I recently posted in a forum about the top ten efficiency tools I use on a daily basis which make my life efficient, enjoyable or just – well, fun! And I thought that information was worth capturing here, on the blog, too. [Updated December 3rd 2014]
So, what comes to mind when I think of efficiency and my work? Yes, there are the obvious ones – Dropbox, Evernote, Camtasia, Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint……. but what about the things I use which are the “glue” of my daily work? Things I use all day throughout the day?
Let’s have a look at my top ten
Everything is a free utility and is a great one. I use it many times every hour of the day. I have a “hot key” for – Ctrl + 3 so that it’s always there.
(NOTE – if you use Dropbox as well as Everything and you get a conflict this post might help.)
Everything is a blisteringly fast way to find any file on your hard drive. It indexes every single file name and then as you type, it filters them down in real time.
More often then not, this is the fastest way to load any file.
Eg type in: “checklist”, and “xlsx” and all your Excel files with the word “Checklist” in the title are shown.
Double click and it’s open, and you’re editing. Brilliant.
Chameleon folder is a brilliant folder manager. It’s also free.
What is a folder manager?
It allows you to maintain a quick-access list of shortcuts to your frequently used folders.
If, like me, you have 50 or hundred commonly used folders in various places and in more than one tree structure on your hard drive(s) then remembering the exact folder you stored a file in can be a bit of a nightmare. A good folder manager makes the process blissful!
Typically, you can display your folder manager whenever you have an open dialogue, save as dialogue, or when you are simply on your desktop. You have to try it to see its full power. But it does have power.
There are various alternatives around but Chameleon does the job highly adequately. I have it assigned to Ctrl+2.
Ditto is another free utility.
You must have had the experience of pasting something into a place and then noticing you didn’t want what is pasted, you wanted the thing you copied previously. Well, that’s because Windows built-in clipboard is not really very flexible. Cut once, paste once. Clipboard utilities enable you in various ways to have access to the previous 10, 20, or more copies you did. This might be a full web page, an image, or a piece of text or URL.
In reality, I normally only want access to the last three or four things I copied, generally, but occasionally it is useful to be able to pay something from 10 or 20 copies ago.
Anyway, another great time saver. I have it assigned to Ctrl +1. Wonderful.
Pasted the wrong thing? Hit Ctrl+1 and a list opens up. Double click on the second, or third, item in the list. Done.
4. Timology – my Time Management System.
This is a way to use the brilliant Evernote to apply the equally brilliant Getting Things Done – the best time management method ever – from David Allen.
Great as it is, I (and loads of other people) find Getting Things Done hard to apply.
But not any more – if you combine it with Evernote. My productivity has doubled since this finally clicked into place for me. Here’s more detail on Timology – my time management method.
5. Fastever for iPad and iPhone
The Fastever app – this app gathers your To Do items for immediate transport to your Secret Weapon system in Evernote. Yes, iOS does have the Evernote app itself, but Fastever – as it sounds – is a quick way to add a thought to your The Secret Weapon system with minimal effort.
6. Mind Manager
Mind Manager is simply the best mind mapping software. It’s invaluable for planning and for recording relationships between data visually. Yes, it’s not cheap! But then it is the best.
But, when you have some serious planning to do, some serious brainstorming to carry out, some effective tutorials to prepare, or some notes to make from the fact filled presentation you have seen… reach for Mind Manager, if you can possibly stretch the budget. It can’t be beat!
Yay! Smartdraw. When it definitely IS a process and not a mind map, Smartdraw is, quite simply, the only decent flow-charting software around to diagram that.
Again, it’s quite expensive and it’s a bit of a treat! But when you want to record how a process works – or, perhaps, demonstrate how it works to others (outsourcers?) then sometimes you can’t beat a good flow chart.
A mind map is definitely no substitute; though occasionally either could do the job.
It really depends on how the data is structured. If it’s linear and with clear decision points then you need a flowchart, ideally. If its radial with many subtopics radiating out, more like how the brain generally works, then it’s definitely a mind map you want.
Of course, you can do without either – and just make notes, or use an Excel spreadsheet. But what I’m talking about here is being able to make notes, and present information – both to yourself and to others – in the most attractive, memorable and effective way.
And to do that I, myself, “flip” between paper, flip chart, mind map, flowchart, Excel, text documents, and PowerPoint. The more options you have, the more effective you will be. But, of course, it all has to be within your budget. And don’t overburden yourself with stuff you just won’t use.
The best free alternative is yEd. It’s very good for free. It’s not up to the professionalism of Smartdraw; it’s fiddlier. But the charts it make look very good.
The key benefit of the MX Mouse? The weighted scroll wheel.
It doesn’t sound much: but it’s a fantastic feature which I just love. Give the built-in scroll wheel a spin and it just keeps turning down that lo-o-o-o–o-o-ong page. If you do that 20 times in an hour sometimes that’s a lot of time – and frustration – which you can save. If I lost it tomorrow, I’d immediately get another one.
In fact, after I’d had my first MX Mouse for two years it broke and I phoned Logitech about it. They immediately sent me a replacement of the new model at no charge – and I’m still using that one, over 2 years later.
There’s not a lot to choose between mice: except this one – with its weighted scroll wheel. When I use someone else’s computer without that weighted scroll-wheel I really noticed that it’s missing.
9. A quad core chip and SSD hard drive(s).
These really speed things up.
Now, getting a fast computer isn’t going to make you more money. Having a good *system* and applying it is going to make you good money. Then, having a fast computer will make you more money, faster!
So first, make sure you are following a good system to make yourself money. Then invest in better kit.
Quad core – that means the main chip works on four pathways simultaneously. For example, with a dual-core (2 pathways) 99% of my chip’s brain was used up whenever I rendered a video (with Camtasia). Simply put, if rendering I could do NOTHING else. Bummer. With a quad core – this has dropped to 40% or less.
Keep up with the cores if you want best efficiency. Six cores are next – but now they are ridiculously expensive.
SSDs – solid state hard drives. In other words, hard drives which have no moving parts – they work the same way as a memory stick. Byte for byte, reading and writing is much faster with these drives.
For the best SSDs of the moment – read the comparisons at www.fastestssd.com. Choose what seem to be the best ones within your budget, then Google them to find the best prices locally.
My techie took a look and said the best SSDs were Samsung 840 Pros at the time he built my PC. So they won.]
(Plural, by the way (“ones”) because I mirror to a second drive using RAID, to give me a total, peace-of-mind backup).
Nearly two years later I am running the same setup and it’s still super-fast.
10. FSL launcher!
FSL is a programme launcher. And it’s free. It’s a joy!
The thing is, the more you do in IM, the more little fiddly programs you get to use, the more utilities you realise you just have to have.
If I want to load any one of 100 programmes I have at my fingertips I move my cursor to the top left of the left-most of my 2 x 28 inch screens, and FSL launcher appears.
It has ten tabs (or as many as I want) one for each category of programme – Utilities, Video, Office, Media, Internet, Graphics, Planning, etc etc.
Each tab contains the launch icons for the programmes in that category. One click and they launch. If I want a new shortcut in any category I just drag and drop a shortcut from the Desktop.
I use FSL 100 times a day. It’s another big time-saver.
I’d Better Stop
That was fun – I’ll stop there at ten great utilities which make me many times more efficient in the day!
Hope there are some ideas for you.
Have you got some favourite utilities? List them in the comments please!