The Best (And Mostly Free) Tools To Kick Your Productivity Up A Notch
We all strive to be as productive as possible, but sometimes the world is just against us. Emails, meetings, texts, phone calls, social media. Everything seems to be getting in the way of us getting any work done.
Well it’s time to fight back. Boosting your productivity doesn’t have to be hard, and there are a lot of simple ways to do it (the majority of them are even free, so you don’t have to spend a cent).
Getting organised is one of the best ways to push up your productivity. If you know exactly where to find everything you need then you won’t have to waste time searching for anything. So here are some tools to help keep all your ideas, articles, and team members organised:
Evernote is one of my favourite tools for keeping everything organised. It’s basically a note-taking tool but you can take notes in different forms, like text, audio, attachments, and photos, and keep each note organised into its own folder (or notebook).
So you could have a notebook dedicated to blog post ideas. Every time you have an idea for a post, save a note in the notebook. If you find an article that will be useful for that idea, save the link in the notebook. If you come across an image that you think will look great in the post, you guessed it, save it in the notebook. This way, once you get around to writing the blog post, all your research will be in one place.
Evernote also syncs with an app on your phone, so there’s no excuse for losing a good idea just because you weren’t near your laptop.
Pocket works in a similar way to Evernote, it’s just a bit more basic. Like Evernote, you save articles to Pocket for reading later. You can tag saved items to make it easier to find them again in the future.
But the great thing I find with Pocket is that it stops me from being distracted when I should be working. If I find an article I want to read, but know I shouldn’t until I’m finished work, I can save it in Pocket and easily go back to it when I have the time.
If This Then That
This is a tool that took me a while to get to grips with, but once I did I loved it. It’s an automation tool that will save you so much time on all the little things that you don’t really think about.
IFTTT links different apps and tools to do certain tasks together. For example, you can set MailChimp to save all your new subscribers or campaign data to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Or save pages from Workflow to a shared Google Document so your whole team can see. Or even simply mute your phone when you arrive at work, or get to a meeting (which in itself reduces distractions from your phone, so it's win-win).
They’re all small, simple things that don’t take up a lot of time by themselves, but it all adds up. Cut out all the small things and you’ve got more time for the big things that need your attention.
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money then Asana is a great tool to keep your team organised and all on the same page.
Asana is a software that lets you create different projects, and tasks within that project, then assign these tasks to different team members. It helps you keep track of the progress within the project by seeing what tasks have been completed, and how far along other tasks are.
There are also conversation pages so the team can talk about tasks and projects and easily keep each other updated on their progress.
It saves time on sending emails and checking up on people when you have one database with all of that information easily accessible.
Manage Your Emails
Your inbox can be a pain in the ass. The constant ping of incoming emails is enough to drive even the best of us up the wall. And it definitely doesn’t help us get work done when we constantly have to check our inbox for fear of missing something important. So try out some tools that will make it all a bit easier to manage:
I love this website. It’s been such a lifesaver for me. I’m one of those people who signs up for random newsletters and blog subscriptions without really thinking about it, so my inbox is constantly full of unread emails that I keep saying I’ll get around to.
Cue Unroll Me. It’s a service that lists all of your subscriptions and gives you the option to keep them in your inbox, unsubscribe, or add to your Rollup (I’ll explain that in a sec).
Being able to see exactly what you’re subscribed to and being able to unsubscribe with one click is so satisfying. I didn’t even realise I was subscribed to half the stuff it showed me, and my inbox is so much emptier now that I’ve gotten rid of most of it.
Now for that Rollup I was talking about. It’s basically a daily roundup of all the emails you add to that list. So instead of them all coming into your inbox one by one, they come in one email that you can go through in your own time.
It has saved me so much time and stress that was normally reserved for going through my emails and I would recommend it to everyone.
SaneBox is a similar idea to Unroll Me. It goes through your inbox and judges what you deem important based on your normal email habits. It then transfers all of your unimportant emails to a separate folder so that you’re only getting the important emails in your inbox. You’re then free to go through the unimportant emails at a time that suits you.
It’s a great way to stop the constant influx of emails that might be stopping you from getting any actual work done.
Increase Your Focus
Sometimes all we need to be more productive is to be a little bit more focused on what we’re doing rather than being distracted by a lot of little things around us. So here are some tools that will help cut the distractions so you're concentrating on getting stuff done.
FocusWriter is great for anyone who needs to focus on writing one specific thing. It’s a full-screen writing platform that covers up any distractions from your desktop.
It’s basic in its design, which might put people off, but that’s exactly how it’s meant to be. There are no unnecessary bells and whistles to distract you from your writing, so it’s the perfect way to stop your attention from dwindling.
I’ve spoken about Cold Turkey before as a productivity tool. It lets you turn off certain websites so they can’t distract you. If you’re prone to taking social media breaks when you should be working then this is the tool for you.
You set a timer for when you want to unblock the sites, but you can’t unblock them at all until that timer stops, so choose your time carefully.
If you’ve got a bit of money to spend, Freedom is a great version of this type of software as well. You schedule a time to block certain websites, so if you know the afternoon is when you’re most likely to waste time on Facebook, then block it until your work is done.
I can’t work if there’s music on, I find it distracting and annoying. But I also hate a completely silent room, it’s creepy. So when I discovered Noisli it was a revelation.
It’s a background noise generator, so you can have a little bit of noise, but not so much that it’s distracting. You can choose different weather noises like rain, thunder or wind, the sound of a stream trickling or waves on a beach. Or for those who like to work in a cafe but don’t want to fork out for endless coffees, you can choose coffee shop noises (Coffitivity is great for cafe noises as well).
You can mix and match all the sounds as well to make it personal to you. My favourite is a bit of rain and wind with a crackling fire. Makes me feel all cosy, and definitely ready to get some work done.
Sometimes when you need to refocus on something, the best thing to do is step away from it for a few minutes. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you have a lot going on, or are spending a lot of time on one specific project.
Calm is a website that gives you guided meditations so you can relax and switch off from your projects for a few minutes. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get your mojo back.
Calm even has a specific focus and productivity section with 7 days of meditations to help you gain more focus.
Do Nothing For 2 Minutes
If meditation isn’t for you, but you still need a quick break, then Do Nothing For 2 Minutes is perfect. It’s a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of tool. You just do nothing for 2 minutes.
You listen to the sound of waves as a timer counts down 2 minutes on your screen. If you even so much as move your mouse the timer resets, so literally just sit there and do nothing.
It’s the perfect way to take a breather from your work for a couple of minutes so you can go back to it more focused.
So there you have it, all the tools you need to be more productive in work And if all else fails, just turn your computer off and go and get a cup of coffee. That always works for me.