Personal Development

5 Free Productivity Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

productive

 

There are a good many productivity apps out there, and I’ve tried many of them in my never ending quest for greater efficiency 😉

It’s very hard to get new tools to stick if you’re already in a routine, but today I want to tell you a little about some of those which have really stuck for me. I use these every day and find them invaluable.


#1 Trello 

I just love Trello. Essentially it’s a PM tool for tracking progress through projects, but I’ve seen it used well in so many different scenarios.

In the recruitment industry, you can use it to track touches in with future candidates who are not yet qualified enough to make it onto the company database. In HR, use it to make your employee on-boarding process smoother. You can use it to track your own to do list, or even to track individual projects. You can use it alone, or have your whole team working off the same board. And it just integrates with everything! Google Drive, Slack, Github…

It has some great features like labels (so you can mark work you’re doing for different people or departments, or mark things as important/urgent), you can make cards fade as they age, you can set deadlines on cards, and you can add team members to your cards so they have visibility over your work.

I use it for tracking all major projects I’m working on, as well as my personal to do list.  On my main board I have an ‘urgent tasks’ list, a ‘key projects’ list, and then a ‘wait’ list and a ‘meetings’ list. I’ve found the key meetings list to be particularly useful when you’re working in a fast-paced environment. I don’t get too much face time with my managers, so when I do I want to make the most of it. Every time I think of something I need to discuss with a certain person, it goes on a card with that person’s name on. Then, when you do sit down to meet, the agenda is already there. Watch your meetings become instantly more efficient!

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 16.54.19Trello usage

Why not give it a go?

#2 Pocket

Pocket is a neat app where you can store articles of interest to read later. If you find yourself getting easily distracted online (like I do), then this is the app for you. Using the Google extension, you can simply click the Pocket icon when you find an interesting article, and it will save it for you to read later. Then when you’re on the train home you can just kick back and tackle your pre-prepared reading list. And you’ll be able to keep you focus and not find yourself suddenly remembering the real reason you logged into LinkedIn 45 minutes ago…

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If you opt in, Pocket also sends you article suggestions based on what you like to read, which can be a neat way of expanding your horizons.

#3 Canva

A fantastic, simple, design app. This will be a life saver if, like me, you often want to edit or create basic images, or create infographics, but you don’t have the time or money to learn Photoshop or InDesign. A wonderful friend showed me this app around 6 months ago, and I’ve used it every day.

It’s extremely simple to use, with lots of pre-designed templates for you to edit, but you can also create your own things from scratch and upload as many images as you want. You can match all colours to whatever you choose (like company approved palettes) and upload your own fonts. There is a premium corporate version, which I trialled for a month, which offers templates more appropriate for a work environment, and also allows you to have teams working off the same account, and your own company colours and logos stored for ease of access. It isn’t expensive to get this upgrade, but I didn’t find it offered anything particularly essential, so the free version will do you fine 🙂

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You can instantly give your social media posts, presentations and email campaigns a boost with custom and tailored graphics.

#4 Cronycle

This is a content collation platform, at the time of writing currently still in Beta, and thus free to use. It does some of the same things as Pocket (in that you can ‘clip’ articles from the web to a board using a Chrome extension) but it goes far beyond it too. I use this platform for social media scheduling, and mainly use the Boards and Collections features.

Collections has a Trello-like layout – columns of boards which you set with filters. You can ask the platform to curate content from thousands of sources across the web using a Boolean search string, and also how many and how often it will pull in articles that match your chosen search. I find this extremely useful for making sure I stay in the know about relevant news articles, as well as for finding interesting content to share on social media.

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The Boards feature is where you can clip in content from the web (using the extension I mentioned). I add team members to my account so that they can all clip content they come across quickly and easily, and I can then share it online. If you can get your company on board with using this (and it is very easy to use) then it would be a huge asset for content marketers.

#5 Email Tools

Sort of cheating to put it in one, as I want to talk about 2 tools!

The first is Rapportive. I still use it now, but I used it every day when I worked in recruitment. It basically sits in Gmail and shows your contact’s LinkedIn profile alongside your draft email to that person. What this means for you is you can tell when you’ve correctly guessed somebody’s email address. No more sending out 20 speculative emails and getting 19 bounce backs.

The second is ‘Shane’s email tools’. This guy is a recruiter/developer who has created some awesome tools for email searching. The one I use most is his ’email tools’ which is a tab sitting on your bookmark bar (make sure you enable bookmark bar before trying to add this) and coded (I believe) in JavaScript, which allows you to search for emails attached to any web domain, and then scrape them off the web. Essentially it’s the same thing as Rapportive – a way for you to find people’s email addresses if you don’t know them already. Here are some instructions for using:

  • Go to this link, and drag the blue box saying ‘Email tools’ up to your toolbar so it attaches.
  • To use:
    • Go to company website
    • Once on the page click the email tools from your toolbar and say ‘find emails for this domain’ which redirects you to another search page
    • On this search page go back to ’email tools’ and click ‘scrape email addresses’
    • Look for any email addresses from your company i.e firstname.surname or firstinitial.surname etc. Then try these out on Rapportive for your contact until it matches a LinkedIn profile.

Here is an example using a random website for Rolls Royce.


So there you have it. Go forth, and be productive!

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