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This List of 15 Free Productivity Apps Will Give You Your Time Back

This List of 15 Free Productivity Apps Will Give You Your Time Back

As I’m sure any of us can attest, there are many distractions that take away from our productivity and occupy time that would be better spent elsewhere. There are plenty of ways to help you save time and increase efficiency. These 15 free apps will make day-to-day tasks a breeze and give you back your focus for where it really belongs.

Self Control

This app for Mac gives you laser focus by taking away that which distracts you the very most on your computer. Rather than blocking out absolutely everything, Self Control lets you specify a blacklist of websites. Just set your list and a period of time, and crank through your to-do list. But be warned: once you’ve specified an amount of time, you will not have access to your blacklisted sites until time is up.

SelfControlApp-Lifehack

    Remember the Milk

    Available for Android and iOS, Remember the Milk is an easy way to stay on top of your tasks without employing a single post-it or back-of-your-hand-note ever again. The app syncs seamlessly with apps like Evernote and even commands you give to Siri so nothing falls through the cracks. New releases are rare with this app – but the feature set is already so great, this is hardly a big complaint.

    RemembertheMilk-Lifehack

      Dashlane

      Available for Android, iOS and desktop, this password manager gives you an easy-to-use password management app. Securely store your data and use the free form filler to quickly log into different accounts and rapidly fill out forms.  The app also tracks your online shopping, and has emergency password retrieval. There are a few login pages that Dashlane doesn’t cover, but the peace of mind more than makes up for it.

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        Day One

        Currently only available on iPhone, iPad & Mac, Day One gives you a place to journal. Automatically include details like the date/time, weather, photos, music you’re playing, location and more to remember for years to come. Only con: for the more sentimental people out there, you won’t have a journal you can hold in your hand later on down the line.

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          Pocket

          Keep track of relevant and interesting webpages – everything from articles and recipes to videos – and take a look later when you have the time to really digest it. Pocket will highlight the best information for you to focus on. Just make sure you go in and sort through what you’ve saved regularly or you might accumulate a backup and end up reading for hours, with no actual productivity saved. Available on Android & iOS.

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            Sunrise

            Available on both Android & iOS, Sunrise is a calendar app with a clean and beautiful interface. Keep track of everything you’ve got going on with reminders, sync with iCloud and Google Calendar, weather updates and more. If you’re frequently on the road like me, don’t worry – you’ve got automatic time zone adjustment. It’s set to only show you three days at a time, which could be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it.

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              Slack

              This app is available on Android, iOS and your desktop and gives you a platform for team communication. My own team and I have found it minimizes email deluge and provides a great place to collaborate. Create different channels for sub-teams within your larger team and archive conversations when they’re no longer relevant. Slack also has a powerful search function that helps you locate conversations from weeks before.

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                Shyp

                Never experience another interminable wait in line at the post office. Shyp’s tagline – “the easiest way to ship anything” – is no joke. The app’s got a simple and clean UI and all you have to do is fill out your recipient’s info, snap a picture of the item you’re sending and request a ‘hero’ to fulfill your request. So far, our team in San Francisco hasn’t waited more than 10 minutes for a pickup. The only drawback is a lack of transparency on what the exact shipping costs will be, but you can’t deny the simplicity of the entire process – as well as the fact that it’s only available in San Francisco for now. Available on iOS & Android.

                Shyp-Lifehack

                  Evernote

                  Long hailed as one of the best apps for productivity, Evernote lives up to every bit of the hype. A beautiful app that lets you, literally, remember everything. Document your brainstorm, collect webpages, pictures and more in one place, and collaborate on all of this with those that need to be in the loop. Some of the other great features come at a cost, but definitely worth considering the investment! Available on both Android and iOS.

                  Evernote-Lifehack

                    Venmo

                    No more difficulty sharing the bill – Venmo lets you quickly and securely send or receive payments. From rent to splitting dinner, making a payment is done in a matter of taps and less than 30 seconds. You can set these payments to private or share them more widely with those in your network. Be aware: using a credit card in the app comes with transaction fees, while a debit card is free. Available on both Android and iOS.

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                      Contacts+ 

                      A simple and well-designed UI to keep all of your contacts in one place. Contacts+ pulls in information from other services you use, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, among others. Merge your contacts to save time, and use the smart search to quickly find exactly who you’re looking for. Available on both Android and iOS.

                      Contacts

                        Google Drive

                        This one’s an obvious choice – but one that my team uses every single day to collaborate on docs and stay on the same page (no pun intended, I promise). I’m a particular fan of the feature that lets you “suggest” edits to the doc, rather than just leave comments or completely edit without the owner’s approval. Available for Android and iOS.

                        GoogleDrive-Lifehack

                          RescueTime

                          RescueTime gives you weekly reports of how you’re spending your time online – which sites you’re on and how long you’re spending on them. This helps you understand your daily behaviors and which behaviors are the ones making you the most productive. You can set goals for yourself and see how you’re measuring up over time. The only drawback is that for the app to be truly accurate, you have to properly and sometimes painstakingly categorize your behaviors. This takes a while, but you’ll get this time back in no time. Available on Android.

                          RescueTime-Lifehack

                            Lift

                            This community-driven app gives you a way to set goals for yourself and keep track of them. Watch your progress, and turn to the community – which includes expert guidance – when you need support. There are options for peer coaching, bringing your friends on board and helping others with their own goals. One con is that the app crashes fairly regularly. Available on both Android and iOS.

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                              Concur

                              Never confront masses of mangled and torn receipts ever again! As someone who finds himself on the road regularly for work, managing and submitting expense reports on a timely basis can be difficult. With Concur, all you have to do is snap a picture of the receipt (and then throw it away – you don’t need it anymore!), fill out necessary details and instantly add it to your existing report. Managers can quickly approve or deny reports as well. The UI leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s a purely cosmetic complaint. Available on both Android and iOS.

                              Concur-Lifehack

                                Save even more time by swapping out your default keyboard for a third party keyboard (whether you’re on Android or iOS!) that you can use in all of your apps for fast, easy typing.  What are your tech tips for staying productive? Share them in the comments!

                                Featured photo credit: Top Free Productivity Apps via picjumbo.com

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                                1 How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples) 2 How Are Daily Rituals Different from Daily Routines? 3 7 Essential Success Tips to Achieve What You Want in Life 4 Deep Work: 9 Grounding Rules to Stay Focused 5 7 Reminders When You’re Making Life Choices

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                                Last Updated on September 30, 2019

                                How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

                                How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

                                Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

                                Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

                                The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

                                Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

                                1. Develop an Agenda

                                Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

                                Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

                                The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

                                2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

                                If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

                                Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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                                Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

                                A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

                                3. Record Attendance

                                On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

                                Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

                                All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

                                If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

                                As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

                                It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

                                4. Naming Convention

                                Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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                                For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

                                5. What, and What Not, to Include

                                Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

                                Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

                                For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

                                6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

                                Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

                                You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

                                Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

                                7. Record Votes

                                The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

                                For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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                                This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

                                Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

                                8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

                                Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

                                People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

                                Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

                                9. Proofread with Care

                                Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

                                Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

                                10. Distribute Broadly

                                Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

                                At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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                                Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

                                11. File Meticulously

                                Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

                                Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

                                One Caveat

                                In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

                                Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

                                The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

                                Bottom Line

                                Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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