Useful Productivity Hacks and Tools

By elian (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By elian (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons
For those of us who are multi-taskers and like to do everything at 1.5-2x speed (I’ve even started watching TV shows on fast forward), the New York Times has some bad news: “Sorry, you can’t speed read.”

But on the bright side, there are many tools and hacks out there to help you speed up your productivity. I’ll get into the writing-specific ones first.

Author Specific Tools

Publisher’s Weekly wrote a nice piece about a self-publishing comparison engine. If you’re looking for some help but don’t know where to start, the engine aims to help filter reputable services you can used, based on the needs you’re looking for. Answer a few questions and then you can compare services.

Looking for ways to track reviews of your book? You should definitely use some sort of service, or else you spend a lot of time and effort going to every single sales page where your book is available. Digital Book World wrote about a new service called Ratings Catcher, which “gathers reviews from Amazon’s .com, .ca and domains, with more countries to come, as well as reviews from all 50+ iBooks countries.”

I’d also recommend Pronoun, a new-ish service (used to be called Vook) that sends you notifications whenever someone posts a new review of your book (currently I only use it to alert me to Amazon reviews) as well as trending books in your book’s category.

Tips on Being More Productive

If you want to learn some tips and tricks on how to be more productive, check out NFIB’s infographic. It goes over 5 (wonderfully named) productivity techniques, including Eat That Frog, The Seinfeld Method, Getting Things Done, The Pomodoro Technique, and The Action Method. Basically, it’s about figuring out what the most important tasks are to achieve your bigger goals, and then making the time to get them done.

If you’d like to learn more about The Pomodoro Technique, there’s a whole website dedicated to the method. The basic premise is to work on tasks for 25 minutes at a time and give yourself breaks in between. You can either buy the tomato timer, or use your own.

Personally, I’ve found I’m most productive when I break down a big task into many smaller tasks, and then check them off one by one. Not only is it satisfying to be able to check things off my to do list, it also feels good knowing that I’m closer to achieving my bigger goals. Some people recommend using pen and paper to write down lists, but if you’re looking for something online, I recommend ToDoist. It’s free, and gives you karma points and everything.

What also helps is having a dedicated work space. I’m fortunate enough to have the option to either work at home at a nice L-shaped desk we’ve set up in the guest room, or go to my employer’s office in San Francisco. Occasionally I’ll really take advantage of my remote job and work from nearby coffee shops, or spend a week working from another city.

If you’re looking for a great space to work and want to be around people, check out WorkFrom. You can search the site for specific working conditions in more than 700 cities. Conditions can include having reliable WiFi, public or private spaces, and local deals.

Last, and indirectly related to productivity, is xckd’s web comic on passwords. I say indirectly related because, honestly, if you get hacked or lose your passwords then it’s really hard to be productive. Also xcd is awesome.

Marketing Tools

Next up are a couple services that can help with marketing. They do cost money, but it’s nice to know they’re out there if you need them.

First is HitRecord, which allows you to collaborate with lots of people to make really cool projects. Examples could be books, short videos like book trailers, music, and more.

Second is Optimizely, which allows you to A/B test websites and apps. This is for the serious marketer, and it gives you tons of analytics so you can make the best landing pages possible.

Tools for Saving Money

I saved this section for last since it’s not strictly related to productivity, but who among us would want to pass up the opportunity to save money?

Raise is a site that lets you buy and sell gift cards. Basically you get gift cards at a discount, or you can sell unwanted gift cards.

Honey is a Chrome app that automatically finds and applies coupon codes when you shop online.

Keepa is another Chrome extension and it “adds price history charts and the option to be alerted on price drops to all Amazon sites.”

And The Camelizer is another Chrome app that also shows historical pricing on Amazon.

And that’s it for now! Got any productivity tips? Please share in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared September 2016.


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