7 Productivity Tools I Couldn’t Live Without

Productivity Tools for FreelancersThere are only so many hours in a day, so as freelancers it is wise for us to use the time we do have effectively. From keyboard shortcuts to limiting outside distractions, we all have our own ways of speeding up the work involved in certain tasks.

Personally, my day can consist of a number of different tasks including web development, logo design, research, reporting and quite often…writing. While I love what I do and appreciate the opportunity to work from home, there are just some tools that I would find it hard to live without.

I use all the following tools on a daily basis, some less than others (you’ll see why) but they all have their place in my ‘work from home toolkit‘.

1. InFormEnter

Online forms are one of those things that are time consuming but always necessary. We see them everywhere don’t we:

  • Blog comments
  • Shopping site checkout carts
  • Website registration forms

…and everywhere in between. There are a few possible solutions to this issue, but my favourite is definitely InFormEnter. This Firefox plugin means that I can fill in any field of any form in literally two clicks, especially handy for blog comments and other forms you tend to fill in regularly.

2. StumbleUpon Toolbar

I hear what you’re saying “StumbleUpon is a time waster, definitely not a productivity tool“, and if that was you’re response then you’re probably missing out on a great SU feature. As you may know, when you sign-up to StumbleUpon you enter your interests, and whenever you hit the Stumble button you are shown a random, but relevant page that has been submitted by someone.

There is often a time when I’m looking for design related material and Google just doesn’t have the results I want, whether it be a certain tutorial or some basic CSS templates that I can put my design onto. Therefore, I use the under-utilised StumbleUpon search function (All >> Search) and come across a popular page (as it has been voted for by the community) and fits my needs exactly.

The toolbar is especially useful for freelancers, because freelancers are a huge part of the userbase.

3. ToDoIst

Now this is one tool I really couldn’t live without. I’ve tried a number of online to do list tools including popular solutions like Remember the Milk, but nothing has fit my needs better than ToDoIst.

The site comes from the developer of Twitter rival, Plurk, and features Ajaxy-goodness throughout the site. If you don’t have an online to do list tool, I definitely recommend using this one.

4. Google Docs

I definitely haven’t made the full transition to an online office suite but I’m 90% of the way there thanks to Google Docs. Even with such serious competition from the likes of Zoho, I’ve found Google Docs to be reliable, fast and definitely enough for my needs.

Because I write a lot, I would love to see some form of online spell checker, but the sharing ability, ease of use and organisational aspects are just amazing. Whether you want to use this for serious team collaboration or you simply need a ‘note taker’ that is accessible from anywhere, you could definitely benefit from this.

5. Foxmarks

You might think I’m crazy, but for the last 3 weeks I’ve been using a laptop that has a hard drive which doesn’t work. Each day I boot my computer using a Xubuntu Live CD, use the already built-in Firefox to download Foxmarks, and then I’m ready to get on with my day.

Of course, I have another computer for the necessary programs like Photoshop, Filezilla and others, but I’ve found Foxmarks is a tool that allows me to get to work from literally anywhere in the world and very quickly. You sign up for a free account and it automatically saves all your Firefox bookmarks, allowing you to sync them at anytime.

6. LeechBlock

I worked as a social media manager for some of the biggest companies in the world for the last two years, and this was a life saver. As you know, online there are so many sites that can turn out to be timewasters, the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Youtube and more.

Leechblock allows you to effectively ban yourself from websites that you know are distracting. When I knew I had to get a project finished soon, I would simply turn it on and it would ensure I stayed focused on the task at hand.

The great thing about the tool is that it takes about a minute to actually re-enable the sites so you aren’t tempted to cheat yourself either.

7. Rescue Time

As everyone knows, one of the best ways to stick to your goals is to hold yourself accountable. Whether it is your website readers, your friends or even just having a note on the fridge to remind yourself of your aims. I guess you could class Rescue Time as an online alternative to this, allowing you to see how effective you are compared to other members of the site and exactly where your time is being spent.

The great thing about Rescue Time is that you don’t have to input any data. You install the software and it automatically records the tasks you are doing and then uploads them to the site for you so you can keep a track of your own activity.

You might be surprised to see how much time you are wasting, but at least you’ll discover where you can improve.

Now, it’s over to you guys!

What productivity tools could you not live without? See you in the comment section!

Image in this post: EricGjerde

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for all the comments guys, I’m glad you like the post.

    @Geoffrey – Did you read my reasoning for using Foxmarks? It adds the folders to your firefox bookmarks bar, something I’m pretty sure Delicious can’t do. I hear that they are currently rebranding to Xmarks.

    I hope that helps!

    Cheers,
    Glen

  2. says

    In reference to a Spell Checker in Google Docs, there is one. I even use my Firefox built-in spell checker. It’s more a dictionary that can be downloaded/updated.

  3. Nelson says

    Glen – I’m a new visitor to Freelancefolder.com and am impressed so far.
    Thanks for your article. I have added two of your suggested ‘add-ons’ to my Firefox.
    Cheers buddy,
    Nelson

  4. Geoffrey says

    With Delicious you can transfert your bookmarks directly to your Firefox bookmarks bar, all well organized !

    And you become browser independant !

    In addition, the TAGging sytem is really powerfull, way above what a classical hierarchical organisation can do.

  5. says

    I use LeechBlock a little differently – I have about four sites that I check compulsively, so I have them set in a group that I can only visit for 5 minutes out of every hour. After that, it forwards me to a page I made with the large words “WHY AREN’T YOU WORKING?” I can’t quit them cold turkey, so knowing I have a limited amount of time forces me to evaluate whether I REALLY want to read this particular blog article or if I’m just wasting time, and so on.

    I also rely heavily on a little dashboard widget called (10+2)5. Basically, it says “Start”, I work for 10 minutes, it says “Stop”, I get a 2 minute break. It helps me not to drift, knowing I can check my email if I just wait a few more minutes – and plus, if I have a lot of tasks to do, switching between them every 10 minutes helps me stay on track.

  6. says

    Well, I have to say that the coolest productivity tool that I have come across in a while is my GoEverywhere webtop. It allows me to work on a virtual desktop from anywhere, any computer in the world with internet access. And I am able to access everything on that desktop with just a single password.

    It’s the coolest thing that I have come across in a very long time. Give the beta test a shot!

  7. says

    I had no idea about the Search features in SU. I will definitely use that from now on, but not sure if productively. :) And I will start using ToDoIst and RescueTime, cause I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time without knowing where that time goes.

  8. Jeff says

    Hey Glen- It sounds like you are about to make the full commitment to Google Docs, but before you convert completely you should give Office Live Workspace a try if you haven’t already. It integrates easily into the MS Office suite so that you can quickly save updated Office files “to the cloud” without having the extra steps of logging into an additional website. It can function as a stand alone service outside of MS Office as well, allowing members of a Workspace to collaborate on school projects, trip planning, essay writing etc via pre-designed templates. Take a look at the following link to see some examples of what can be done with Office Live Workspace: http://workspace.officelive.com/LearnMore

    Thanks,
    Jeff
    Office Live Outreach Team

  9. says

    Nice list, I actually hadn’t known about a lot of those.

    The one productivity tool I couldn’t live without is my iPod Touch. It lets me stay connected – check Emails, Twitter, surf the ‘net, listen to podcasts, write notes to myself, read PDFs – even when I can’t be at my laptop (such as when I am putting the munchkins to sleep). It has upped my productivity by at least 100%.

  10. says

    Good list, I had not heard all of them but like the idea of banning myself from sites that distract me, I find that some days I am really good and really get into my work but other days I really struggle and lose track when I work from home so it would be really good to click it on and it be my concious for the rest of the day.

  11. says

    I love Google Docs! I realize that many people prefer OpenOffice.org 3, but Docs but you basically have limitless space to store your work. I too, write so much that I would spending a lot of money on storage devices or space, so Docs works great for me for that reason. The one thing I do not like about it is that I cannot figure out how to personalize which folder I want to open with. I do not like the full-frame view that shows all items. Otherwise, it’s pretty awesome for a free service.

  12. says

    Thanks for the list. I’m addicted to Foxmarks. I usually just use a Word doc. for my to-do list. First task: Make to-do list. Second task: Cross off #1.
    C’mon, I know I’m not the only one! LOL
    I will definitely check out some of these tools, because my computer tends to suck me into a gigantic black hole every time I use it.
    I sometimes go “old school” and use a kitchen timer. If I want to let my mind wander through the internet, I’ll set the timer, and when it goes off, it’s back to work! Works best if the timer isn’t within reach so I actually have to get up (step away from the computer!) to turn it off.

  13. says

    I might have to try leechblock.

    I have been known to either restrict myself to pen & paper or the laptop with the broken wireless, to keep myself from going astray…lol. This might be a more practical solution.

  14. says

    When we started adding computers to the house, I considered foxmarks. It is probably a nearly perfect solution if all the systems you might be using are equipped with firefox, and mine are.

    I ended up choosing Gmarks instead, which is a FF addon that connects with your google bookmarks. Already being a user of several google services like docs, gmail and notebook, I’m signing in there regularly anyway, so no need for another username/password pair.

    It’s ended up to be the perfect solution for me, and I’ve been glad on more than one occasion to be able to just go to the google bookmarks site to find a page I needed when I was on a client’s computer.

  15. says

    Personally, the way I keep track of my bookmarks across computers is by using Archivd. It’s a web-based centralized database, so I can access all my bookmarks from anywhere (no syncing necessary!) Check it out sometime…

  16. indian says

    The best productivity enhancement tool that I have ever used is JDownloader. Earlier I used to waste lot of time everyday trying to download books/mags/software, etc from file-sharing sites. Now I can automate the download process by just adding the links to JDownloader and it takes care of everything else, including countdown, captcha entry, and unpacking!

  17. says

    Hi,
    since you have a page on productivity tools I just wanted to let you know that we are launching a major update today for Hyperwords for Firefox – Version 7!

    THE WEB BECOMES MORE LIQUID WITH HYPERWORDS

    November 23 2010, London, UK – The Hyperwords Company announced a major update to the Hyperwords Firefox Add-On. A million downloads and 5/5 stars on Mozilla.org and Hyperwords keeps getting better.

    “Until you have tried Hyperwords you won’t know what convenience means.”
    Vint Cerf, Internet Pioneer

    Easy to Use: Select any word or words on a web page and choose a command:

    • Search Wikipedia or Google (or any other source – entirely the your choice).
    • Find pictures, maps, products & live share prices.
    • Share via email, blogs, Twitter or Facebook.
    • Translate (Arabic to Urdu).
    • Convert currencies & other units.

    The results of searches are presented in an easy to dismiss QuickWeb overlay and results of translations and conversions are presented in the page itself through LiquidText technology.

    “Hecky plonk! How did I live without it? It even tweets. Genius.”
    Stephen Fry, Twitterer

    In this update Hyperwords is even more intelligent with handling of conversions and translations, featuring numerous enhancements and bug fixes from user feedback. It also sports a modern look and feel. It’s streamlined, seamless, and beautiful to use.

    Other exciting news is that Hyperwords will also soon be updated for Google Chrome and Beta releases will soon be available for Apple Safari and Microsoft Office, IE & Acrobat/PDF.

    “Hyperwords is a great tool.”
    CNN

    “This tool is so useful you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.”
    BBC World

    “Hugely powerful and it’s free.”
    Steve Caplin, MacUser/Expertreviews

    The Hyperwords Company is a UK based company which started as a research project at UCL and is backed by industry pioneers Vint Cerf, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Dave Farber and Bruce Horn.

    “Simple, clever and useful, the Hyperwords interface is a new way
    of using the Web that frees us from designs of the past.”
    Ted Nelson, Hypertext pioneer

    Get the free download and try it yourself at: http://www.hyperwords.net

    Hyperwords is a Liquid Information Project: http://www.liquid.org
    User Reviews of Hyperwords on Mozilla Firefox : https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1941/reviews/

    Frode Hegland
    ceo

    The Hyperwords Company
    http://www.hyperwords.net

    A liquid information project

  18. Lisa says

    Yes there are only so many hours a day. I do stuff PA stuff for freelancers. One of them started to use Dooster.net and can’t stop singing it praises. Things seem to be v speedy and productive with that particular client. So even though I don’t enjoy technology have started to use it myself and it’s definitely an easy-to-use timesaver.

  19. says

    Nice post!
    I’d like to suggest another form builder, which is easy to use and build forms without mistakes – http://phpforms.net/. I didn’t try informenter, but I am absolutely sure that phpformbuilder doesn’t have such problems, that were mentioned by PhaoLoo.

  20. Vincent says

    I would like to recommend OroTimesheet for time tracking and invoicing.
    It is really easy to use and very affordable.
    It helps me keep track of the time I spend on each project. I can easily create an invoice from my timesheets. I used many timesheet software over the years and this one is my favorite.

    It is free to try so make sure to visit the company’s website at http://www.orologic.com/

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