24 Actionable Productivity Tips

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What the internet did for all of us is help us solve problems at a hyper-speed that we had previously never thought possible. As the internet advances into a mature stage, new applications and shortcuts make these initial improvements seem turtle-slow in comparison. Every day, new and exciting developments emerge that allow us to do what we did yesterday, faster.

I have compiled 24 of these tools and tips, all actionable, to speed up your productivity on the internet, or in life, in a way that actively improves your online productivity. These suggestions are most relevant for the internet marketing professional, allowing you to boost the production of your 8+ hour day to previously unseen limits.

1. Fastest Fox Firefox Extension
For those internet professionals who need the add-on ability of Firefox, the add-on “Fastest Fox” is a necessary download. Fastest Fox will automatically download the next (intuitive) page of whatever page you’re browsing. It has other features but this one, by far, is the most dramatic speed-increaser to your browsing experience.

2. Google Chrome for Browsing, Firefox for Professional
Google Chrome is a great application for casual surfers. It has a minimalistic look and functionality. Because of this, it browses at lightning fast speed. However, for the internet-intensive jobs that many of us employ (specifically, SEO), it doesn’t have the functionality that Firefox has – which means more relevant add-ons to increase the functionality of our working experience.

If you already have two monitors, or one giant one, the solution is right in front of you – dual-browse both. Chrome allows you to drag URLs from Firefox into its browser, so when you find yourself needing to browse new, unvisited websites, jump into Chrome and surf. If you’re doing more SEO-intensive work or something else that already has the extensions Chrome is lacking, use Firefox. Using Firefox exclusively because of this is sucking precious seconds from your day

3. Reduce Clicks
When bookmarking our favorite pages, many of us neglect to bookmark the deep link that our user experience often takes us to. If the website you’re visiting requires a login on the main page before jumping to the homepage, keep the deep link bookmarked. If your session has expired, the worst thing that can happen is another login – the best thing is you’ll be taken directly your desired sub-page.

Some websites require three to four clicks before getting to the level you desire. Even if you have to log in every time before getting to your desire sub-page, this process will save you two to three levels of clicks, which can add up to thousands of seconds saved.

4. Keyboard shortcuts
Pretty much every interface you use has several available keyboard shortcuts for you to utilize. Take five minutes and analyze every program or browser you use. Right click, or surf through the navigation and take note of your most frequently used access paths. Are you using keyboard shortcuts for all of these? Probably not.

Are you saving through the File path every time? Use Ctrl+S instead. Need to open a new file? Use Ctrl+O. Enjoying a page you’re using on the internet? Use Ctrl+D to bookmark it on Firefox. Several of these shortcuts exist for many of our day to day activities.

Chrome doesn’t have an instantly obvious shortcut schematic on their interface. For a list of Google Chrome Keyboard shortcuts, visit Google here.

5. Tweetdeck
If you’re frequently using Twitter and you aren’t using an application since as Tweetdeck, you are burning away hours and using Twitter incorrectly. Instant updates, constant friend feed and the ability to track all of your @ messages and search feeds on one desktop make not using an interface such as this a gross waste of time and efficiency. Some might find the feed distracting or counter-productive, but that all depends on the person.

Recent studies, detailed in last month’s issue of WIRED, have shown that looking at a Tweet stream like Tweetdeck as a “good” distraction can boost creativity and greatly enhance problem solving skills.

If Twitter is a vital part of your business marketing efforts or otherwise, a good source of social interaction to push you through your day, Tweetdeck is a must.

6. Textbroker
For those people with massive e-commerce websites or other needs for immense, moderate-quality web-copy, outsourcing your content needs is something to look heavily into. Textbroker allows you to create content queries from writers within the United States, providing you high quality content for as little as $3 for a 250-word piece.  For those attempting to scale at any realistic level, Textbroker is a necessary evil.

7. Odesk
For more specific tasks that you would like to outsource at a reasonable wage, Odesk is the perfect platform. Pay overseas workers bottom dollar to do things like data entry with efficiency. A good platform and grading system ensures that you can use Odesk in a reliable and efficient fashion.

8. RescueTime
Rescue Time is a time saving application. It tracks the header titles of every application or window you use, accurately tracking time and creating true measures of productivity. It has pre-assigned values for different windows in terms of “very productive” or “not very productive” on a sliding -2 to +2 scale, but you can adjust them for the relative productivity they actually provide for your work. These metrics allow for better assessment of your true productivity and provide some great ideas for improvement.

9. Creating Toolbar Bookmarks with RescueTime
If you don’t have your most used pages slotted on your browser toolbar, you are creating a large time deficiency when you either a) manually input the URL every time, or b) have to move through the toolbar dropdown to access the browser. Depending on your typical browser size, the number of links you can efficiently fit in your browser toolbar can vary.

If you have a well rounded surfing experience, you can use Rescue Time to get an accurate grasp of your most visited pages. From there, make sure that you are using the proper link depth for the domain as noted in tip #3, Reducing Clicks.

Also, think about intuitive mouse use. If you’re right handed, keep the most visited sites on the toolbar on the right hand, to the lowest on the left. If you’re left handed, go left to right, as that’s where you’re most likely to have your mouse come to rest.

10. Windows 7
My portable workspace still doesn’t use Windows 7, and because of that, I get a true appreciation for the power and work benefit Windows 7 provides. The number of shortcuts and usability hacks Windows 7 offers are too numerous (and difficult to describe) for me to detail here, but it is safe to say that you are throwing away dollars and time (similar properties), not upgrading today.

11. Microsoft Excel Shortcuts
Microsoft Excel is a powerful application, and the multitude of formulas you can leverage and utilize with it to speed up your workday is amazing. Adjust it to your specific work tasks. If you can think of it in terms of a math equation, there’s a good chance you can implement it.

When I have a question about the advanced intricacies of Excel, I go to the Excel Forum, which is chock full of helpful Excel experts who will get you the equation you need.

12. Google Voice
If you’re one of those people who never listens to their voicemail like me, Google Voice is a must. Google automatically transcribes your voicemail for you and then sends you a text, making the nag of going through your Voicemail messages unnecessary. These transcripts will never be great, but they should always help you get a gist of the message, enough so to accurately judge the urgency of the message.

It also has other great features like the ability to have one # ping all of your phones, and the ability to create a custom greeting for each caller. For more about Google Voice check out Google’s information page about the product.

13. Xmarks Bookmark Tool
Many of us have multiple computers, one portable, one for work, and one for home. Whatever the number of electronic datacenters you look to, if the number is greater than one, you can benefit from the Xmarks Bookmark Tool. This tool will automatically sync the bookmarks from each of your workstations using a single login, giving you easy access to all your favorite pages without having to re-bookmark the website on a separate CPU.

Xmarks can also be utilized for company wide bookmarking. If there are certain tools your entire company uses, Xmarks can put them on every computer and automatically update them as upgrades and changes occur.

14. Organize RSS Feed
If you were like me, at some stage in your infancy of RSS development you excitedly subscribed to every blog with one decent piece of content. Eventually, your RSS got out of control, you consistently had 1000+ new items in the queue, and you found yourself with no clue or path to content heaven. Thankfully, pretty much all RSS readers have the ability to organize your subscriptions.

As a work productivity junky, I have managed my RSS feeds into several sections based on category. “Humor”, “SEO”, “Website Design”, “Entrepreneurship”, “Small Business”, and “Personal” are just a few of the RSS categories you can use. This way, you can scroll through based on priority, and not have to ker-plunk through 40 new Boing-Boing blogs every time you are trying to find some good learning resources for work. For a more in-depth post on the subject, check out 43 folders blog post.

15. Home Gym
Although a lot of this suggestion list has to do with online hacks, this offline one will provide direct benefit to your ability to produce effectively at work.  If you aren’t already working out actively, you should – doing so would increase your health and happiness, both factors that boost your work production. However, I know that should you not work out, this little paragraph is probably not enough to drag you into the gym. If so, skip this step.

For those that do, you should stop making trips to the gym. Every time you leave your home, depending on the distance of your fitness facility, you are losing 15-30 minutes in there-back travel time. If you had everything in the comfort of your own home, you could work out instantly, and would be more likely to work out as you see working out as less of a hassle.

Since you’re in internet marketing, I’m guessing you don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenneger circa 1980. So you don’t need the heavy weights gyms are there for. Programs and products like medicine balls, 20-30lb weights, kettleballs and pullup bars are all sufficient to get your workout in without every leaving your home. Exercise video programs like p90x also keep your workout fresh and exciting enough to keep your working hard in the comfort of your own home.

16. Dvorak Keyboard
The Dvorak Keyboard is opposed to your current layout, QWERTY. The thing about Dvorak is that the layout organizes keys based on usage and hand strength, improving productivity.  Dvorak hasn’t caught on due to a strong barrier to entry, difficulty with changing back and forth between QWERTY and Dvorak, and failure to overcome an investment in competence that many people had made in the QWERTY layout. Despite this, Dvorak is still an attractive option if you are willing to look over the dip in productivity and hassle of using other computers that comes with it.

17. Social Oomph
Social Oomph is a great service to automate your tweets. It has the ability to tweet multiple accounts on one interface, making it attractive to people who have to use multiple accounts. Keeping a constant stream of tweets, rather than bunching at one time, is good for account growth, branding and visibility.  Maintain a human element, though, or risk losing the viability and trust in your account.

18. Mint
Mint.com is a great tool to manage all of your finances in one place. It offers a sleek interface and the ability to pull financials from all of your accounts, cutting down time, preventing errors, and giving you an accurate account of what your finances are, today.

19. Notebooks
Sometimes you won’t be able to work on a plane during certain launch and descent conditions. However, you can always use a notebook. Having one on you at all times means that you can jot down notes, review previous plans, and create plans that aren’t natural to create on a laptop.

This pertains elsewhere, too, as laptop boot up isn’t easy in certain life conditions and jotting down that new idea may be vital to remembering it and the important details that pertain to it.

20. Flight Hacks
Up in the Air is a great movie. For the traveling professional, it offered some good ideas for optimizing your travel experience and cutting minutes off hanging out in the airport. First, if you are using Southwest and just booked your flight, go to your Calendar and immediately set a 24 hour alert so that you can immediately check-in to your flight and get as close to the front of the plane as possible.

To take advantage of this, do your best to manage your bag and fit everything in your carry-ons. This will allow you to show up later to your flight and leave earlier, a potential 20-or-so minute save every time you fly. About.com has a good guide to avoid checking baggage.

21. MiFi
How often does your Wi-Fi cut out at your house? Or you can’t connect wherever you’re at? Wouldn’t it be nice, convenient and cost effective to only have to five minutes to your nearest eat-in to work rather than fifteen to the coffee shop? Would you like to not have to pay for Wi-Fi in many of the places that require you too?

Then you need a MiFi card. Get wireless internet, anywhere. Sometimes the connection is inconsistent and there’s a monthly cost, but if you’re someone who frequently moves around (and not necessarily on a plane), it’s a smart place to spend your cash.

22. Portable Hard Drive
Portable hard drives are a great way to clear out the clutter from your work computer, increasing computer speed and increasing efficiency. The obvious improvements are there too, such as taking your favorite programs and being able to play them on your television, moving large files easily, and backing up your most important documents.

23. Backup Battery Pack for Your Laptop
Similar to the Wi-FI dilemma, something that frequently hits the internet professional is the lack of a plug for their laptop. How many hours has this taken from you in the past? Assuredly, enough to be worth investing in a backup battery pack so that when your first one burns out, you have the option to continue working without interruption.

24. ASAP is poison
In their recent book “Rework”, 37signals’ Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson detail how “ASAP” is really never the case.

How often do you really need your instant message answered, right now? Similarly, when your co-worker interrupts you, was their inquiry that pressing? Not often. If we stop knocking on other people’s doors when we work and instead let them take our questions in a flow-of-work cycle (see: e-mail), we can dramatically improve productivity. Every interruption makes it more and more difficult to return to the work we were doing.

For more insights on productivity, you should follow Ross on Twitter. Also, become a fan of Single Grain on Facebook!

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