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Multiple browsers with twenty tabs or more open on each one. A word-processing app, numerous folders, image editing software and desktop notifications crowd your monitor(s). A mug of bitter coffee, Post-it notes and illegible scribbles layer the desk. Sound familiar? This is the life of a blogger – connected 24/7, streams of bits and bytes dancing at your fingertips, and an overwhelming feeling that there just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done. We're quickly approaching information overload, but for those of us that earn a living online we can't afford to tear ourselves away from the light fantastic for too long. We need to minimize the noise and increase the quality of our output. That's why I've put together this list of productivity tools that will help you to focus, plan and succeed. Enjoy!
1. e.ggtimer - http://e.ggtimer.com/ - Eggtimer is a super-simple yet really helpful online tool for blocking out time to work on tasks. All it does is display a countdown timer in a browser window, but by pledging to work for a specific amount of time you can really make progress on any tasks you have to do, and when the time is up a nice, loud alert sounds so you don't have to constantly monitor it. Try the Pomodoro-Technique timer to work for extended periods of time with incremental breaks.
2. 42 Goals - http://42goals.com – 42 Goals is an online goal-setting app that can be as simple or as deep as you want it to be. You can use it as a simple daily planner, or use it to track your productivity over a longer period of time, giving you stats that allow you to find regular patterns and improve your work flow – a necessity for busy bloggers trying to break into the big time!
3. Rescue Time - http://www.rescuetime.com/ - Rescue Time is a productivity tool that monitors your day-to-day activity on your computer, providing you with detailed stats as to how you're using your time and also giving you the ability to 'lock' certain software and services for specific periods, allowing you to forcibly block out distractions at times when you absolutely need to finish a project (yet are tempted to check out Facebook for the twentieth time...).
4. Work Plus - http://www.workpl.us/ - Work Plus is a really interesting tool that can particularly benefit bloggers and freelancers. No matter how enjoyable it is to wear pyjamas all day long, we all know that working from the comfort of our own home is not always the most conducive environment for completing tasks. Enter Work Plus, an iOS app that helps you to discover new work-spaces in your area, like cafes with free wi-fi or shared work-spaces that allow you to bring the dog in! Add in time-tracking and workspace ratings and you've got a real winner.
5. Boomerang - http://www.boomeranggmail.com/ - We all work in a global marketplace, especially those of us who make a living online, and time-zones have become something that we deal with on an everyday basis. Sometimes you need to send an email halfway 'round the world, but you want it to arrive in their inbox at 11am, tomorrow. You've got 2 choices – set the alarm, get up and manually send it (ouch!), or check out Boomerang for Gmail, a really efficient tool that allows you to schedule email and set-up reminders for yourself.
6. TheInterviewr - http://theinterviewr.com/ - The Interviewr is a really interesting tool for those of us who rely heavily on conducting interviews to keep our blog humming along. The Interviewr is essentially an interview relationship management tool that enables you to track contacts, schedule interviews, add notes and set reminders. Never forget another interview appointment and stay productive!
7. ZenWriter – http://www.beenokle.com/zenwriter.html – Zen Writer is a simple tool that can be surprisingly effective. It is a stripped down text-editor that provides serene backgrounds that place the focus firmly on the text, allowing you to block out distractions and just let the words flow. Cutting out all of the noise we find cluttering our screens can really make a difference in your day-to-day productivity, and this tool is well-recommended for serious writers.
8. IFTTT - https://ifttt.com – IFTTT stands for 'If This Then That', a reference to a kind of computer programming logic that they've put into action in a really interesting way. IFTTT integrates with web platforms (for example, Twitter and Wordpress), and allows you to automate actions between them. You could set it up to alert you via Gmail every time someone on Twitter mentions a specific word, or automatically post Instagram photos with a specific tag to your Wordpress blog – it really is an amazing tool. They also provide a series of pre-cooked 'Recipes' – tasks set-up by other people that you can start using straight-away.
9. Coursera - https://www.coursera.org/ - If at first you're wondering why an online education platform like Coursera is on a list like this, let me explain. As a blogger, your job is to be informed and share quality information with your readers, and there's no better way to provide that than to have a solid and continuing education. However, these days we don't all have the time (or money!) to go back to school – which makes online education platforms like Coursera a godsend – you can educate yourself on cutting edge topics, on your own time, for free! Now that's being productive!
10. Typing Test - http://www.typingtest.com - As writers, we spend most of our time at the keyboard bashing out awesome as quickly as we can – but how fast can you actually type? Of course we know that learning to touch-type is the bare-minimum needed to be a productive writer, but knowing how quickly you can type, then taking lessons to increase that speed can literally double or triple your daily productivity. Take the first step now and find out how fast you really are...
This post originally started out as a list of 20 tools and tips, but with so many great apps and platforms out there I could have filled a book with them! If you've enjoyed the tools listed above, or have some more indispensable tools that you feel belong on the list, please share it with us in the comments section, and maybe – just maybe – Paul will invite me back for round 2:)
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