There’s an old saying that goes “If you want something done fast, give it to the busiest guy.” But when you’re that guy, how do you manage to get everything done? It’s all about being efficient and using the right tools to cut out unnecessary steps that are eating up your time – without you even knowing it. These tips are quick and easy to implement and will save you hours of time each week so you can be more productive:
Fantastical – add things to your calendar in seconds ($10)
What if I said you could add Tuesday’s 1PM lunch meeting with John to your calendar, send John a .ics invite, and set a reminder alarm, all in 3 seconds? Fantastical does just that. Simply hit the keyboard shortcut of your choice (I use control-space) and begin typing. Fantastical auto-detects the date and time, location, people you may want to invite and more, then adds the appointment to iCal. You can also search and edit previous entries, add things to your “To Do” list, and get a preview of what’s on your agenda all in an easy to use, beautiful interface.
Alfred – quickly access what you need (free)
How often do you search Amazon? Google? Your computer? Wikipedia? Twitter? The answer is every day. Search all of these and more in one place. Meet Alfred, your one stop search tool. Pick a keyboard shortcut (I use option-space) and type what you’re looking for. Alfred will sense the context – for example, search “map of 123 Church St” and Alfred will open a the Google Maps of that address in your browser. Alfred can return results of files on your computer, compute math equations, define words, launch a website and so much more. As much as I love Apple’s Spotlight, Alfred blows it out of the water in functionality, speed and customization.
Evernote – organize your notes (free)
Evernote is a virtual notebook that let’s you put anything in it – text, pictures, videos, websites, etc. With apps for Mac, iOS, PC, Android, WebOS (remember that?), Windows Phone, and BlackBerry, in addition to a web-based client, you can access your notes from any device. Since all of your notes are stored in the ever-popular “cloud”, you can take notes on your iPad and review them on your PC.
Evernote’s intuitive layout lets you organize your notes in notebooks, so you can categorize your notes however you’d like, and lets you assign tags to your notes, making it easy to find that roast chicken recipe from 2008. You can also share notebooks with your friends, so they can see what you find so noteworthy.
Saving things you’re already reading (like this awesome article) is a breeze. Evernote has browser plugins (to save websites to a note right from the browser) and Zite compatibility (my favorite iPad app). Did I mention it’s free? Go get it.
Inbox Zero – take control of your email (free)
Take control of your emails with the Inbox Zero email philosophy. Stop checking your email every minute, unclutter your inbox by categorizing your emails by action, and save hours per week by simply changing the way you handle email. Watch Merlin Mann, the creator of the Inbox Zero, explain why this will save you time and how to implement it. After you start, stick with it – on average it takes 66 days to form a habit.
Followup.cc – make reminders to follow up with people simply by sending an email (free)
You email someone, they never respond, you forget you needed to hear back from them. It happens all the time. Instead of making a calendar reminder for every email you need to keep track of, signup for Followup.cc. Next time you write an email and want a reminder in, let’s say, 2 days, just BCC “firstname.lastname@example.org” and you’ll get an email reminder in exactly 2 days. You can specify just about any time for the reminder (tomorrow, Tuesday at 3pm, August 5th, etc), and you can view all of your past and future reminders on the Followup.cc website.
If you really miss the calendar entries, you can pay $10/mo and Followup.cc will sync with your calendar, auto-delete reminders if the person responds, categorize your reminders, and more.
Customize your Auto-correct – type just a few letters and have the rest filled in (free)
Do you type out your address often? Frequently use expressions like “Thank you, and please let me know if…”? Set shortcuts for them and stop typing it out a dozen times a day. For example, you can set “123church” as a shortcut for “123 Church St, Philadelphia PA 19123”, or “1thanks” a shortcut for “Thank you, and please let me know if…”. Here’s how to set it up:
- Go to the Apple Menu > System Preferences
- Click “Language & Text”
- Click the “Text” tab
- Add a new entry in the box. The “Replace” column is the shortcut you type, the “With” column is what actually appears.
Just make sure your shortcuts aren’t common words, like “hello”. Unless you want to play a prank on someone.
Keyboard Shortcuts – Stop using your mouse for everything (free)
I know we just posted an article about this, but I can’t stress it enough – STOP USING YOUR MOUSE. You’re wasting time moving the mouse all around your screen when most things can be done right from the keyboard. I won’t say any more – just read the complete shortcut list or read our lesser-known (but equally useful) shortcuts here:
Share Mouse – Use one mouse and keyboard for multiple computers ($50)
I use both a PC and a Mac, and frequently go between both. Luckily Share Mouse lets me use one mouse and keyboard for both. Simply move your mouse over to the Mac screen and you’re controlling the Mac. Move it to the PC screen and you’re controlling the PC. You can even share the clipboard and drag files back and forth. Installation is simple – just open Share Mouse on all of the computers you want to use it on and it auto-configures itself. We had it up and running in seconds. See it in action.
Note: We used to use Synergy (which is free), but it frequently stopped working and can be extremely frustrating to set up. It also lacks support for dragging files from one computer to the next. Share Mouse is worth the $50.