5 Free Tools for Increased Productivity and Organization

Reviews of 5 great free productivity tools and apps to make work and home life more efficient and less stressful.
Reviews of 5 great free productivity tools and apps to make work and home life more efficient and less stressful.

Do you feel like you need Octopus arms and about 12 more hours in the day to get enough accomplished? If so, there are some cool tools that can help you lower your stress levels and streamline your tasks both at home and in the office.

As a freelancer, I've struggled a lot with balancing my time between my business and caring for my home and family. There are always distractions, diversions, and other time wasters. For those who are chronically disorganized, this can become a devastating problem. I was, and still am at times if I'm honest, one of those people.

In my never ending quest to become more efficient and productive in all areas, I have discovered several amazing resources. The best part? They're all free. Below are my top 5 favorites that I've used and what I discovered working with them. If you struggle with your daily routine, be sure to check out a few of these fantastic tools. Hopefully they will help you as much as they did me!

How to Prioritize Tasks

Do you ever feel like a million ideas are swimming in your brain and all of them are vying for equal attention? Prioritizing isn't possible if you aren't even sure what it is you need to accomplish. This is where a simple act of brainstorming comes in very handy. For my writer friends, you are likely familiar with this concept for outlining a story, but it also comes in very handy for outlining your life and simplifying it.

If you are feeling the struggles with inner chaos, spend five minutes right now doing a mind map. If you have never done one, you are in for a real treat when you are finished trust me. It relieves stress and gives you a clear look at that jumble of junk going on in your head.

Freemind isn't the most beautiful software, but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in usefulness. Take a central idea or theme and then branch out. I'll share an example of one of mine with you below.

FreeMind is a great free tool that helps you do just what it says - free your mind from chaos and get organized!
FreeMind is a great free tool that helps you do just what it says - free your mind from chaos and get organized! | Source

FreeMind Software Outstanding Free Software for Organization

If you look at the example photo above, it will show you what FreeMind is all about. In two minutes, I created a quick mind map centering around the theme of my never-ending Kitchen saga. We have been rehabbing and organizing - and it's always chaotic, but a lot less so when I can see at a glance what I need to do.

When new ideas spring to mind, I open up my mindmap and add it to the cluster. Here you have a primary theme, several child nodes, and the ability to drill down as many times as you need to add more subtopics.

Great for writing - great for life. Mind map all those chaotic thoughts and then you can see things more clearly, which in turn will help you to plan and organize.

How to Prioritize Tasks and Give up Multitasking.

Multitasking is a fun concept in theory, but the reality is, it will slow you down. Don't believe me? Check out this article on BrainFacts.org for the science that proves we are not wired to multi-task and how it can actually harm your brain.

The best way to get more done in a day and actually feel like you've accomplished something is to organize and prioritize tasks. While simple to do lists are very effective; what if I told you there was a way to not only manage to-do lists, but to analyze the amount of time you spend doing various tasks as well?

Task Coach is a multi-platform program that is open source and free to use. Because it is open source freeware, there are some occasional bugs, but there is also completely free support and a forum where other users can give you tips and hints along the way. Versatility, free support and the amazing amount of cool and useful features, make this one of the most outstanding free time management resources out there.

Here are some of my favorite features in a nutshell:

  • Arrange tasks into sub-tasks.
  • Track timing
  • Easy to print
  • Multiplatform - apps on your phone or use on your PC
  • Set due dates and reminders
  • Add, delete, move around easily
  • Printable lists

Task Coach Time Management Software

great features to help you track how much time you spend on various tasks, and to break down larger jobs into smaller pieces.
great features to help you track how much time you spend on various tasks, and to break down larger jobs into smaller pieces.

Distraction, Procrastination and Other Time Wasters

Think you'll just take a quick minute to check Facebook? Think again. Recent research has shown the average American spends over 3 hours per DAY on social media.

That equals 21 hours per week, or 1092 hours per year. Wow. How much more productive could you be if you disciplined yourself to stay away from social media and limited it to say only 30 minutes per day? That would be 3.5 hours per week and only 182 hours per year.

If you think your minutes here and there of checking your social media aren't cutting into your life, you may want to rethink that stance. I discovered a little Firefox browser add-on several months ago that has literally changed my life.

LeechBlock The Free Browser Add-on That Will Change Your Life

It may sound dramatic, but it's so true! Whether you need subtle reminders with a little "no no screen" or a full nuclear option, Leechblock will work for you. It is extremely customizable.

You can have several groups of sites to block. You can set it up to block sites during certain hours, on specific days, or all day. In addition, in the advanced options you can also make it to where you cannot alter the settings of the addon or override it. - We're talking full nuclear option for those who really struggle with social media addiction and can't get their work/study done.

Leechblock, the highly versatile and customizable free browser add-on that will stop the time killing distractions in your life.
Leechblock, the highly versatile and customizable free browser add-on that will stop the time killing distractions in your life. | Source

Stop Forgetting Ideas and Information with Evernote

Evernote is such a great tool. You can use it to quickly write notes and ideas. Attach relevant images, files and then tag them to find them later. You can add your notes to customized notebooks also to keep everything organized.

This is a great time saver if you have an idea. Jot it down in here quickly and tag it. Later on, you can search and find it. It has a to-do list, and numerous other features. It's not the most intuitive thing to use, but with a little practice and some tutorials, I'm sure you'll find it's a favorite for you as well.

I use it to keep notes on everything under the sun - from home project things to remember to writing ideas. There are free and premium versions. The free version is still very useful, but has a limited storage capacity.

Best Features:

  • Attach audio, images, files and more to your notes.
  • To-do lists and reminders
  • Notes are shareable via social media, email etc. if you choose
  • Tags for easy search and organization

Evernote For Dummies
Evernote For Dummies

Evernote is a comprehensive tool with tons of useful features, so many that books have been written to show you all the cool things you can do with it. I love evernote for researching longer projects and keeping all my notes, videos, links, mindmaps etc. together.

 

Organize, Share and Collaborate Free

Google Drive and Google Docs are phenomenal for so many reasons.

Google drive allows you to store documents for free that you can retrieve from anywhere. You can customize folders for sharing or keep them private.

There is nothing easier for collaborating on projects. I upload documents into a shareable folder. My clients can download, annotate and quickly send them back. It saves the hassles of countless emails and other time wasters.

You can use these for work, family projects, homework - the possibilities are endless. You can use spreadsheets, presentations, documents etc.

Google drive is also a great way to have a backup of important documents in the event of a computer crash. External drives can fail, but having a backup on Google drive along with an external hard drive, ensures I never have to spend hours in anguish over lost files when there is a hardware meltdown.

Schools use this routinely now as well for homework. Learning it can help you understand what your kids are up to also :)

Have you used apps or free software to get a handle on organization and efficiency?

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Comments 28 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 8 months ago from Midwest Author

Hi rosa I agree, it is truly a great thing for research and keeping things organized! Appreciate the read and comment :)


rosaflorence profile image

rosaflorence 8 months ago from Oklahoma City

I use evernote to capture web pages I want to view later during research. Evernote has been a true lifesaver.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 16 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks so much for the read, comment and share adevwriting - they are indeed useful and I hope they help you as much as they have me. Have a great day.


adevwriting profile image

adevwriting 16 months ago from United Countries of the World

Thanks for sharing the info about these tools. They seem really useful and would like to try them. Voted up and shared!


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 20 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Jodah, so glad you enjoyed the hub :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 20 months ago from Queensland Australia

Thanks for sharing these Christin. The first two look very useful for me. I will be checking them out.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 20 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Audrey hope you enjoy them as much as I do :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 20 months ago from California

I will have to check these out!


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Easy - It's definitely a favorite for me to clear mind clutter and put together my thoughts. I hope you'll find it as useful as I do. :) thanks for reading and commenting.


Easy Exercise profile image

Easy Exercise 2 years ago from United States

I must get Freemind! That sounds fantastic at thinks the same way I think. Cannot wait! Thank you!


RobertConnorIII profile image

RobertConnorIII 2 years ago from Michigan

We like you hub!


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Arachnea - they're definitely helpful :) I appreciate the read and comment.


Arachnea profile image

Arachnea 2 years ago from Texas USA

Some very good ideas here. I'm looking forward to trying some of them out.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Shelley, hope you enjoy them.


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 2 years ago

Also going to take a look at your suggestions - marvellous job, thanks for sharing.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Some, like leechblock are definite lifesavers. If you use firefox as your browser that's a great addon. good luck :) and thanks for reading and commenting.


rls8994 profile image

rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

These sound like apps that I definitely need to download. I need all the help I can get when it comes to organization lol


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Glad you enjoyed it Flourish, hope they help you too :)


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

This is good information. I'd like to check these out. Thanks for sharing.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

you're very welcome grand I'm glad you found it useful. I love freemind :) it's a lot of fun too actually.


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

Freemind sounds like something I've been looking for for a long time. Thanks for the tip.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks chef, for the read and comment. I included Leech because without it I lose a lot of time and productivity by "just checking facebook right quick" or "just playing a quick round of a game" etc. I actually have to focus on my ideas and doing things I need to be doing :) Procrastination is much more fun, but alas, I am more productive with the enforced discipline it provides lol :) No one is ever too old for good ideas :)


chefmancave profile image

chefmancave 2 years ago from Michigan

Christan...I love how your apps focus on Productivity and especially the "Save and Organize Your Ideas" concept. Only Leechblock doesn't fit in that category. Funny thing is that Leechblock will be the one App that I can use. What does that say about me? Have I grown so old that I no longer come up with good ideas? (Much laughter is heard in the background)


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Shelley, glad you enjoyed the hub :)


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 2 years ago

Great information Christin, agree Evernote is marvellous as is Google Docs. Thank you for sharing.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Billy, there are some great tools. I hope you find something that helps you out. :)

Cell phones are cool crazymom, but I chose these resources because they have more bells and whistles than standard phone apps. Some of them actually have corresponding phone apps too. Thanks.


crazymom3 profile image

crazymom3 2 years ago

Thank you. I found the google drive tutorial helpful. Organization wise I found a good cell phone has a calendar. Notepad. To do list and flashlight and so much quicker for me to access.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Thanks for the information, Christin. I'll check some of these out.

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