Apps to Improve Productivity
While most people still think of apps as just being on their smartphones or tablets, the emergence of web apps, extensions and even smart watches has redefined what they can do. Combining various apps across devices can certainly help increase your efficiency, and many apps are useful both in the office and at home.
Here are a few that can help you reach your productivity peak.
In an earlier article on time management, we mentioned some tools that can help simplify your emails, especially if you get a lot of them. Google Inbox is one of the best for Gmail users, with a variety of features. One of our favourites is the “snooze” function, which takes an email out of your inbox until a set time. This is a great way get into the habit of only responding when it’s time for emails, and staying focused on other tasks when it’s not.
Speaking of those other tasks, Inbox also has a built-in reminder function, letting you make quick to-do lists that will pop up at set times or locations. It will even suggest reminders when someone emails you with a task. Other features include automatically bundling similar emails together, such as promos and purchases, browsing attachments such as photos, tickets, and reservations without even opening emails, and an “undo send” feature in case you catch a last-minute mistake.
If you want to make your email even more streamlined, combining Unroll.me with Inbox can be the ultimate time-saver. Unroll.me provides a simple service that allows you to manage all of those email newsletters you’ve subscribed to that just seem to clutter your inbox. When you sign up to Unroll.me, it finds all those subscriptions and gives you three options – unsubscribe, keep in inbox, or add to Rollup.
The first two options do pretty much what they say on the tin – unsubscribe from the least important newsletters and keep the important ones coming as is. The Rollup is the really clever part – a daily digest that collects all the emails together into one. The Rollup has previews of the emails, so you can quickly scan them and decide whether to read them, with just a simple click, or not.
If you’re looking for a simple note-taking app, you can’t do better than Keep. Another app from Google, Keep provides great ways to create, organise, and search different kinds of notes. Simple text notes are, of course, a given, but it also allows easy creation of photo and voice notes as well as the ability to turn any note into a checklist. You can sort the notes into different categories using colours or tags, and the search includes the notes’ content, not just their titles.
Its Reminder function is very similar to Inbox’s – in fact, any reminders created in Keep will show up in Inbox as well – and lets you choose whether the notification will be time-based or location-based. This includes allowing you to set custom times for morning, noon and evening to speed up scheduling. The voice note feature is particularly good, converting speech into text as well as attaching the original recording to the note so you can listen to it later. Keep is a great tool for hanging on to all of your lists, quick notes and reminders in one convenient place.
There are really two kinds of notes, and that means two kinds of apps as well. Where Keep is great for the quick notes you write on the go, Evernote is better for the longer, more detailed ones. At its core, Evernote allows you to create multimedia notes, but with a nearly endless supply of features. You can organise the notes into notebooks, while simultaneously adding tags to find related notes in multiple notebooks. Using the web clipper to save articles makes research very straightforward, and you can even create links for the notes themselves so as to jump easily between them.
Evernote’s main difference from Keep, however, is its business functions. It has built-in features to make collaboration as simple as possible, including creating shared notes and in-app instant messages. You can even use it to build presentations, which, thanks to its cloud storage, you can run straight from your phone, saving you dragging around your clunky laptop.
If you’re looking for a simpler collaboration facility, Trello might be more your speed. A great project management app, Trello is basically like a digital corkboard – you create boards with lists of lists, and then add cards to the lists. The cards allow for comments, due dates, and attachments, and they can easily be dragged and dropped from one list to another.
Trello is highly visual and intuitive, making it easy to get the hang of. For instance, you can add colour-coded labels to the cards, making it easier to see linked items. Inviting people to work on a board is easy, as is tracking all the changes on the sidebar. Trello is incredibly flexible, with many uses outside of the workplace as well, such as planning a holiday or just a simple shopping trip.