While looking for ways to boost our productivity, we usually focus on the most popular methods – calendars and scheduling, to-do lists, and E-mail management. But you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you stopped at this. While these three might very well offer the best bang for the buck when it comes to streamlining our workday and cutting out flab from our schedules, there are many other areas where we inadvertently end up spending more time than we actually need to. This goes even for those of you who’ve managed to trim down your schedules and automate as many of your tasks as possible –look around and there will be ways you can make yourself even more efficient.
The biggest time-wasters of the day aren’t the big tasks, but the little ones that add up over time. Here are some ways – and the apps that make it easy for you – to minimize time you spend on these little tasks:
‘Read it later’ apps let you focus on what needs to be done
The Internet’s definitely changed how we work and communicate – it’s probably impossible for anyone to even imagine what work would be like without Internet access. Sadly, what the Internet’s also done is to make it far easier for us to get distracted or sidetracked – that Wikipedia page you came across, the E-mail link to a webcomic someone sent you, or even a YouTube video of the latest meme.
While no one would argue that these are anything but harmless, getting distracted even momentarily results in a lot of wasted time as it’s not easy to regain focus. Here are some apps that let you save stuff for reading later at your own convenienceRead it later apps: Specialized ‘read it later’ apps like Pocket (www,getpocket.com), Instapaper (www.instapaper.com), and Readability (www.readbility.com) allow you to save articles for future use. Most of these are also available on Android and iOS, and for users of Windows Phone, some also offer RSS access that can be added to your newsreader app. These apps usually work on your desktop by adding a browser extension, and some also offer Email access for when you come across an interesting link on your smartphone. Another advantage of these read it later apps is that they also offer ‘clean’ modes that strip out all but the article content – removing all clutter that’s usually found on most websites.
Evernote Web Clipper: For users of Evernote (www.evernote.com), this powerful ‘office assistant’ app also offers a web clipper browser extension that functions just like a specialized read it later app
Safari Reading List: For those living in the Apple ecosystem, the Safari browser offers a ‘Reading List’ feature that lets you save pages for reading later; best of all, whatever you save is synced across all your iOS devices.
Keep passwords secure with a passwords manager
Our main security tools – passwords – are also perhaps the most glaring vulnerability when it comes to keeping information secure. You might be using several online services each day – work and personal E-mail, Facebook, your employee logon, Dropbox, banking... Not only are separate (we do hope you don’t ever re-use passwords!) passwords difficult to manage when you have perhaps a dozen services you use regularly, but the complexity requirements some enforce make it even more of a pain.
What this does is, paradoxically, reduce security as you either end up jotting down passwords on a sticky note, or make them as simple as possible, or perhaps even reuse them. (Not to mention the time you waste with all those pesky password reminder questions and captchas.)
This is where password managers like Lastpass (www.lastpass.com) and Keepass (www.keepass.info) come in. Offering high-grade encryption, mobile access, and even hardware dongle support, these password managers integrate with your browser of choice, offering to save passwords, credit card, and registration information.
Time Tracking lets you keep track of your activities
Time tracking apps are quite beloved of freelancers and professionals who bill by the hour. But they have a place in anyone’s productivity armory. Why would you want to use a time tracker if you don’t bill by the hour? Simple: Keeping track of how you spend your time can show where exactly you ought to focus to improve your work efficiency and quality of life.
Harvest (www.getharvest.com) is perhaps the most popular of the lot. With its team tracking abilities, Harvest can also help you organize how your department works. You can also try out alternatives like Toggl (www.toggl.com) and Klok (www.getklok.com).
Niraj is the Founder of GrexIt. GrexIt turns Gmail into a powerful collaboration tool by letting you share your Gmail labels. When not working at GrexIt on programming or customer support, Niraj likes to play guitar.
Niraj can be reached on Twitter at nirajr.