So, it’s 2016 and you’re ready to get your life organized, once and for all. The question is how? There’s only so much that you can manually manage all by yourself, and trying to take on too much can cause you to get stuck in the never-ending cycle of “busy work” that keeps you from working on the things that really move the needle.
If you’ve been really struggling to hold it all together lately, perhaps it’s time to take advantage of some of the following productivity resources and tools that are freely available to use online. They can help automate some of your most tedious tasks, speed up your progress, and keep track of everything while you’re at it.
1. Google Drive
Google Drive is the ultimate cloud-based platform for storing, managing, sharing, and collaborating on files. You can create documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings directly in Google Drive while keeping them neatly organized in folders to be edited anytime you want. All changes are synced right across your account.
As a Google product, Google Drive is integrated with other popular Google products like Gmail and Google Photos. If you work in teams, files and folders can be shared so that everyone who has access to them can see and make updates in real-time so that everyone has the most updated version of the file.
Similar to Google Drive, Evernote is a cloud-based platform designed for creating and storing all sorts of different files. It’s generally viewed as an advanced note-taking tool that allows you to organize your notes into notebooks with optional tags for even more precise categorization.
Evernote also has an incredibly useful web clipper tool, which is a browser extension you can use to easily save whole web pages, small sections, or just the URL as a bookmark to your account. Any notes that you create and manage can also be shared and managed by other Evernote users who are invited to do so.
There’s a good chance that you use a lot of apps and tools already—both for personal and professional reasons. IFTTT (If This Then That) is an incredibly helpful tool that can connect one app to another, giving you the opportunity to set a specific “trigger” between them that automatically generates a specific action. These are called “recipes.”
For example, if you use Evernote a lot, you could create a recipe that automatically uploads any new note that has a tag attached to it to your Google Drive account. This saves you the time and energy from having to do it manually. IFTTT works with lots of different apps, and the recipe variations that are possible to create are virtually endless.
The old fashioned “To-Do” list using pen and paper often ends up being more of a hindrance than a help at the end of the day. To help you succeed at actually crossing more things off your list, Any.do allows you to categorize list items according to work or personal goals while offering you small rewards for completing them.
You get four types of lists to build (Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday) to help you plan ahead, and you can manage your list from the desktop web or any mobile device with the Any.do app. Any items you add or cross off are synced across your account so you always have the most updated list wherever you go.
Cal is Any.do’s stylish calendar app that integrates with your to-do lists. It gives you a weekly calendar view of your list items so that you can see exactly when you need to complete each item. You can also use it to manage events and appointments according to date and time.
Simply tap a day to see all the list items for that day. When you tap an item, it will automatically open up the Any.do app so that you can make edits to the item or cross it off your list.
Ever come across a really great article or video in one of your social feeds, but don’t have time to check it out at the moment? Pocket makes it easy for you to save it for later with just a simple click of your mouse or tap to your smartphone screen.
Save links from your web browser, Facebook, Twitter, email, Flipboard and all your other favorite places where you love to browse content. When you’ve got some spare time to check them out, just open up your Pocket feed on your computer or mobile device to see a clean and organized list of everything you’ve saved.
7. Digg Reader
Instead of visiting every one of your favorite blogs one by one, an easier way to stay updated on recent posts is by subscribing to their RSS feeds using a feed reader. Digg Reader is a popular choice that lets you add as many as RSS feeds as you want so that you can stay on top of new post headlines almost as soon as they’re posted.
When you read a post that you really like, you can “digg” it to give it a personal thumbs up, or use the save button to save it for later. Folders also make it easy to categorize your RSS feed subscriptions so that you can organize blogs according to subject, like news, health, sports, technology, and so on.
It’s easy enough to collaborate on files by using Google Drive or Evernote, but when you have several teammates who need to work more closely on big projects and all the tasks that come with it, a platform with more advanced features is often necessary to keep everything organized and running smoothly. Asana is a team collaboration tool that gives every user their own dashboard so that they can work together with their teammates to assign tasks, track progress, have conversations, receive notifications, store files, and so much more.
It’s free for teams of up to 15 people with unlimited usage for tasks, projects, conversations, and file attachments. Besides the convenience of having a central place to store and share all your project files, the added benefit of being able to interact and chat about each task directly within the platform itself will help take your team’s productivity to a whole new level.
Doodle can help you take the headache out of coordinating a time to meet with friends or colleagues. Instead of getting on the phone multiple times or having to send text messages and emails back and forth, you can use Doodle to send out a schedule poll with a few suggested dates and times to meet so that recipients can choose the ones that work best for them.
When the poll reveals an optimal date and time that works for everyone, you can close the poll and confirm it with everyone. It saves you a ton of time and energy by only requiring two emails to be sent, and it can even be integrated with other popular calendar apps like Google Calendar, Exchange, Outlook, and others.
Most of us have too many passwords to keep track of these days, and ideally, you should have a different one made of a complex combination of characters per login for strong security. LastPass is a free password management tool that stores all of your passwords away safely in a vault so that you can organize them and quickly perform a search to find the one you need at any time.
LastPass also comes in the form of an extension for popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) so that you can easily save passwords as you’re browsing and have your passwords automatically filled in the fields for you anytime you visit a specific login page. Password access and automatic app fill is also available on mobile devices when you use the LastPass app.
No matter how financially stable or unstable a person may be, managing budgets is a good idea for everyone. From the makers of some of the most popular financial software, Mint is the ultimate money management and budget creation tool that safely and securely connects to your bank account to track every transaction.
You can automatically generate budgets tailored to your needs, set up alerts for unusual account charges, get a free credit score, see a bird’s eye view of your overall financial life, and even get tips on how to improve your finances. Mint breaks everything down for you using easy-to-read reports and graphs so that you always know exactly how you’re spending and saving.
Business cards are often more of a nuisance than anything else—especially when you collect a lot of them through networking and friends. Camcard is a free app that allows you to scan, manage, and sync your entire collection of business cards so that you can avoid having to store and shuffle through loads of physical versions.
The contact information from each individual card can be quickly and accurately stored to your mobile device so you can instantly contact them by tapping a button. You can also organize all of your cards by adding notes, setting up reminders, and attaching tags to them so that it’s always easy to find and contact the individual you have in mind.
Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of events and memories so you can reflect on them in the future. To bring it up to speed in today’s mobile tech-driven world, Momento is a smart journal that you can install on your mobile device as an app that helps you privately capture your daily activities, thoughts, ideas, photos, videos, and location check-ins with the opportunity to combine them with the stuff you share on social networks.
Whether you decide to use Momento for professional or personal journaling (or both) is completely up to you. The app gives you an organized timeline of journal entries, which can be expanded on to see stories for each day. You can also see everything in a monthly calendar view and categorize your entries by adding tags to them in order to keep them organized and searchable.
There’s only so much you can do with a regular to-do list and a calendar when you’ve got multiple projects going on. Trello is a tool that helps you and your team members (if you have a team to collaborate with) keep track of every single detail of each project task in a visual organization system.
You can create a board and then add lists that contain drag-and-drop cards for storing all your information (including photos and attachments) about a specific task. The app is designed to be used for both professional and personal projects that take a lot of planning, collaborating, and multiple task completion. Like Asana, Trello also allows users to have conversations on items and receive notifications so that everyone stays up to date with the latest information.
15. Way of Life
Much of your success comes from the little habits you persistently stick with doing over a period of time. Way of Life is a free app that helps you develop good habits with reminders that you can set up on specific days to help you stay on track. You can even use it to keep track of bad habits.
Once you spend a few days tracking the good habits you’ve stuck with and the bad habits you’ve avoided, you’ll be able to see pie charts and bar charts with trend lines over a specific period to give you a glimpse of your progress. As you keep using the app day after day, you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative trends through the chart data so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not.
Remember that just signing up for one of these free resources doesn’t guarantee that all your organization and productivity problems will instantly be solved. You have to actually use them to do the necessary work. Try picking one to start with and commit to using it every day.