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10 Productivity Tools You Can Test for Free

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This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.


No matter what kind of job you have and how many hours per week you work, you probably frequently feel frustrated because you don’t believe you got enough done. Maybe you ran out of time or energy, or perhaps you struggled more than you should have because you weren’t well organized.

The good news is that all these problems are very common, and there are many tools that can help.

Who Needs These Tools?

Today’s productivity tools are very useful if you have trouble getting or staying organized. Besides assisting with organization, some of them also cut out unnecessary steps, reduce distractions, and generally make life easier. That means even if you feel you are well organized and highly productive, you may still benefit from the tools available. They could teach you how to do everyday tasks in better ways so you not only get more done, but also make fewer mistakes.

Finally, productivity tools are excellent helpers if you consistently juggle many projects at once. The more things you do simultaneously, the greater the likelihood is that you may overlook easier ways to accomplish tasks, simply due to mental fatigue.

Regardless of the specific ways productivity tools could improve your life, the list of suggestions below is well worth a look. Even better, you can try these options for free, and some of them offer full functionality without making you pay a dime.

  1. Hemingway

Hemingway tool

This web-based and desktop app is a must-have if you write content for a living, or just like to make sure your emails are as clear as possible. It offers some proofreading tools similar to popular word processing programs, but uses a color-coded system that makes it much faster to spot errors or areas that need improvement.

Just paste text into the window, and you’ll get an analysis in seconds. Phrases or words that are very hard to read get highlighted in red and yellow, while uses of passive voice are marked in green.

Also, the right side of the app gives the total instances of potentially problematic content. It allows you to see at a glance whether you often lapse into bad habits like using too many adverbs when more descriptive words would work better, or if you frequently pick complex words when simpler choices exist.

The readability grade also may be worth noting if people often complain your messages aren’t clear enough and cause miscommunications. Click on the Write and Edit tabs near the top of the Hemingway window to swiftly switch between composition and editing modes. The app even has formatting buttons so you can add bullets, links, and more as you write.

Start using this tool for free here.

  1. Mention

Mention tool

Whether you are simply committed to protecting your reputation or have a job that requires sorting through social media and webpages to find out what people are saying about a product, media monitoring can be extremely time-consuming. Because the Internet is growing by the day, it can feel like becoming productive at this task is a losing battle. Mention is an app that can make things much easier.

Already used by hundreds of thousands of companies, Mention looks through billions of sources and detects real-time instances when people are talking about the things you specify. This online app even searches through content in dozens of languages so you can immediately respond to feedback, no matter where in the world people are giving it.

There’s also a feature that allows you to spot if highly influential people are all abuzz about your keywords. Once you get alerted about those prolific mentions, you’ll be in a great position to continue the work required to build a relationship.

Check out the free trial here.

  1. 135 List

135 tool

Does it often feel like you spend more time figuring out which tasks to accomplish first than getting things done? If so, 135 List is a list-building assistant made with you in mind. It’s based on the 1-3-5 Method, which suggests choosing one large thing, three medium-sized tasks, and five small responsibilities to take care of per day.

Create helpful headings to build lists, and then move items into a different order as needed to prioritize them. There’s no need to download an app, because this tool works on your computer, tablet, or smartphone when you simply open the device’s browser and navigate to the 135 List page.

Use the free Basic version here.

  1. Producteev

Producteev tool

Technology has made it possible for teams of people to get things done without being in the same office building or even on the same continent, but keeping everyone on track to meet deadlines can be tough. Rallying your teams becomes much easier with the Producteev app.

This team management tool allows you to create projects, assign tasks, and keep an eye on progress so you’re able to quickly deal with unfinished business and ensure nothing goes unnoticed. The interface is user-friendly, so you shouldn’t have to worry about dealing with a large learning curve.

Team members get task notifications via email when you use a special forwarding address, and this tool works smoothly on desktop and mobile devices, so no matter what kind of technology people prefer when they’re getting things done, Producteev fits into their lives.

Try the free version here.

  1. LeechBlock

LeechBlock tool

Although the Internet can boost productivity, it can also hamper it. That’s especially true if you find yourself heading to YouTube intending to watch just one video, or go to Facebook with the sole intention of wishing a faraway friend a happy birthday, and end up spending at least a half hour there.

LeechBlock is a free Firefox browser extension that blocks you from specified sites where you habitually waste time. It’s also highly customizable. For example, you can group websites into six sets and have different rules for each one. You may want to allow yourself to visit Facebook, but just for five minutes out of every hour in your workday. Alternatively, you might find it best to block all social media sites completely every weekday. Those scenarios are possible, along with others.

There’s also a lockdown feature that immediately blocks websites for the length of time you specify, making this extension useful for parental control purposes as well as productivity.

Get the free tool here.

  1. Daylite

Daylite tool

Geared toward small-business owners, this app for Mac products helps people get more done in less time by giving them a single tool that has a huge suite of features. That means people can spend more highly focused time just using Daylite rather than switching between several apps that do different things. Most parts of the app focus on ways to maintain good relationships with customers. It’ll help you keep track of which people you need to follow up with, and whether you’ve sent all your initial emails that’ll hopefully generate leads with new contacts.

There are also many ways to support teams through Daylite. Coordinate emails and share contacts among each other, so all processes are more streamlined. Because Daylite works offline, you can stay productive even without Internet access. Also, data gets synced automatically across all your iOS devices when you’re back online.

Free 30-day unlimited trial, with an option to convert to a limited free version.

  1. Kanbanize

Kanbanize tool

Kanbanize uses Kanban planning principles that can reportedly boost productivity by 300 percent without changing the way you do things. The tool’s colorful Kanban boards are visually appealing and clear, so project managers can easily spot inefficiencies. It’s also simple to modify the Kanban boards anytime you wish, which is especially handy if it becomes clear certain requirements or expectations have evolved during an ongoing project. You can also segment huge tasks into smaller duties and assign them swiftly to prevent bottlenecks that could grind everything to a halt.

Thanks to a time-tracking feature, you can quickly determine how team members are spending their hours on the job. Employees record hours with just two mouse clicks, and reports get generated automatically so you don’t have to go back and create them later. Kanbanize works with email programs, too, so people get task notifications in their inboxes. All you have to do to create a task and send it to someone is use a special forwarding address. Also, the free trial has no time or user limits, allowing you to use the tool in a real-life way to see if it suits your needs.

Get the free 1,000-action trial here.

  1. Instapaper

Instapaper tool

If you’re like most people, you might find time gets away from you if you become engrossed in online content. From recipes that help you with weekly meal plans to videos that give tips on how to weatherproof your tent before camping season arrives, a lot of content is worth collecting for later viewing. Luckily, thanks to a tool called Instapaper, you can save anything you find on the Internet with only one click.

The Instapaper app works on the Android and iOS platforms, plus Kindle. Anything you save can be accessed offline. That’s a clear perk if you like to stay occupied while commuting on the subway or otherwise fill your downtime in meaningful ways. There’s also a note-creation feature that allows you to highlight information in your content that’s especially valuable, so you can quickly find it later.

Instapaper may not stop you from searching the Internet for interesting stuff, but it’ll at least allow you to save whatever you find to look at it later, rather than disrupt your schedule by checking out the content right away.

Use the free, limited version here.

  1. Transcribe

Transcribe tool

If you have a job that requires you to work as a transcriber, or engage in typing sessions that are so intensive you often deal with fatigue, the tiredness can be a major hindrance to the amount you can get done. Transcribe is a simple yet powerful helper that was made for transcription professionals, but it also has a speech-recognition feature that can help you write emails or compose documents more quickly if your fingers are too tired to keep using the keyboard.

This is a browser-based tool that you can start using immediately. Just speak directly into your computer’s built-in microphone, or use a headset that includes a mic. Although the technology used here isn’t quite as precise as paid dictation software options, Transcribe could give you an idea of whether such tools would be helpful in allowing you to get through your day with less typing.

If you plan to use the transcription and dictation features simultaneously, you’ll appreciate how it’s possible to speed up or slow down the audio speed by using keyboard shortcuts. That means you don’t have to get caught up in a bunch of confusing and hard-to-learn commands that are so counterintuitive you never fully grasp them through memory alone. Also, you can alternate between typing and talking without having to open new windows.

Everything you type or speak while using Transcribe gets automatically saved. However, be sure not to clear your browser cache, because doing so will delete the data. Once you’re done with whatever you’re working on, use the Export icon to create a .doc file.

Check out the free, one-week trial here.

  1. VueMinder

VueMinder tool

Without a competent calendar app, your productivity efforts aren’t likely to pay off. If you’re a Windows user, try a calendar tool called VueMinder. In addition to helping you create calendars, this app lets you share them with others, plus create notes, make a database of contacts, and more.

There’s also a feature that lets you set up recurring events, so you won’t risk scheduling new events that conflict with repeating obligations.

Pro and Ultimate versions have 45-day free trials. Or, you can use the Lite version for free.

Next Steps

These examples should demonstrate how much you could get done with access to the proper tools. When your skills and motivation combine with technology, you can complete tasks in short order.


This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.

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3 Comments

Posted by Kaleem  | May 28, 2016 at 4:16PM | Reply

Great list! I thought I had seen them all.

Posted by Tiffany  | June 3, 2016 at 7:12PM | Reply

There’s a freeware called Self-Control for Mac. It is harder to get around then browser plugins and is completely safe. It is an Open Source app you can find on GitHub. Completely free to use!

If you’re on Windows, try Cold Turkey.

Posted by Alexandra  | June 30, 2016 at 7:45AM | Reply

As an avid reader of your blog, I feel the need to add my own little discovery to the list. Hubgets really changed the way I work and get in touch with people. It turned into my business hub and helped me cut back on all the emails I had to deal with in the past.

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