Five Tools to Increase Productivity

My last blog post “Generations in the Desert” was abstract, theoretical and academic. I do that from time to time. I’m honored that it inspired folks like Steve Butry, Rick Waghorn and  Stjin Debrouwere to write related posts. But I do not, at this time, see myself as a “thought leader” or an academic. Maybe in the future. But for now – I prefer demos not memos.

With that in mind, I wanted to write a practical post. Five simple things that increase my productivity. Before the list begins a disclaimer: The only way to increase productivity is to do things. You can be equipped with every tool out there – but if you don’t focus it won’t help. As my friend Cyrus says “Being a good writer is 3% talent, and 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”

What tools save you time?

(As an added bonus example – this image provided via Tagaroo. Waste time looking for good photos, try Tagaroo!)

Text Expander

Do you write a lot of emails? Do many of them have the same elements? Do you run an organization and sometimes you need to do reach out to various people but you don’t want to mass email people (lame?). Do you write a lot of html and would love some shortcuts? Check out Text Expander. This original tool came to me via Amy Gahran, bless her soul,  and has been a life saver. It even keeps track of how much it estimates its saved you. To date for me: 92 hours (estimating that I type 400 characters a minute). It also has an auto-correct tool that fixes common typos. Lucky for me, my typos are never common.


This tool comes via Kara Andrade and Erik Sundelof. Jing is a screencast tool which is incredibly useful if you work with a remote team building and managing a website. If you’ve ever had a phone conversation with a web developer about a bug,  you’ll know that communication is hard. You’ll ask them to get on the computer so they can see what you see. But you are never 100% sure if what you are saying translates. All that goes away with Jing. Now take a quick screencast of what you are seeing and upload that to screencast automatically and then share the link. Boom – you and your team are on the same page. No need to schedule a conference call, no worries about miscommunication.


It is as cool as it sounds. The xPad is the ultimate notebook. Do you take notes on your computer? Do you use Microsoft Word to save those notes. If so – please stop reading this right now and slap yourself. Microsoft Word is a horrible way to take notes. It is clunky, big files, slow to open, slow to close and worse yet – doesn’t easily transfer online (people that cut and paste word documents into a WYSWIG editor are a pet peeve.) For a long time I just had an internal system of using TextEdit (Rich Text Documents). It worked okay. I’d keep one blank document open at all times (note taking) and save important ones. Luckily Joy Mayer, a fellows Missouri Reynolds Fellow told me about xPad. I have not needed to open up Text Edit since. The xPax stays open. I can create a new internal document in seconds. Rename it whenever, delete it and flip between notes in a breeze. If you have tons of Word documents or any other kind of documents clouding your desktop this is your solution.


This little plugin helps you know who you are talking to. If you are like me and you get an email from somebody new one of the first things you do is Google them to get the details. Rapportive does that for you. Right there in your inbox they’ll search for related social media accounts on LinkedIn, facebook, Twitter, and more. Forget searching to find out who this person is – it’s already in front of you. Related but not as practical: Gist.

Grease Monkey

Grease Monkey is the script that fathered all scripts. First: If you don’t use Firefox, stop reading this and slap yourself.

If you do use Firefox, are you using it to its full potential? Maybe not. Download Grease Monkey and then search through the seemingly endless add-ons. The important thing here is not to get lost in the sea of possibilities. Instead think about a problem you already have in your browsing experience. Maybe you want a better way to find the latest news. Then go to Grease Monkey and search news. You can see already there are more tools here than one person could use. But – I promise that picking the right one will save you a TON of time and energy.

So there you have it – these are just five tools that I use on a regular basis that have probably saved me countless hours. More than 92 at least 😉

8 thoughts on “Five Tools to Increase Productivity”

  1. It looks like I need to do a lot of the slapping. Thanks for this list of tools. For my general tasks, I used an online tool called “SimpleGTD”. I have heard a lot of great things about EverNote as a productivity tool, I might probably try that. Do you know of a free alternative of the Text Expander?

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