10 awesome web tools to improve productivity and simplify life online
We all have 24 hours in a day, right? So how come some people do more stuff in a day than others? Some people don't even get any stuff done at all. Well, it depends on how we organize our day, on our habits, on the tools we use and a lot of other reasons. Genes could also have something do with it. While there isn't much I can do about your genes to improve your productivity, I can help you improve your productivity by providing you with some tools that I find to be very helpful. They say a poor carpenter blames his tools. I don't blame mine because they are good. Here are some of them. Give them a try. You might just stop blaming your tools too and start getting things done.
All normal users of the internet have tens of passwords they need to remember, which is impossible to do. We humans always look for ways to simplify our lives. So instead of creating secure passwords for each and every site, we end up using the same weak password wherever a password is required from us. That's bad news when someone hacks your password because it will mean that they will have access to all the places that you have ever created an account. Of course this is an exaggeration, because I know most of you are tech-savvy guys who know that using the same password everywhere is a no-no online. However, since we are naturally lazy and we don't have the mental capacity to remember all those passwords, how about using an awesome free tool called LastPass. This is a tool that will remember all your passwords for you. If you haven't guessed already, this means that all you have to do is remember the master password to Lastpass and free your mind of the need to remember all that stuff. I will not bore you with the details of how to use LastPass. Just go there and create an account today and start playing with it. You can come back later and tell me how awesome LastPass is and how you can't believe you have been wasting time and endangering the security of your online accounts by using weak passwords when you could have used LastPass and secured everything. I will be right here waiting for you.
Now that you have created the last password you will ever need to remember, let's take care of all those subscriptions you have been making over the years that you no longer need. They are filling up your inbox everyday, aren't they? The thought of going to each and every website to unsubsribe or just clicking the unsubscribe link in each and every email that you receive that you don't need sends a shiver down your spine. We are all busy people and it's understandable. Not to worry, though. We live in the technology age where there is an application for everything you can imagine. There is even a tool that will simplify the process of unsubscribing from newletters that you no longer need. Check out my post here where I explain how to use Unrollme to quickly get rid of all those unwanted emails and drastically reduce email overload.
Followupthen is a tool that you can use to reschedule emails that have already reached your inbox and tell them when you want them back. Let me try to explain the idea again. Let's say you get an email from your wife or husband that says you need to remember to do something important (they always have important stuff, don't they?). What's important for one person might not be as important for another person, so you decide that you don't want to litter your memory with this information. There are too many important things to remember (from your point of view), but you know that if you forget you will be sleeping on the couch for a few days. You wouldn't want that now, would you? :-) Anyway, to cut a long story short, all you have to do is tell Followupthen to inform you about the message at the right time when it will be time to take action without wasting valuable memory space. Followupthen will resend the email on the day, month and time of your choice. Cool, right? And you will get to sleep in your comfortable bed. You can also use this tool to schedule followups so that you will never miss a followup again. Check out Followupthen.com and find out how it can help you to get things done when they need to be done.
Another problem that people often have is sending big files as attachments. If you need to send files of up to 2 GB there is no better service than Wetransfer.com. It's free and there is no need to register to use the free account. All you need to send a file that most email servers would flag as too big to send by email is your address, the recipient's address and the file (of course). I don't know about you, but I often forget to add attachments when sending files so I had to add this just to be on the safe side. Using we transfer is as simple as entering those three elements I mentioned in a form and pressing "Transfer." The recipient gets an email with a link where they can download the file. They have 7 days to download the file, which is automatically deleted after that period. If you pay for the Wetransfer Plus account, you will be able to send the dowload link via Facebook or Twitter. The Plus account also enables you to send files of up to 10 GB in addition to the possibility to password protect files you are sending as well as permanently storing files on the server. Sweet stuff. Give Wetransfer a try.
5. Dropbox for advanced sharing features
If you need to share files that you are working on and continuously editing, then Dropbox is a better solution than Wetransfer. By the way, if you haven't heard of Dropbox you must have been living in a terribly remote corner of the world over the past few years. I am not going to explain how Dropbox works because I am only interested in the file sharing features. Dropbox enables you to share a file with other people in such a way that when you make changes, they become immediately visible to other members of your team. If you need more information about this feature, have a look at Carolyn Nicander Mohr's post here. It contains detailed instructions how to use Dropbox for file sharing.
6. Google Drive
Google drive takes document sharing to the next level. Let's say you have attended a meet up with some co-workers and you need to get together a write up of the event. To make this more interesting, we will assume that you all work remotely. So what you do is create a document in Google Drive and then share this document with the rest of the team. Members of the team will then have access to the document, with the possibility of editing, commenting or viewing depending on the permissions awarded by the document owner. I just used the same same tool to help spot issues in a soon-to-be published book and I just loved the way it all worked. With so many people reading and adding comments, I am almost certain the book will be awesome and will be released with zero errors.
No list of tools woud be complete without Evernote these days. This a cloud storage tool with so many features it's unbelievable. I treat it as my second brain. Everything that comes to my mind goes to Evernote. It's a great tool that enables you to save text notes, audio notes, internet articles, etc. The best part is that you can access your documents from any devices that has an internet connection. I use Evernote every single day for recording ideas, drafting blog posts and a lot of other things. If Everrnote stopped working my day would be a complete mess. I won't write too much about this tool here, because I have a whole blog post about it here. Read my post to find out more.
There are a lot of distractions online. Not all distractions are bad, but if you want to get things done, you have to have a way of sticking to your plan and ignoring interesting things that keep trying to catch your attention. My problem is that I am addicted to learning. Everytime I see something interesting, I just have to read it. Before I discovered Pocket, I tried a lot of different methods, including creating a text file where I wrote links to articles that I intended to read later, bookmarking links using my browser, online bookmarking using Delicious.com, etc. Nowadays there are a lot of cloud tools that allow you to save internet articles so that you can access them later off or online. Evernote Clipper and Wunderlist are good examples. However, I find Pocket to be much easier to use. I enjoy reading articles saved in Pocket every time I get an opportunity to. So when I come across something interesting, I just send it to Pocket and continue working on the task at hand. I refuse to be distracted. Let Pocket be your friend and you will be surprised by how much more stuff you will get done.
Monitoring where and how you are spending your time is a good way to improve productivity. Minutes.at is a simple timer that you can use to set how much time you want to spend on a website. It's a matter of just entering the time and address of the website. As soon as you do that, Minutes.at starts counting down the time. The tool only shows you that the time is over, but the rest is up to you. It doesn't block or stop you from using the internet or browser in any way. It just displays the time. If you want something with more features, try the firefox add-on LeechBlock or RescueTime.
As I said earlier, if you are still using email to collaborate with other team members by sending each other endless amounts of emails, then you are not making use of the technology at your finger tips. I have used many tools for collaboration and project management, but the one I discovered and fell in love with not so long ago is Casual. This is a tool that makes project planning and management as simple as dragging and dropping tasks using a mouse. If you can use a computer mouse, you can use Casual. No learning curve whatsoever. Casual is a visual tool that makes it easy for you to create and monitor tasks. It allows you to share files without the need to send attachments too and fro between team members. Some of the features of Casual include a simple process of inviting team members, task delegation, nested tasks, reuse of project workflows, etc. I will be writing a blog post about Casual soon because I believe it's a tool that has the potential to completely change the way I manage my projects. Meanwhile, you can find out more about Casual.pm from the explainer video below.
Co-founder of www.galilea3.com. An Engineer, Marketing graduate, teacher, vocalist and blogger, among other things. Churchill loves all things opensource, especially Drupal, Linux and PHP. He blogs about productivity apps, tips and parenting as well as any time saving tips and tricks at www.bestapplications4u.com. Follow Churchill on Twitter to learn more about the best productivity tools and tips Follow @churchillls
Mon, 09 Dec 2013
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