Essential Digital Productivity Tools – Part II

As a continuation to my first post, I wanted to elaborate on a few more tools that I use on my day-to-day. I’ll also be highlighting more digital tool combinations — many of these applications and services integrate with each other, allowing you to create an entire digital ecosystem.

If you haven’t already — check out my first post here: Essential digital productivity tools (Part 1)

1) Save reading material for later with Pocket

Pocket originally started as a service called ‘Read It Later’, which perfectly explains its purpose. If you come across any content or media that you’d like revisit later, simply ‘Pocket’ it for later via your web browser or mobile shortcut; you can then view and engage with the archived content in the Pocket mobile or web app. As a bonus feature, Pocket will even enhance the readability and viewing experience of your archived content by simplifying the interface and eliminating any noise. There’s a large variety of websites that I regularly visit — Medium, TechCrunch, and TheVerge, and Pocket allows me to extract content from all these sources into one unified place.

Some of my sample use cases:

  • During my commute, I’ll Pocket any longer articles that seem interesting to read later
  • At work, I’ll Pocket content that pops up at an inconvenient time
  • If I come across an inspiring blog post, I’ll Pocket it to share with friends and colleagues

Integrate Pocket + IFTTT for increased automation

I talked about the potential of IFTTT in my last post. Combining Pocket with IFTTT can unlock some powerful possibilities. Here are some examples of workflows you can build:

  • Automatically Pocket popular NYTimes articles
  • Save new videos from your favourite YouTube channel to Pocket
  • Save Medium stories that you recommend to Pocket
  • Automatically log what you read in Pocket to Google Calendar
  • Save new World Economic Outlook reports from the IMF to Pocket

Save content directly from Slack with the Pocket extension

Do you use Slack at work? You can integrate Pocket to your Slack workplace and capture content that your colleagues are sharing. All you’ll have to do is to get your Workspace Owner to install the Pocket add-on by using the Request Approval button.

Create a clutter-free note archiving system with Pocket + Evernote

Previously, I highlighted how Evernote is one of the best note-taking apps out there. With the Pocket extension, you can create an even more organized system for saving and archiving content. You’re able to transpose all your web content and clippings to Pocket, and archive them further to Evernote for future reference.

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Pocket Basic is free. Premium is $6.49 monthly or $59.99 annually.

2) Prevent eyestrain with F.lux

F.lux is a free app for Mac, Windows, and Linux that tunes the colour tones of your display to match the time of day. Your devices emit blue light — blue wavelengths that are beneficial during the day as they are known to boost attention and alertness. However, blue light is disruptive and harmful at night; it may impact your hormones and circadian rhythms, causing you to sleep poorly. F.lux will monitor the time of day and adapt your screen’s colour tones and intensity to reduce eyestrain. You also have the option the adjust intensity and turn it on and off, which comes in handy if you do graphic design work or any work that involves visual and colour accuracy. I have F.lux installed on both my work and personal computers to ensure that late night screen time doesn’t affect my sleep and so far, it’s been working pretty well.

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F.lux is absolutely free!

3) Set reading goals and track your progress with Goodreads

The mission of Goodreads is simple: to build a social network and community around reading. I’ve personally found Goodreads to be useful for tracking read books, sharing recommendations and motivating myself to keep up good reading habits. Goodreads exists as both a website and mobile app and the interface makes it easy to search up books, add friends and provide commentary.

Some nifty features below:

Join the annual reading challenge

Goodreads has an ongoing challenge allowing you to create goals for reading and track how you’re trending toward those goals. You can also share your goals with your friends to keep you accountable and provide book recommendations. I’ve found this to be particularly helpful and with the support of this feature, managed to complete 19 books in 2019.

Use the Add-to Goodreads-extension

Chrome has an useful extension that allows you to add any book you’re currently viewing to your shelf on Goodreads and tag it to ‘Read’, To-Read’, or ‘Currently Reading’. It works on most popular sites: Powells, Google Books, Amazon, and many others.

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Goodreads is absolutely free!

4) Power up your Gmail with Boomerang

Boomerang is an extension that layers on top of Gmail and provides you with additional email functionality. You can easily track read emails, receive read receipts, and schedule emails to send later. It’s essentially a casual CRM tool for the everyday user. The name ‘Boomerang’ is inspired by the core feature of ‘boomeranging’ a message back to you when you send an email and don’t receive a response by a certain date. You can customize this reminder further — letting Boomerang remind you if the recipient doesn’t open the email or click on it by a certain time.

I find Boomerang useful for two reasons:

  1. It provides me with a simple email CRM (customer relationship management) system. I can automate workflows that help me track all the emails I’ve sent out and and the ones I’ve replied to. Some other alternatives for power users are HubspotCopper, and Mailchimp.
  2. I can schedule emails during certain times of the day (e.g. 8:45 am seems to have the highest response rates for me). Check out this article for a practical guide on scheduling emails.
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Boomerang Basic is Free. Personal, Pro, and Premium are available at $4.99, $14.99, and $49.99 monthly, respectively.

Andrew Yeung is currently at Bell Canada in a strategy and operations role. He has previously worked at the advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, in a strategic planning role and Nike, in consumer marketing. He is passionate about the growth, self-development, and technology, and harnessing tech to enable productivity and growth within your career, and personal life. On the side, Andrew advises early stage startups.

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