Fundamental productivity improvements typically come from making changes in your behaviour – but there’s no harm in getting a little help from Silicon Valley.
Apps, there’s a lot of them. You’ll find around 2.5 million on Android and just over two million on iOS. More than 6000 new apps are added to the Google Play Store alone per day. Most of these, of course, are utter trash. For every Instagram or Snapchat there’s a hundred like iFrench Kiss (tongue pash your phone!) or Real Razor, an electric razor simulator that is not, in any respect, real. But good apps are indispensable, and a decade on from the birth of the smartphone managing your apps and finding the ones that work for you has became a basic requirement of life.
Unfortunately, with so many out there it can be hard to know which ones are useful and which ones are just good marketing, particularly when it comes to productivity. Here are some ideas…
For collaborating: Trello
Based on the kanban scheduling system Trello is an intuitive collaboration tool for teams to manage projects and day-to-day work. Far more basic and visually appealing than similar tools, the card-based system allows you and your team to monitor progress of tasks through to completion. “Power-Ups” deliver all kinds of integrations with other apps although you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
How will it save you time? Used properly it will eliminate hours of “what was I meant to be doing again?” thumb-twiddling, and with full transparency on your team’s progress you’ll eliminate time spent trying to keep tabs on everything.
For avoiding distractions: Freedom
A neat way to force upon you the discipline that you’re unable to apply yourself, Freedom is based on a simple concept: what if you could just block all the apps and websites you find yourself compulsively checking a few dozen times a day? You can block individual sites or categories (e.g. “social” or “news”) and it even has a “locked mode” which prevents you from changing your mind once your block session starts.
How will it save you time? Freedom reckons its customers report an average of 2.5 hours of productive time reclaimed each day.
For writing: Grammarly
The free version is basically a glorified spellchecker, but the paid version of Grammarly will actually make grammatical recommendations on the fly and improve the quality of your written work. Replace your existing smartphone keyboard with Grammarly’s and it integrates with all your apps, so you can sound like a smarty-pants whether you’re writing an email or commenting on the group chat.
How will it save you time? Grammarly takes the guesswork out of grammatical conundrums so no only will you be able to communicate better, you’ll be able to do it quicker.
For getting things done: Wunderlist
Basically a to-do list on steroids, Wunderlist allows you to set reminders, invite collaborators and share lists with others. You can also sync your reminders with your work calendar and the “smart due dates” function that identifies dates in text (e.g. “tomorrow” or “Wednesday next week”) and converts them into calendar events is also pretty nifty.
How will it save you time? You can record voice memos and attach them to tasks rather than typing out long-winded notes – great if you’re sharing lists with other people.
For communicating: Slack
We wrote about Slack in our email alternatives piece last year and it remains one of the best communication tools out there. Email is not going away anytime soon, but it’s worth considering switching all internal communication to Slack and reserving email for external communications only.
How will it save you time? The single threaded conversation is a way to ensure complete transparency among the team, so no more productivity-killing “sorry, forgot to copy you in” disasters. And some of the automations possible with integrations and bots will blow your mind.
For automating everything: Zapier
Not a productivity app per se, Zapier is one of an emerging class of integration platforms that allow you to set up actions in one application that are triggered in another. For example, you can create a “zap” that automatically saves Outlook email attachments to your Google Drive account, or generate new Mailchimp contacts from your Zendesk support platform. There are literally thousands of options, although it’ll cost you once you’ve set up more than a handful.
How will it save you time? Write a list of all the annoying repetitive actions you do every day on your PC or smartphone and how much time you spend doing them… then imagine not having to do those things ever again.
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