I was asked today to list my top free productivity tools. I think it will make more sense if I share them here, so here we go:
Podio is basically a marketplace full of applications covering all major areas of work and typical types of industries. What I like about this tool is the fact that it nicely integrates with Gmail/outlook, social media contacts and with Dropbox and Evernote – this way all my tools are interconnected and I can manage the information flow wisely. For example if I go to a meeting and take notes on my iPad or mobile phone I usually save them in Evernote. When I review assigned tasks with other areas of a project I can simply add this note to my project in Podio’s project management app. I can add people involved in the meeting directly from my Gmail contact list and, if I really want to, I can also add them to my CRM data base. All this with a few clicks with no need for copy and paste, endless saving of documents and attaching those to project’s mile stones or tasks. All this is then synchronised from Podio to my Google calendar and if I need to prepare action points I can set up email remainders too.
As complex as it sounds it really saves me time. How to start – just try out Podio for a simple test project but on all its levels – user, company and project integration.
I cannot imagine life without Evernote and I am sure I only use the top of this iceberg! I can save notes (in many formats), tag them, assign to notebooks and later share those notebooks with other users too. I can integrate Evernote with most of the popular project management tools. But the best aspect of this tool is the fact that I can take notes on all my Apple devices and once on-line synchronise them smoothly! Simple, but saves so much time!
3. Google apps
I manage my email with Gmail. Thanks to labelling and gmail priority system I can clearly mark tasks and communication based on it’s project and priority. Quite amazing just how much time you can safe with those! Once committed to Google mail, I have also started using Google documents for file management but also on-line collaboration. It saves so much time (and often potential risk of mistakes in the final copy) if you all look at the same file and make real-time comments. Documents can be managed and shared in folders, send to others as link. I also use Google groups quite a lot, specially if I want to avoid endless rows of email communication. I save a lot of time with Google alerts – specially if I work on a particular topic or want to track the effect of particular project. I use those alerts to manage my personal reputation too – you would not believe just how much can be posted about you without your knowledge;) Google calendar is, next to Podio, my major task management tool. I am somehow stressed out by lists. I like to see how much time I have for each task, what is re-occurring and who is involved in particular parts of campaigns. I run few calendars, including one for home affairs – this way my partner and I know exactly how to manage household related matters. In all Google tools I really admire nice data integration, smart prioritising and colour-coding, labelling solutions, but also levels of privacy and content sharing with others.
One more tool I could not live without. I do not remember the times when a file would crash respondent’s inbox or simply fail in upload. I use Dropbox to share large files but also to save documents that I later want to read on iPad, on the go. It’s also a great tool for collaboration on larger amount of files, like for example photos.
5. Social media – mainly Twitter/Facebook/G+ and sometimes Pinterest/LinkedIn
I really like to save time by reaching out to my social audiences with questions or requests for specific tips. You simply need to ask nicely!
6. Skype and Google+ hangouts
Running late to the meeting, cancelled appointment after 4-8 hrs of travel or sudden change in priorities – few of just endless amount of reasons why offline meetings just do not work for me. Of course there is a huge value in meeting clients and team members in person time to time, but sometimes it is really not worth the time we spend on finding the right date and place – why not use a Google+ hangout and work on a Google doc shared with 9 people and discussed in an evening from the comfort of your own house?
And this is it really. I am trying to keep it as simple as possible because I would hate to spend more time on setting up the tools than on the actual work. In order to create a consistent set of tools though I would consider the following:
1. How do you access your on-line work? What devices do you have to work with?
2. Where do you store your data?
3. What type of work do you do?
4. How much time do you have for project management?
5. All in one place or few minimalistic, simple tools?
Despite the fact that I am using pretty popular tools if you really want to find THE RIGHT one for your own habits, do try few alternatives for a few days and see what feels good to you. New tools pop up ever day too so maybe we will migrate from one to another. Maybe we will continue using those for quite a while. In any case, use them in a smart, time and cost effective way. Let me know how you get on!