Throughout my childhood I have always heard the phrase “this is the century of speed“. After crossing the limit into the new millennium, I have realized its meaning and started to optimize my work, regardless of its nature. Besides discipline, a focused mind and the ambition to keep up with deadlines, a wide range of tools also helped me through the years. It’s time to reveal and share what applications regular users can install in order to get work done faster, without even having to question the line of work and other details like that.
Although a skilled craftsman can make miracles happen without the best of tools, I have always found it helpful to have my own collection of application which can optimize my time of work and increase efficiency. So today, we are going to discuss and present a handful of useful programs that can make you save some time while working.
Tools and Apps that increase work efficiency
The purpose of this guide is to maximize the efficiency within working hours and to help people focus on their job, while providing a nice suite of tools that can do some parts of your work, in record time.
Music can make a difference
My generation has always been found of music, but when it’s time to do some serious work, there is no room for random tunes. To keep a focused mind, you will need either a slow classic music tune or a rapid beat (the last one works perfectly for me). One of the tools to supply such advantages is GetWorkDoneMusic.com, a website specialized in providing work-efficient music.
The interface of the website is pretty straight-forward, you have a big Play button in the top-right part of the screen which unleashes serious waves once pressed. You can adjust the rapidness of the beat using the Fast and Faster buttons, while browsing through tunes with the back and forth buttons. The website gives details about the general look of the music played, displayed through sound waves, and also the name and duration of the play.
Another interesting alternative is FITRadio, a service designed for those who like to work out but one that also excels also in more basic tasks, like a regular day’s work. This one is a bit more ample, requiring users to first register an account but once you get that out of the way, it’s simply brilliant. All tunes present here can be spread in several categories ( Top 40, House, Party, Rock, Hip Hop, Indie, etc.) allowing the user to choose only the best.
In FITRadio, songs are mixed on a daily basis by renowned DJs so most of the tunes are fresh. Another interesting aspect addresses mobility, as the service comes with two Android and iOS compatible applications.
Buffer: socialize at the perfect time
For those of us who get work done in the middle of the night, sharing stories and attracting people to share them with you will not be done efficiently at that kind of hours. People tend to be more active during the morning and within business hours, so using tools like Buffer to schedule tweets can prove to be a real boost. In a few words, Buffer puts all your tweets in a queue and posts them on your behalf when it’s more suitable.
Although it was firstly built for Twitter, Buffer has the advantage of supporting several social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. To use the service, you will have to create a special Buffer account or sign-up using an account of the services supported. Buffer can be accessed through its special desktop client or using the online dashboard, from a personal computer or a smartphone / tablet.
MockFlow: draw sketches in no-time
Artists, designers, architects and why not, even coders, all feel the need of presenting their ideas during a brief time, but also with style. MockFlow is a good option for when you have to meet a possible client and come up with an idea on the spot, right in the coffee shop. Although these sorts of people usually have something prepared from home, it’s always nice to change the design and to supply the customer exactly what it wants.
As for the service itself, MockFlow can be installed on a regular desktop and the projects created can also be seen in formats compatible with mobile devices such as tablets. The application can work in both online and offline mods, while supplying reach to the following features:
- Interactive designs, with pages that include sitemaps and demo links
- Numerous components for miscellaneous stuff like icons and a library for those who do not find what they need
- Sharing projects with other designers as simple as sharing a link
- The export of wireframes in HTML5 formats for easy view and share
- Automatic back-up of projects
- Defining strategies using the SiteMap Visualizer
- Complete integration with Google Apps
All those included above represent just a preview of the whole package, which can become really complex for those who learn how to use it.
Teux Deux and Wunderlist: simple to do lists
I personally cannot manage my work flow with to-do lists. When you are receiving a high number of tasks and realize that multi-tasking is not as easy as you’ve thought, you need a base from where you can set and track goals. While complicated tools are all over the market, I have sometimes felt the need of something simple, like a plain sheet of paper and a virtual pen, to always follow me around. Well, thanks to Teux Deux, my wishes were answered.
In a few words, Teux Deux relies on a browser-based application to create to-do lists that are simple, but great looking. For those that are on the road most of times, this service also has an iPhone application which works exactly as the main client itself. Believe it or not, developers even brag their creation to be the 16th greatest invention of all times (Nutella is on 6).
Another alternative would be Wunderlist, a free, stylish and simple to use list that is specialized on tasks. This application has a design that even Steve Jobs would be proud of and functionality that can help you do work faster. Wunderlist comes with drag-and-drop organization, sharing of tasks through e-mail, printing, CloudApp and pretty much every social media service.
The application is compatible with the wide majority of desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and even comes with a web-based version for those on the go. All of these for free.
Let’s Crate: rapid file sharing
Sharing files is a part of our daily web life. In the past couple of years I thought that MegaUpload was the simplest way to do it but after reading a bit about Let’s Crate, I’ve changed my opinion. All users have to do is visit the website and drag files into the crate present on the front page. After the file is uploaded on the cloud, you will be able to share it using the automatically generated link. All of these are done after users register an account, which is free for the first month.
Those who wish to get a little more out of Let’s Crate can sign-up for a Basic, Plus or Pro account, each with its own maximum upload limit and special features. Fees start from $10/year and all users are granted a free month plus a cancellation policy.
RescueTime: for zero distractions
Staying focused is not an easy job. While the offline world can easily be silenced using the right headsets, the Internet has proven to be quite the distraction for many of us. After reading an interesting story where a blogger hired someone to slap him whenever he spent too much time on Facebook and other distracting sources, I’ve dug a bit and found one tool that can keep you concentrated, for free.
RescueTime is a tool that analyses how much time you are wasting online, instead of actually putting your mind to work. Basically, this tracks everything you do on the computer and then supplies a cute chart from which you can measure production. Running in the background, RescueTime measures which applications, websites or documents (optional) are being used the most. At the end of the day, a summary of your activities will be display, complete with percentages and time frames, so you could then take actions and discipline yourself.
Here’s a short preview of the feature breakdown:
- Automatically tracks time in applications and websites
- Sets goals and tracks progress towards them
- Sends weekly summaries using email to inform the user about the activities performed
- Manually tracks time away from the computer (meetings, phone calls, eating, sketching and others) – Pro version
- Temporarily blocks distracting websites – Pro version
- Sets up real-time alerts to announce productivity achievements – Pro version
As we’ve hinted from the above, there are two versions of this application: Lite and Pro. While the first one is free, the Pro version costs $9/month and comes with an extensive set of features and a more granular data for charts.
StickK: meet deadlines, or pay
StickK is a website that helps people meet deadlines and accomplish tasks with the use of an online contract and of a referee. In a few words, StickK can be used to enforce consequences whenever a deadline, of any nature, is not met. The system is simple, free to use and pushes people towards finishing tasks, by threatening with emptying your bank account whenever you are lazy.
For instance, StickK can be used by a writer as a motivation to finish a book. The writer has to first define the goal, set the stakes (usually money and an account to deliver the sum in case you lose), the measuring pace (let’s say a week at the time) and a referee (often a member of the family or a friend). At the end of each week, the referee must confirm that you have written the scheduled number of pages or the website will extract the money sum used for betting. When the project is over, all the money lost will be delivered to the account used when defining the stakes. Pretty neat, right?
Well, although StickK can be configured for any goal whatsoever, it has proved to be more helpful in long term situations and with the help of an objective referee. While the system can be configured without any referee whatsoever, we highly recommend choosing one.
Write Space: words on-the-go
Write Space is a Google Chrome extension that can be used for those who do not like word processors but still need a platform to write on, as simple as they can. Well, thanks to this little piece of software, you can now write a quick article blog or even take notes from a desktop terminal, as long as it has installed Google’s own browser. Besides simplicity and quickness, there are also a handful of features that can help you finish tasks faster:
- Full-screen mode to minimize distractions and options to change the background, fonts, etc.
- Persistent auto-save feature that saves the document whenever a key is pressed
- Data is saved locally on the computer and not on an external server, so you won’t have to worry about security or privacy
- Live document statistics that show word counts and other facts right in the page itself, without opening any additional menus
Yep, the cloud is also a way of getting work done fast. I personally use around 4-5 terminals a week and the only way to preserve my work while changing locations is through the use of the cloud. Everything is done fast, there are always back-ups and even if I travel to a completely new location and I need to do some work, the cloud is only a few clicks away.
While there are numerous options on this list, including DropBox, SkyDrive, iCloud and a lot more others, I have personally chosen Google Drive mainly because of its simplicity and flexibility. All you need in order to use the Google cloud is a Gmail account, a desktop client or a browser and voilà: files everywhere. To put it briefly, Google gives every user a maximum 5GB of storage which can be spent across any personal computer (Windows, Chrome OS and Mac) or even mobiles (iOS, Android). One of the best parts is that this limit includes only the files preserved within the cloud itself and any traffic made between devices is free of cost.
After using Google Drive for about two months, I’ve found it extremely simple and straight-forward. You have a Google account, you download a desktop client and that’s it. A nice looking icon will appear on your desktop and everything within this special folder will be synchronized on all devices.
All transfers are being done rapidly and the application itself lets users know when something bad has happened with the synchronization process and when everything is as it should be. Moreover, Google Drive has also become the first storage option for many Google services, such as Docs, Picasa and Gmail.
For those who need a bit more storage, Google offers 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99 and up to 16TB of space for whoever wants to keep its private movie collection online.
FreeEditor: open any type of file
While only days have passed since we’ve presented this baby, I could not have finished this post without FreeEditor. This little piece of software can open over 100 of different file types, mostly covering documents, images, videos, coded files and even hard configuration files from Windows itself. It’s a wonder, I tell you.
Besides being compatible with almost any file type you are going to use ever, FreeEditor also comes with a few helpful tools like an embedded converter, spell checker and image effects – all for free. For more information, head out to our detailed introduction.
Slices and TweetDeck
While most people socialize through Facebook, when it comes to getting work done I like to believe that Twitter has its own space on the podium. From my point of view, Twitter is a place of finding fresh and useful information, as long as you get the debris out of the way – a task well performed by Slices and TweetDeck.
For starters, Slices is a great-designed Twitter client that helps users classify sources in several categories, pretty much like the plain Twitter lists do. Unlike the official option, Slices comes with a wide range of interesting features, a great design and a very responsive interface. We’ve taken an in-depth look of the software a couple days ago, so you might be interested in knowing more.
The second option is TweetDeck, perhaps the most used Twitter client of all times. After Twitter itself bought the application back in May 2011, things went a bit afloat but this client still remains a good option for fast people, whether they use Twitter or Facebook. Using this tool gives you access to multiple account login, defining multiple columns which contain live tweets and shares, creation of lists, scheduling and a lot more.