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10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

It’s amazing what a huge effect a few apps can have on your productivity. Since I started testing out software like mad two years ago, I’ve discovered more and more ways to get things done more efficiently and more effectively. With the help of just these ten productive tools I have dramatically increased the quantity and quality of my output. Read about each of them below.

1. 2Do ($9.99)

There are a lot of free to-do list applications out there, and some of them are pretty great. Wunderlist is one that immediately springs to mind. Why, then, did I choose a $10 app? Because 2Do has every feature you could ever think of while still offering a very streamlined experience. For people with even the most hectic and complicated schedules, 2Do will fulfill all your needs. For those with less to organize, it’s an easy-to-use application that has everything you might ever want. It’s available for iOS and Android at the price listed above.

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2. Mint (Free)

Money plays a big role in all our lives, so it makes sense that you would have productive tools that help you manage it. Mint is among the best ways to manage your money from multiple sources, organizing your various accounts in one place. For everything from your bank accounts to your credit cards to loans to even your PayPal account, Mint has you covered.c

3. Scrivener ($45)

I’ll come out and say it: Microsoft Word sucks. It’s cluttered, it’s clunky and it’s nowhere near intuitive. Word is one of those productive tools that we’ve been forced to use for years due to its dominance in the marketplace, but Scrivener is becoming a more and more viable contender for your word processor. Scrivener treats every page of your document as a separate file, which sounds like a small feature but will revolutionize how you work on long projects. Between that and its intuitive design, Scrivener (available for Windows and Mac) is highly recommended.

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4. Google Drive (Free)

A cloud storage service is an absolute must on a list of productive tools. There are a number to choose from. While Dropbox was a major contender for this spot, Google Drive wins out for more people’s needs. Whereas you have to go through extra steps to add storage to your Dropbox account, Google Drive automatically comes with a respectable 15 GB to store emails, photos and other data. If you want more space, Google has it for the very affordable prices of just $2/month for 100 GB or $10/month for 1TB. This is in addition to Google’s brilliantly simple apps connected to Google Drive, productive tools that are great for collaboration and serve as great free alternatives for Microsoft Office software. Google Drive is available on any platform.

5. Mailbox (Free)

A lot of us use our email inboxes as de facto to-do lists, even if we already have an app like 2Do or Wunderlist for that purpose. That was a bad idea until productive tools like Mailbox arrived on the scene. Mailbox, available for iOS, Android and Mac, allows you to store emails for later viewing without having to archive them. It also has the innovative ability to “snooze” emails until the date and time of your choice, so that they’ll pop back up in your inbox right when you need them. This is especially great if you have to follow up with people who don’t always reply to the first email you send.

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6. GoodReader ($4.99)

iBooks and other default applications are completely satisfactory ways to read PDFs, but who wants to settle for satisfactory? Productive tools like GoodReader make reading on a tablet or a phone the best experience out there and also give you the power to edit documents. GoodReader itself is only available for iOS but you can find some alternatives for Android here.

7. Feedly (Free)

Even most internet users are getting their news in an antiquated way. Instead of browsing dozens of sites to get updates from all your favorite sources, you can use a service like Feedly to compile articles and blog posts in one place where you get to read them ad-free. The experience becomes even better when you get a third-party app like Reeder to read the content you’ve compiled on your computer, tablet, or phone.

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8. Pocket (Free)

An app that goes hand-in-hand with Feedly, Pocket lets you save things you find on the internet for later reading. For example, if you come across an awesome article that you don’t have time to read right away, save it to Pocket with either the browser extension on a PC or a share function on a mobile device so that you can enjoy it at a time of your convenience.

9. Skitch (Free)

There are some really fancy options for annotating images and documents, but those options are rarely necessary. Most of the time when you’re marking something you’re doing it in a hurry. Skitch is an expert at the rush job, making it painless to annotate and mark up images and documents sent to you to review.

10. Evernote (Free)

Evernote is one of the most beloved and powerful tools for productivity out there. The developers describe it as your external brain, and the description is accurate. Your account is made up of notes you write, notebooks to contain your notes, and stacks to organize your notebooks. Almost any kind of information, whether it be reminders, facts or ideas, can be stored in Evernote in the form of either text, pictures or audio. Its uses are almost infinite, and everyone can take advantage of it in a different way. For some, it’s a simple note-taking app in which they can jot down to-dos, musings and reminders. Others store pretty much their entire lives in their Evernote account. The magic of that is that the more you put into Evernote, the more you get out of it. The browser extension that allows you to “clip” articles from the web directly into your notebooks and Evernote’s wide-ranging syncing abilities with all kinds of digital services only make it stronger. Evernote has a $5/month premium service, but all its key features are absolutely free of price.

Featured photo credit: Evernote Trunk Conference Entrance/Brooks Duncan via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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