If you’re a farmer, being productive comes down to how many crops you can produce– and at what quality. Can you grow bushels of perfectly ripe strawberries, or are you stuck with one half-filled barrel of bitter tomatoes?
As a professional with a desk job, you probably aren’t concerned with this year’s apple yields, but you care about productivity as much as any farmer. Getting stuff done is important for your livelihood. In order to excel at your company, get recognized for your achievements, and make a positive impact, you need to produce.
Today, farming is filled with technical innovation, from drip irrigation system to mammoth-sized tractors. Thankfully, so is software. There are tons of interesting productivity tools that can help you on your path to get stuff done.
Here are some interesting, lesser known productivity tools to add to your arsenal:
For project management:
Redbooth – Redbooth (formerly TeamBox) is a comprehensive project management tool that includes group chat, video conferencing, team collaboration options, and sleek mobile apps. Redbooth isn’t as well known as some other project management tools, but it’s a formidable competitor, and it’s much better suited to large organizations than Asana and Trello, which are both free.
Trello – Trello is a great project management tool that integrates with a variety of other platforms, and is great for teams of one. Many use Trello to organize tasks, and let others know what’s going on. The interface isn’t particularly sleek, but Trello’s usefulness is undeniable. Large organizations down to freelancers swear by Trello, and the free option is good enough for many teams.
Basecamp – Basecamp, the flagship product of 37Signals, is one of the most famous project management tools around, and for good reason. Basecamp’s designated discussion area makes it easy to go back and forth with colleagues or clients, and it has a very friendly user interface. It feels like you’re doodling in a fun notebook, which I love!
Asana – Asana makes it easy for teams to track their work and get the results they’re craving. Much like the other project management tools on this list, Asana has a variety of features that make it easy to communicate with team members and clients. I find Asana a bit more cumbersome than Basecamp and Trello, but it’s project tracking abilities is second to none. Asana allows you to effectively track a project from start to finish, looping in the necessary team members along the way.
For easy communication:
Crystal Knows – Crystal Knows is more of an email hack than anything else, but it’s particularly useful if you send a lot of emails to people you don’t know. Crystal can be added to your inbox, and when you send a message to a contact, she’ll give you tips on how to write to the person in question. For example, Crystal might remind you that “David likes messages that are straightforward and to the point, so don’t use extra words, and keep it short.” I don’t know how Crystal does it, but it works.
Slack – Slack is the hippest, most intuitive chat software around, and teams are creating all kinds of discussions on the system.
ilos – You know when you’re trying to explain something to someone over the phone or by group chat, and you can’t get your message through? Ilos helps you communicate with customers, clients, and team members by giving you the ability to take quick and easy screencasts.
ZOOM – Many businesses use Google Hangouts for video conferencing, but ZOOM is a whole lot better. The high quality video software will make you want to hold every meeting on video, and ZOOM copes with lag seamlessly.
GoToMeeting – GoToMeeting is probably the best known software for hosting virtual meetings, and it’s pretty amazing. There are so many features, from call recording, to video, to chat, that it’s hard to imagine hosting a virtual meeting with any other software solution.
For managing your time:
LeechBlock – GIFs of puppies? Hours on reddit? LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on that keeps you from visiting websites that make you unproductive. To use LeechBlock, you simply add a list of websites and share when you’d like to have them blocked. For example, you can block Buzzfeed during work hours to prevent you from scrolling endlessly through photos of chicken nuggets.
RescueTime – Like LeechBlock, RescueTime can help you block sites that make you unproductive, but it goes further by monitoring your internet habits and delivering detailed reports to help you understand where you’re spending your time. By understanding your daily habits, you can begin to focus on what’s important– being productive.
Remember The Milk – Remember The Milk is basically a to-do list, but it allows you to sync all your tasks, from your work life and your personal life, in one place. Remember The Milk allows you to set up reminders wherever you want them– by text, email, Skype, Gchat, or Twitter.
Google Keep – Google Keep is a minimalist to do list that can help you keep track of your tasks. One nice feature of Google Keep is that you can easily add another person to a task. For example, if you need to pick up your kid from school, you can loop in his dad so he knows your plans.
For keeping your calendar:
Sunrise App – Many people use Outlook, Gmail, or iCal, but Sunrise App is a wonderful calendar solution, especially for people that have multiple calendars, and want to sync them all in one place. I use Sunrise to sync my personal and work calendar, and I use the mobile app to make appointments when I’m out and about.
Julie Desk – Julie Desk is an artificially intelligent virtual assistant that gleans information from your emails to help you schedule meetings, phone calls, and appointments. It sounds crazy, but Julie takes what you’ve said in an email (Let’s meet at 5) and creates calendar invites, then invites the important people.
Zirtual – Sometimes, you need a real person to help you manage your calendar and keep you on top of your tasks. Zirtual provides human virtual assistants that can help with tasks like calendar management.
For managing contacts:
Streak – Streak is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for Gmail. Unlike other CRMs which have their own dashboards, Streak resides in the email inbox you already use, allowing you to tag certain email threads with relevant customer or client information.
Plaxo – Plaxo is a virtual address book that allows you to sync contact info from a range of places, so your contacts are always at your fingertips, and you never have to waste time searching for an email address.
Productivity isn’t something that happens to you. Instead, you produce it. The tools on this list can help you be more productive, so that your work is as delicious and sweet as a red, ripe strawberry.
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