Over the years I’ve tried a collection of both free and paid online productivity tools. Some of them were a complete waste of time and some were a complete waste of money.
A few were a waste of both.
Today I’d like to share with you the 3 free tools that are now part of my daily routine to help me get my work done.
One of the key components of creating products (or even blog posts) is having a good outline of what you want to cover. I’ve long been an advocate of mind maps as a great tool to collect your thoughts and see them in a visual way.
MindMeister is an excellent online mindmapping tool that allows up to 3 maps on their free plan. Up to this point I haven’t had the need to upgrade to a Pro plan (which allows unlimited maps and exporting) but as I integrate this tool more into my daily routine, I may consider it down the road.
The basic idea of a mind map is that you put your central idea down first and then build “branches” out from there into logical groupings.
You can then expand and collapse the various branches to help you focus on whatever area you need to.
I find that laying down ideas in a visual way like this helps to kickstart ideas that I might not have discovered if I just made a simple list.
Another tool that use every day to organize what I need to do is called WorkFlowy.
The reason I use this free tool is that it is ridiculously simple and clean. There is no clutter and no distractions.
Once I’d taken the time to learn a few of the keyboard shortcuts, I became hooked. You can expand and collapse your list to whatever level of detail you want as well as organize your list with tags.
The fact that Workflowy looks so spartan actually hides how robust of a tool it is.
The beautiful thing about Workflowy is that you can continually dump ideas and thoughts into it and always control how “noisy” it becomes by zooming in and out of your list. One of the reasons I shy away from other to-do applications is that I feel that things can quickly get out of hand and I spend more time trying to organize the tool rather than my own thoughts and ideas.
Workflowy makes it easy to get ideas out of your head and then systematically get things done.
Update: Since posting this article a couple of days ago, 37 Signals have discontinued Writeboard. I will be searching for an alternative over the coming days and will post my findings here.
In the last 6 months or so, I’ve begun outsourcing a significant portion of my online business. As anyone who has ever dabbled in outsourcing knows, one of the keys to success is communication.
I needed a place to communicate with my VA and came across a tool from 37 Signals called Writeboard.
This online tool is perfect for sharing text documents with others but also includes version control. This means that I can start a document that I want to share with my VA and that I want her to be able to edit. With Writeboard, I can roll back to older versions and even compare my version to hers. It’s powerful stuff.
Even if you don’t need to collaborate with others, Writeboard is still a great tool to use if you want to track changes in your own documents. There are a lot of possible uses for Writeboard and considering the fact that it’s 100% free, I’d highly recommend trying it out.
Although there is a time and a place for paid tools online, there are many great free solutions out there too. These 3 free productivity tools are essential to my online business and are well worth checking out if you want to boost your own productivity.
What about you? What online tools do you use to be more productive? I love hearing what other tools people use so share your thoughts in the comments!
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