18 Productivity Tools To Maximize Your Efficiency

Goal: No matter what profession you’re working in, efficiency matters.  Here’s a list of our favorite productivity tools.

Being able to get more done in less time is the key to getting ahead — whether you’re looking for a big promotion within your traditional corporate job or hoping to take your growing startup to the next level.

Fortunately, with the number of tools on the market today, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of the online resources that will help you to increase the amount you’re able to accomplish.  The following are just a few of our favorites:

Stay Organized

1. Realtimeboard

Whiteboards are awesome for brainstorming and creating concepts. Unfortunately, whiteboards tend to run out of space and you can’t save them. Realtimeboard.com solves that problem – Organize text, notes or post-its. Use the browser plugin to capture things you want to insert in your whiteboard later. The best thing: Unlimited space! Free for up to 3 boards.

2. LastPass

It’s no secret that password management is an extremely important priority for business people – especially considering the recent hacking of Wired Magazine’s Mat Honan.

However, coming up with and remembering the hundreds of strong, secure passwords needed to manage multiple logins is inefficient and often downright impossible without a password management program like LastPass.

LastPass is a highly secure, free program that will automatically generate and store secure passwords, enabling you to create nearly un-hackable logins that are served up by the program whenever you need to login to a website.  And while there are plenty of programs offering this functionality on the market today, I prefer LastPass for its mobile integrations (though you’ll need to upgrade to the $12/year premium subscription) and its range of multi-factor authentication processes (which protect your password data even more).

Obviously, these seven tools represent only a handful of the efficiency products that are available online today.  If you’ve got another recommendation that’s made a difference in your organization’s productivity, share your thoughts in the comments section below!

3. Yast

There are plenty of different time-tracking tools out there, but Yast is one of the best, by far.  Its intuitive interface is easy to understand and simple to use, making tracking your time less of a chore and more of a business priority.

For best results, though, don’t just use this tool for business.  Use it to track how much time you’re spending on unimportant tasks (e.g. goofing around online or watching TV at home) in order to “split test your life” and become more efficient overall.

4. Bitrix24

For some reason, Bitrix24 isn’t widely known — and I think that’s a shame.  The program combines a social intranet system with CRM tools that include contact tracking, sales funnel management, messaging, activity planning and calendars, all of which enable your team to quickly manage important pieces of information from within a central program.

Best of all, it’s free for teams with fewer than 12 people (subscription plans for larger groups are modestly priced as well).

5. Trello

Trello is a cute, relatively simple and handy way to stay organized. It looks a lot like a Pinterest board, but instead of being totally photo-centric, Trello lets you add lists, labels, and tasks that you can drag, drop, and play with at your leisure. While it’s nothing revolutionary, it could be just the thing for visual organizers and serves as a nice alternative to covering your monitor in post-it notes.

trello

6. Evernote

Evernote is a handy and versatile app that can save notes (audio and text), organize photos, set reminders, and upload attachments, all synced across your various desktop and mobile devices. Plus, Evernote’s bookmarklet makes it easy to clip web articles and store them for later reading. If you’re constantly jumping devices, this one is for you.

best productivity tools

Save Time Through (Semi-)Automation

7. Sanebox**

Unsurprisingly, Sanebox performs the exact task described in its name: it restores some sanity to the clutter of your inbox.  Once installed, the program automatically filters newsletters and other lower-priority email messages into a “Read Later” folder, ensuring that only priority communications reach your inbox.

Currently, the program runs for $55/year (with monthly and two-year subscriptions available as well), though you can take advantage of a 50 percent discount by allowing the company to post a few messages to your Facebook account.  However, even if you aren’t comfortable with this, the roughly $5/month you’ll spend to install Sanebox is more than worth the time saved sifting through unimportant email messages.

8. Google Drive (and Company)

Google Drive (along with Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets) makes it easy to share and edit an array of files. Team members can even chat and share notes from within a document. It’s free, awesome, and not worth missing out on.

9. Buffer

Buffer makes it extraordinarily easy to share web articles via social media without headache and hassle. Simply log into Buffer, connect social media accounts, and schedule specific content sharing times. When you’re out and about surfing the web and see an article you know your followers will love, hit the Buffer bookmarklet button and Buffer will throw that article into your queue, which it will then share at one of your designated share times.

buffer

Buffer helps promote great content across the web and helps you store and share content so you don’t cram articles down the throats of your followers all at once.

10. IFTTT

IFTTT, standing for If This Then That, lets you craft “recipes” that allow for various apps and services to connect and work together. For example, I can create an IFTTT recipe that automatically uploads my Instagram photos to my Google Drive account.  Create awesome integration with zero programming experience! If you can think it, you can IFTTT it.

ifttt

IFTTT can be utilized in endless combinations, and not just with regards to social media. However, social media users will find this an essential tool in their social shed.

11. Rescue Time

Rescue Time is a similar concept to Toggl, but offers more advanced features.

Rescue Time can be installed on your computer and will track what programs and websites you spend the most time on. It’s a pretty incredible tool, showing not only where you’re spending your time, but also what hours are your least/most productive, along with your best and worst days of the week (and month).

The Premium upgrade lets you block out distracting sites and offers even more filters. Still, the free version packs an impressive amount of insight. Try Rescue Time and see how you can make yourself more productive!

time tracking tools

12. Hemingway

Back when I was compiling a list of the best content marketing tools, one WordStream commenter (thanks Nicole!) made a suggestion of trying out Hemingway – it’s a great little tool that checks your grammar and highlights potential sentence danger zones as you write. Give it a type!

hemingway

13. Google Alerts

Keep instant tabs on when your business or brand is mentioned anywhere on the web. Not only is this handy for keeping track of PR, but it’s also a great way to make sure that you’re getting links from anyone who mentions you biz.

productivity tools

14. Unroll.Me

Unroll.Me neatens up your inbox by compiling all your newsletters (which you select) into one rolled up email bundle that you can open and scan when you feel like it.

Unroll.Me helps hide email clutter and also lists out all of your email subscriptions (beware, this can get pretty gruesome). Use the Unroll.Me unsubscribe option to kick some of those suffocating newsletters to the curb.

email productivity

Increase Focus

15. WriteMonkey

If you’re working on a writing project that requires your complete focus, you need the WriteMonkey program.  Once activated, the tool transforms your computer into a full-screen writing environment that blocks out the distractions of standard computer interfaces.  Not only is it free to use, it’s highly customizable, allowing you to set the color schemes and options that make you as productive as possible.

16. StayFocused

StayFocused is a free Chrome extension that restricts the amount of time you are allowed to spend on “time-wasting websites” like Facebook. The tool is ultra-customizable – choose which websites (or specific pages) to block, how long to block them for, etc.

Mobile Productivity Tools

17. Chrome to Mobile

This awesome Chrome extension let’s you move webpages and other stuff you’re working on directly to your phone, so you can continue your efforts easily when on the move.

18. Pocket

Pocket is a sweet little app that lets you save awesome content (articles, images, videos, etc.) to check out later.

Picture this: you’re surfing around researching and see a fun article about the all-time best Pokemon (Arcanine, duh). Hit the Pocket button in your bookmark toolbar and the article will go straight to your Pocket. Pocket syncs across devices so you that later on you can read those fun articles and watch YouTube videos of mini pot-bellied pigs during the train ride home.

top productivity tools

Bonus Productivity Tips

Bonus advice activated! Here are some general productivity tips to get you going.

  • Learn Keyboard Shortcuts. Shortcuts can save you oodles of time, so if you spent many an hour in Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, take the time to learn major shortcuts. Soon they’ll become part of your muscle memory and you’ll wonder how you ever got on without them!
  • Clean Up That Computer. If you’re like me, then you’re a total tab monster, your desktop is covered in screenshots, and your computer rarely shuts down completely. All these semi-small issues amount to one big problem for your poor struggling computer. Tidy things up, empty the trash once in a while, and let the tuckered little thing sleep at night. A faster computer means a faster you, so don’t neglect the simple fixes.
  • Old School Lists. Despite all the awesome tools we covered here today, there is something unique about writing down a good ol’ fashioned list. The physical aspect of handwriting a task list (and crossing out those to-dos) can be quite cathartic. Not everything needs to be digitized my friends.
  • Don’t Burn Yourself Out. Contrary to what corporate may think, you just can’t be a productive machine 9-5 all day, every day. Our brains don’t work that way, and trying to activate robot mode will only hamper you in the long run. Humans actually achieve their maximum productivity when they’re happy and getting plenty of down time throughout the day. Read up on the Pomodoro Technique and make sure you are building regular respites in your day so you don’t fry your circuits.
  • Be Realistic About Time Management. Structuring your day into time blocks is a great way to go into a new day feeling confident. However, being unrealistic about how long it will take you to finish that e-mail newsletter won’t do you any favors. Give yourself plenty of time to get tasks done (and include breaks!)

That concludes our list of top personal and business productivity tools! May they lead to a speedier, more efficient you. Do you have any awesome productivity tools or time management tools you want to recommend that we didn’t call out here? Share your faves in the comments below.

Yorick Tran
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Yorick Tran

Founder at Life Institute
Hi, I am the founder of the Life Institute. I hope you get some valuable learnings here. If you have any questions, please contact me on my facebook account or via our intern community messaging!
Yorick Tran
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