I am a little (okay maybe a lot) app crazy. Browser plug-ins, add-ons, application extensions, web-based services, Mac tools, software apps… I'm always compelled to sign-up, download and trial them all. This little obsession of mine can sometimes get out of hand, warrenting an official internet confession (I CONFESS!) and a official Top 5 Favorite Daily Productivity Tools list. It was hard to pick just 5, but these are really the core apps that I use every day to be more productive. Here goes…
Things for Mac is a task management Mac application that helps you organize and manage your projects, tasks, due dates, notes, etc. I tend to have a hard time sticking to a task management system for longer than 6 months, but Things has made an honest women of me. I was notorious for quickly dropping one task management app/service for a new, shiny one. I don't see that happening with Things, because not only does it have all the features and functionality I need, it's damn sexy. The app design, dashboard interface and tab navigation is inspired by a Leopard-style source list, so I immediately felt comfortable with the user flow and logic. It is clean, intuitive and looks great on my desktop. Sometimes I feel organized just by simply looking at it. Aside from it's full feature set, including tagging, filtering, syncing, search, reoccurring to-do's, integration with Quicksilver(love!), etc., a clean and smart design that–even in complete chaos–I feel totally organized. Also important is the mobile integration with both an iPhone and iPad app (the iPad app looks sick). System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later. Offers free trial– Download.
Text Expander is a software that integrates itself into a computer's system preferences, allowing you to take any block of text and attach a shortkey to it so that when you type the shortkey the block of text anywhere on your computer, it auto-expand's your text like magic, so you don't have to type it. I use it to auto-expand standard email copy, HTML/CSS code, email signatures, work and home addresses, directions, and other frequently typed text. Text Expander offers a lot more cool features than I use it for, but I love how it saves me from having to type the same thing over and over again. I even have it set up to where "cellphone#" auto-expands my 10 digit phone number. Yes, I went there. The software also gives you the stats around how many "Snippets" you have expanded, characters you have saved and the number of hours you have avoided typing by using the software. According to my account, I have expanded 2,258 Snippets, saved myself from typing 137,323 characters and avoided an additional 10 hours of typing at 70 WPM. Thank you Text Expander. System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 and above. Offers free trial– Download.
RescueTime is a web-based service that uses a software tool you install in your menu bar to track, categorize and report back to you with graphs and data of exactly how and where you spend your time on the computer, every minute that you are on it (you can easily pause tracking at any point if you wish). When I stumbled across this site about 6 months ago, I was freaked out to use it. I honestly didn't want to see a report that showed me exactly how much time I spend here and there–I feared what it would show–and it was that fact alone that made me sign up. Like most of us, I spend A LOT of time on my computer, and felt that tracking my every computer move and analyzing the daily, weekly and monthly reports would undoubtedly give me a clearer understanding of where I can be inefficient, spend too much time, not enough time, etc.
It gives you some fascinating data like an efficiency summary (basically how your total computer time on average compares to others) and your productivity by day, as a line graph that shows your hours spent and levels of productivity (I bravely attached a screenshot of my productivity this week in the screenshot below, take a look). I have found that the data is really relevant and useful because I established the productivity level for every application and website I visit regularly, giving them a ranking of "productive +1 " "very productive +2" "distracting -1" or "neutral 0." Every application on my computer and every site on my browser has a rank associated with it based upon how 1. important the activity is to doing my job, 2. what activities, sites and apps I use as daily little distractions and 3. what things are truly neutral, being neither distracting nor productive. I do not look at my productivity levels and efficiency results daily, but do check in once a week to assess how productive I've been, and take a look at how the last week's computer time compares to weeks and months prior. I've come to like analyzing my RescueTime results because it reminds me to always strive to be more efficiency with my time and gives me a pat on the back when I have a rocking week. Offers free 30 day trial– Download.
Evernote is a web-service, desktop client and mobile app that lets you to quickly capture, categorize and save pretty much any type of content, so that you can easily find, and access it again later. For me, what make the Evernote service so powerful is its accessibility across different devices, unique functionalities that enable users to easily upload and save really any type of content, easily file it to their account and, simply use their account search box to find it later. I have been using Evernote for a few years now and it has become one of the most valued applications on my desktop. I use it both my professional notebook and personal scrapbook. Evernote is where I keep all my research, save clips of interesting statistics/articles that I may want to reference later, and store all my personal notes, ideas and digital keepsakes that I collect. If you want to find a easy, efficient and organizable system to digitally save the things in your life you should try Evernote. On the Evernote site they suggest creative ways you can leverage the "infinitely useful" technology, and it's features to better archive ones content and life better. If you have not given Evernote a spin yet, you really should. The service and platform is free for all users, but they do offer premium paid accounts that features additional storage space. System Requirements: Mac OS X or Windows. They also have mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. Download.
Quicksilver is a lightweight, universal application launcher that lives in your dock. With a simple keystroke launch command, Quicksilver will pop up in the middle of your screen, immediately allowing you start typing the name of any application, file or folder to locate and open it quickly. Also with Quicksilver, if you take the time learn the tricks, enable its plug-ins and create triggers in the Preferences panel, you will be surprised what a little hacker Quicksilver really is. Simply through activating Quicksilver you can quickly move files, tag and file documents, add an iCal meeting to your calendar, perform a google search without the browser… and the list goes on and on. This app is a no-brainer. It's lightweight, flexible, highly customizable and can be leveraged to handle frequent, daily tasks in a fraction of the time. With Quicksilver, performing an action and completing a task is as simple as launching Quicksilver with a keyboard shortcut, typing "iCal" and pressing the space bar to begin typing, scheduling and saving a meeting that will be automatically updated to your iCal. People that learn use Quicksilver to its fullest potential can perform any task faster than anyone else in the room. Quicksilver is a free application for Mac OS only– Download.
Dropbox is a web-based file hosting service that allows you upload, sync and share files easily online and across computers. It is pretty simple really. After signing up, Dropbox creates a secure, hosted folder that can be shared between two computers. The alternative to Dropbox is emailing your docs back and forth or saving them to an external hard drive. After using it for a while now, I cannot express enough how essential it has been to helping me keep my work and home computer synced so that I don't have to constantly email myself files or lug my work computer back and forth everyday. It is available to Download for Windows, Mac, Linux and Mobile. Dropbox offer 2 GB of free storage upon signup. They have a referal based incentive progam that can earn you more free storage.