Despite all the technology we have, actually getting stuff done is really difficult. Most of the time things like social media are just distractions. But technology should make our lives easier, not harder.
So we’ve put together a list of some digital productivity tools you might consider incorporating into your everyday use – you might just save yourself a lot of time.
A really good calendar
You probably have one – but it’s most likely just average. Calendar apps are some of the most popular on the various app stores, and with good reason. We use them all the time.
Even the simplest things can save you time, like a swiping gesture instead of pressing a button. Or integration with Facebook events and other calendars – it’s these types of things you need to consider when making yourself more productive. You’re dealing with your calendar every day – do you really need to be messing around with settings you don’t need or even want?
Some popular choices include Fantastical, Sunrise and Cal by Any.Do.
An RSS reader
The death of Google Reader was an upsetting moment for those power users who depended on the service for staying up to date. For most of the internet, however, the event went by without much fanfare.
Although an RSS reader might be something of a niche tool, it’s definitely something even a casual reader of the web should know about. Do you read news stories, blogs or other types of content? If yes, they’ll usually have an RSS feed. Stick their links in an app like Feedly or The Old Reader and they’ll be aggregated for you – no need to visit the site directly.
To do lists
To do lists aren’t for everyone, and for some people they can actually be counter-productive. But for others they can be a lifesaver. Like a good note-taking app, the best to-do lists sync across devices and are based in simplicity, rather than just throwing in plenty of features just for the sake of having lots of features.
Some good choices include Any.Do, Wunderlist and Things.
A note-taking app
Old-school pen and paper can be fine for writing down ideas, but it’s not always the most productive method. Digital tools can sync across multiple devices, so you’re not always having to check back to the same gadget.
Evernote is one of the most popular apps which allows recording of text, audio and pictures. But other more stripped-back apps such as Simplenote or Drafts will do the same job just fine.
A solid social media client
Managing Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms can be a hard task, especially if you’re following hundreds of people. So you need something to help keep your social connections in one place. If you want to share a piece of news or feature, you don’t want to be messing around with clients which don’t work.
Platforms such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite split tweets into columns for easy catch-up reading and display notifications for new tweets saving you a lot of time in deciding whether to click through or not – a big time-saver.
While Internet Explorer was once the leader in web traffic, Chrome has taken over with more than a third of the market. What sets Chrome apart is its use of extensions – little plug-ins that can be used to serve a specific purpose. Many apps such as Pocket or Evernote come with Google Chrome extensions so you can operate the app within the browser itself. It ends up saving you a lot of time.
Some classic Chrome extensions to start with:
- Feedly – The most popular RSS reader since Google Reader died
- LastPass – A quick way to manage your passwords across multiple devices
- Pocket – A plugin for the app which allows you to strip the text from articles and save them in a specific database for you to read later.
You might think games are a waste of time – especially electronic ones – but they’ll do you more good than you’d think. Research has shown electronic games help develop ‘cognitive flexibility’. That is, the part of your brain which helps you deal with more than one task at once.
It’s a key factor psychologists use in measuring intelligence. Most games will do, but particularly strategic games will help you out. So if you’ve got a spare hour here and there, check out a few videogames. You might see some details sooner than you’d think.
A productive email client
Email is a huge problem on the mobile. Plenty of developers have attempted to fix the way we check and get rid of emails, but it’s hard to strike a balance between adding too many features and too few.
Thankfully there are a number of different options which mean managing your email is easier than ever before. Apps like Gmail, Triage and Dispatch go a long way in making your email experience a lot easier to handle.
A relatively recent app, Mailbox, was so popular after its arrival users waited several days for access to the servers wouldn’t crash.
Right now, the app only works with Gmail. But it enhances productivity by allowing you to delay emails. If messages come in you don’t need to deal with until later, you can tell the app to delay the message for several hours or even days. There are no complicated gestures involved – you just need to swipe left or right.
A fancy automation system
Automating your internet practice is hard to start – but you’ll never stop. And there’s really only one key product for this type of practice.
IFTT is one of those tools you need to learn to love. While it may take a little bit of getting used to, once you’ve actually got the service down and know how to use its every nook and cranny, it’ll change your life.
IFTT is basically a task manager. You create “recipes” that trigger whenever a certain action happens. They start from the very simple, like, “send me an email with the latest featured article on Wikipedia”, to the vastly complicated. There’s a recipe which allows users to text the IFTT service, which then adds a note to a Google document – perfect for recording when you leave or arrive at work.
It takes some getting used to, but once you browse through the hundreds of recipes on the IFTT site, you’re sure to save more time in your day.
Online file-sharing solutions
Although using USB drives is a fine solution for transferring large pieces of information, regularly accessing new versions of documents stored in a secured cloud is something all businesses need to consider.
One of the most obvious tools, Dropbox allows users to sync files across multiple devices. Huge amounts of cheap storage and access for multiple users make this a no-brainer for large teams accessing the same documents day after day.
The most obvious alternative is Google Docs, a free solution which has been focused on business products for quite some time. If neither of those are your fancy, Insync is a good alternative as well.
Whichever solution you choose, effective file-sharing solutions need to be seamless and with as little downtime as possible.