6 Personal Productivity Tools Guaranteed to Up Your Game
Being a freelancer has its perks. You are your own boss, meaning you can work at home and set up your own hours. As great as that sounds, working at home also has its downsides. The main problem is that it’s hard to be productive when you keep getting distracted by the 7 billion wonders of the internet.
We at FreelanceSwitch have offered many tips to increase your productivity, but these tips can only take you so far. Sometimes you just need a good tool or two to keep you on the right track. Here are some personal productivity tools guaranteed to enhance your performance.
FocusBooster is Pomodoro software based on Adobe AIR app that makes use of the popular Pomodoro time management technique, and can drastically improve your productivity. This technique is designed to improve your focus and concentration as you work on a specific task, splitting up your work into intervals. Here’s the Pomodoro technique in a nutshell:
- Choose a specific task to work on
- Work on said task for 25 minutes
- Take a short 5 minute break
- Congratulations, you have finished one Pomodoro! Repeat as needed. Take a longer break after completing four Pomodoros.
FocusBooster keeps track of the time for you so all you have to do is focus on the task at hand. After turning FocusBooster on, work hard for 25 minutes and wait for the timer to go off. When the timer buzzes, it automatically start a 5 minute countdown so you can have your well deserved break. Go out and get some fresh air, feed your cat, browse the web, and relax. When the break’s over, it’s time to get back to work! I find that using a Pomodoro timer has helped me become more productive so I hope you’ll benefit from it as well. Being the lazy slub that I am, if it works for me, it should definitely work for you. You might not be a big fan of the 25:5 method described above, so you can use the app to change the times. I know you all want to work 10 minutes and have a 50 minute break, don’t you? If you don’t want to download the FocusBooster desktop app, be sure to check out their online version. Productivity on the go!
Some people find multitasking very productive, but having a cluttered desktop isn’t going to make things easier. Instead, you multitaskers should use a program like VirtuaWin. VirtuaWin is a Virtual Desktop Manager that helps you multitask without having to Alt-Tab every few seconds. The tool sets up virtual desktops on your computer, allowing you to organize your Word documents into one desktop, your browser in another, and so forth. Think of it as having multiple monitors hooked up to your computer. Switch tasks with ease by using your mouse or hotkeys to change desktops and get some work done! You can actually use any Virtual Desktop to become more productive, but I like VirtuaWin because it’s not a resource hog and very customizable. I prefer performance over eye candy.
When writing, it’s easy to become distracted by all the pretty colors and icons on your desktop. To combat this, I use jDarkroom, a cross platform fullscreen text-editor that doesn’t have all those distracting buttons and toolbars. It’s just an empty screen with text on it. It looks simple, but really helps you concentrate on your writing. With nothing else to look at, you’re forced to focus on what you’re writing. Configure the program and access all its tools by using shortcuts or the F# buttons. You can open documents, save, copy/paste, undo/redo, change color settings, and other basic functions. jDarkroom is a cross platform program that replaces the Windows only Darkroom and the Mac only Writeroom. If you’re too lazy to download jDarkroom,you can check out the online alternative, Writer.
Have you ever had one of those browsing sessions that was only supposed to last 5 minutes but ended up lasting a couple of hours? Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. Blame it on the internet for being so darn addictive. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re browsing, so whenever I want to limit the amount of time I spend on a website, I use the web tool xMinutesAt. Using the x.minutes.at/ format, you can specify the amount of time you want to spend on a website by replacing the ‘x’ with a number and adding the URL of the website after the ‘/’. For example, if I want to spend 7 minutes browsing FreelanceSwitch, I’d go to 7.minutes.at/www.freelanceswitch.com. When my 7 minutes are up, I’ll be presented with a popup telling me to get back to work. You can even see the time remaining in the tab box, so you can manage your time better. Very simple way to limit your internet browsing.
LeechBlock is a highly customizable Firefox addon that gives you full control over your browsing habits. It takes the xMinutesAt idea to the next level. With LeechBlock, you can limit the amount of time you can spend on certain websites and block the websites when your time is up. Add multiple websites to your block list and specify when you can access them (changing the time and day of the week). I find this to be the perfect method of getting things done online without having to deal with all those distracting websites. And this is just one solution for managing distractions.
Sometimes, it’s best to have Big Brother watching. Well, it’s more productive anyway. I’m sure you’d all change your browsing habits if your boss was looking over your shoulder, right? Snoopon.me is a nifty program that takes screenshots of what you’re doing and uploads them online. Download and install the program (works on Windows and Macs). You can then invite “accountability partners” (including your boss, family, friends, fellow writers, etc) to view these screenshots and comment on your work habits. I know some of you are already wary and thinking “But what about my privacy?” But don’t worry, Snoopon.me gives you plenty of control over your own privacy. The screenshots are small enough so text on your screen can’t be read but big enough for your accountability partners to know what you’ve been looking at. You can disable your screenshots from appearing on the front page and set the larger screenshots to private. Snoopon.me only keeps track of the 48 most recent snapshots and deletes the rest, and you’re able to turn the program on and off. If you really want, you can even delete snapshots(though deleting all your time wasting snapshorts defeats the purpose of the program). Use Big Brother to your advantage!
Use any of these tools to increase your productivity, or better yet, use a combination of tools. Keep in mind that having the right motivation also plays a huge role in being productive, so be sure to check out our tips on how to stay motivated. Now get back to work and make your boss proud!
What other tools do you use to increase your productivity? Do you think these tools are effective? Share your thoughts below in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe!