Guest Blogger: Lauren McPherson
If you’ve ever decided to spend an hour working on a paper and only got as far as the first two sentences, you might need help improving your productivity. Instant messaging clients, e-mails, Facebook, blogs, and many other sites and apps can really sap your time, which is why online tools for time management and productivity are so popular. In addition to keeping you on track, these apps can help you get more done in less time with helpful reminders, time management tips, and more.TextExpander
TextExpander is software for Mac operating systems that allows you to insert and manipulate frequently used text into documents. With just a few keystrokes, you can insert text such as cover sheets or snippets of HTML code. For those taking foreign language classes, TextExpander allows you to insert accents with easy to remember shortcuts into virtually any document. Plus, you can make your e-mails look even more professional with TextExpander’s e-mail signature feature, which allows you to add images such as photos or logos to your custom signature. Try the free trial, or purchase the software for $34.95 with a 90 day money back guarantee.
RescueTime for Mac and Windows machines will help you get the most out of your class days. The software tracks how you are spending your time online to help you identify how efficiently you’re really working and promote self-management by showing you which sites and programs you’re using through comparative reports and graphs. It also allows you to voluntarily block sites that might be distracting you from tasks that need to get done. You can use RescueTime to schedule time for specific projects or tasks to maximize your productivity. RescueTime Lite is available for free with access to select functions of the software, or you can purchase RescueTime Pro for $72 a year after a two week free trial.
Carbonite is a well known name in data protection, and you might be asking why this program is on a list to get more done with your day. Well, how long would it take you to get back on track if your computer crashed and you had no back ups for your data? For most of us it would be a week or more. With Carbonite, you can automatically back up all of your data according to your own schedule. As an added bonus, backed up files are accessible through any web browser, including mobile browsers, so your files are never stuck back at the dorm. Plans start at just $59 a year.
Focus Booster is freeware for Mac and Windows operating systems that promises to help users become more productive online using the principles of the Pomodoro Technique from Francesco Cirillo. With the Pomodoro timer embedded in the software, you work on a given task for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, and settle in for another 25 minute block of time. After every four 25 minute cycles, you are prompted to take a 15 to 20 minute break. This type of time management improves focus during working time and prevents burnout. You can either use Focus Booster through a web browser or install the program on your computer. Focus Booster is certified 100% clean by Softpedia, so you can rest assured there is no malware attached to this free program.
Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is a browser based app that helps you compile those to do lists you always mean to make. You can also install the app on Android, iPad, iPhone, and Blackberry systems, or embed it in your Gmail account. You can create task lists, mark them as complete, postpone the due dates, or make changes on the fly. You can also connect your Remember the Milk lists with your contacts and calendar events for easy to navigate reminders. Set up a basic account for free, or purchase a Pro account that bundles all of the apps and additional functions for just $25 a year.
1Password, from the makers of Knox, works on Mac and Windows operating systems as well as the iPhone, iPad, and Android OS. If you’re tired of creating complex passwords on your own only to forget them the next time you try to log in, this might be the app for you. 1Password creates passwords for you and stores them in your web browser, safely encrypted with AES-128 bit keys. You can also save form information, including credit card numbers. 1Password offers a thirty day free trail, and is just $49.99 to purchase.
Evernote is like a private Pinterest board that allows you to capture, tag, notate, and retrieve anything you see on your computer or mobile phone. Since it is browser based, it works on almost any operating system. Use it to compile recipes, keep track of your ideas, make shopping lists, save web pages, or just remember things that you saw or liked. You can share your Evernote notes with others and access them from any device, all for free.
If you haven’t heard of Dropbox yet, it’s time to open an account. Dropbox is the ultimate private file sharing service, which allows you to upload and save nearly any type of file either to access later from another machine or share with someone else by sending an invitation or file link. It can also sync your files as you work, which ensures that the Dropbox copy is always updated. With files saved to Dropbox, you have an automatic backup in case of accidental deletion or a hard drive crash. You can use the service for 2 GB of data for free, or upgrade to higher data limit plans starting at $9.99 a month.
Instapaper is the perfect tool for those who bookmark web pages to read later, only to forget why the page was added to bookmarks a month afterwards. Instapaper allows you to bookmark pages with a Read Later notation in one click. It works best with Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. For mobile browsing it is optimized for the iPhone, though it also will work with other mobile browsers such as Android. Using it on a browser is free, but you can purchase it as an app for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch for $2.99.
SelfControl, for Mac operating systems, is a free app that allows you to block specific e-mail servers and websites for a defined period of time. Once set, there is no way to clear the clock until the timer runs out, so there is no backing out from a commitment to avoid certain sites once the clock is started. If you’re really having trouble staying focused on important tasks, this app will help you stay focused – or cause you to look for other ways to procrastinate.
Lauren McPherson is a staff writer for Teacher Certification Degrees, a career site for future teachers that provides career interviews with current teachers, news, and information for getting started in a teaching career.