Work Smarter In Windows: 55 Great Productivity Tricks

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TIPS: Pro David Allen

David Allen
Tips from productivity expert David Allen, author of Making It All Work, now in paperback. Find more advice at

1. Allen is a Lotus Notes enthusiast, through and through, but he enhances the spartan Notes interface with the eProductivity add-on, which adds next-generation features to the software. One of these features, for ex­­ample, enables the user to drag an e-mail message to a "call" button in order to place an immediate phone call to the person who sent the message.

2. Allen syncs his Notes database with his BlackBerry, which he considers the best handheld for agenda mavens.

3. Though Notes is a great application for day-to-day activities, Allen uses Mindjet's MindManager to keep tabs on long-term projects and brainstorming notes. He re­­fers to it as "kind of a weekly review of what's going on... the big things coming toward me that I need to keep at top of mind."

4. Keyboard shortcuts are critical for helping a busy person get through a queue of tasks quickly. Allen employs ActiveWords to create simple macros, to open frequently used documents, and even to insert the current date on command into any document or application.

5. Pamela Professional for Skype--a call management tool--makes it easy to record VoIP phone calls of any length.

TIPS: Pro Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss
Tips from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. Go to for his blog.

1. In Ferriss's words, "Self-discipline is overrated. Technology tools will help you focus and be productive where you yourself fail." Still, Ferriss is a "tool minimalist" who uses only a few applications every day to manage his workload, primarily focusing on e-mail and social media.

2. Ferriss says the trick with e-mail is to have data about who's messaging you so you don't waste time re­­searching them to figure out if they're worth responding to. So Ferriss uses Rapportive, a Firefox plug-in (versions are available for Chrome, Mailplane, and Safari, as well) that replaces the ads in Gmail with detailed, Web-sourced information about the sender of each message in your inbox. "I get a 15 to 20 percent time savings from this one plug-in alone," he says.

3. To force himself to focus on the tasks at hand, Ferriss uses RescueTime, a Web-based tool that lets the user shut off access to certain Websites--Facebook and Twitter, for example--after a set amount of use. "It's easier to use tools like this than to rely on discipline," he explains.

4. Ferriss has gone virtually paperless through the use of Evernote, a free downloadable app that lets him clip to the cloud Web pages, photos, business cards, and even printed matter, which he scans into the system with a portable scanner that he takes with him just about everywhere. Evernote has enabled Ferriss to remove 90 percent of the paper in his house, he says, and since it's searchable, he no longer has to rely on folders and data management.

5. Ferriss's one piece of advice for improving self-discipline: Spend the first two hours of every workday working on outstanding projects, before you check your e-mail.

TIPS: Adam Pash

Adam Pash
Tips from Adam Pash, editor-in-chief of the insanely useful

1. Pash's approach to computing is to "do everything in as few keystrokes as possible, or have your computer do them automatically for you." One tool he uses is Launchy, which lets you type the first few letters of an application's name to launch it. While Windows 7's integrated search features make Launchy somewhat less critical, it's still a useful application.

2. Pash himself developed Belvedere (direct download), an automated file manager for Windows that lets you apply rules to folders and take action on them as certain criteria are met. For example, you can specify that folders that go untouched for extended periods of time be deleted, or that files with a .jpg extension be automatically routed to a pictures folder. (Note: Some security software may flag Belvedere, but we believe this is a false positive.)

3. Dropbox is invaluable not just for backing up a PC but for syncing its data with multiple computers, which is key if you use more than one PC. It also works with the iPhone, the iPad, and Android devices.

4. Simplenote is a plain-text note-taking system that, like Dropbox, can sync among multiple desktops, the Web, and an iPhone (iPhone version here). This no-frills alternative to Evernote ensures that notes never get lost.

Instapaper ($5) is a tool, also for the iPhone, that simplifies Web pages and lets users read them later. A free version is also available.

5. Finally, Pash says that Gmail's new Priority Inbox feature is a "pretty good attempt at helping you deal with the glut of things that arrive in your Gmail inbox that you're faced with every day."

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