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26 Free Cross-Platform Productivity Apps to Help You Get Things Done

26 Free Cross-Platform Productivity Apps to Help You Get Things Done

    There are a lot of fantastic productivity apps out there that cost a decent chunk of change like OmniFocus, Things, Microsoft Office Suite, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t free alternatives that are just as good or even better.

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    You can essentially become a productivity machine without spending a penny (except for an internet connection that is). Here are 26 free productivity apps to help you get things done.

    1. Remember the MilkRemember the Milk has been around for quite some time and with the revamp of there iPhone and Android app after the iPad app design, RTM offers the user a simple yet powerful toolset for managing to-dos online.
    2. ToodledoI have been a Toodledo user on and off for about three years and it’s still one of the best to-do apps online. The iOS apps aren’t free, but the web app is and it’s top notch, especially after the redesign.

      • CatchCatch is a cool free app that lets you collect your ideas fast and then share them with others. Catch also has a cool clipper button that you can put on your own site to clip an article inside a user’s catch account.
      • SpringpadSpringpad has turned into a something that you can store notes, web clips, video, links, pretty much everything with and create notebooks for yourself or to share with others.

        • Todo.txt (CLI)If you are a geeky type and have a file named todo.txt (like the good man, Randy Pausch), then you might be geeky enough for Todo.txt. Todo.txt is a free command line tool that allows you to interact with a todo.txt text file to get stuff done.
        • OpenOffice.orgIf you can’t stand the though of giving Microsoft more money, but want a full bore office suite, then OpenOffice may work for you. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and even databases await.
        • Google Docs (Drive)One of the best tools for collaborating on writing projects while in school. Almost everyone has a Gmail account, it’s free, and the collaboration features are awesome. Make documents, presentations, and spread sheets.
        • EvernoteOnce again, if we need to tell you why you need an Evernote account (again), then maybe it’s just not for you. If you want notes, pictures, documents, voice memos, links, etc. synced across the web and multiple operating systems, then please check it out.
        • GmailStill the best free email account and web app around. Tons of storage and great integration with other Google services.
        • AsanaIf you need to work in a team on tasks and projects, we here at Lifehack highly recommend Asana for that. The web interface is clean, fast, and easy to use with a team.
        • OrchestraOrchestra is another great project and to-do list manager that is made for teams and can even be used for personal use.

          • Do.comThese teamwork apps are all the rage right now and do is another beautiful and highly functional free team based to-do list app. According to do’s site you get free unlimited tasks, projects, and users forever.
          • Doit.imDoit.im is a little know gem of a to-do and project manager. There is a free web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, and Windows app that syncs your to-dos everywhere.
          • Outlook.comIt’s pretty (I never thought I would say that about a Microsoft product), it’s fresh, and it’s a great way to use email online. Outlook.com is Microsoft’s newest web email client and I highly recommend it.
          • Office Web AppsThe new Office Web Apps Preview from Microsoft is great. You can create Word, Excel, PowerPoints, or even OneNote notebooks that you can sync with the OneNote app on iOS.

            • BoxNeed 5GB of free backup storage for pictures, video, or any other file? Box.net has you covered. Also you can get iPhone, iPad, and even an Android client to view files on the go.
            • CrashplanCrashplan is a free and paid backup service that will work on all major platforms. The free service can be used to backup locally and even offsite.
            • DropboxDropbox is the glue that holds my life together and is the base of my entire productivity system. Get 2GB for free and start using Dropbox to keep your files everywhere you are.
            • FileZillaI’ve used FileZilla for years on Mac, Linux, and Windows. It’s a dependable way to shuck and jive your files around via FTP.
            • MarkdownNot necessarily an app, Markdown is the only way that I write for the web anymore. There are so many apps that support Markdown, but if you want to simply convert a plain text file to HTML, you can use John Gruber’s script.
            • AstridI remember when I got my first Android phone on Verizon (The Motorola Droid) and Astrid was the only passable to-do list application. It’s changed a lot since them as it now supports teams, but it’s still a fun to-do app to use.

              • ProducteevOne more to-do and project management application. I like Producteev’s idea of “workspaces” and I feel that there tagging systems is pretty good too.
              • LastpassIf you don’t have a password manager yet, go download Lastpass right now and start using it. Password managers are a necessity if you are doing any type of anything on the web, and Lastpass does password management well.
              • FreeMindMindmapping is one of the best ways to get your ideas down fast and then start to connect them together. The interface isn’t the nicest, but FreeMind is a powerful and full featured mindmapping app for Windows or Mac.
              • Google CalendarYou have to keep your day in order. The best web calendar is Google calendar, hands down. Keep your day there.
              • RescueTimeYour time is precious, but it’s hard to know what to change in your day when you don’t know where your time has gone. Use RescueTime for Mac or Windows to help identify where and when you are slacking.

              Do you have any other free productivity apps that you use that didn’t make it to the list? Let us know in the comments.

              (Photo credit: Free tag via Shutterstock)

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              Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

              Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

              There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

              How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

              Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

              Why is multitasking a myth?

              The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

              Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

              You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

              Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

              We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

              Your brain on multi-tasking

              Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

              When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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              But I can juggle multiple tasks!

              You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

              For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

              Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

              Why multitasking is failing you

              Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

              Multitasking wastes your time.

              You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

              In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

              It makes you dumber.

              A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

              You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

              This is an emotional response.

              There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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              Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

              It’ll wear you out.

              When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

              We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

              How to stop multitasking and work productively

              Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

              In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

              Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

              1. Consciously change gears

              Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

              As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

              This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

              2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

              Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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              Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

              This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

              3. Set aside distractions

              Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

              If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

              Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

              Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

              4. Take care of yourself

              We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

              Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

              In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

              5. Take a break

              People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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              Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

              6. Make technology your ally

              Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

              Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

              The key to productivity: Focus

              Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

              Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

              If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

              How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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