A couple of weeks ago I wrote about staying focused and moving ahead with your portable career even when life gets in the way. I promised to share some productivity tools with you, so here goes.
Some are free and some are not. These are all applications and programs that I use — a lot — and recommend.
If you don’t have a business or portable career, you won’t need all of these.
I’m putting Security at the top of the list. Even though we don’t normally think about internet security as a productivity tool, lack of it can destroy your ability to get work done for hours, days or sometimes weeks.
KeePass is a nifty little program that will help you store your passwords securely. In today’s online world, we all have way too many passwords. Even if we wanted to flout the best advice and use a single password, we couldn’t get away with it.
One site wants you to use a password with 6-9 characters, including at least one upper and lower case letter and numbers but won’t allow special symbols like ! or &. Another insists you do use at least one special symbol and your password has to be 10-14 characters in length.
What’s a busy portable careerist to do? Written lists are cumbersome and insecure, and keeping your passwords in a list on your computer is a huge no-no.
Keepass is a small program with a lot of power, and it’s easy to use. It uses strong encryption you lock it with a strong master key or keyfile. You can sync it across multiple devices as well.
I’ve written about why it’s important to have a VPN here and here.
It protects your wireless connection from snoopers when you’re out in public, and it makes it look like you’re in the US (or whatever your home country). Without it, you can’t order from a lot of US retailers (like Amazon) or enjoy a Netflix streaming video. Some banks require that you connect from an IP address in your home country, so without it you might not be able to access your home country bank information.
VPN4All is the service I’m using currently. I reviewed it here. They were kind enough to give me a trial account for my mobile device recently, so I’ll be writing more about them. So far I’m extremely happy with VPN4All.
Hotspot Shield is the VPN I signed up with when I came to Panama.
Here are a few other VPNs that come highly recommended:
Hide My Ass — with some special holiday savings!
Wunderlist is super easy to use. You can create one to-do list and check things off as you get them done. Or, for a more targeted performance, create multiple lists.
I have a list for each website I write for, as well as a list for my freelance writing work and a list for what I call “Life Administration.” That’s where I put reminders to pay a bill by a certain date, call the doctor and stuff like that.
You can put it on your computer, phone, tablet — Android, Apple or Windows — and they sync in the cloud.
Google Calendar works with Gmail and other Google products. You can keep your calendars private or share them with team and/or family members.
Create different calendars for different aspects of your life — personal, professional, etc.
Microsoft Outlook is part of the Microsoft Office Home & Business Suite. The newest version can be synced in the cloud with mobile versions. I use it for email and for the calendar. I used to keep all my contacts there as well, but find it’s easier to use Google for that.
Cost: Depends how you bundle it. It’s Microsoft, so definitely NOT Free
XMind is my brainstorming program of choice.
If you’re not familiar with it, brainstorming is a creative way to make plans and solve problems. I use it to map out ideas for subjects to write about, among other things.
Basic XMind is FREE, or you can upgrade to a Premium, Pro or Pro Subscription for prices from $79-129. If you’re an educational institution or a non-profit, you get a discount.
Note Taking Tools
Microsoft OneNote is also part of the Microsoft Office Suite. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love and rely on OneNote.
It gives you a fast and easy way to take notes, grab screen shots and organize thoughts and ideas into Notebooks.
While loads of people use Evernote — and I’ve used it as well — I find OneNote easier, faster and more intuitive to use.
You can use both on multiple devices and sync in the cloud.
Cost: Depends how you bundle it. OneNote is from Microsoft, so definitely NOT Free.
Evernote is FREE for the basic version — which does a lot — and a premium version is available as well for $5/month or $45/year.
Dropbox is the cloud sharing service I use professionally. It’s a simple setup where you install an application on your computer, tablet or phone that syncs to the cloud. You can share either individual files or folders with others.
Basic Dropbox is FREE but only gives you 2G of storage space initially. However, you can increase it to 18G by referring others to the service. Or you can upgrade to the Pro package for $9.99/month or the Team package where prices vary depending on your needs.
Try it out using this link and I’ll get 500 more megabytes of space in my account!
Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is another part of the Google family of apps. Like Dropbox, you download the app to your device and it syncs in the cloud. It gives you 5G of storage to start, and you can upgrade.
Cost: FREE to start, upgrades available starting at $2.49/month for another 25G.
Check out this article, which compares Dropbox, Google Drive and two other popular file sharing programs.
HootSuite helps simplify your social media activity. It allows you to manage multiple social media accounts in one place. You can review the postings, reply, post, comment, and even schedule new posts ahead of time from the dashboard. It also gives you basic analytics.
Cost: FREE for the basic account, which lets you manage up to five social media profiles from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Foursquare and more. Pro Plan is $9.99/month.
If you have a website or blog, or if you put together printed materials, you’ll need images to dress them up.
iStockphoto is my go-to website for downloading professional images at a reasonable cost. It’s also a good place to find royalty-free music to use as background for videos and the like.
Cost: Varies depending on size and type of image.
Flickr.com is a free image-sharing site. Not every image is available for every use — check the licensing. You want images that use the Creative Commons license, and make sure you give proper credit and a link back to the original.
Do you have some favorite productivity tools? Share yours in the comments.