level by checking out their profile and doing a little digging. Whichever path you take, just remember that copy can’t be done single-handedly, so don’t be afraid to hire out some help.
Back when I was compiling a list of the best content marketing tools, one WordStream commenter (thanks Nicole!) made a suggestion of trying out Hemingway – it’s a great little tool that checks your grammar and highlights potential sentence danger zones as you write. Give it a type!
For: Account Overload
LastPass provides a modern miracle for users who are sick and tired of constantly struggling to remember passwords (and subsequently resetting most of them every time they log in). LastPass remembers all your passwords, like an angel Jiminy Cricket. One LastPass can be used across several devices, storing various passwords in your vault and auditing your passwords in order to help you create better, more secure passwords (since you no longer have to remember KLBTU6@34).
I know, it sounds too good to be true, but LastPass does seem to be pretty secure. Recommended by Lifehacker, CNet, and with a straight 5-star rating from PC Magazine, it’s safe to say that LastPass keeps you safe. LastPass uses multifactor authentication for your single master password, helping all your data stay all aboard.
Note: You’ll get plenty with the free version (and yes, the free version is still ultra-secure), but the best features (adding employees to certain password folders, mobile syncing, etc.) are for paying customers.
For: Pressing PR Matters
Keep instant tabs on when your business or brand is mentioned anywhere on the web. Not only is this handy for keeping track of PR, but it’s also a great way to make sure that you’re getting links from anyone who mentions you biz.
For: Email Overwhelm
SaneBox analyzes your past and ongoing email activity to deduce, in a very Sherlock-esque manner, which emails matter to you and which don’t. SaneBox will move the less important emails into the @SaneLater folder that magically appears in your inbox, storing them for retrieval when you have a spare minute. You know, that spare minute when you say to yourself, “let’s take a look at more junk I probably don’t care about.”
Ultimately, the issue is that by hiding away “unimportant” (although notably not completely unimportant, otherwise you’d just unsubscribe) messages to the gloomy email moors, you risk never seeing them. But considering how inundated most of us are with spam and flash sales, we’d probably embrace sending them straight to the incinerator.
Unroll.Me neatens up your inbox by compiling all your newsletters (which you select) into one rolled up email bundle that you can open and scan when you feel like it.
Unroll.Me helps hide email clutter and also lists out all of your email subscriptions (beware, this can get pretty gruesome). Use the Unroll.Me unsubscribe option to kick some of those suffocating newsletters to the curb.
For: Chrome Users
StayFocused is a free Chrome extension that restricts the amount of time you are allowed to spend on “time-wasting websites” like Facebook. The tool is ultra-customizable – choose which websites (or specific pages) to block, how long to block them for, etc.
This Chrome extension let’s you move webpages and other stuff you’re working on directly to your phone, so you can continue your efforts easily when on the move.
For: News & Blog Junkies
If you’re a podcast addict, you’ll want a podcast app to help you organize your subscriptions. I’ve been using Podkicker for years and really enjoy its simple, easy-to-use interface. It’s free, but you can also update to Podkicker Pro (to get rid of ads) for $2.
Pocket is a sweet little app that lets you save awesome content (articles, images, videos, etc.) to check out later.
Picture this: you’re surfing around researching and see a fun article about the all-time best Pokemon (Arcanine, duh). Hit the Pocket button in your bookmark toolbar and the article will go straight to your Pocket. Pocket syncs across devices so you that later on you can read those fun articles and watch YouTube videos of mini pot-bellied pigs during the train ride home.
For: Visual Organizers
Trello is a cute, relatively simple and handy way to stay organized. It looks a lot like a Pinterest board, but instead of being totally photo-centric, Trello lets you add lists, labels, and tasks that you can drag, drop, and play with at your leisure. While it’s nothing revolutionary, it could be just the thing for visual organizers and serves as a nice alternative to covering your monitor in post-it notes.
Bonus Productivity Tips
Bonus advice activated! Here are some general productivity tips to get you going.
- Learn Keyboard Shortcuts. Shortcuts can save you oodles of time, so if you spent many an hour in Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, take the time to learn major shortcuts. Soon they’ll become part of your muscle memory and you’ll wonder how you ever got on without them!
- Clean Up That Computer. If you’re like me, then you’re a total tab monster, your desktop is covered in screenshots, and your computer rarely shuts down completely. All these semi-small issues amount to one big problem for your poor struggling computer. Tidy things up, empty the trash once in a while, and let the tuckered little thing sleep at night. A faster computer means a faster you, so don’t neglect the simple fixes.
- Old School Lists. Despite all the awesome tools we covered here today, there is something unique about writing down a good ol’ fashioned list. The physical aspect of handwriting a task list (and crossing out those to-dos) can be quite cathartic. Not everything needs to be digitized my friends.
- Don’t Burn Yourself Out. Contrary to what corporate may think, you just can’t be a productive machine 9-5 all day, every day. Our brains don’t work that way, and trying to activate robot mode will only hamper you in the long run. Humans actually achieve their maximum productivity when they’re happy and getting plenty of down time throughout the day. Read up on the Pomodoro Technique and make sure you are building regular respites in your day so you don’t fry your circuits.
- Be Realistic About Time Management. Structuring your day into time blocks is a great way to go into a new day feeling confident. However, being unrealistic about how long it will take you to finish that e-mail newsletter won’t do you any favors. Give yourself plenty of time to get tasks done (and include breaks!)
That concludes our list of top productivity tools! May they lead to a speedier, more efficient you. Do you have any awesome productivity tools you want to recommend that we didn’t call out here? Share your favs in the comments below.