Favorite Productivity Apps & Tools

Setting up my new laptop has been a real joy. It’s a blank slate. No hundreds of bookmarks nagging to be organized. The downloads folder is blissfully empty. No hidden programs or bloatware sucking up my space. It’s an opportunity to set up a supercharged productivity platform.

In the spirit of starting off on the best foot, I’ve been very picky in migrating only those programs and apps that I truly find valuable and then went on the hunt for new, better replacements for the others. A few of my favorites:

DropboxDropbox

I have always loved Dropbox and nothing has changed, although I just upgraded to a “Pro” (aka paid) user today, garnering 100G of space. Best $9.99/month I could spend, although I got away with 4G of free space for nearly 4 years, never once nagged by the beautiful and seamless storage platform to upgrade or donate. Getting more space on Dropbox prior to paying is actually fun – just click on “Get Free Space” at the top of your account page and link your social media pages, write a one-line love letter, tweet your review, and invite friends. I earned an extra 2G of space via the quick freebies.

chromeChrome

I am a loyal Chrome browser. It just works and I love the extensions. The AdBlock extension converted me to Chrome in the first place about 2 years ago – I’ve been blissfully pop-up free ever since. From there, I have adopted the Checker Plus for Gmail, Pin It Button, Evernote Web Clipper, and HootSuite extensions. I’m also rocking a gorgeous aurora borealis theme – much better than plain white browser tabs.  Finally, I just recently jumped into the Chrome Apps, where I fell in love with Wunderlist.

wunderlistWunderlist

I have been tracking a big picture to-do list for my own business, each of my clients, my personal tasks, and more in a Word doc for more than a year. I had tried multiple to-do list apps and tools and really tried to force the to-do list in GCal, because your calendar and your to-do list really should sync. Alas, Google has failed to integrate a useful to-do list concept.

Wunderlist is beautiful and functional. Change out the background, create dozens of lists, set reminders and deadlines, make notes on each, and even attach files to a task. I can click on “Today” and see all of my tasks, sorted by list, that are due. The best part? When I check off an item, it makes a swoosh sound that is terribly gratifying. It of course syncs up seamlessly with my iPhone so that I can check in and check off tasks on the go. Love it.

evernoteEvernote

When I first started using Evernote, I wasn’t quite sure how it would be useful. After more than a year, for me, Evernote represents all of my quick reference content. I have a “note” with hundreds of quotes that I can quickly search, another with a list of books I want to read that I can check-off as I go, and notes for each book I read where I want to record the major take-aways and ideas for future reference. It also syncs with my iPhone, so I can quickly record ideas and even dictate quick notes.

smartsheetSmartSheet

For a project manager, SmartSheet is a dream come true. It’s essentially an intuitive and collaborative version of Excel, hosted online. Gantt sheets are built-in, but my favorite part is that I can track tasks, events, or other date-specific lists just like I would in Excel, with all of the helpful sort features, and with one click, it converts over to the calendar view where I can see who is doing what and when. This is INCREDIBLE. I’ve just scratched the surface with SmartSheet over the past week, but I’m already addicted.

infusionsoftInfusionsoft

I’m not personally using Infusionsoft…yet. It represents an investment, starting at $199/month, but if you’re a small business owner, Infusionsoft is your dream back-end. The automated bliss you haven’t even dreamed up yourself is already in existence. I’m supporting one of my clients who is launching a book and a major business in Infusionsoft and had the joy of being trained by Craig Jacobson of Open Spaces Marketing who is quite literally worth his wait gold.

It’s difficult to explain everything that Infusionsoft does, but ultimately it’s a customer management system on steroids. As an example: Create an opt-in form on your website for a freemium product, the prospect’s information goes into Infusionsoft and an email confirmation automatically goes out, with tracking. This lets you know if you are losing prospects – 100 entered their email for the download and only 70 confirmed their email in order to get the download.

Once they confirm their email, Infusionsoft delivers them to the thank you page with the download and tags them as a mailing list subscriber, so that they automatically receive your newsletters or blog posts. Each time they interact with your system, they get new tags. Have them take a free quiz and suddenly you know if their a dog-lover or a cat-lover, as Craig likes to put it. Future email offers for paid products can then be tailored to their interests, goals, career stage, or whatever other profiles you build into your forms. This is of course just a tiny glimpse of what you can do. It’s a beautiful system that I will soon be investing in.

pandoraPandora

I love a little music jamming in the background as I work. Somehow it keeps me in the zone. Only every once in awhile does a new song pull me out of zen and distract me with a lyrics search. I started with Pandora and never switched, I had no reason to try any other platform. I have never had ads on the online version either. Not sure why, but I’m going on 4 years without a single advertisement. I have about 20 stations, but I’m pretty loyal to a frankensteined station with Imagine Dragon, Snow Patrol, Foster the People, Matt Kearney, and One Republic influences, among about a dozen others. It even has some Michael Jackson in there. The ability to create a music stream that is based on your own strange concoction of flavors for free is pretty fantastic. We live in good times.

What apps and tools help you stay productive throughout the day? Don’t hog them all to yourself!

2 Comments
  1. I am the same way with Pandora. I have to have a little music playing if I’m doing heads down work, or else my must-be-stimulated-at-all-times mind goes elsewhere looking for distraction. I’m also a big Evernote fan, especially as we don’t use data on our phones. Evernote helps us keep directions, lists, etc. while we’re out and about without having to use 3G/4G.

    The rest of your list is new to me, so I’ll check them out! Oh, and my favorite free WebEx knock-off is JoinMe. I’ve been very happy with their free version.

    1. Thanks! I recently saw Join.me in action (actually with the training I received from Craig with Open Spaces Marketing) and was really impressed. We’re in different states and he was moving pretty quickly – the action streamed in real time for several hours without missing a beat, which is pretty impressive!

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