6 free tools to increase your productivity
Increasing your productivity is the name of the game. Whether you’re trying to grow your business or just free up your time to actually enjoy life, the quicker you can cross things off your to-do list, the better.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to maximize your productivity. There are high-quality, free tools just waiting to help you get more done. From organizing your life and paperwork to batching your social media updates, these six tools will help you get more done in less time.
Don’t waste time emailing yourself documents, or trying to keep track of your files between multiple devices. Dropbox offers cloud-based, shareable storage for all of your files. With the help of apps, you can sync your files between devices so you always have access to everything you need. Also, this tool keeps your recently accessed files easy to pull up again. This will cut the time you used to spend browsing through files, trying to remember where you saved something.
In addition to just storing your own files, Dropbox allows you to easily share files with others. You can create entire folders that are shared, or just allow access to certain documents. When anyone makes a change to a shared file, all users are notified via email. This helps everyone stay up to date with the latest version.
With Dropbox Paper—a tool from Dropbox that’s currently Beta Testing, you can move beyond simply sharing documents and easily collaborate to create an entire document. You can leave comments for others, add stickers as comments, allow editing or viewing access, and more. The interface is simple and clean, minimizing distractions as you create.
While there are paid versions of Dropbox available, the free version provides 2GB of storage. Dropbox Paper docs currently don’t count against that limit, though the FAQ shares that this could change in the future.
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Are you trying to keep several different projects on track? Do you need to work collaboratively with other members of your team? Trello is a great project management tool for staying organized personally, or within a group.
In Trello, you can create boards, lists, and cards to help break down your to-do list visually. A board is the big picture. You might make a board for each project you’re working on, or for each of your clients.
Inside of each board, you can create lists and cards. These allow you to break down the big picture into manageable action steps. You can think of cards like virtual Post-It Notes. You can move them from board to board, drag and drop them within a board, or even make them color coded. But unlike traditional sticky notes, Trello cards offer a ton of versatility.
You can share cards with others, add an attachment or an image, and create a checklist on a card. Due dates are also easily added. You can add comments, which is helpful when collaborating with others. Here’s an example card for a blog post idea, so you can see all of the options you have when working with cards.
With Trello’s integrated Calendar Power-Up, a calendar with all of your assigned due dates appears. This helps keep everyone in a group reminded of upcoming due dates. Trello will help you and your group tackle your to-dos.
Any.do is a powerful to-do list you can sync between devices. While the company is encouraging users to pay for premium access, the free version is solid on its own.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be able to add lists or add an item to an existing list. A list is a category of tasks that you’ll add to. The existing lists are:
- Grocery List
- Personal Errands
- Work Projects
- Places to Visit
- Books to Read
- Movies to Watch
You can also add any customized list that you’d like. If you decide to view all tasks, they’ll be broken up by those due “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Upcoming,” and “Someday.” In each of these, you can add reminders or notes, attach a file, make a task recurring, and invite one other user to collaborate with you.
The Any.do interface is simple and without distraction. You simply click the plus button on the list you’d like to add to, assign the day you’d like to get it done by, and type it in. If desired, you can assign a priority to each task. You also have the option of viewing by priority. This way you can ensure you get the most essential tasks done first. They’ll be marked with a yellow star, as in this image.
When you’re able to batch tasks, you can accomplish a lot in a short period of time. With the free version of Buffer, you’ll be able to batch many of your social media updates. This will help ensure that marketing your business is something you actually cross off your to-do list.
Buffer allows individual users to link one Twitter account, one Facebook page or profile, one LinkedIn account, and one Google+ account for free. Once you’ve linked your accounts, the actual process of scheduling updates is fairly simple.
If you install the browser extension, you simply click the Buffer icon when you find a website you’d like to share with your followers. Then your account will automatically appear, and you’ll be able to customize the text you use. No more trying to remember what site you wanted to share!
Buffer also provides decent analytics of everything you’ve shared through their system. You can keep track of which posts got the most interaction, and easily re-buffer content to share again.
Most freelancers like getting paid. If you do, sending invoices is essential. That’s where Wave comes in. But, invoices aren’t the only essential paperwork you can complete with Wave. You’ll also be able to keep track of your business accounting, set up recurring bills and invoices, scan in receipts to make tax time easier, and complete a variety of financial reports.
Once you get going, you’ll be able to customize your invoices with your logo and pertinent information. That’ll help you present a professional image to your clients. You can easily add clients and save their information, making invoices a snap to send in the future.
Wave helps you tackle all of your money related to-do items in one interface, cutting down on the amount of time each process takes. It’s simple to learn, and won’t require a huge time investment to get started. It’s important to note that while Payroll Services are available through Wave, these aren’t available on the free plan.
Do you ever waste time online? RescueTime will help you track your usage, look for websites that are distracting for you, and set goals to increase your productivity going forward. These goals are set by creating a formula that’s just right for what you need. If you find yourself being distracted too easily, set a goal to help you limit your time on distracting websites.
Your weekly summary email will give you details on whether you met your goal or not. Then, you can make adjustments to your daily activity or decide to change your goal a bit. Just knowing that your time is being counted by this app can be enough to help increase your productivity.
Since some websites that are distracting to others are productive for you, you can even customize RescueTime a bit. You can select your top three distracting and productive activities, which will make your numbers mean more. If you’re on Facebook for work, it shouldn’t count as a distraction, right?
Keep the tools that help
There are tons of tools out there designed to help you get more done. Some of them won’t work for you, and that’s okay. If you come across a tool you like, give it a try. If it isn’t for you, don’t feel obligated to continue using it just because others find it useful. Keep the tools that help you be productive, and ditch the rest!