When we think about how to be more “productive” in pushing bold ideas forward, much of the challenge is clearing out the clutter. Figuring out how to do the stuff we don’t like (e.g. admin tasks, finances, email) more efficiently, so we have more time for the stuff we love – the meaningful work that moves the needle on our creative projects and our businesses.
The good news is the future of the Internet is “less about the searching and more about the getting,” as WIRED editor-in-chief Chris Anderson wrote in a recent cover story. We now have tons of web apps at our fingertips that can minimize the amount of time we spend on the less glamorous details of making ideas happen.
Here, we highlight 10 of our favorite web apps for streamlining crucial (but not particularly fun) day-to-day tasks, so you can get on with the important stuff.
1. Hipmunk: Book flights painlessly.
Kayak.com was the go-to flight booking service until Hipmunk came along and added their genius “agony rating” to the mix. It uses a new algorithm to factor in both the price and the pain of the trip (direct flight? two layovers?) to rank the flight results. You can also conduct and compare multiple flight searches simultaneously.
NudgeMail is a simple way to postpone responding to certain emails, while also ensuring you’ll be nagged to deal with them later. Just forward the email to NudgeMail indicating when you want it to be sent again in the “To” field (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc), and it will magically return to your inbox at that time. There’s no signup necessary, and it works with almost any email client or mobile device.
Supporting all major browsers, Xmarks provides seamless bookmark syncing with an incredibly robust set of additional features, like password syncing, public bookmark sharing, and data backup and restore capabilities. And if you upgrade to the $1/month premium account, you can really go wild with uber-nerdy features like “open tab syncing.”
With Drop.io out of the picture, the remaining file sharing platforms all have issues: they cost too much, they’re too complicated, or they’re filled with schlocky ads. Ge.tt is clean, simple, free, and you don’t have to sign up for anything. You can even share your file link while the upload is still underway.
5. Track This: Track your packages with email, SMS, Facebook, or Twitter.
Have you ever found yourself ceaselessly refreshing the UPS, FedEx, etc website to try to find out when your package will arrive? Track This saves you the trouble by shooting you play-by-play updates from any of the major mail carriers via email, text, Facebook, or Twitter so you can rest easy (and updated).
6. Readability: Read blog posts and articles in an ad-free environment.
With roll-downs, pop-ups, and video ads, you sometimes need the focus of a zen master to read a mere blog post online. Readability cuts through the noise by zapping ads and creating a peaceful, distraction-free reading environment. The basic account is free; to get “read it later” and mobile functionality, it’s $5/month.
7. Billable: Create an invoice in 30 seconds.
For some creatives, invoicing is a task on par with going to the dentist. If you fall into this category, Billable is a (brain)dead simple and insanely efficient web app for generating invoices. Just fill out their online invoice template, and save it as a PDF or print. Don’t expect any bells or whistles though, Billable is not about customization, it’s about getting it done.
8. DaisyDisk: Find out what’s hogging your disk space.
If you’re a sucker for a sexy infographic, you’ll love DaisyDisk. The app scans your disk at light speed and then generates a gorgeous, color-coded, interactive data map that shows you what’s eating up all the space on your hard drive. While computer whizzes might be offended by its $20 price tag, it can definitely save some time for the less tech savvy among us. (Mac only.)
9. About.me: Build a personal website in about 2 minutes.
These days, not having a personal website is sort of like leaving the house without your pants on. But not everyone needs a rich portfolio site or a custom-coded blog. About.me makes creating a personal “splash page” a no-brainer. You just slap up a photo, include a short bio, and decide which social media accounts you want to link to (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pandora, etc), and you’re in business.
This app isn’t new, but we're mentioning Evernote again because it’s really the ultimate platform for brain-dumping. Whether it’s meeting notes, a blog post in development, a snapshot, a receipt, or a paragraph from a website, you can plunk it into Evernote, add some tags so you can find it later, and you’re done. Since all of your stuff lives in the cloud, it’s always backed up and accessible from any computer, tablet, or mobile phone.
What Do You Use?
What web apps help you streamline your daily tasks?