We get a tons of stuff done via the Internet every day - right from planning a holiday to pursuing our hobbies and interests. Most of us use a disorganized approach towards getting stuff done. Even at work, we sift through so much information each day that it’s hard to keep track of it all. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of tools available that save your time and make you more efficient - without costing you any money.
Here’s a look at some of the best tools available and some alternatives as well. With a smartphone in every pocket, these tools have their sidekick phone apps that make them even more worthwhile. While most of the tools work right off the web, their offline (desktop) applications add great value too.
Most of these tools work best with Chrome or Firefox and some might not work best with Internet Explorer. The reason is that the real power of these tools is via their Bookmarklets and Extensions. These are small programs or scripts which attach themselves to your browser. Bookmarklets are bookmark-like buttons on the browser’s bookmark toolbar. To install, you just need to drag and drop them to the browser’s bookmark toolbar (You may need to set the browser’s bookmark toolbar to visible in order to use it). Extensions are programs that you need to install from within your browser. Some new buttons appear on your browser to get the job done. You’ll see how it all works in greater detail. Alright lets get started!
1. Easy Reading with Pocket
Everyday we come across links to articles, videos or news items. Even if you find them interesting you just don’t have the time to go through them all. And there are times you are commuting in the train or waiting for someone and you get bored . Pocket (formerly Read It Later) lets you view these links at a later point in time on your PC, tablet or mobile. Once you register yourself on their website, you need to install the browser extension. The next time you come across an interesting article that you’d like to read later, just click the Read Later button on the browser. You can access and manage all of your saved links from the browser itself. Another advantage is that you can view them in “text-only” format without the annoying banner ads and weird fonts. You can install the mobile and tablet apps to view articles across devices. You can even view them offline. Alternatives to Pocket are Instapaper, Readability and Evernote.
2. Keeping Notes with Evernote
Evernote allows you clip sections of web pages, maintain notes and to-dos so that you can manage your everyday life better. It stores it on the cloud so that you can access it via your mobile or tablet. Moreover, it can search through those notes so that you can find them easily. You can use it to take classroom notes or just take web clippings of articles or screenshot of transaction confirmations etc. There are many other mini-apps too from Evernote like Clearly (browser extension) that allows you to view a web page’s text-only version for easy reading. Alternative to Evernote is Microsoft OneNote that comes bundled with Microsoft Office. It may not have all the browser extensions but it gets the job done. Microsoft OneNote + SkyDrive is a formidable combination.
3. Cloud storage with SkyDrive and Dropbox
As we spend more and more time on our PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, a big part of our lives in the form of pictures, investment work sheets, important documents etc is stored across these devices and is liable to loss. With cloud storage you can move these things over to the cloud and access it from any device now or the ones you will buy in future. It makes sharing, maintaining and finding them easy. There are a lot of options for cloud storage but I find the SkyDrive and Dropbox the best.
With SkyDrive you can create and store Microsoft Office documents on the web. Even if you don’t have Microsoft Office installed you can create and share Office files easily. You can organize them in folders like on a PC or laptop. Once you install the SkyDrive app on your laptop or PC, you can even sync all the files so that if you change or add new files it will automatically get updated on SkyDrive in the cloud and vice-versa.
If you are more comfortable with creating Google Docs, you may opt for Google Drive. If you are working with people across platforms, Dropbox is a great way to collaborate and share files and folders.
4. Sharing interests with Pinterest
As social networks mature, niche networks will attract a lot of existing users so that they can have a more meaningful conversations about their interests. Pinterest is one such network where you can pin pictures, articles, tips (basically any link with an image) on to boards that you have created. These boards can be a special interest category like infographics or web design or food. A majority of users of Pinterest are women so if you are into fashion and latest trends, it’s the place to be. Otherwise too, if you want to curate content for your hobbies and interact with people with similar interests, Pinterest is a cool place to do that.
5. Managing tasks with Wunderlist and Trello
Not a single day goes by when I don’t make a To-Do list. If you’re like me then you certainly need to manage tasks. Here’s where Wunderlist comes in to make it easier for you. Tasks can be managed with categories and priorities. Wunderlist keeps it all very simple and elegant. It has applications for all major platforms and devices so the lists are synced - whether you are using it on your mobile phone or a laptop.
Trello is a different ballgame. It is more a team task manager. Trello is also very simple and elegant. It uses a list of boards where you can pin tasks and track progress. These boards can be used as different stages of a workflow. Trello is based on the kanban way to manage tasks - using kanban boards. Check out their video you’ll understand how it works.
Alright that’s a good list to get you to maximize your day. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Happy productivity!