Whether you’re a procrastinator or you were that guy in college who finished his final project a week before it was due, all of us could be a little more productive sometimes. For me, the Internet can be a crazy time-suck of procrastination, yet most of the work I need to do requires that I be connected to the web. So what’s a girl to do? Luckily, the Internet is also rife with tools to help us organize our lives — whether that means making to-do lists, taking notes, breaking through writer’s block, or filtering out access to websites that we use to procrastinate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few online tools worth trying that should help boost your productivity and get you a little more organized:
Google’s Various Products
Google, in its never-ending quest to sneak into all facets of your Internet life, offers a variety of tools that can function as to-do lists. Google Calendar helps you keep track of your appointments and other important dates and also lets you set email reminders. What’s more, you can sync your calendar with others — making it easy to coordinate get-togethers with friends or plan meetings with coworkers. Google Tasks is an app for simple text lists that’s accessible from Gmail, Google Calendar, iGoogle (your personalized Google homepage), and via mobile. And if you prefer just typing up tasks in a Word doc, there’s Google Docs. Your document will be accessible anywhere you have an Internet connection, plus you can invite others to see and edit it.
Remember the Milk
Cost: Free; $25 per year for Pro account (includes mobile access).
Remember the Milk is a fairly comprehensive to-do list app. You can set due dates for your tasks, prioritize them, search them, set reminders for them, and attach them to map locations; they can be organized in list format or by tagging. Once you create your to-do lists, they are accessible from pretty much any platform you can think of — Gmail, Outlook, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and iPad, to name a few. And of course, like any app these days, you can share your tasks with fellow users.
Another to-do list program, Tjeklist offers a clean, straightforward interface. Tasks can be sorted by lists, tags, and date, plus you can color-code items, include notes, and add subtasks. The program is fairly easy to use and doesn’t even require a sign-up if you don’t want to save your list for later. If you do sign up, you just link to an existing account (such as Google or Facebook) instead of creating another username and password.
Cost: Free; $5 per month for Premium account.
Evernote is all about storing notes, ideas, images, audio, and even full web pages all in one place. You can organize these snippets in virtual “notebooks” and further categorize them with tags. Storing entire web pages is possible through Evernote’s browser extensions, which let you keep a virtual snapshot of all the text, images, and links on that page. The Premium version grants extra data storage and offline access to notebooks, among other things.
Cost: Free; $20 per year for Basic account; $40 per year for Premium account.
Diigo’s mission is to improve the process of saving bookmarks online. Besides storing all your links in a searchable online account rather than in your browser, Diigo also lets you highlight passages and create sticky notes that appear directly on the web page when you revisit it. You can also extensively tag your bookmarks and sort them into lists, creating a highly useful knowledge base for groups doing research or even just for personal use.
Write or Die
Cost: Free on the web; $10 for desktop version; $9.99 for iPad version.
Whether you’re a writer, blogger, student, or you just need to finish that memo for your boss, we all suffer from writer’s block now and then. Write or Die forces you to quit dawdling and write, doling out consequences if you stop typing. Consequences range from a gentle pop-up reminder to an “unpleasant sound” playing (so far I’ve encountered babies crying, a loud car horn blaring, and Hanson’s “MMMBop”) to the program actually deleting what you’ve written until you start typing again. The purpose of the app is to force you to put words down on paper, so to speak, and override the desire to edit or procrastinate.
If positive reinforcement is more your thing, then there’s Written? Kitten!. Write 100 words, get a picture of a kitten! What more do you need?
Cost: Free; $6 per month for Pro account; $8-$15 per user, per month for Team account.
Rescue Time keeps track of how you spend your time on the computer, whether you’re browsing online or just using a program like Word or Photoshop. Idle too much on Facebook when you should be tackling tasks on your to-do list? Rescue Time will put your computer usage into graphs and charts so you can see just where your time goes. The Pro version gives you even more options, like specifying “focus time,” which blocks you from visiting distracting websites. You can also set alerts that will remind you to get back to work or congratulate you on a job well done. The Team version appeals to businesses and large groups who want to track everyone’s productivity and see trend reports.
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