7 Free Tools to Increase Your Productivity

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Being a small business or a startup means you don’t have much to spend on fancy tools, but a small business also needs to be extremely focused and productive to compete with bigger and more established businesses! Here are some tools I use that make my workweek easier, and that you might want to try out. Each of these is free, or has a free version you can use.

Evernote

Evernote lets you take notes (text, audio, video), store web-clips, documents and stores all of these on the cloud so you can access from any of your devices. It’s an installed application, so you can use it even when you are offline and it syncs the data when you are connected. Most of us use multiple devices nowadays with one computer at work, another at home and then smart phone and maybe a tablet – install Evernote on each one and your life will be much easier. There is a web version too, if you prefer that.

Evernote for notes and storing files for later

I recently won a one-year paid subscription of Evernote in a weekly give-away by in50Hrs, allowing me to add attachments in the notes and collaborate in real time with other users. But I rarely use the premium features: the free version is good enough for regular use.

Jing

A QA engineer in my previous organisation introduced me to Jing, and since then I have been a regular user. It’s a small app that helps you capture screenshots, add annotations or highlights, and store it either on your device or on the cloud. You can take a photo of your computer screen by using the Print Screen button on your keyboard, but Jing is much more convenient.

You can use Jing to show your web designer the error you are getting on your new site or to create a quick tutorial for your customers. Jing makes it all fun and easy and even lets you create quick videos!

All screenshots in this post were taken using Jing, obviously.

Google Spreadsheet

This is your Excel in the Google world but the collaboration aspect makes it much more useful. It is part of Google Docs and you can easily access it from the “Drive” link on your Gmail page or by going to docs.google.com. You can create new spreadsheets or upload existing Excel files and convert to Google sheet format for online editing. It’s browser-based (works best on Google Chrome, obviously) so you don’t need to install anything and your documents are in the cloud so you can access from anywhere.

Google Spreadsheet to manage tasks

If you are an advanced Excel user like me, it will take some patience to get used to Google Spreadsheets. But trust me, it’s worth it. What I love most is that I can share my documents with others and don’t have to email a copy every time something changes. It’s perfect for small teams as you can create your task lists or status reports, share them within the team and update as you go. There is a powerful auditing feature that shows you who made what changes when.

Go give it a try if you haven’t yet, and let me know if you want some tips and tricks!

Readability

Do you like reading long articles? Then you will love Readability. If you don’t (like me), then you must use Readability. It can sit on your browser as a small plugin. When you find something on the web that you want to read later, click on the Readability icon and it will be saved in your account. You can go to the website or install Readability app on your tablet to read these articles later.

Sounds like just a bookmarking tool? No, the difference is small but powerful. Readability presents these articles to you in a very clean and longform-friendly manner and makes it much easier to read more – without the distraction of advertising, fancy formatting, or having to click through multiple pages.

I have started reading with a lot more concentration since I started using Readability. Try it to see if it works for you too. There are other apps like Instapaper and Reeder that have similar functionality but they aren’t free.

Flipboard

Don’t like read long articles and prefer skimming through the headlines? Like pictures in your content? Have a lot of websites or news sources you like to look go through every morning (or evening)? Want an easy way to look through the links your friends are sharing on Twitter or Facebook?

Flipboard to flip through articles easily

Flipboard is a perfect way to do all this and more. I have stopped using all other news apps now and I spend first half hour of my day only on Flipboard.  There is no web or desktop version yet, but if you have an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet then you must give it a try.

Remember The Milk

This app with the funny name is a personal task management tool that is hugely popular – and deservedly so. The interface is simple and intuitive – so much so that it makes you wonder why other applications aren’t so smart. It lets you create and share tasks with dates and sends you reminders on the due date. You can create recurring tasks like bill payments or can even create tasks without due dates. There is also a paid version with some advanced features and a fully-functional mobile app.

Remember The Milk lets you easily set and manage reminders, perfect for personal or work task management

Dropbox

One more cloud storage and collaboration app to end this list, and you have probably heard of this one or of similar ones like Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive or Box.com (here is a comparison if you are interested). Dropbox gives you 2 GB storage space on the cloud for free, where you can store your files and access from anywhere. The best way to use Dropbox is to install it on all your devices and just drag and drop files you want stored on the cloud. It’s your hard drive on the cloud so you don’t have to worry about losing important documents if your laptop crashes.

You can get 250 BM extra for each friend you refer or you can buy extra space. Dropbox is also an excellent referral marketing success story and they are doing it yet again with the new Space Race campaign.

What productivity tools do YOU use? Do share your tips on these tools or others you may be fond of.

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About Nilesh

Nilesh has worked in the IT industry for nine years, and is both a PMP and an MBA in marketing. He has worked in and with small businesses, managing projects, leading teams, and improving business processes.At Markitty, Nilesh translates requirements into tasks and timelines. He jumps into whatever is needed, whether it’s marketing, design, or technical architecture. He also keeps the others sane with his intermittent wisecracking.

5 thoughts on “7 Free Tools to Increase Your Productivity

    1. Oh yes, I liked Clear. Though I am not using it right now, and have also stopped using Remember The Milk for a while.

      Didn’t know about TeuxDeux, but the calendar view looks interesting. Will try it soon.

      Thanks :-)

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