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25 Apps to Help You Hack Productivity & Willpower

25 Apps to Help You Hack Productivity & Willpower


    Here’s the scene:

    It’s the middle of a typical workday in busy technology startup. Everyone is busy working and scouring the web for important resources — everyone except me. Instead of busily writing emails or tending to administrative tasks, I’m completely off the Internet and focused 100% on brainstorming new projects.

    It’s freeing and absolutely joyful.

    Despite all the time I spend online, (it adds up to more than I want to admit) I’m constantly reminded of all the precious time a few online tools save me every day. They reduce the time I spend on things like convincing myself to work out, searching for important information, and drilling down my to-do list. Not only do I spend less time doing the menial and brain-numbing tasks we all hate, but I reapply that time to more enjoyable pursuits — like coming up with new ways to grow my business or brainstorming new book ideas.

    Both web and mobile apps have been incredibly useful in these three areas. Let me share my favorites in the hopes that you can free up some of your time and mind space, too.

    Hacking Willpower

    1. Freedom — The ultimate tool to disconnect (for Mac). There’s something about willpower that sometimes we just can’t beat. In times like these, apps like Freedom help you completely disconnect from the online, allowing you to double down on work. I use this app when I really need to get offline things done in peace.

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    2. SelfControl — This app is just like Freedom, except limited to a set list of websites you’d like to block (also for Mac). I use this to block social networking sites (and especially Quora!) when I truly need to get work down. This means I can still use the web to find important information, but I’m blocked from the sites that steal my time.

    3. Batch Reply for Gmail — Lots of tools will help you manage email, but this free tool is awesome for dealing with mass amounts of email at once. Just select which emails you want to reply to, and compose your reply to all of them at once. Many emails dealt with all at once — awesome. (This version is for Chrome.)

    4. FancyHands — The one tool that makes “virtual assistants” easy to grasp and problem-free. This US-based service makes reminders harder to ignore. For example, have a hard time calling your grandmother? Easy — have an assistant at FancyHands email you every Thursday with a reminder to give her a call, along with a picture of you two on Christmas. Try deleting that email.

    5. Gratitude Journal — This iPhone app (and many others that are just like it) focus on reminding you to jot down what you are grateful for. The best part? It will give you a pop-up reminder to jot down your daily list. I love not having to worry about remembering this. When the app asks, I input my list.

    6. Google Calendar — Getting to the gym is harder than you think. In my experience, it’s even harder when you have to figure out which day to go. We spend so much mental power bargaining with ourselves over “Today or tomorrow? Today is busy, I’ll just hit it tomorrow instead, right?” Instead of depleting batteries on those decisions and evaluations, skip it by putting exercise on your calendar at the beginning of each week. Try setting up repeating fitness appointments for an even easier set up. (I work out four times a week at 6:30AM. If the calendar says it, I do it. No mental power necessary.)

    7. GymPact If putting exercise in your calendar doesn’t work, try betting on it. This website allows you to bet your exercise habits against a friend’s. You’ll both put cash into an account, and you’ll be reimbursed a portion of the pool every time you work out. Using money to hack willpower has helped lots of gym-goers over the years. I dare you to try it.

    Downloading Your Memory

    8. Evernote — One of the best tools to store data, Evernote is also a great place to capture creativity on the go. Whether you are on the treadmill, at a meeting, or just in a hurry, use Evernote on your phone to make sure you jot down whatever idea or new thought crossed your mind. Take the stress off trying to remember it later!

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    9. Dropbox — By now, most everyone reading this article is using or has heard of Dropbox. There are a ton of ways to use Dropbox, but downloading your memory onto it is a great way to start. My favorite way to do this is by using the iPhone app or web app (when I’m on other computers) to find important information from my computer. Why store things in my mind when it’s on every tech device I have?

    10. Google Drive — The new Google Docs is useful for collaboration, but also to keep old projects archived away when you don’t want them in your face. Also, super ultra searchable. I recently found a free template for keeping a cash flow calendar — absolute gold and absolutely free.

    11. Brewster — This awesome iPhone app is one of the few that replaces a native iOS app for me. What it does is bring together all of your contacts into one place — albeit from your phone, from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. The best part? It reminds you who you haven’t connected with in a while! Thanks, Brewster, for downloading my networking abilities.

    12. Pocket — Time is hard to come by, but awesome content is not. Everywhere I look, there is great content out on the web. Pocket lets me save it for reading or viewing later when I have some more time. One click and I no longer have to worry about remembering that link I saw on that blog that one time…

    13. Instapaper — What I love most about Instapaper isn’t just the fact that you can save links for saving later. What I love most is the fact that it lets you strip down each screen to an advertising-free reading experience. Nothing else to focus on but text — talk about a rest.

    14. Dropbox again — This time, for phone photos. Dropbox on your computer now allows you to create a folder for photos that automatically updates each time you plug your phone into the computer’s USB drive. No thinking, just saving memories — awesome.

    Automate Tasks

    15. TeuxDeux — A no-frills app that will help you keep track of your to-do list. My favorite thing about this app is that, if you don’t get something done today, it’ll automatically just slide over to tomorrow.

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    16. Things — A super simple but super strong to-do app. With Things, I set up plenty of recurring reminders and tasks — mostly so I never have to worry about keeping track of what to do when. Things reminds me to pay rent, pay staff, prune my client list, check up on Google Analytics, and much more.

    17. Manilla — Imagine being notified of when your bills are due. No more taking note of which days to pay electricity and which days to pay cable. Manilla will handle it for you, and let you know if you are about to be late.

    18. Meeteor — Networking takes a lot of effort, and I love Meeteor for automating the introduction process every single day. Each day that I log in, Meeteor matches me up with relevant contacts who are willing to connect. Networking without the hassle — awesome.

    19. FancyHands again — This time, to outsource important tasks. If you don’t have time to book a hotel or find a restaurant, let FancyHands take care of it for you. This also works for doing research, if that isn’t really your favorite activity.

    20. Asana — This awesome tool for managing team tasks will help you spend less time on managing and more time getting things done. Also, it’s free for smaller teams, and the interface is beautiful.

    21. Trello — For the more visual people out there, Trello allows you to move task cards around from list to list. It helps me view all of my projects and tasks on one dashboard according to their status. It also helps me visualize my cashflow! Highly recommend this free tool.

    20. IfThisThenThat — The best way to automate mundane and detailed tasks that don’t add much value. For example, why spend time saving or keep track of your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Foursquare? Let IFTTT take care of it for you, saving all your photos into a Dropbox folder automatically. How about checking the weather? It’s an annoying search each morning, so get notified if it’s going to rain in your area or if it will cold/hot, etc. Set your recipes and forget the rest.

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    21. Zapier — This is just like IFTTT but more oriented to business users. There are very powerful recipes like Paypal sale notifications, creating tasks in Trello, moving users around Aweber, and more. Check it out for automating your business life.

    22. Buffer — Managing social profiles can be a difficult thing to remember. Buffer is especially powerful if you sync it up with IFTTT, by the way. My favorite “recipe” is sending my Google Reader starred posts to Buffer for my Twitter followers to read. Sharing articles is awesome, and automating the actual sharing part is even better.

    23. Dragon Dictate — Sometimes, there’s no time to sit down and write. Speaking is just that much faster. With this app, you can talk into your phone and use it for writing long documents or even email. Imagine how quickly you can get things done if you don’t have to type it out!? Genius.

    24. UsingMiles — This awesome website lets you manage your entire database on awards and miles in one dashboard. You can also search for flights using those very miles! I don’t know about you, but, if there’s an app that can help me remember what I’ve earned and where, I’m down to use it — especially if it helps me travel for free!

    25. F.lux — Meddling with the computer’s brightness is annoying but necessary. We spend a lot of time staring at the screen, and this app focuses on making sure the brightness is at the best possible brightness for your eyes to feel awesome for longer. Don’t you love it when apps automate making your life better? (I do.)

    I hope this list helps you get your willpower, tasks, and memory all in order using the latest technology. These are the tools I use to keep my brainpower free of the mundane and more focused on what really matters to me and my business.

    With that taken care of…what will you spend your extra time on?

    (Photo credit: Robotic Arms Building “Done” via Shutterstock)

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    Published on October 9, 2018

    Evernote vs OneNote: Which Improves Your Productivity Better?

    Evernote vs OneNote: Which Improves Your Productivity Better?

    Note-taking is useful in helping improve your memory and increase your productivity at work. By writing down notes, you have something tangible you can refer back to, remember what needs to be done, and regain control of your work throughout the day.

    There are thousands of different note-taking apps you can use on your desktop or mobile device. The two most popular are Evernote and Microsoft OneNote because they are incredibly efficient and effective that each has a following of extremely loyal users and advocates.

    So if it comes to Evernote vs OneNote, how do they improve productivity?

    An overview of Evernote and OneNote

    First, an introduction to the two platforms. Evernote is an app that lets you store content, take down notes, write lists, and organize all of them. While these are stored in Notebooks, the whole concept behind this productivity app is more like a Universal Inbox where you can save everything you’ve collected so you can quickly find it when you need them through the use of tags.

    Microsoft’s OneNote, on the other hand, works very much like a digital version of the notebooks you used to carry around in school. Aside from storing all your notes and different types of content you’ve collected, you can also organize them into sections, pages, and containers.

    Each of these apps offers their users a host of features to help them improve their productivity and memory. Also, because no app is perfect, each also has their strengths and limitations.

    To get a better idea of which app will be your best choice, we’ll be comparing the two based on three key features most used by their users: collecting information, note-taking, and mobility.

    Collecting information

    Both the OneNote and Evernote come with their own web clipper extension that allows you to quickly collect and store information from different websites as you find them.

    Both give you the option to choose whether you’d like to save the entire web page as is, a simplified version without the ads, or just a section of the page. You can also add some notes before saving them to make it easier for you to remember why you “clipped” that particular resource.

    Since OneNote gives you more structure to organize your content, its web clipper allows you to choose not just which notebook to save the details, but also what section within the notebook.

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      Source: OneNote.com

      Evernote gives you the option to add tags to your web clippings before you save it, so it’s easier for you to search for it later.

      Premium users get access to Evernote’s Related Results feature located in its Options section. When you search on Google, Evernote will launch a secondary search that will show all the notes related to the keyword you used in searching for information.

        Source: Zapier.com

        This feature, according to Jeremy Skillings, President of Youcanbefound.com, is beneficial because it lets you know what information you already have stored in your notes.

        “In some cases whenever I do my research, I find out through this feature that I already have the exact information I need stored in my Evernote account. That alone cuts back a significant amount of the time I spend on projects.”

        Note-taking

        Both of these productivity apps allow you to create and format your notes to create rich documents. Among these features include changing the font size and color, adding tables, and inserting media files.

        Evernote’s note-taking features are very similar to a Word document in that it’s very structured concerning how you input your notes.

          Professionals who need to be able to build and access well-structured docs in the field make up much of Evernote’s loyal fanbase. One such 2-year user in the real estate field, Anthony Gilbert of RealFX.com, liked the formatting options, but admitted that there were still some downsides to the rigidly formatted approach.

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          While he enjoyed the features, his personal experience with using it in the field revealed that the formatting features,“mean that if you need to change parts of your notes around, it can get tedious”. He continued, “the formatting features are quite finicky, so you may need a bit of patience to get the end results you are looking for.”

          Professionals who need to be able to build and access well-structured docs in the field make up much of Evernote’s loyal fanbase. One such 2-year user in the real estate field, Anthony Gilbertof RealFX.com, liked the formatting options, but admitted that there were still some downsides to the rigidly formatted approach.

          Structuring your notes properly from the get-go can have an effect on your productivity. A blank slate can sometimes be puzzling. Evernote allows the ability to use battle-tested templates and workflows that save you time. They can provide inspiration and structure on what’s possible.

          On the other hand, OneNote gives its users more versatility and flexibility in the way notes are created. You can click at any area of the page and begin typing. If you need to move things around, you can drag and drop sections of your notes to the right place.

          On the other hand, OneNote gives its users more versatility and flexibility in the way you create your notes. You can click at any area of the page and begin typing. If you need to move things around, you can drag and drop sections of your notes to the right place.

            Source: Lifehacker

            Also, it gives you the option to create Templates that you can use to layout your page properly, so all you’ll need to do is to fill in the information.

              Source: MakeUseOf

              This is a particularly handy feature that stood out to many of the people who shared their love of OneNote with me. Steve Lionais, longtime user and Co-Founder & CEO of Dr-Bill.ca, claims that this feature helped him build his business by affecting his memory in a powerful and helpful way.

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              “This [feature] is what makes OneNote great memory retention app,” he said of the templates. “I find that I remember things more when they are arranged in a certain way. OneNote allowed me to do that for my meeting and presentation notes, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to find the next point!”

              However, what really makes OneNote the winner of this round is its ability to allow you to embed media files from other sources like Youtube. In addition to including the link, OneNote launches a media player, allowing you to watch the video or listen to the audio file directly from the page where you saved it.

                Source: Windows Central

                Mobility

                Evernote and OneNote can be used both on desktops and mobile devices. At the same time, they provide their users with the ability to sync the content from one device to the other.

                Judging which of the two productivity apps is best here is quite tricky because it greatly depends on several factors. One of these is the operating software you use.

                Many of the power users we asked were using iOS, and that put some points toward Evernote. Greg Reese of AmeriEstate.com found himself frequently using the built-in camera option (and other iOS integrations) to manage his daily duties as President.

                  Evernote’s camera also integrates with Post-It, Moleskin notebook pages, and business cards. When you take a photo of any of these, the camera will capture the information and format this for Evernote so that it’s quick to find it when you search.

                  OneNote, on the other hand, dominates the Android environment. In addition to the app, Android users will also find a OneNote floating badge on the side of the home screen. So you can take notes on the go very quickly.

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                    Source: MS Power User

                    Another factor to consider is the cloud storage you use. For you to sync OneNote across different devices, you’ll need to first set up an account with OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage service.

                    “This is something that Evernote users like me don’t have to worry about,” according to Matt Willens, Head Attorney for Willens Law Offices. “Whether you use a free account or one of their paid plans, you can immediately sync your devices without having to get a separate cloud storage account.”

                    The drawback here is the amount of storage and number of devices that you can sync. Free users are only given 60MB of storage space and can sync up to two devices. If you need more storage space, you’ll have to get the paid plans.

                    Which app is better for improving memory and productivity?

                    The honest—and most straightforward—answer is:

                    It depends on you.

                    While Evernote and OneNote have their strengths and weaknesses, how well it will help improve productivity and memory greatly depends on what works best for you.

                    If you find that you’re able to work best and remember things more using visual cues, OneNote will be the best productivity app to use. However, if you consider the speed and ease of finding the information you need as your top priority, Evernote will be your best option.

                    Since both productivity apps have free versions, you can give both a try and see where you’re most comfortable. In the end, the right productivity app to use is one that complements the way you work and do things rather than dictating to you how you should get them done.

                    Featured photo credit: Yura Fresh via unsplash.com

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