Easy brainstorming

I needed an easy way to organize categories in a hierarchical order. It would have been painful to use pen and paper, but thankfully Google led me to MindMeister. The free version was all I needed. There’s a lot of free mind-mapping software out there, but they can be clunky, MindMeister is smooth and intuitive. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Sort by reading time

Read Ruler is a must-have if you use Pocket. It sorts all the articles you saved to read later by how long it takes to read. Most of my saves take 5-minutes, so I try to knock them out during my work day when I need a mental break. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Article saver

Whenever I come across an article online that I want to read later, I click the Pocket icon on my browser toolbar. It adds the article to a list so I can read it later on my phone when I have time. Pocket also stores the articles offline and presents them in in a stripped-down, easy-to-read format. I use the free version, but there’s a pro version with additional features for $5 per month. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
To-do notebook

I picked up this surprisingly inexpensive ($5.50) to-do list notebook last month, and I love it. The Maruman Mnemosyne 197 has ruled, perforated pages with two columns of checkboxes. The 80 sheets are ring bound and the cover is stiff, textured black plastic. The paper holds ink very well. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
No-frills to-do app

I like to blame my To-Do List apps if things don’t get done. I get annoyed with reminders, then turn off notifications, and eventually delete. Daily Zen Planner’s super simplistic design is non-threatening and easy to use. I type up tasks and move them to either the Today or Soon screen. — CD 

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Free PDF editing

My Acrobat Pro maxed out on being able to reduce the size of a PDF. I used Smallpdf to finish the job and it reduced it by half. It’s free to use twice per hour. There’s a lot of other editing features you can you use too. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Free encrypted email

Proton Mail offers free end-to-end encrypted email in a clean and simple ad-free web interface (there’s also a smartphone app). The company is based in Switzerland, a country that offers strong privacy protection. In addition, the company says it doesn’t have access to the plaintext of your emails, so they couldn’t give it to a third party even if they wanted to. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Nifty email

I’m old school. Email is my chief communication mode, and I primarily work on a laptop or desktop. While there are many things to recommend about Gmail on the web, it’s interface is not one of them. I use Postbox as my desktop mail client to reach my Gmail (it runs on Mac or Windows). I’ve tried other clients now and then but keep coming back to Postbox for its intuitive (to me) design and interface. And I’m still uncovering new capabilities I didn’t know it had. I use Spark on my phone. — KK

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Multiple inboxes

I use Gmail in my browser, and what I find most helpful is the Multiple Inboxes lab. When I’m working on a project, I create a label for all relevant email and that label becomes an additional inbox. That way, I don’t lose sight of my to-dos by placing them in a folder, and it keeps my inbox from cluttering. Kind of hard to explain, but it simplifies your life once you do it. Here are instructions. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Undo email send

How to unsend sent email. There are many reasons you might want to undo (or redo) an email you sent. A common reason for me is that I just remembered something I wanted to add. Gmail has a little known “undo” feature that you have to enable. On the web, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner, select “Settings.” About a third-way down the list check “Enable Undo Send.” Pick the 30-second maximum grace period. Be sure to “save changes.” Now when you send an email in Gmail you get a little box in the upper center just below the blue/white magnifying glass in the search box, that says “Your mail was sent”. For 30 seconds you have the chance to click on “Undo”. It reopens your message to give you the chance to edit or delete. — KK

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Forward email to unsubscribe

My personal gmail is a mess of promotional emails and spam. I’ve tried to clean it up in the past using unsubscribe services and marking messages as spam, but it’s a never ending struggle. Recently, I’ve started forwarding spam emails to unsubscribe.robot@gmail.com and that seems to work. There’s no guarantee, but it’s free, easy and they don’t sell your data. I just checked my usage on the website and it reports that so far I’ve been definitely unsubscribed from 6 emails and probably unsubscribed from 7. — CD 

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Disposable email

Mailinator offers free, disposable email addresses. When you visit a website that requires an email address (and sends you an email to confirm that the email is valid), you can give them any word followed by @mailinator.com. Then, visit Mailinator to access the email. It’s a great way to reduce spam. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Spam beater

10 Minute Mail is a disposable email address. Just go to the website, and you are presented with a newly-minted email address that self-destructs after ten minutes. Here’s a sample address: l544960@mvrht.com. Use it when a web form requires an email address and you don’t want to end up on their list. From the FAQ: “If the website makes you verify the email address by sending you a link you have to click on, then you can read the email right here on www.10minutemail.com and click on the link.” — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Global Forever stamps

Occasionally I need to mail a letter in an envelope, with you know, paper inside. I hate going to the post office, so I buy Forever stamps online. These US stamps are good for domestic mail forever (no matter how many price increases there are) so I buy a wad of them. Now the US Post Office has released a Global Forever stamp ($1.15) for mailing anywhere in the world. Since they are good forever, I got a bunch of them as well. They are distinctly circular, so they look cool too. — KK

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Snail mail in your email

USPS’s Informed Delivery is free and available almost everywhere in the US now. Every morning, I get an email with scanned images of my mail before it’s delivered. Most of the time it’s junk, and those days I don’t even bother checking my mailbox, but this service is great if you’re expecting something important. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Cheap business cards

In most parts of the world business cards are still a cultural norm. I designed my business card in Photoshop, and every few years I update the info and send the file to PS Print online and they mail back a small box of 250 for $18. Easy, quick, and cheap. — KK

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
One app for all your messages

I use a lot of different messaging services. It was a hassle to open them all and switch from app to app. I’m glad I found Franz, which consolidates all your chat & messaging services into one application. I use it for Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, and Telegram. It’s free. — MF

ProductivityClaudia Dawson
Best seat

I was having some back pain and pinched nerves, so I got this Steelcase Gesture Chair for my work desk. Those issues are non-existent now. So many different ways to position and sit in it. It’s so comfortable I have to set reminders throughout the day to get up or else I never would. — CD

ProductivityClaudia Dawson