By now most of us have accepted that we live in the “Attention Age”, that newly christened epoch wherein available information grows exponentially as our attention spans dwindle. In this strange new land, devices originally conceived to make us more productive have become sirens in the water, calling us away from our real online duties (like finishing that website mock-up) with catchy songs of kittens and “ultimate fail compilations”. Luckily, there are solutions.
The best 10 online productivity tools, handily divided into sections.
Any.Do Cal TNW gave Any.Do top marks for its straightforward interface and flat design, but what really makes this calender app stand out is its ability to provide a real sense of how crammed your day is. To-do’s are easily logged and synced with your devices, meaning that the little things (like walking the dog, or buying more cookies) don’t get in the way.
Shoeboxed purports to fix one of the worst culprits of procrastination and time-wasting: doing your own accounting. For freelancers who need to keep track of the smallest of bills, this app allows you to take snapshots of your receipts as soon as you receive them, then catalogue them for easy accounting later. No more rifling through your wallet or searching through that binder of miscellaneous papers.
Google Keep Giving perennial favourite Evernote a run for its money, Google’s note-taking app, Keep, is simple, intuitive, and synced with all your other Google accounts. Built to help keep all your ideas in one place before they slip out of your head, Keep places all your thoughts for the day right in front of you, so that you won’t be at a loss for that idea you had or that thing you had to do next.
Are.na Started for artists, by artists, are.na functions much like Keep, but it carries the added bonus of allowing you to brainstorm privately or collaborate with others through public and private channels. Blocks of information via YouTube videos, images, plain text, or URL’s are instantly and visually laid out, so that a macro view of your research is instantly accessible. You can also tag blocks of information in multiple channels, so that overlapping ideas can cross-pollinate.
SelfControl does precisely what its name suggests: it allows users to block their own access to distracting sites, from email accounts to gossip websites. Simply set up a time period, add websites you turn to when you are avoiding real work, and click “start”. Your “blacklisted” sites will appear for a short time before being blocked – thereby forcing you to focus on finishing your website.
White Noise A similarly didactically-named app, White Noise helps tune out distracting noises by playing “white noise”, or drones at a low frequency. Used in noisy offices for decades as a noise-cancelling aid, this app promises to keep you focused at work and help you sleep at night. Users can choose from variously coloured noises (from “pink” to “yellow” noise) depending on the sounds that best help them tune out ambient noise.
Marqueed allows collaborators to collectively markup and leave comments on images and mockups, making it especially useful for designers, photographers, and journalists. Their visual labeling system also allows users to keep track of revisions and create a set of “to-do’s” for later. This is a great end to the “I can’t keep working on my website till so-and-so gets back to me about that one image” excuse.
Kollaborate.io A frankenstine of Skype, Marqueed, and a host of other apps, Kollaborate.io has gained popularity recently as a way to speak with collaborators about a project with the stuff you’re talking about laid out across your screen in real-time. While there is a paid version with an archive function, Kollaborate.io is free.
Harvest may operate under a symbolically complex name, but its simple online time-tracking service is great for freelancers and multi-taskers who need help keeping track of where they spend their time. Harvest also provides time vs. budget data to keep you on schedule and within budget, and lets you create and send invoices to clients.
Mac OS Launcher
Quicksilver For Mac users, this software is a game-changer. Quicksilver touts itself as allowing its users to perform everyday tasks “rapidly and without thought” by enabling keyboard commands to access contacts, music, or applications. The software gains its intuition by learning how you access and search for material.