OK, so now that Oprah is not doing new shows ... we've taken it upon ourselves to carry on the wonderful tradition of her "favourite things".
In this case, it's our favourite productivity tools and apps.
If that doesn't sound as exciting as a free new car or a free trip to New Zealand, we agree. One day we'll give away bigger things 🙂
So here's a list of some productivity tools we use for Real Estate, Business and everything in between...
1. Send from Gmail (by Google)
We use Google Chrome as our browser. Actually, every once in a while we still have to use Firefox or Internet Explorer for certain websites but the list is getting shorter and shorter. Chrome rocks. And because we also use Gmail and Google Apps for our personal and business email accounts we found this awesome little Chrome Extension called Send from Gmail (by Google).
Here's how this helps us...
Email is a big fat attention waster. So when we come across a good piece of information online and want to share the site we have to go into our email. No big surprise there. But when you open your email you get distracted with tons of other things that waste your time. Before you know it 20 minutes have past and you've accomplished nothing and you've forgotten why you opened up your email in the first place.
Well, this eliminates all that.
While you're staring at the page you want to email you just click the little button and up pops a Gmail Compose window with the URL to the page and the Subject Line already filled out for you.
We use this all the time to send emails and we also use it to send emails to ourselves with sites that we want to read later, reference or just keep on file. And the best part about this is if you include your own "keywords" in the email you can easily search for this stuff later using Gmail search ... which is awesome.
2. Send & Archive with Gmail
Gmail has this nasty habit of leaving you staring at your email thread after you've sent a Reply to someone. You have to do the extra step of "archiving" your message to get it out of your Inbox.
This little add-on from Google Labs takes care of that. It adds a new button next to your original Send button named "Send & Archive". This way, if you've set aside 30 minutes for email, you can save yourself a whole bunch of extra mouse clicks by hitting Send & Archive. It's a simple little thing ... and it's a beauty.
You can find it in your Gmail Settings under the Labs tab.
3. JotNot Scanner Pro
This iPhone App rocks and has almost completely replaced the need for a scanner in our lives. For super high-resolution stuff you'll still need a scanner but this tool is awesome for everything else. The neat part of this app is it will "enhance" the picture you take to make sure the text is as readable as possible. And you can crop out any portions of the picture that aren't required.
It's not perfect but it's much better than we would have thought!
Here's how it's helped us...
You know when you have a receipt, or contractor's invoice or an amendment to a contract that you just don't want to lose? You take a quick snap of it with JotNot Scanner Pro and you can email it to yourself as a PDF, JPG or PNG file.
Here's the other cool part. Email isn't your only sharing option ... you can fax the document directly from your iPhone, print it, or send it to file-sharing services like Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or Box.net. So if you're sitting somewhere reading a magazine or newspaper and you get a jolt of inspiration you don't have to steal the mag or rip a page out of the paper ... you can take a quick pic and send it to yourself.
We upgraded to the "Pro" version for 99 cents so that we could create multi-page scans in one document.
4. Time Timer
Every day is a battle.
A battle against having distractions interrupt us. A battle getting priority activities completed. We get very frustrated when we feel like we're not making the best use of our time.
Staying on track is a battle we fight every single day. We're not perfect at it - but we work hard to beat down distractions into submission.
And one tool we've found that is really helpful is Time Timer.
You can get it for your iPhone (it's pricey for what it does at $4.99) or you can purchase the physical device. We have the physical 8-inch device that sits on our desks and it's fantastic.
We use it in two different ways:
Way Number One: When we log into our email or jump on a phone call we set the timer. The physical version is really simple ... you just drag the little knob to the desired length of time. It automatically starts counting down with this big red shaded area warning you how much time you have left to complete your email or wrap up your conversation.
Way Number Two: When you're doing an important task that requires your undivided attention you set the timer. For that amount of time you accept no distractions AND if the task needs to be completed by the end of the allotted time - you hurry up and finish. We can't concentrate on a single task for longer than 90-minutes so we give it an extra 30-minute pull after the hour is up.
You can accomplish the same thing with a kitchen egg timer thingy ... this for some reason is cooler. Or geekier ... however you want to look at it 🙂 We love it.
5. Skype Desktop Sharing + Windows 7 Snipping Tool + Awesome Screenshot for Chrome
This is a 3-for-1
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Well, we use Skype a lot but more and more we're using it to show each other our desktops. When you're putting websites together or working on the layout of something it's just easier to show someone instead of telling them. If you have Skype installed on your laptop and the person you want to share your desktop has it installed as well ... you can share your desktop with them.
It's a lot faster than emailing things back and forth.
For the times when you need to take a quick snapshot of something you're working on, Windows 7 has a built-in Snipping Tool that is 100% awesomeness. We've tacked it to our taskbar so when you need to take a quick screen capture of something it's literally one click away.
If you're using Google Chrome there's an extension called Awesome Screenshot that does the same thing within a Chrome browser. It's not perfect (doesn't work on secure SSL pages for security reasons) but it's fast and easy to use. You can even add arrows and annotations to the image that you capture and then save it locally and a png file. Handy Dandy.
And there you have it ... some of our favourite productivity things!
We know they're not as glamorous as Oprah's ... but hey, it's a start 🙂
Until next time ... Your Life! Your Terms!!