Eight Applications that Will Increase
Your Productivity

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship."

— U.S. statesman Ben Franklin

When Ben Franklin first wrote the above words in his essay, The Way to Wealth, in 1757, he was obviously issuing a warning about finances.

But if you replace the word “expenses,” it's also applicable to other areas of life. For instance, a series of small lies can spread and sink a person's integrity. Small typos can kill an author's credibility.

And it's also true of time. Sporadically wasting seconds and minutes during the day can put a serious dent in your productivity.

If you can do menial tasks faster, you’re bound to not only get more done each day, but you`ll have to work less overall hours per week, which translates into making more money per hour.

Today I'm going to focus on eight applications that can save you “small leaks” of time throughout the day:

  1. Automate your "to-do" lists — Do you use to-do lists? If you've considered moving them from pen and paper to your computer, this is the application that will help you make the leap: Teux Deux. It’s a bare bones, extremely easy to use to-do list application.

    You can check off, delete, or move tasks with the click of your mouse. You can quickly jump days, weeks, and months ahead to schedule future tasks. And to save you time, it rolls over unchecked tasks to the next day. There's also a "Someday" area, where you can jot down ideas and tasks that you aren’t ready to execute, but want to keep top of mind. There's also an iPhone app that will sync automatically with the online version. Best of all, it's free.

    If you're looking for something a bit more feature-rich in terms or managing your daily tasks, you might want to consider using Todoist. Todoist allows you to add sub-tasks and due dates to your projects and tasks. You can also prioritize your tasks. For Google Chrome and Firefox users, there are add-ons that allow you to access your Todoist list right from your browser.

    For Chrome users who use Gmail, with one click, you can add an email as a task and input the date you need to respond by. With the $29 premium version of Todoist, you can set up labels and reminders to yourself, among other features.

  2. A convenient and free way to keep track of stories and articles you want to read, but not right now — Have you ever caught yourself reading an online article or news story unrelated to what you're working on and felt guilty about it? So you decide not to finish reading it, promising to read it later. But then you can't find it!

    Well, you won't have that problem once you install Pocket into your browser. Formerly called “Read it Later,” this free app lets you save web pages you want to read later into their well-designed interface for easy recall. You can also add links to your "pocket list" by sending the link to the email “add@getpocket.com.” It even lets you archive and star items. There is a Google Chrome extension. If you don't use Google Chrome as your browser, there is a bookmark button for the other browsers. It also works with most mobile devices.

  3. Get more information instantly about the people you communicate with via email — I use Gmail as my main email address. I use their inbox to send and receive emails, not only for my email that ends in "@gmail.com," but from my other non-Gmail email accounts I use. (If you're unfamiliar with this feature, go to Setting, then Accounts, and you'll see the two links you need to click on to send and receive from another email address.)

    If you don't use Gmail, Rapportive is not for you. It's a simple little browser plug-in that replaces the Google ads on the right side of the screen with additional contact details and social media information associated with the email you are communicating with. If you want to connect with the person who sent you the email on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can now do so with the click of the mouse from within Gmail.

  4. Self-manage where you spend your time online better — Do you ever suspect that you might be spending too much time on Facebook or some other website — and not enough time working? To track where you spend your time, simply sign up for Rescue Time, a web-based application. It gives you various reports on how much time you use your word processing application versus how much time you spend surfing the net (among other metrics). There is a free version and also a pay version that offers more comprehensive reporting.

  5. Be more productive by working in 25-minute chunks — As a freelance writer, you've probably heard of legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz's method for working during the day. He'd work for 33.33 minutes and then take a five-minute break.

    If you’ve been considering it, here is a different take. It's based on the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. Instead of Schwartz's 33-minute periods, the Pomodoro Technique uses 25 minutes.

    To keep track of the 25 minutes, there is free application called Focus Booster that comes in both an online and downloadable version. Here are the five main steps of the Pomodoro Technique: 1) Decide on the task to be done, 2) Start the timer, 3) Work on the task until the timer rings, 4) Record the status of the task, 5) Take a short break (5 minutes). You then start all over again. With every four 25-minute chunks, you take a longer break (15-20 minutes).

  6. Remind yourself at a future date what you want out of life — Do you have big plans and goals? Would it be helpful to have someone remind you of those goals automatically down the road to make sure you're on track? If you answered "Yes," this is the application for you. It's free and very easy to use.

    Simply go to Dreaminder.com and enter your message to your future self and select when you want to send it. You don't get to specify the time of the day you'll receive your message, just the date. Besides your dreams, you can also use Dreaminder to motivate yourself, remind you of important dates in the future, such as deadlines, client follow-ups, and birthdays, etc. There's no limit to the number of future messages you can send.

  7. Find the meaning of a word online with two clicks — If you're a Google Chrome user, installing the Google Dictionary add-on means you can click on a word online (one that's not linked) and a box will appear above it with the definition of the word. This can be a big time saver when reading online. There's also an audio button you can click on to hear the proper pronunciation of the word. Clicking "more" in the bottom right-hand corner of the box will take you to the full Google Dictionary definition.

  8. Save some clicks if you're using Windows 8 — I recently upgraded to Windows 8 from Windows 7. While I'm happy with my decision and feel that the "mobile device style apps" the new interface gives you access to are a step forward, it does take some extra clicks when going from screen to screen and accessing your programs.

    To reduce the number of clicks and have the option of using the same "Start Menu" interface you’re familiar with from Windows 7, there's a small piece of software you can add to Windows 8. It's called Start8 and it's only $5. Start8 puts the familiar Windows 7 Start Menu back into Windows 8, essentially giving you the best of both worlds.

Ben Franklin was also the first person to say, “Time is Money.”

If you take advantage of at least some of the above software, you should be able to save small amounts of time here and there throughout the day. This might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up.

And in the spirit of Ben Franklin, preventing small leaks from happening can have a huge effect on your big picture progress.

The War of Art

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Published: February 8, 2013

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