Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Best Productivity Websites And Tools

Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Best Productivity Websites And Tools

By JoAnne D. | Blogging

Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Best Productivity Websites And Tools

Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all the things you want to do? In today’s article, I list down the best productivity websites and tools that will help you take control of your day so you can get the work-life balance you’ve always wanted.

Being busy doesn’t equal being productive.

Online entrepreneurs, especially those who’re just starting out, wear a thousand hats. We do a thousand little things, and none of them ever get done.

hands typing on macbook air, second pair of hands browsing on tablet, on desk  with tea, cake, gift wrapping items

“Wrap gifts, eat cake, have tea, shop for more gifts, write thank-you notes. Wow, I’m so productive.”

But we can change this. It’s not going to be easy, and we’ll need some help.

In this blog post, I run down some of the best productivity websites and applications that will help you work smarter and use your time more efficiently so you’re less busy but get more tasks done.

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The Best Productivity Websites And Tools

Take Control Of Your Email

Your email inbox is one of the most distracting and one of the most time-consuming tasks there is to tackle. Manage your email effectively and you remove a huge barrier to your productivity.

old mailboxes with one overflowing

Unroll.Me (Free)

This application is a service that lists all your subscription emails, lets you unsubscribe from those you don’t want, and syndicates all of the subscription emails you still want to receive into a single digest.

For the sake of full disclosure, the reason why this service is free is that they detect commercial emails from your inbox, strip your personal information, and obtain purchase data for market research purposes.

SaneBox (Plans start at $7 per month; 14-day free trial)

SaneBox is a more sophisticated email inbox management tool targeted at those who receive numerous emails. It prioritizes and sorts all your emails into folders so that you can stay focused on the important emails, remain undistracted by emails that aren’t important, and then set aside time in a day or a week to look at the other folders.

Eliminate Distractions

Aside from your email, there are infinite digital distractions whenever you go online and have the full power of the internet right at your fingertips. Fortunately, there are applications available that will help you lessen, if not totally eradicate these distractions.

Cold Turkey (Starts free; Premium for a one-time payment of C$25)

Social media can be a great tool until it becomes a distraction. Cold Turkey allows you to list websites (not just social media) that you want to block and blocks them for a certain time period. It also has a statistics feature that lets you know how much time you’re spending on particular sites so that you know exactly how much time you’re wasting.

StayFocusd (Free)

If you need a lightweight solution for blocking time-wasting websites, and you use Google Chrome, then a Google Chrome extension may be enough. StayFocusd gives you three options: block all websites, block all websites that are NOT in a list (i.e., Allowed Sites), or block all websites that ARE in a list (i.e., Blocked Sites). Set the duration, set the start time, and you’re good to go.

Forest (Google Chrome extension and Android app: Free; iTunes app: $1.99)

Forest is an app that you can install on your smartphone to keep you from using it when you’re supposed to be doing something else. Plus, it has a Google Chrome extension that works like StayFocusd.

woman using macbook and using smartphone at the same time

How it works is that you plant a virtual seed in your virtual forest, which will grow into a tree in a pre-set amount of time (ranges from 10 minutes to 2 hours). If you pick up your phone before the time is up, the virtual tree “dies.”

The Google Chrome extension works similarly. You plant a virtual tree, which will grow into a tree in the next 30 minutes. If you visit time-sucking sites before the 30 minutes is up, the virtual tree “dies.”

This is a unique app because you get to earn virtual coins that you can exchange for planting real-life trees. So you get to be productive and help the environment.

Now THAT’S multitasking.

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Manage Your Time

Time management is definitely a huge part of being productive, as we have a certain amount of time to fit certain tasks in. The thing is, we can’t begin to manage our time until we know for sure how long a certain task takes.

wrist watch with black face

RescueTime (Starts free; Premium at $9 per month)

RescueTime gives you detailed reports of which applications and websites you used and how much time you spent in them. You can set goals, like spending only 30 minutes on social media, and even set an alarm when your set time is up. It even gives you a productivity score so you have a benchmark.

Toggl (Starts free; Premium starts at $9 per month)

Toggl works by tracking your time when you tell it to and generate reports with the data broken down so you can understand exactly how much time you spend on your different tasks in a day.

However, it uses manual tracking; it doesn’t track the applications and websites you’re using. But you can track the time you spend away from your computer and factor that in your productivity for the day.

Organize Your Tasks

Another reason why we seem so busy but never get anything done is that we’re taking on so many tasks but don’t prioritize them or do them in the right order. Organizing your tasks is key to working more efficiently and spending more resources on those tasks that really need them.

writing in planner with timelines and black and white washi tape

Trello (Starts free; Business Class starts at $9.99 per month)

Trello is a project management tool meant for teams but can also be used for individual projects.

It uses the Kanban method, which uses cards to contain tasks and lists to group cards together. A basic Kanban board has three lists: “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done,” but you can certainly customize the lists for different stages.

If you are a visual person, you’ll appreciate how you can see both an overview of your project in one board, and see what stage a certain task is at. It’s also highly encouraging to see all the completed tasks on the right.

Asana (Starts free for up to 15 users; Premium starts at $9.99 per month per user)

If you’re not a fan of the Kanban method but still want to visualize your tasks, Asana may be a good alternative. Similar to Trello, Asana is made for teams, but you can use it to manage individual projects as well.

You can easily see where you are in a timeline. Plus, Asana can integrate with plenty of other applications and websites, so you can attach files, emails, messages, and more on your tasks, keeping them in one place.

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Streamline Processes

There are processes that are completely necessary, but tedious and repetitive. Luckily, there are now tools you can use to automate at least some of your repetitive tasks.

IFTTT (If This Then That) (Free)

Chances are that you’re using multiple applications when you’re working. IFTTT uses so-called “applets” that allow users to connect different applications, websites, and even gadgets such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

For example, you can set up an applet so you can automatically save attachments from your Gmail to your Google Drive so you don’t have to open your emails individually to download the attachments. Or you can automatically archive every tweet you post into a Google Sheet.

This can be useful when you’re doing multistep processes that involve different applications. With IFTTT’s applets, you can probably reduce this to a few steps or even one step.

Zapier (Starts free; Zapier For Work starts at $20 per month; 14-day free trial)

Zapier works similarly to IFTTT, but Zapier handles more applications than IFTTT does. Instead of “applets,” Zapier has “Zaps.” Plus, if you can spring for the subscription, you can make Zaps that are 3 or more steps, reducing your workflows even more.

Listen To Music

Music has been scientifically proven to improve productivity, but only certain types, such as classical music, video game music, ambient music, and nature sounds. Music that distracts instead of helping include songs with lyrics, tunes with complex musical structure, and music that’s forced on you; that is, music you didn’t choose.

smartphone with Spotify app open

Spotify (Free premium trial for 30 days; revert to free or upgrade to premium for $9.99 per month)

Spotify is a music streaming application that offers an enormous range of genres. Pop music is the most popular, but perhaps surprisingly, you’ll find a variety of productivity-inspiring music, like classical, jazz, nature sounds, ambient music, and even film scores that can help you focus on whatever task you’re doing.

Brain.fm (Starts free; subscription starts at $6.95 per month)

Brain.fm prides itself on having the “most advanced AI music composer on the planet” that creates music that stimulates the brain into 5 states: focus, meditation, relaxation, naps, or night time sleep.

Noisli (Google Chrome extension and website: free; iTunes and Google Play apps: $1.99)

Noisli is a background noise and color generator designed for people who want to drown out outside sounds and concentrate on their work.

It allows you to combine a variety of sounds, such as rainfall, coffee shop chatter, birds chirping, and other noises. You can also create and can save up to five combinations of your favorite sounds.

You even get a distraction-free text editor if you need it, but it’s still in beta version, so it’s advisable to always back up writing that you input here.

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Take Worthwhile Breaks

Attention and willpower are limited resources. Taking occasional breaks refreshes your mind and restores your motivation so when it’s time to work again, you can work with renewed focus and enthusiasm.

man stretching arms in front of workdesk

That said, just because you’re shifting your mind away from work doesn’t mean you can’t use that time to boost your creativity, gather inspiration, learn something new, and even have a few laughs.

Lumosity

Lumosity claims to improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills through a variety of cognitive games created by brain scientists and game designers. They also have games that claim to improve your math skills and even language skills.

Whether those claims are true or not, the games are fun to play and generally don’t take more than a few minutes to complete; perfect for a work break.

1000 Awesome Things

The author, Neil Pasricha, posts one awesome thing a day on this blog. That’s it. It’s a simple yet powerful way for readers to find joy in the little things and moments in life.

HooplaHa

Tired and stressed from news and current events? HooplaHa serves you nothing but good news and good vibes.

Do Nothing

Doing nothing may seem to be the opposite of being productive, but bear in mind that aside from work breaks where you still do something and use your brain, you have to have spaces in the day where you do absolutely nothing.

hand wearing mala beads

This recharges your brain and helps remove that feeling of overwhelm on days when you have so much to do and so little time. When you’re ready to work, you’ll be able to focus more and accomplish more.

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes

It’s literally a page with a photo of an ocean, wave sounds, and a timer for 2 minutes. Instructions are to not touch your mouse and keyboard, and just look at the photo and listen to the sound.

This is perfect for when you just need to take a quick breather after a difficult task, calm yourself before starting a new task, or listen to something else other than the bustle around you.

Calm (Starts free; subscription starts at $4.99 per month)

Sometimes, our thoughts can be bouncing around in our heads and we can’t simply sit still and do nothing. The Calm app offers guided meditation sessions that help you clear all other thoughts from your head and do nothing but breathe for a few minutes.

Insight Timer (Free)

Insight Timer is a popular meditation app that contains thousands of guided meditations designed to help you with a variety of conditions such as pain, stress, and sleep. Choose one of the guided meditations and feel the tension slip away.

Learn How To Be More Productive

Reading other blogs to be productive, again, may seem to contradict our objective, but it’s sensible to learn from those who’ve been there and dealt with the struggle to be productive in a world where there’s just too much distraction and too many things demanding our attention.

man wearing headphones and working on online training on macbook

Lifehack: Productivity

Lifehack.org publishes a wide variety of articles to improve one’s life, and their articles on productivity contain plenty of practical, actionable advice that anyone can apply.

Zen Habits

While not strictly a productivity blog, Zen Habits teaches how to simplify and unclutter for a better work-life balance and improve your daily productivity.

Tim Ferriss

“The 4-Hour Workweek” was a game-changer in the business world, and its author, Tim Ferriss, has a lot to say about productivity. He’s also an internet entrepreneur, which makes his articles and podcast a bit more relatable to anyone who’s trying to make it as a blogger or a website owner.

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Final Thoughts

When it comes to running a profitable blog and website, productivity isn’t considered an essential topic compared to SEO, for example. But improving your productivity can mean the difference between the success and failure of your website.

Here is a recap of the best productivity websites.

The Best Productivity Websites And Tools

 

I hope these websites and tools lead to a more efficient, more productive you. Here are a couple more reminders on your productivity journey.

Aim to be productive for the right reasons.

Being productive just for the sake of doing more work isn’t a realistic goal. You’re likely to get even more burnt out.

Instead, aim to get more out of your working hours so that you can get more out of your non-working hours.

Not all of these may work for you.

Yes, these are some of the best out there based on reviews and anecdotal information, but just because they’re highly recommended doesn’t mean they’ll meet your particular needs or preferences.

And that’s okay. Different people need different things from different applications.

Take advantage of free trials if they’re available, and try every single one of these websites and tools and find which ones help you and which ones don’t.

Over To You

Do you have any productivity websites not included in this list that you want to recommend? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.

About the Author

JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.

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